February 11, 13 | Shuhei Miyashita
I'm sure we're all aware the the mushrooms we all enjoy in our meals usually grow on trees, but here in Hokkaido we have a special place where (faux-)mushrooms grow right out on the frozen water of a lake!
Located in the Tokachi area of Hokkaido, in the town of Kamishihoro, is Lake Nukabirako and the hydroelectric Nukabira Dam. We've talked about this dam before on Hokkaido Likers, in an article about the Taushubetsu Bridge, a site which is visited by hundreds of tourists every year. But around January of every year another wonder begins to grow on the lake's frozen surface, the incredible spectacle, "ice mushrooms."
Nukabirako Lake's famous "ice mushrooms" breaking through the ice.
Sadly, although these mushrooms look incredible, they aren't for consumption. They are actually large structures that appear on the tops of tree trunks sticking up above the ice, but they do look incredibly like mushrooms. So why do they have this shape? Many of the trees in this man-made lake were cut down during the construction of the dam, leaving only their stumps behind. During winter the lake's surface freezes, creating a seal around the stumps. The dam, however, stays operational and during use the water level of the lake drops, bringing almost all of the surface down with it. However the ice trapped around the tree stumps stays in place, giving them this mushroom-like appearance. It's a phenomenon that the interaction between humans and nature has created.
The powerful and rugged image of these mushrooms makes it possible to imagine the tearing sound the ice must make when these structures are created! They are even strong enough to hold up under the weight of these children!
The mushrooms usually stand from the beginning of January to the end of March each year. According to the Kamishihoro Tourism Association, because of the large amount of water used, there should be a great harvest this year! So if you are traveling in the area be sure to stop by and catch a glimpse of these amazing mushrooms!
As these mushrooms are located on top of a frozen lake, heading out on the ice can be dangerous. To be sure of each visitor's safety we ask that everyone check with the Kamishihoro Tourism Association office to find out where the safest viewing locations are. Naturally you'll also be able to pick up local guide-book information about the area as well!
上士幌町観光協会 (Kamishihoro Tourism Organization)
Location: 239 Kamishihoro-Higashi 3-Sen, Kamishihoro-cho, Kato-gun, Hokkaidō
Photographs provided by:
NPOひがし大雪自然ガイドセンター (Higashi Taisetsu Nature Guide Center)
Tours across frozen Nukabirako Lake and Taushubetsu Bridge are available from January 5th through March 10th
Location: Located inside Nukabira Onsen Bunka Hall
44-3 Kita-ku, Nukabira, Kamishihoro-cho, Kato-gun, Hokkaido
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Miyashita)