Eight Natural Wonders of Hokkaido

Spring

Kaminoko Pond appears as though it was glittering boundlessly in transparent blue (Kiyosato Town)

Kaminoko Pond is 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) up the forest road off the highway. It is a small pond that is 220 meters (722 feet) around with a depth of 5 meters (16 feet) but its blue water is surprisingly clear. You can see that the wood inside the water is left without decaying as if it is fossilized and the fallen trees at the bottom are on top of each other while still intact. You will immediately be struck by its beauty.

It is a mystical sight. The water that is deep indigo blue in the winter turns bright cobalt blue in the spring when it is exposed to strong sunlight. If you look closely, you can also see a surreal scene where the Dolly Varden trouts, which can only be found in cold regions, are swimming in between the fallen trees.

Address: Kiyoizumi, Kiyosato-cho Shari-gun, Hokkaido

Access: 20 minutes by car from Midori Station (turn right at the sign for Kaminoko Pond, which is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) headed towards Nakashibetsu, and go up the forest road for about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles)). There is sometimes some snow left even after May. Visitors must walk up the forest road when there is still snow left as it is closed off to traffic.

The entire hill is covered with a pink carpet of flowers! Higashimokoto Moss Pink Park (Ozora Town)

Moss pink as far as the eyes can see

The 8-hectare (about 20 acres) foothills are full of moss pink and covered by a pink carpet of flowers as far as the eyes can see from April to early June. This pink scenery was created by a single farmer. It started off in 1977 when Mister Suekichi Nakahachi (58 years-old at the time), a lover of flowers, was asked to create a recreation spot with moss pink for the local residents. Mister Nakahachi was happy to please the local residents as well as the visitors of the hot springs there so he cultivated the hills and planted each flower by hand all by himself. The flower garden then grew to its current spaciousness in 1991. The flower garden was turned into a moss pink park and many people continue to enjoy the view even after Mister Nakahachi’s passing away in 2009.

Address: 393, Suehiro, Higashimokoto, Ozora-cho Abashiri-gun, Hokkaido

Access: Take the Abashiri Kanko Kotsu bus for about 50 minutes from JR Abashiri Station. Next, take a taxi for about 5 to 6 minutes from Ozora-cho Higashimokoto

Summer

View a majestic sea of clouds while enjoying coffee on an early summer morning at “Unkai Terrace” (Shimukappu Village)

You can view a sea of clouds near the peak of a mountain at Unkai Terrace

Mount Tomamu is popular as a winter resort area that offers skiing, but a spot that attracts tourists in the summer opened in 2006. This spot is Unkai Terrace, which is run by Hoshino Resorts Tomamu. Here, you can enjoy activities such as eating light meals and yoga while taking in a view of a majestic sea of clouds that covers the surface of the mountain.

However, the sea of clouds can only be seen early in the morning and when conditions such as temperature, humidity, wind speed, and wind direction are right. There is only a 30 to 40 percent chance of its appearing even during the season from May to October, when Unkai Terrace is open. One activity that can be enjoyed on days when the sea of clouds does not appear is to stroll along the path around the terrace.

Address: Naka-Tomamu, Shimukappu, Yufutsu-gun, Hokkaido

Access: Take the JR rapid train “Airport” for 3 minutes from New Chitose Airport to Minami-Chitose Station, switch to the JR limited express “Super Tokachi”, and arrive at Tomamu Station in about 70 minutes.

Date: Scheduled to be opened on May 13, 2017. *To become the Terrace of Frost Tree in the winter, where the rime produced by the sub-zero temperatures can be seen.

See Hokkaido’s vast horizon from Marchen Hill (Ozora Town)

Houses with red roofs, the blue sky, and barley fields

Marchen Hill presents a beautiful contrast between the blue sky and green barley fields separated by the horizon in the summer. A famous landmark here is a group of seven Japanese larch trees. This is where you can get a grand view of a vast horizon that really lets you know that you are in Hokkaido. The movie “Dreams” by director Akira Kurosawa was also filmed here in 1990. Autumn, when the golden barley fields gleam, and winter, when they are completely covered with white snow, each have their own distinctive appeal.

Address: Ozora-cho, Abashiri-gun, Hokkaido

Access:25 minutes by walk from JR Memanbetsu Station
Get on the Abashiri Bus bound for the Abashiri Bus Terminal from the Memanbetsu Jujigai bus stop, which is 3 minutes by walk from Memanbetsu Airport or JR Memanbetsu Station, and get off at Showa Daini

The Blue Pond (Biei Town), with its gemlike cobalt blue water

The Blue Pond in Biei Town with withered trees standing on the surface of the cobalt blue water

Many people may remember this image that became a Macintosh desktop wallpaper. The Blue Pond in Biei Town with withered trees standing on the surface of the cobalt blue water. It is actually a manmade pond. Several dams made of concrete blocks were made at the main stream of Biei River to prevent mudslides when Mount Tokachi erupted in December 1988. This scenery was formed when water accumulated in one of them and nearby trees such as Japanese larch and white birch trees were swamped and withered as they stood. This beautiful scenery can be seen particularly when there is no wind and no rain under a clear sky, and these conditions are present the most in the summer.

