Japan is a place that is blessed with a wide variety of attractions. It is able to draw people in because of the technology, tradition, natural attractions, and many more things that showcase the culture here. Because of this diversity, it sometimes makes it hard for both local and foreign travelers to choose from their many options for adventure. If you are a traveler looking for a bit of a hidden place to get away from the stress of work or the city life, you should definitely look into going to the Lake Toya area.
Things You Should Know about Japan’s Lake Toya
If you follow the anime called Gintama, you probably know about Gintoki’s Bokuto. This weapon is a wooden sword used by a character of the anime named Sakata Gintoki. The sword has the words “Lake Toya” carved into the handle of the sword and this is so because it was supposedly a weapon Gintoki bought on a field trip to Lake Toya during his youth. Despite this humble origin, in the anime, this sword has been used to beat several skilled opponents which lead people into believing that it was more than just a wooden sword. In a way, this also perfectly depicts the actual area of Lake Toya in the real world because it seems like an ordinary place but once you get into the details of it, you realize that it was more than that all along.
Lake Toya itself is a volcanic lake that is part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park found in the Abuta District of Hokkaido. National parks tend to be jaw-dropping as is already but this particular park is not only blessed with the gorgeous scenery of Lake Toya but also with the majestic views of the stratovolcano they call Mount Usu. This lake is quite a massive one considering the fact that it is roughly around 10 kilometers in diameter from East to West and around 9 kilometers in diameter from North to South.
The creation of this lake is also thanks to these volcanoes because around a century ago, a giant volcanic eruption was said to be responsible for the formation of this lake. In other words, this lake is actually a crater from the explosion which explains its vastness and how it is located in a place that is quite unusual. Being very close to a volcano means that the temperature of the water here remains quite warm all throughout the year. That is why even during the winter time, when the weather gets really cold as temperatures drop drastically, this lake doesn’t freeze.
Its position also means that there are hot springs spread throughout the length of the lake. There are actually two well-known onsens that capitalized on this and these onsens, or bath houses, are the Lake Toyako Onsen and the Sobetsu Onsen. The Toyako Onsen can be found in the western part of Lake Toya, in a town called Toyako-cho or Toyako. The Sobetsu Onsen, on the other hand, can be found in the eastern part of the lake, in a town called Sobetsu.
The volcanic eruptions that happened in this area did not only create this marvelous lake but the 4 islands that can be found at the center of Lake Toya as well. These islands are Oshima, Bentenjima, Kannonshima, and Manjujima but they are also collectively known as the Nakajima Island. These islands are actually lava domes that were created because of volcanic eruptions that happened at the bottom of the lake and since the water instantly cooled the hot lava, it solidified to form these group of islands.
A Map to Lake Toya and to the Attractions That You Can’t Miss Like the Onsen and the Fireworks
Before anyone can travel to the many attractions found around Lake Toya, you should first know how to get to this area. If you are coming from Tokyo and traveling by air, the fastest way you can take is a plane from Tokyo to Sapporo’s Shin-Chitose Airport. From this airport, you will be able to take a train to Toya Station which is already very near where you want to go. If you want to take the train from Tokyo, you can ride the JR Tohoku/Hokkaido Shinkansen to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, which would take about 4 hours. Transfer to the Hokuto express train that would go to the Toya Station. This would take around 2 hours. Taking these travel option would cost 25,000 yen but you might be able to get it for less since it is fully covered by the JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass as well as the Japan Rail Pass. From the Toya Station, you can simply take a bus to the Toyako Onsen bus terminal which is 15 minutes away from Toya Station. This bus ride would cost 330 yen and the travel time would be at least 1 hour. You should also take note that this bus ride is not covered by the JRP (Japan Rail Pass).
If you are coming from Hakodate, you have two options. The first is to take a train and the second is to travel via car. For the first option, you should know that all limited express trains going to and from Sapporo from Hakodate make a stop at the Toya Station along the way. With this being said, when you get to Toya Station, all that is left to do is ride a bus to the Toyako Onsen bus terminal. A one-way train ride from Hakodate would take around 1 hour and 40 minutes and would cost around 5000 yen. You would have to pay extra to avail of a reserved seat but that isn’t really necessary.
