【Column: Letters from an unspoiled place】Quiet Lake Kussharo for future generations
Lake Kussharo, which is located in the Akan-Mashu National Park (in the town of Teshikaga in the Kushiro region) and is the largest caldera lake in Japan, will reach a major turning point on October 1. In principle, the personal use of powered boats such as motorboats and jet skis will be prohibited on the whole of the lake, which has a circumference of 57 km. Unless specifically authorized, navigating the lake in such a manner will be punishable under the Natural Parks Act.
“It has taken so long to get here,” recalls Tokunaga Tetsuo, mayor of Teshikaga. The complaints about the noise from jet skis on Lake Kussharo were endless, and there was even a fatal accident when someone fell from one. Activities began approximately 30 years ago, mainly centered on local yacht enthusiasts and the like, with the aim of establishing manners to prevent the disorderly mooring of vessels.
In 1987, Teshikaga Town, the Environment Agency at that time, and enthusiasts established the ‘Lake Kussharo Proper Use Liaison Council,’ creating its own rules and safety manual, including “Do not start engines in the water area within 200 meters of the shore, and around the Wakoto Peninsula.”
The council appealed for users to comply, but some enthusiasts continued to sail in self-controlled waters and there was a series of near-miss incidents with canoes and swimmers. In 2011, the Ministry of the Environment proposed that the town restrict the entry of power boats but, due to opposition from some tourists, agreement was not reached.
Subsequently, as complaints of noise continued, the Town decided to “leave a quiet Lake Kussharo for future generations”. The Ministry of the Environment was asked to draw up legal restrictions, and a policy of prohibiting entry was determined in August last year.
Over 600 vessels are registered for use in the Water Sports Exchange Park, where power boats can depart and arrive. According to the Town, people have inquired whether or not they can continue using the lake, but Sasabuchi Kohei, director-general of the Ministry of the Environment Akan-Mashu National Park Management Office explained the reasons behind the Town’s intentions, saying “it is not a suitable way of utilizing the lake.”
Lake Kussharo boasts ‘Sunayu,” a sandy beach with hot springs, and the Wakoto Peninsula that faces the lake is a treasure trove of nature and the northern limit of breeding grounds for the min-min cicada (hyalessa maculaticollis). In summer, the area around the Wakoto Peninsula becomes crowded with families playing in the water and people who enjoy SUPs (Stand Up Paddleboards), which have become popular in recent years. Slowly descending the Kushiro River – the headwaters of the lake – by canoe is also popular.
Tsuchida Yuya, a 46-year-old outdoor guide in the town hopes that “the ‘quietness’ will become a new appeal of Lake Kussharo and that it will be a place where people can enjoy activities that cannot be experienced elsewhere”.
The Hokkaido Shimbun Press Teshikaga Branch manager, Mori Asako
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