Hokkaido Day 9 (Lake Toya) (22 Feb 17) – Toyako Onsen: Home of the Land of Volcanoes

Lake Toya, a lake that never freezes

Towards Toyako Onsen

Today we headed for our destination for this Hokkaido trip, Toyako Onsen. To get there we took a local bus to Noboribetsu JR Station, then took the JR to Toya Station and transfer a local bus into Toyako Onsen. We checked out of our hotel in Noboribetsu Onsen in time to catch the 10.15am bus bound for Noboribetsu JR Station from the bus stop in front of the hotel. There are only a few timings which the bus calls into this bus stop, at the bus stop we found out that there are 2 buses a day that goes directly to Toyako Onsen. However, we missed the 9.05am bus and the next bus is scheduled at 2pm. My friend and I did not want to wait for the 2pm bus and took the bus that goes to JR Station instead. The 10.15am bus that came is a local bus, meaning there are no racks for luggage. We lugged our luggage with us to the seat. We were lucky that this bus stop is one of the first buses stops that this bus plies through. At later bus stops, due to the space constraint, people are not able to board the bus. The bus ride to Noboribetsu JR Station took around 20 mins, just in time for us to catch the next train to Toya Station (we took the train that stops at Hakodate). At the station, a lot of people were queuing to buy tickets at the ticketing counter. On the hind side, we should have gotten the tickets from the vending machine as we barely made it when it is our turn to get the tickets. There are no lifts or escalators in the station, we had to carry our luggage the stairs to get to the platform where the train bound for Hakodate pulls into.

On the public bus in Noboribetsu Onsen heading for Noboribetsu JR Station

The train ride took us another about 40 mins. At Toya JR Station, we found out that we can get the bus tickets from the JR Station ticketing counter. The staff advised us that the next bus is leaving soon and we managed to get onto the local bus that goes to Toyako Onsen Bus Terminal. As this is a local bus, there also wasn’t any racks for us to store our luggage. Luckily for us, the bus was relatively empty when we boarded it. The 20 mins bus ride to Toyako Onsen Bus Terminal took us to some suburban area of Toya. At first, there are no signs of Toyako Onsen, as the bus went up a hill, over the horizon, we saw a lake. We knew that is Lake Toya. We alighted at Toyako Onsen Bus Terminal and checked with the staff there regarding any buses that go to Usuzan Ropeway. Before I left for Hokkaido, I read from the bus website that public bus will not run in town during winter. A staff member at Toyako Onsen Bus Terminal told us that public bus is running only during this winter, which usually does not run in winter. I guess we were pretty lucky. Learning of the good news, we got a bus schedule from the bus and headed to our hotel.

On the JR towards Toya Station
View of Uchuira Bay from JR
Map of Toyako Onsen in Toya JR Station 
Lake Toya and its surroundings
This is the local bus that took us from Toya JR Station to Toyako Onsen
Toya JR Station
Leaving Toya JR Station
View of Toya and Uchuira Bay from the bus as we were driven up a hill
View of Toya and Uchuira Bay
On our way in the local bus towards Toyako Onsen
The first glance of Lake Toya
Lake Toya and Toyako Onsen
Walking along the streets of Toyako Onsen, dragging our luggage on the part snow, part ice street was quite tedious. The town looks deserted. There are hardly anyone around, tourists or locals the like. Most of the shops seem closed at the time of our arrival, however taking a closer look, some of them are open. There are tons of foot baths and hand baths along the street of Toyako Onsen, there are 1 in front of every hotel. Toyako Onsen has 2 main roads, one nearer to the lake behind all the hotels, and another at the side where Toyako Onsen Bus Terminal is located. There is a Volcano Science Museum next to the bus terminal, which we will visit after we settle into our hotel.
Streets of Toyako Onsen is very quiet
The quiet town of Toyako Onsen
There is hardly anyone on the streets of Toyako Onsen
View of Toyako Onsen from our hotel

Strolling along Lake Toya 

We reached our hotel and was told that we were too early for checking-in. My friend and I left our luggage with the hotel concierge and decided to visit the Volcano Science Museum. Instead of walking along the road that we just came from, we decided to use the footpaths along Lake Toya. We simply can’t resist walking on the snow. Lake Toya is famed for being a lake that never freezes, partly due to the volcanic activities around the lake and partly due to it being a saltwater lake with a river that flows from the lake to Uchuira Bay. As we were walking along the lake, the sense of peacefulness settled in. There is no one on the street, coupled with the low clouds, giving it a foggy feel. It is certainly very relaxing walking along Lake Toya, with the 3 mountains in the centre of the lake constantly in our sight. There are a couple of piers nearer to the centre of Toyako Onsen, where sightseeing boats still plies at this time of the year, taking visitors around the lake.

Mt Yotei is the snow-covered volcano seen from Lake Toya Promenade 
Taking a wefie with Nakajima Island in the background
My friend with Lake Toya in the background
Me with Lake Toya in the background
Taking a wefie in Lake Toya
Panoramic shot of Lake Toya
Introduction of Lake Toya and Mt Usu

There are a lot of photo spots along Lake Toya. My friend and I occasionally stopped for some photos, at the same time breathing in the cold fresh air of Lake Toya. We came across a foot bath with a small dragon statue in it. There is no hot spring water inside this foot bath, guess it is only operational in other seasons. We headed for the main road towards Toyako Onsen Bus Terminal.

