Marimo (まりも), also known as Cladophora ball, or moss balls, is a rare form of green algae, found in some of the lakes in the northern hemisphere. They are known for their green velvety round shapes. Dr. Anton E. Sauter first discovered them in 1823 in Lake Zeller, Austria. Mostly found in Lake Akan (Japan) and Lake Mývatn (Iceland), the number of Marimos has been decreasing rapidly. As such, they are declared protected species in Japan and Iceland. Japan has also declared Marimo its national treasure in 1921, and thereafter “special national treasure” in 1952. Find out more about this ultra-cute ball of moss! Marimo grows at a slow rate of about 5mm per year. However, in Lake Akan, the Marimos are said to be able to grow up to 20-30 cm in diameter!
Marimo Festival in Japan In attempt to preserve the rapidly declining number of Marimos in Lake Akan (due to deforestation, tourism etc), a movement was started to encourage the people in Japan to return the Marimos they have purchased or taken from Lake Akan. The Marimo Festival started out as a form of appreciation towards those who have returned the Marimos, as well as to extend the efforts of preservation. The first festival was held on 7th Oct 1950. Thereafter, each year in early October, the 3-day festival is held in Hokkaido by the indigenous Ainu people. On the first day of the festival, lectures on the growth of Marimos and field trips to their habitats are held. On the second day, a dance parade, “Ceremony for Receiving Marimo” and “Ceremony to Conserve Marimo” are held. These ceremonies are performed in accordance to the traditional Ainu practices. The festival closes with the ceremony of an Ainu chief returning the Marimos to the lake. There will also be fireworks displays and other game attractions during the 3-day period. If you have the chance to go to Hokkaido during this period, do drop by and join in the festival!