Learn about marimo algae and Ainu traditions in Hokkaido

PHOTO: Japan News/ANN

The Marimo Matsuri festival started out as an effort to conserve the endangered marimo algae of Lake Akan. Marimo algae grow in fresh water and gather in large numbers to form green fuzzy balls. It takes more than 100 years for natural marimo algae to grow to a diameter of 10 centimeters, but the marimo algae in Lake Akan are the largest in the world, growing to a diameter of 30 centimeters. They are designated as Special Natural Monuments.

This festival was started by the Ainu people in 1950, who were concerned about the destruction of nature. Through marimo, they thank the god of the lake for the blessing of Mother Nature.

Lake Akan and marimo are closely associated with the indigenous Ainu people, who live mainly in Hokkaido, as is this festival.

The festival includes a lecture on the growth of marimo and field trips to their habitat. It also features the Marimo Dance Parade, the Marimo portable shrine and the Ceremony for Receiving Marimo, along with the Ceremony to Conserve Marimo in accordance with ancient Ainu traditions. Upon receiving marimo, gratitude is offered to the gods of Mother Nature for the past year's blessings. The festival closes with the solemn Ceremony of Returning Marimo to the Lake, when marimo are carried on a canoe accompanied by an elderly Ainu chief and returned to the depths of the lake bed.

At night, you can watch the Pine Torch Procession.

(Information from the Japan National Tourism Organisation website http://www.jnto.go.jp/)

Marimo Matsuri
Place: Lake Akan in Kushiro, Hokkaido
Dates: Oct. 9, 10

*The festival is usually held for three days in early October, but this year it has been shortened to two days.

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