Lake Toya and Nakajima Island
The snow scene in Lake Toya
My friend with the sign of Lake Toya
Me with the same sign along Lake Toya Promenade
Footpaths are a common sight in Toyako Onsen
Taking a wefie with a footbath
There are some nice photo spots along Lake Toya Promenade
Taking a picture at Lake Toya Promenade
My friend had ramen for lunch
I opted for the pork cutlet curry rice

Learning about Volcanic Activities In Lake Toya in the Volcano Science Museum

The Volcano Science Museum is housed in the same building as Toyako Visitor Centre, occupying a small section of the visitor centre. Entering the Volcano Science Museum is chargeable at ¥600 per adult. Entering the Volcano Science Museum, we went through a small corridor where the inner models of the earth and volcanoes are being displayed under the glass panel on the floor. As we entered the exhibition area, we were escorted by a staff member to an auditorium where we were shown a short video clip on the formation of Lake Toya and the eruption of Mt Usu. I find it interesting that during the show, we were able to feel the tremors of volcanic eruption, through the use of powerful speakers on the floor. The tremors are very pronounced and were cleverly included during the show at appropriate timings. After 20 mins of the show, we headed out to the exhibition area to finish the rest of the tour of the museum. At the exhibit area, the only other thing that is prominent is a small truck which is being damaged by the volcanic eruption of 1977. There is also a section of the JR track that is on display, buried under a glass panel on the floor. We headed to the simulation room where the tremors of the eruption in 1977 were being simulated, pretty much the same as that in the theatre. The Volcano Science Museum is very informative and educational (this is where we learnt more on the geography and how Lake Toya has formed and the volcanic activities around Lake Toya).

This picture is taken at a random spot on the street in Toyako Onsen
The Volcano Science Museum and Toyako Visitor Centre is located next to the Toyako Onsen Bus Terminal 
Taking a wefie at Volcano Science Museum and Toyako Visitor Centre
The exhibition area of Volcano Science Museum
A model of Lake Toya and the surroundings inside the Volcano Science Museum
There are some volcanic rocks on display in the Volcano Science Museum

We did not spend much time in the museum, as it is very small. My friend and I walked around in the rest of the visitor centre. The exhibits in the visitor centre are free, and it introduces us to the flora and fauna around Lake Toya. We did not stay here for too long as we did not find it particularly interesting. As we were heading outside, we saw a sign pointing to somewhere in Japanese. This led us to the Konpira Crater remnants of the Disaster Walking Trail. As this trail is closed during winter, we can only see the remnants from the observation deck. The Konpira Crater remnants of the Disaster walking Trail preserves the remains of buildings and a section of Toyako Onsen that was damaged by the volcanic eruption. Damaged buildings and roads making this place feel like a ghost town. The view of Lake Toya from the observation deck was great though. We headed back to the hotel as it is about time for us to check-in soon after.

The Toyako Visitor Centre displaying the flora and fauna around Lake Toya 
Rest corner in Toyako Visitor Centre
View of Lake Toya from the observation deck of Konpira Crater Remnants of the Disaster
Great photo spot of Lake Toya from the observation deck of Konpira Crater Remnants of the Disaster
The footpath in Konpira Crater Remnants of the Disaster was closed, we can only see the remnants from a distance. It feels like a ghost town in there
My friend walking on the observation deck of Konpira Crater Remnants of the Disaster

The Light Tunnel and the Onsen

After checking-in, we lazed a little in the hotel room as it was close to dinner time. After dinner, we headed out to illuminated Tunnel nearby the hotel. The 70m tunnel is decorated with mainly white lights with other coloured lights scatter across the tunnel. It feels magical especially under the snow and a sight not to be missed in this winter the only event. We returned to the hotel shortly and checked out the onsen in the hotel. The onsen in the hotel is located on the 9th floor and has a very small outdoor onsen area. The onsen water in Toyako Onsen comes from Mt Usu. The eruption in 1910 rose the temperature of the water to 42℃, making it perfect as onsen water. Despite being a smaller facility, my friend and I had a good soak in the onsen water, although we did not enjoy the outdoor onsen as much as we did in the other onsens we been to during this trip. The outdoor onsen was placed in a covered balcony and did not really have that outdoor feel. We returned to our room to rest for the night after a good soak in the onsen, a great way to end the night.

Lake Toya Promenade at night 
Taking wefie at Lake Toya Promenade at night
The Illumination Tunnel in Toyako Onsen which is only available in winter
Taking a wefie in the Illumination Tunnel
Inside the Illumination Tunnel
The lights in the Illumination Tunnel
The exterior of the Illumination Tunnel
Inside the dome area of the Illumination Tunnel
My friend inside the dome area of the Illumination Tunnel
Taking a wefie inside the dome area of the Illumination Tunnel
Inside the dome area of the Illumination Tunnel 
Inside the dome area of the Illumination Tunnel
My friend inside the dome area of the Illumination Tunnel
Onsen in the hotel
Onset inside the hotel
A rest area for guests outside the onsen
The corridor that leads to the onsen
Male onsen area

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