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This nighttime cultural experience in Hokkaido combines nature, storytelling, and digital art to immerse visitors in the stories of the Ainu.

Lake Akan on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido is known as one of the clearest lakes in all of Japan. Surrounded by the pristine forests and mud volcanoes known as bokke of Akan Mashu National Park, this crater lake is particularly well-known for its round balls of marimo green algae, which grow larger here than almost anywhere else in the world. The same area also houses a small village of one of Japan’s indigenous peoples, the Ainu, who have partnered with Canadian multimedia production company Moment Factory to offer an unparalleled glimpse into Ainu culture through the Lake Akan Forest Night Walk Kamuy Lumina.

▼ Lake Akan and its lush forests in Kushiro, Hokkaido

As fans of the recently ended manga series Golden Kamuy may know, the term kamuy refers to a divine being in Ainu mythology, similar to the Japanese kami. In Ainu culture, myths and epic sagas (yukar) about the kamuy are passed down through the generations. This emphasis on oral tradition and storytelling plays a large part in the Kamuy Lumina experience.

This year marks the third offering of the nighttime walk since it was first offered in 2019 after three years of meticulous planning in close consultation with the local Ainu. Since then, over 50,000 visitors have taken part in the experience, and a portion of all proceeds also goes to the Maeda Ippoen Foundation in Kushiro to protect the surrounding wildlife. While this year’s experience was supposed to begin on May 14, the start date was delayed until June 18 after it was discovered that the breeding season of the kumagera (black woodpecker) …continue reading