At the heart of eastern Hokkaido, Lake Akan is most well known for its giant 'marimo' giant moss balls that are now a protected species. Marimo play an important part in the animist belief system of the indigenous Ainu people, whose lands are now themselves protected by Japanese laws. Like the indigenous people of north America, the numbers of Ainu have dwindled over the centuries and their way of life is now a memory in the excellent museum in nearby Kushiro, and the Ainu Kotan themed village at the south end of Lake Akan. Ainu people put on cultural shows at their theatre here and sell their crafts along an attractive but touristy central street. There are a number of very good traditional ryokans here, with the larger Tsuruga offering good value whilst the smaller sister property Hina no Za offers boutique luxury and excellent views of Lake Akan ice during the winter months. The wetland area for the famous dancing red cranes (tancho) of Hokkaido is about an hour away, so visitors may prefer to stay in a ryokan here than a city hotel in coastal Kushiro.