【Ice Horizon Walking Tour】
Real Hokkaido fans must try out the Ice Horizon walking tour, which takes visitors across the frozen surface of the sea itself! The tour takes place on the Notsuke Peninsula, a large, 26km long sandspit which lies to the East of Hokkaido. Although the water of the neighboring Notsuke Bay is technically seawater, from January to around mid-March when Hokkaido experiences its coldest temperatures, the entire surface of the bay freezes over, creating the “ice horizon”.
Take a walk out to the field of fresh white snow and try out some trick photography. It’s not safe to go alone, so be sure to sign up for a professionally guided tour at the Notsuke Peninsula Nature Center. A friendly guide will show you all of the best techniques for taking some fun and unique pictures, while staying safe.
Todowara/Ice Horizon Walking Tour (booking is necessary)
■Period of Operation: Mid-January to Early-March
■Access to the Notsuke Peninsula:
・1 hour by car from Nemuro Nakashibetsu airport.
・2 hours 3 mins from JR Mashu station by East Hokkaido Express 7 Bus.
・2 hours 10 mins from Utoro Onsen by East Hokkaido Express 6 Bus.
■East Hokkaido Express Bus: https://easthokkaido.com/expressbus_winter/
*Winter bus services available every day from 23rd January to 7th March. Advanced bookings are necessary.
■Spot Introduction: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/destinations/notsuke-peninsulas-gleaming-ice-fields
【”Frost Flowers” of Lake Akan】
Frost flowers are a natural phenomenon which occurs only in winter, when frozen water vapors crystallize over the ice. There are three main conditions for this phenomenon to occur: there should be no wind and no snow sitting on the top of the lake, and the temperature must be at least -15 degrees Celsius.
The best time to see this splendid sight is from December to January in the early mornings. If the weather permits and the conditions are all met, it can be viewed through March.
If you are interested in staying near Lake Akan and seeing the natural phenomenon, visitors can book a guided tour that will take them to various locations to see these unique crystal flowers.
【Hoshino Resorts Tomamu “Terrace of Frost Tree”】
Hoshino Resorts Tomamu is one of the most famous Hokkaido resorts for skiers, but it also attracts visitors for its “Muhyo Terrrace” (“Terrace of Frost Tree”), a breathtaking winter landscape.
“Muhyo” stands for “rime ice” in Japanese, a phenomenon that only occurs when the temperature reaches -2 to -10 degrees Celsius and causes supercooled water to freeze onto surfaces. In this case, it freezes onto the tree branches, making it look like the trees are in bloom. On clear days, the contrast between the white ice and blue sky is simply breathtaking! Visitors can also enjoy some sweets and snacks inspired by this icy phenomenon.
Between December 1 and 25, visitors can also experience an evening illumination from 16:00 to 18:00, when LED garlands light up the ice.
■Cost: Gondola ride (to get to the Terrace): Adults ¥2,200; Elementary school students ¥1,300 *Free for guests staying at Hoshino Resorts Tomamu The Tower
【The Hills of Biei】
Over the years, the idyllic scenery of the Biei Hills has appeared in a number of television commercials and poster advertisements. During winter, the lush green fields in Biei are covered in a blanket of pure white snow, turning the entire area into a wintery wonderland. If you’re lucky you may even see wild animals such as foxes playing in the snow!
One point of caution: as the Biei Hills are the private property of the farmers, who have farmed the land for over 100 years, it is important that visitors do not enter the fields, instead enjoying the views from the roadside.
【The Scenery of Lake Mashu】
Lake Mashu is called Kamuy-to, or lake of Gods, in the Ainu language. If you visit during the coldest months of the year when the lake becomes half-frozen, you can see a stunning contrast between the white snow and the unfrozen blue water. It’s an extraordinary scenery that can only be witnessed during winter!
■Access: Take the bus from JR Mashu Station (20 minutes), or an hour and 55 minutes by car from Memanbetsu Airport.
■Spot Introduction: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/destinations/lake-mashu-a-gorgeous-crater-lake