Address: Shirogane, Biei-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido

Access: About 25 minutes by car from JR Biei Station

Autumn

The lake turns crimson! See the Lake Notoro coral grass community (Abashiri City)

Red glasswort stems spread all across Lake Notoro

Lake Notoro is a huge saltwater lake with an area of 580 thousand square meters (143 acres) in Hokkaido’s Abashiri City. In September, the south bank becomes completely crimson. This is because the stems of the glasswort that grows here turn red. This plant grows on the land that contains salt, which can only be found in a limited number of places even in Hokkaido. It turns red between early September to early October, and the best time of the year to see this phenomenon is from mid- to late September. It is recommended that you avoid visiting when the great lake is at full tide because that is when over half of the glasswort is submerged in the water.

Address: 60-3, Ubaranai, Abashiri-shi, Hokkaido

Access: 20 minutes from JR Abashiri Station by Abashiri Bus bound for Tokoro/Saroma-ko Sakaeura to Sangoso Iriguchi, and 10 minutes by walk

Jozankei presents beautiful colors between gorges (Sapporo City)

The autumnal leaves are beautiful at Jozankei

Jozankei, which is located upstream Toyohira River, which flows through central Sapporo City, is one of the most famous hot spring resorts in Hokkaido. It is familiarly known as “Sapporo’s inner parlor” because it is conveniently located just one hour away by car from Sapporo. It is particularly beautiful in autumn, when the leaves on the slopes of both sides of the river are bright red. The scenery of the valley that is crammed with rivers, hills, and inns looks like it comes straight out of a fairy tale. Be sure to enjoy the scenery while enjoying a hot spring bath.

Address: Jozankei, Minami-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido

Access: About 1hour 40 minutes directly by bus from New Chitose Airport

Winter

See the mysteries of nature with the Daisetsuzsan Asahidake Ropeway (Higashikawa Town)

See pillars of light at around sunset from the Daisetsuzsan Asahidake Ropeway

Mount Asahi is the tallest volcano in Hokkaido with its highest peak at an altitude of 2,291 meters (7,516 feet). There is a ropeway that travels from Asahidake Hot Springs to Sugatami Pond at the halfway point, which offers a miraculous view of sun pillars, diamond dust, soft rime, and more.

Sun pillars are pillars of light that appear around sunset. They are created by sunlight reflecting on ice crystals that are formed from the moisture in the air. Sun pillars at Daisetsuzan Asahidake appear the most during the wintertime and can be seen from the ropeway if the timing is right. Moon pillars, which appear when the moonlight reflects on ice crystals, can sometimes be seen on nights with a full moon.

Diamond dust appears when the moisture in the air freezes instantly. It is named so because the moisture in the air that has frozen and reflects sunshine sparkles like actual diamond dust that is scattering. It can be seen not only at the peak, but also at the station at the base of the mountain if the temperature is minus 15 degrees or below, the sky is clear, and there is no wind.

Access: 1 hr. 26 mins. by Ideyu-go bus from JR Asahikawa Station to Asahidake (Ropeway Sanrokueki-mae).

Sounkyo has waterfalls that have frozen still (Kamikawa Town)

Frozen waterfalls at Sounkyo

Sounkyo is a gorge that stretches twenty-four kilometers (15 miles) surrounded by the sheer cliffs on both sides of Ishikari River. The two waterfalls that flow down at the left bank are frozen white in around January. The Ginga-no-taki waterfall (Milky Way waterfall) is 120 meters-tall (394 feet-tall) and the Ryusei-no-taki waterfall (Shooting Star waterfall) is 90 meters-tall (295 feet-tall). The two waterfalls that stand still next to each other are among the top hundred beautiful waterfalls of Japan.

The Sounkyo Icefall Festival is also held from late January to early March along Ishikari River. In addition to the frozen waterfalls, the structures made of ice that are made specifically for this season are also lit up at night to take us into a surreal world of ice.

Address: Sounkyo, Kamikawa-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido

Access: About 35 minutes by Dohoku Bus to Sounkyo from JR Kawakami Station

Hokkaido is a place where people gather in the winter ski season to enjoy some of the best powdery snow in the world. It is also recommended for spring, summer, and autumn as its vast natural environment has a distinctive appeal each season. Here, you will be sure to discover scenery and excitement that you cannot experience anywhere else.