For the second option, you would just have to drive along the National Route 5 and the Doo Expressway. This drive would take about 3 hours and would cost a total of 3500 yen for a one-way trip. Comparing these two options, it can easily be seen that driving would cost less yet take you longer to get there while traveling by train can get you there faster yet at a higher cost. Driving also gives you the advantage of going straight to the lake because bus connections to the inner areas of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park can be infrequent hence making it hard to just commute all the way to the park. If you travel via train, you can also opt to rent a car to address the issue of infrequent bus rides to and from the park area.
These travel options would still depend on where you want to go in the Lake Toya area exactly because they are not all close to each other. For example, if you wish to go to the Toyako Onsen, you won’t need to ride a bus to the National Park because the onsen is actually located near the Toyako Onsen bus terminal already. From the bus terminal, you can already see the large luxury hotels that offer rooms and hot springs baths topped off with the beautiful view of the lake. You don’t have to stay in any of these hotels to enjoy the onsen though because, during the day, they offer their services to outsiders for a fee of around 500 yen to 1000 yen, depending on the day and time. Time slots like when the daily firework can be seen are examples of occasions when these fees usually cost higher.
If you are going to this area for the other attractions like the Showa Shinzan or the Usuzan Ropeway, then you would have to take the bus or a rental car from the bus terminal to reach these locations. Luckily, if you are able to get on a bus going to the park, you will surely pass these two attractions that are 15 minutes away from each other. To save time and effort, you can actually enjoy these two attractions at the same time by going to the Usuzan Ropeway because from this attraction, you get to see the lake as well as the Showa Shinzan, which is one of the youngest mountains in Japan.
There are buses that go directly to the Usuzan Ropeway and these rides would take 15 minutes from the Toyako Onsen bus terminal for a cost of 340 yen. Be sure to plan your trip accordingly though because there are only 4 buses like these in a day and these buses stop service during the winter. You should also know that all these attractions are appropriate for all ages so if you have children, a trip to these attractions can be a great source of family bonding. If you are traveling with adults, it should be just as fun to see considering all the things you can see here that you cannot really see anywhere else in the world.
The Hotel Accommodations Found in Lake Toya like The Nonokaze Resort
There are a lot of hotels and resorts that surround this area. There are establishments like the Granvillage Toya Daiwa Ryokan Annex, Toya Kanko Hotel, Hotel Grand Toya, and much more. If you wish to stay in the best hotel found around in area though, there is no doubt that the hotel you should go to is the Lake View Toya Nonokaze Resort.
The Lake View Toya Nonokaze Resort is the only resort that was rated as high as 9.2 out of 10 by prior customers. All their rooms offer their customers a one of a kind view of the lake as well as all natural beauties around it like Mt. Usu. It also gives all customers access to an open-air bath that is also blessed with these marvelous views. This open-air bath is one of their biggest features because while you relax in the warm bath during the day, you get a view of the lake under the shining sun and clear skies while relaxing in the warm bath during the night, gets you a view of the lake under the sky of stars and a moonlit lake. That alone is something that you hardly find anywhere else in the world.
They also have a vast selection of rooms you can avail of which all cost around 15,000 yen to 25,000 yen a night, depending on the luxury that particular room offers. To mention some of their room packages, there are the Single Room, Twin Room, Japanese or Western Style Room. Smoking is usually allowed inside many establishments in Japan but this resort prohibits it in all rooms so you don’t have to worry about your child getting sick because of any indoor smoke.
Considering the options for attractions and accommodations you can avail for in the area of Lake Toya, it might become hard to understand why it isn’t bombarded by local and foreign travelers alike. If you were intrigued by the things to experience and see here though, you shouldn’t wait for more people to start going here before you do because no place gets more relaxing as it gets more crowded. All you have to remember is avoid booking during the winter time because, although the lake doesn’t freeze, a majority of the attractions that surround it become hard to access due to the lack of transportation.