Hokkaido Special: Cute Algae Balls!

Hokkaido holds many aspects unique to the island that are not necessarily shared with the rest of Japan.  The island was named a government prefecture in the late 1800’s, so it doesn’t share the same ancient history as the other Japanese islands.  I learned alot about it during the 3 years I lived there and its a very cool place that few people have a chance to hear about, so I’m going to do an ongoing special, and hopefully you will get a chance to see it for yourself one day!

Today’s topic is Marimo, cute algae balls found primary in Lake Akan.  These are also called “seaweed balls” and the shape is an ingenious evolutionary gimmick that allows the algae to live in areas of low sunlight. The round shape reduces the surface area, and guarantees that the plant will always be facing the light if its available. The chilly winds blow them around, so the stay clean and round.  Unfortunately, due to expanding urban development and pollution, these unusual plants are threatened species. Given that they are classified a national treasure, of course Japan needed cute characters to promote public awareness!

These are “Mari Mari Marimo!” and they have their own website discussing themselves.

However, Hokkaido took it one step further and declared Marimokkori an unofficial mascot. “Mokkori” is an onomatopeia of something rising very quickly.  You may have seen this happy fellow before.He’s like the Hello Kitty of Hokkaido.  He’s got a huge closet of outfits, friends, and every possible merchandise. But I think the original is still the best, and here they have a bit of fun with his…algae balls.



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