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Lake Konuma and Lake Junsai area – a key junction for traffic

The Lake Konuma and Lake Junsai area played an important role as a key junction for traffic in the Edo era, and has become a sightseeing area popular even with royalty since the Meiji era.

Onuma gradually became known as a place of pilgrimage as well as a scenic area, but the Onuma that Takeshiro Matsuura praised a great deal actually refers to the area of today’s Lake Konuma and Lake Junsai rather than today’s Onuma Park area. This Konuma and Junsai area has a longer history than the park area, and is assumed to have been a large settlement around 2,000 years ago. The Konuma and Junsai area was a key junction for traffic between Hakodate and Otaru in the Edo era and through the Meiji Restoration, when there were around 10 houses there. The area played an important role as a post station and people there were engaged in fishing and charcoal making. Lake Junsai was named so in 1872, when Kiyotaka Kuroda, the vice director of the Hokkaido Development Commission, visited this area, because much water-shield (junsai in Japanese) could be gathered there. Before that, however, it was called Lake Swan.

In 1872, when a national highway running through this area was completed, Jubei Miyazaki opened a traditional inn in the area, which was crowded with people engaged in herring fishing. The area was also visited by an increasing number of tourists. Most tourists came from Hakodate and included crew members of foreign ships that entered Hakodate Port. They relaxed on the lakeside, rowed boats and especially enjoyed hiking through Mt. Komagatake.

In 1879, when Prince Henry, a younger brother of the German Emperor, visited Hakodate by warship, he stayed at the Miyazaki inn for a week. He loved the scenery of Lake Junsai and visited the area three times in 1880 and 1899 after his first visit. The area has also been visited by Duke of Genoa, a member of the Italian royal family, Prince Komatsu Akihito, a statesman of the Meiji Restoration and a member of the Japanese imperial family, and Prince Arisugawa, a member of the Japanese imperial family.

In 1881, then-29-year-old Emperor Meiji dropped by the area during his tour of Hokkaido. It is said that he saw the towering Mt. Komagatake, beautiful Lake Onuma and Lake Konuma from a rest place at a mountain pass and was impressed by the sight. There are several teahouses around the summit, and it is said that the beauty of Mt. Komagatake, Lake Onuma and Lake Konuma seen from the teahouses impressed visitors in those days.

After a railway was opened between Hakodate and Otaru in 1903, however, the area’s prosperity declined although the scenic beauty remained as it was, and the Onuma Park area has become prosperous instead.

The Onuma Park area used to be a mountain forest area with mud and wetlands. When Lake Junsai was prosperous, people knew of the fine scenery of Lake Junsai, but hardly knew of the scenic beauty of Onuma, and nobody lived there. Some people only visited the area for charcoal making. There is a village called Ikusagawa to the south of Onuma, which used to be a part of the village.