Hokkaido Day 3 (Lake Akan) (16 Feb 17) – Goodbye Tomamu, Hello Lake Akan

Goodbye Tomamu

We visited a different restaurant from yesterday. Walking along the covered walkway to and fro the restaurant, taking in the snowy scenery outside, made us don’t feel like leaving Hoshino Resorts Tomamu. Afterall the ski village has activities for everyone, skiers or non-skiers. The scenery at Unkai Terrace was absolutely stunning. We checked out of our hotel in Tomamu after breakfast, in time for the shuttle bus that will make the 1040am JR to Kushiro Station. All the shuttle buses bound for Tomamu JR Station are timed well in time for guests to board or alight from the trains that call into the station. The information on the JR Hokkaido website is very accurate and makes a great site for me when I was planning which train to take for us to catch the shuttle bus to the hotel we stayed in Lake Akan Onsen Town (Akanko Onsen) provided by the hotel.
The restaurant where we had our breakfast in Hoshino Resorts Tomamu
Walking along the covered walkway from the hotel to the restaurant
The snow scene outside the walkway just looks fabulous

Making our Way to Akanoko Onsen

The journey to Akanko Onsen took around 5 hours. We spent 3 hours on the JR from Tomamu Station to Kushiro Station. The 3-hour train ride zipped past quickly as I was looking out the window, enjoying the sights of the vast and mostly empty land covered in snow of Hokkaido, a very different scene from what I thought of Japan. These empty lands could be farms, but in winter they looked abandoned. Everything covered in the snow seems to look beautiful, no matter how wild the land looks. Soon we arrived at Kushiro Station. My friend and I begin to orientate ourselves and look for the bus station that the bus would pick us up. Some hotels in Akanoko Onsen such as the one we stayed in provides transfer from Kushiro Station directly to the hotel, we found this out when visiting the hotel website and made arrangements with them to via email after we booked the room. We also booked our transfer from the hotel to Abashiri with the hotel, which saves a considerable amount on transport as well as time as compared to using the JR. We planned to arrive more than 30 mins earlier than the scheduled pick up the timing to the hotel after all the Japanese are known for their punctuality. We rather are early than late so not to miss our bus. As we were walking outside Kushiro Station, it seems to signal the end of winter coming, there isn’t much snow in the streets and most are covered in thin ice. As we were being driven on the 2-hour bus ride across Kushiro City, the whole city seems dead as there aren’t many people anywhere else in the city. As the bus pulled further from Kushiro City, the snow scenery seem to return, reassuring us that winter will not be ending soon. Civilisation fades into farmland and subsequently to the natural landscape. The natural landscape soon turned into civilisation, we knew we have arrived at Akanko Onsen.
Waiting for JR at Tomamu Station
We had time to take a wefie before the train arrives
This is the train that will take us from Tomamu Station to Kushiro Station
Onboard the JR on our way to Kushiro Station
The vast lands of suburban Hokkaido
The snow just makes even the wilderness look charming
JR zipping past some snow landscape in Hokkaido
My friend choosing which snack to get in Kushiro Station
I chose the very tasty cream bun
Outside Kushiro Station. It seems that the snow has melted as though winter is ending soon
This is the bus that will take us to Akanko Onsen
On our way from Kushiro to Akanko Onsen
As we were being driven to Akanko Onsen, the snow thick snow assured us that winter will still be around for some time
On our way from Kushiro to Akanko Onsen
There is hardly any traffic along the way to Akanko Onsen
On our way from Kushiro to Akanko Onsen
On our way from Kushiro to Akanko Onsen
On our way from Kushiro to Akanko Onsen

Exploring Akanko Onsen

My friend and I checked into the room in the hotel, the view of Lake Akan from our room was amazing. From our room, we can see the frozen Lake Akan and the mountain beyond the lake. My friend and I headed out Akanko Onsen Town to settle the payments for our day trips tomorrow. The Akan Tourist Information Centre which we booked our day trips from was about 5 mins from the hotel we put up in. Akanko Onsen is a small town. Most of the hotels are built in front of Lake Akan and the shops are built one street opposite the hotels away from the lake. The shops in town mainly sell souvenirs to tourists and a couple of 24-hour convenient stores along the street. There is also a small park in town along the side where the shops are located. As we were strolling in the town, it felt that the town is built for tourists. The town is very quiet, we saw a few tourists strolling in town. There don’t seem to have a lot of locals residing in Akanko Onsen except for a few shopkeepers operating the shops. Since it was still too early for our dinner in the hotel, my friend and I headed for the nearby Ainu Kotan.

View of the frozen Lake Akan from our hotel room
Walking in the streets of Akanko Onsen
We came across a small park covered in snow on our way to Akan Tourist Information Centre
We were delighted to see a considerable amount of snow in Akanko Onsen, assuring us that winter is still around

Ainu Kotan is a small Ainu Village in Akanko Onsen, which is a small area hidden in one corner of the town. It has shops mainly selling souvenirs lined along the sides of the village. Some Ainu wood carvings are standing around 2 storeys tall sitting in the middle of the village. There is a small Ainu museum at the end of the street, which was closed at the time of our visit. There are some Ainu ice sculptures displayed in front of the museum. There are a couple of Ainu homes on the sides of the museum. The Ainu Village feels artificial, and not worth spending a lot of time on it.

The archway marked the entrance to Ainu Kotan
My friend in Ainu Kotan
One of the shops in Ainu Kotan selling souvenirs
The ice sculpture in the middle of Ainu Kotan
Another ice sculpture in front of the Ainu Museum in Ainu Kotan
These are residences of the Ainu tribe people
Me in an Ainu hut
A typical Ainu hut in Ainu Kotan
Ainu sculpture in Ainu Kotan

Onsen Experience in Akanko Onsen

For the rest of the night, we tried out the onsen in the hotel. The hotel’s onsen has 4 pools which are all indoor. The temperature in the hot spring waters in the hotel is set between 38℃ to 40℃, depending on the baths. We were a little disappointed that there isn’t any outdoor onsen in the hotel we were staying and the onsen in the hotel we stayed in is pretty normal. My friend and I decided to check out the onsen in the sister hotel next door. The onsen here is located on the 1st and 8th floor, alternately between male and female usage. Today the 8th-floor onsen is scheduled as a male onsen, while the one on 1st floor is for female patrons. We went to the rooftop outdoor onsen, braving the 2.5℃ temperature. The climate must be lower than 2.5℃ with the cold wind blowing from the frozen Lake Akan. We like soaking in the hot spring waters in the cold, feel very comfortable. It is a shame that we can’t see into the lake from the rooftop due to the darkness of the night. We headed back to our room after spending almost 1 hour in the onsen as it was late and we had to wake up early the next day for our morning walk on Lake Akan.

Onsen in Tsuruga Wings hotel (taken from the hotel website (http://www.tsurugawings.com/en/) as we were not allowed to bring a camera into the onsen)
The indoor onsen on at the sister hotel Akan Yuku no Sato Tsuruga 8th floor (taken from the hotel website (http://www.tsuruga.com/en/) as we were not allowed to bring a camera into the onsen)
Rooftop Onsen overlooking Lake Akan in the sister hotel Akan Yuku no Sato Tsuruga (taken from the hotel website (http://www.tsuruga.com/en/) as we were not allowed to bring a camera into the onsen)
We were fortunate to see a fireworks display on Lake Akan from the comfort of our room
The fireworks lasted for 15 mins on Lake Akan
Fireworks display on Lake Akan


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