You thought I’m done writing about Hokkaido didn’t you? 😆 Well, this will be the last post before I close this chapter, and I saved the BEST for last. Hahah! What do I have today? Two beautiful lakes in Central Hokkaido – Lake Shikotsu and Lake Toya. We also went up Usuzan Ropeway and the view from the top of the mountain was breathtaking! 😍
Truth be told, I had low expectations when I booked this tour (it was V’s idea at first). But what a surprise! From the start of the tour till the end, we enjoyed every moment of it. Once again, Chuo Bus Sightseeing Tour didn’t disappoint me. This tour was in fact better than the previous one because it has multilingual audio – passengers were given headsets so that they could tune to their desired language (Japanese, Chinese, English, Korean). The audio is very informative, and it made us appreciate the places even more. 👍
Hokkaido Summer Free and Easy Vacation (Series of Posts)
Lake Shikotsu, Lake Toya, Usuzan Ropeway, Mount Showa-Shinzan – Day 7 ⬅ You are here!
Our first stop was the magnificent Lake Shikotsu that is well known for having one of the clearest waters in the world, surrounded by beautiful nature. This caldera lake was formed over 40,000 years ago through volcanic activity and till this day is a true sight to behold. Do you know that Lake Shikotsu has been rated as the most transparent lake in Japan for several times⁉
I was pleasantly surprised that the lake was not as crowded as other popular tourist attractions in Hokkaido such as Blue Pond. So, it was a perfect time to visit the lake in this awesome weather, windy and cool at 18°C. Popular activities at the lake include canoeing and kayaking. There are also sightseeing cruises and hot spring baths.
We were given 1.5 hours to explore the lake and its surrounding area. The serene lake surrounded by volcanic mountains has many beautiful and Instagram-worthy spots, so we took our time to take as many pictures as we could. We wanted so much to ride on the “duck boat” but unfortunately, they were not operating on that day due to weather condition.
This is the red-coloured Yamasen railway bridge, the OLDEST iron bridge in Hokkaido and it’s also a special feature in Lake Shikotsu. Standing on the bridge, we could see the breathtaking views of the lake up to Chitosegawa River.
Then, we headed for lunch at Toyako Manseikaku. Lunch was included in the tour and it was the Savory Chicken Soup Hot Pot Set (very delicious!). The portion is generous with baked salmon with egg, chicken hot pot with cabbage, enoki and shimeji mushrooms, white rice, clam miso soup, fruits and desserts. All the dishes were nicely laid on the table by the time we arrived. Thumbs up!
We had 1.5 hours for lunch and free time to explore Lake Toya. As an added option, we can also bath in the hot springs at Manseikaku Hotel or take a boat cruise at Lake Toya (additional fees apply).
Similar to Lake Shikotsu, Lake Toya is also a volcanic caldera lake in Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Both lakes are ~40km apart and are well blessed with gorgeous scenery. If you ask me which lake is more beautiful, I’d say Lake Shikotsu as its water is much clearer. Nonetheless, both lakes have their own unique fine views.
The area around Lake Toya includes the volcanically active 737m Mount Usu and Mount Showa-Shinzan, one of Japan’s youngest mountains. Accompanied by earthquakes, Mount Showa-Shinzan suddenly rose from a flat wheat field to the height of 290m between 1943 and 1945. It now stands at 406.9m and is an extremely rare phenomenon. Interesting, isn’t it? 😃
Our favourite part of the tour was going up the Usuzan Ropeway to the summit of Mount Usu. The ropeway has a length of 1.3km and took 6 mins to reach the top. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Mount Usu is an active volcano. It has erupted 4 times since 1900 and the most recent one was in year 2000.
The ropeway brought us close to the summit. From there, we had to hike along a footpath (approx. 10 mins) to reach the summit. Once we reached, we were wowed by the stunning views of Lake Toya and Mount Showa-Shinzan which was just beside it.
There are souvenir shops and a volcano eruption experience room at the ground level of the ropeway station. The room will vibrate as it shows the video of volcano eruption to let the visitors have a feel of what it’s like when a volcano erupts. One additional information to share about Lake Toya. Despite the freezing sub-zero temperature in winter, the lake never freezes.
The Brown Bear Zoo is located next to the ropeway station. Discounted admission tickets can be purchased when we showed our bus stub at the counter. However, due to lack of time, we gave the zoo a miss. We took the opportunity to try out the melon soft serve ice-cream (must try!) and Lake Toya croquette at the snack shop before boarding our bus.
This was our last destination before we left for Sapporo. As an added bonus, there are several drop-off locations for this tour – from Jozankei to Susukino and Sapporo. All in all, the tour started and ended in a timely manner. I felt that the time allocated for each attraction is sufficient, lunch provided was good, and the Japanese tour guide was very friendly too. It was such an enjoyable trip and I’d highly recommend it! 😃
If you’ve been following my Hokkaido travel posts thus far, I hope you enjoyed reading them. I have fun writing them, albeit tired by the end. 😊