Have you seen a Marimo before? Marimo, scientifically known as a seaweed ball, is a type of sea plant found in the northern hemisphere that can grow in size over time. Due to their cute ball like form and simple ability to grow with very less care, this plant has been sold as pets to people with simpler mind, such as yours truly.
I had Marimo sometime back, when I was still living in Singapore. Back then I didn’t know it had an official name, I just referred it as green blob thingy before I named them Kami and Niwwi. I also used them as the reason to go back on the clock from the office, because I needed to take care of my “pets”.
When I saw it again at Lake Akan, Hokkaido, I was less than surprised. On some level, subconsciously maybe, I must have known it’s originated from Japan. After all, almost everything cute comes from Japan. But I was still taken back on how much it’s celebrated in this part of the world.
In Akan they built a conservatory for Marimo on a small island nearby which’s reachable by a boat taken from the main island. We took the boat for fun, as there was nothing much to do in Akan except for hiking and soaking. I hate hiking and as much as I love soaking, I couldn’t soak the whole day.
We had no idea that it’s a conservatory until the boat reach the island and people were getting down.
Inside the conservatory, they displayed the best looking Marimos. The greenest among the greens, the royals. And I am guessing the one above was the King.
People are taking pictures in front of it, some even took selfie with it. I almost did it too, but I stopped and reminded myself that it was essentially an algae.
The next day, while exploring near Akan Lake, we stumbled upon another building, which resembled a museum filled with Marimo stuff. Inside, there was even a lab used to research about.. Yes, you have guessed it right my friends; Marimo!
Marine has been one of the Japanese national treasures for almost a decade. In Hokkaido they hold a three day festival every October to celebrate these green balls. I found all this information extremely fascinating.
The few days we were there, our lives were surrounded by Marimo and the height of it was when we went to the hotel spa. One of the amazing spa rooms was decorated with Marimo like green blobs.
Legend has it many years ago lived a young girl on the island of Hokkaido, whose father was the chief of a village near Lake Akan. The girl’s marriage had been arranged but unfortunately, she fell in love with a commoner and they decided to run away together. When the lovers reached Lake Akan, they jumped in. Their souls metamorphosed into little Marimo balls and lived happily ever after on the bottom of the lake.
I learned about this story while lying naked on the lay-down-bathing room in the public bath as it was written on the wall. I tried to memorize it so I could share it with my friends. When told Yin about it, she just laughed, thinking I made it the story up. The chief would be disappointed in you for not believing it Yin!
There was also an abundance choice of food items representing Marimo. I would love to get all of it, but I couldn’t because of my over-pack-under-budget mistake. So I just got the candy, which I finished even before I reached home.
Their bus was decorated with Marimo print. Now do you believe me when I said it’s all about Marimo in Lake Akan?
I am guessing below sign says “Do not enter or you will be dead in a cute way” or “If you enter this room, you might contaminate and kill all the Marimo inside and send them to the heaven as Marimo-angel”.
On the last day, my best friends got themselves Marimo accessories. I texted Jik whether she wanted a Marimo as well because hey, it seems like a good idea for a souvenir from Japan but she said no. Still, it felt wrong to leave the land of Marimo without a Marimo. Finally, I caved and bought myself one too, well a pair to be exact, inside a tube attached to the keychain. It has been hanging on my backpack ever since. A memory from Lake Akan.
All these adoration for it didn’t move me in the beginning, but the legend and the local people love and effort to preserve it changed my perspective. I wish I had things I feel strongly about to protect and nurture. Maybe I should have kids or maybe I start with another try of petting Marimo and see my progress from there. Maybe this time I can keep them alive. Yep, Marimo is going into Japan shopping list.
If you are interested in Marimo, you can get in many places online including Amazon or I recommend to get it from Rakutan.