When Japan's Meiji Era (1868-1912) government concluded that the country had a manifest destiny to commence full-scale colonization of the hitherto barely developed northern island of Hokkaido, it set about the task assiduously.

Much as with the American frontier, people from other parts of the country were enthusiastically encouraged to settle in the new territory and help tap its great economic resources. As for Hokkaido's indigenous Ainu people, who had been laboring under the misconception that the place belonged to them, the government magnanimously gave them plots of their own land back. Unlike parts of the United States today, though, where Native American culture is very much evident, that of the Ainu has been almost completely eradicated. One of the few places where it is possible to get a slight taste of who the Ainu were and what they were about is in Akan National Park.

Located in eastern Hokkaido, around 60 km north of Kushiro, Akan National Park is a deeply forested area that is centered on the three caldera lakes of Mashu, Kussharo and Akan. It is by the shores of Lake Akan that the park's only town, Akan Kohan, is situated. The lake itself is pretty enough, dominated as it is by the twin volcanic peaks of O-akan-dake and Me-akan-dake, but the main interest here is Ainu Kotan (Ainu Village).