Starting Off Your 2020 in Hokkaido vol. 1
Ice Diamonds Shining on Otsu Coast
Despite the winter temperatures of the Otsu Coast near the town of Toyokoro regularly falling below -15°C, people make a pilgrimage to these frozen shores in the early morning.
The big draw for all these people is the precious ice that washes up onto the beach. The ice that flows down the Tokachi River and into the Pacific Ocean land on the Otsu Coast in a variety of polished shapes. The beautiful transparency of the ice and the way it shines in the morning light is the reason it’s been given the name “Jewelry Ice” by the locals. What’s more, these crystals of the sea change colour from orange, blue and purple as time passes and the sun rises into the sky. Snapping a photo of this natural art from different angles will give you an album full of colour variations.
This phenomenon of nature only occurs for a short period of time between mid-January and late February, so it pays to keep informed, so use a translation tool on the websites below!
Address: Toyokoro Town, Nakagawa County, Hokkaido
Access to Toyokoro Town Otsu Coast: about 90 minutes by car from JR Obihiro Station
Jewelry Ice Toyokoro Town: https://www.toyokoro-kankoh.com/
Toyokoro Town Tourism Association: http://www.toyokoro.jp/tourism/
Tour guide: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/special/winter/superb-view/
Looking Down From the Mountaintop: View of a Silvery White Landscape
Delicate rime frosts the trees. A majestic view of the world below. A dreamy gondola ride, one of the longest in Japan… If you’re looking for a memorable experience in the Hakodate area, Nanae Snow Park has you covered.
Situated only an hour away from downtown Hakodate, Nanae Snow Park is a multi-purpose ski resort built to satisfy all your winter wishes. It offers outdoor sports, cafe-hopping, and grogeous sightseeing. There are eight ski courses in total where both beginners and veterans will find their own perfect route for practice.
Take the 3,319m long gondola which to the peak for an adventure through rime ice covered forest. Feeling peckish? PEAKCAFE at the top of the snow mountain serves delicious dishes and offers a breathtaking view of both Mount Komagatake and the Pacific Ocean. For those traveling with their little ones, you can chill with them at the fun kid’s park.
Hakodate Nanae Snow Park
Address: 666 Higashi-Onuma, Nanae Town, Kameda County, Hokkaido
Period: 14 December 2019 – 5 April 2020
Hours vary based on the facilities
Access: about 25 minutes by free shuttle bus from JR Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, or about 15 minutes by free shuttle bus from JR Onuma Station.
Hakodate Nanae Gondola: https://hakodate-nanae.jp/pdf/pamphlet_english.pdf
Hakodate Nanae Snow Park: https://hakodate-nanae.jp/winter/english/
The Best Night View in Sapporo?
Savvy visitors might know about Mt. Moiwa, which is on the new list of major night views in Japan put out by the national tourism agency. But for those of you who don’t feel like climbing or want to keep warm during the winter while taking in the fabulous night view, JR Tower right at the heart of Sapporo makes a great alternative.
Go up to the 38th floor of the tallest shopping complex in Sapporo and head to T’ CAFE where you can take in a 360° panoramic view of the northern metropolis. One of the 100 Best Night Views, this chicque café not only promises a perfect view across to both Otaru and Ishikari Bay during daytime, but also an incredible panoramic vista once night falls. Imagine yourself savouring a warm beverage and alcohol drinks on a freezing cold Sapporo night while staring out over the incredible Sapporo nightscape. The art pieces that decorate the walls and ceilings. make it a hip atmosphere worth relaxing in for a while.
Address: Observatory T38, 38/F JR Tower, 2-5 Kita-5-Jo Nishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo City, Hokkaido
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Access: directly connected to JR Sapporo Station
HTO Page: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/spot/detail.php?id=28
An Otherworldly Landscape of Ice Sculptures and Fireworks
Lake Shikotsu is the second largest caldera lake in Japan. From the end of January every year, the entire area transforms into a wonderland of ice.
The Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival is a treasure trove of opportunities to take incredible photos. For starters, once you pass through the “Blue Tunnel,” you will be greeted by the 10-meter-tall tower of ice known as the “Blue Tower.” The “Hyoto Shrine,” which is a shrine made up of ice domes is also worth taking a few snaps. And the entire area, once lit up in the evening, can be seen from the “Tenku Kairo (Sky Road)” so make sure to take that dreamlike-photo that’ll get people talking. For the kids, head on over to the ice slider and they can slide to their hearts’ delight.
Weekends and national holidays see fireworks displays from 6:30 p.m. throughout the event period. Lake Shikotsu is also known for its incredible hot springs, so make sure to book a stay at an onsen inn to warm up those cold bodies afterwards.
Shikotsuko Hyoto Matsuri (Lake Shikotsu Ice Pillar Festival)
Address: Shikotsuko Onsen, Chitose City, Hokkaido
Period: 24 January 2020 – 16 February 2020
Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.（※illumination 4:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.）
Access: about 45 minutes by Hokkaido Chuo Bus from JR Chitose Station, alight at Lake Shikotsu Bus Terminal
Website: https://hyoutou-special.asia/ (please use a translation tool)
Chitose Tourist Association: http://1000sai-chitose.or.jp/en/
HTO Page: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/event/detail.php?id=205
Notsuke Peninsula’s Ice Horizon
Have you ever wanted to walk across the frozen sea?
Here’s your chance. Join the Ice Horizon Walking Tour and stroll over the frozen, snow-covered ocean around Notsuke Peninsula in eastern Hokkaido. The 26km-long area turns into a seemingly never-ending ice landscape during the cold season which forming an “ice horizon.” It’s possible to walk all around this endless ice landscape and snap trick photos that take advantage of the perspective the long, flat landscape. Just be warned that it might be dangerous to wander around on the ice without a tour guide. It is highly recommended that you sign up for the guided tour organized by Notsuke Peninsula Nature Center. And besides, the guides can help you find the best spots to take incredible photos!
Hyoheisen (Ice Horizon) Walking Tour (reservation only)
Address: Betsukai Town, Notsuke County, Hokkaido
Period: from mid-January to early-March
Access to Notsuke Peninsula: about 1 hour from Nemuro Nakashibetsu Airport, or about 3 hours by Eastern Hokkaido Express Bus from JR Mashu Station
East Hokkaido Express Bus: https://easthokkaido.com/en/expressbus_winter/
Bus Operates every day from 25 January 2020 to 8 March 2020 (there are exceptions for some bus routes). Advance ticket reservation is required.
Betsukai Ice Horizon: http://betsukai-kanko.jp/ice-horizon/index_en.html
Notsuke Peninsula Nature Center: http://notsuke.jp/ (Please use a translation tool)
HTO Page: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/korezo/detail/85
A Heartwarming Cup of Coffee in a wooden house
True Sapporites know that the Maruyama Park area is home to some of the coolest spots in town. The real gem in Maruyama is known by locals but tougher to find for visitors. Hidden away down an alley in a residential neighbourhood is the retro café space, Morihico.
Morihico is an oldie but a goodie. The building has been repurposed from a 70-year-old wooden Japanese house and the café pulls in locals a variety of specialty blended coffee. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee fills the air as you lounge on antique furniture. During the winter months keep warm with a hot drink and read a book by the wood-stove for one of the most memorable café experiences you can find in Sapporo. Mouth-watering desserts from its sister pâtisserie store, Marie Pierre, are also famous in the area.
Address: 26-2-18, Minami-2-Jo Nishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo City, Hokkaido
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Access: about 4 minutes on foot from Sapporo Maruyama Koen Subway Station