Touring around Toya and Sobetsu (3/6)

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Greetings. This is Nazrul from the Hokkaido Government Representative Office.

My journey continues to Lake Toya, a highly popular hot spring destination in Hokkaido. I have been to Lake Toya once two years ago, but it was only for less than 3 hours and I didn’t get to fully explore the town. This time however, I finally had the privilege to see and appreciate the town’s beauty and splendor.

Map route (map source: Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism)
Morning view outside my hotel room (Toyako Manseikaku Lakeside Terrace)

The first item in my itinerary for the day is a trip to Nakajima Island, which sits in the middle of Lake Toya. Accessible by a 30-minute ferry ride, this island is a haven for wild deers and giant spruces, some of which date back 350 years ago. It’s a must visit for the people interested in wildlife in Lake Toya and Hokkaido.

Ferry to Nakajima Island (adult: 1,420 yen; child: 710 yen)
Ferry to Nakajima Island

A tour of Nakajima Island is something different for me, when I usually associate Lake Toya simply with hot springs. Trekking shoes, a sweater and an umbrella are a must since a bit of walking is involved, it can be cold during non-summer seasons and it may rain all of a sudden. It’s also an eye-opener to see how pristine the nature is on the island, as it has been preserved by the local authorities.

Spruces abound on Nakajima Island
Some trees fell due to heavy rains and strong winds
Several trekking paths to take on Nakajima Island
Trunks of spruces found on the island

Visitors should take note that it is best to visit the island from late April to late October, when they are allowed to disembark on the island (summer cruise). From November to early April, visitors are not allowed to get off at the island (winter cruise). The operating hours for the cruise also differs a little: from late April to late October, it operates from 08:00 to 16:30. From November to early April, it’s from 09:00 to 16:00.

Last autumn leaves found on island

Next up is a trip to a small town of Sobetsu. Less than an hour’s drive away from Lake Toya, Sobetsu is home to a myriad of fruits that visitors can come and pick during non-winter seasons. Depending on the exact time of the year, visitors can pick anything from apples and strawberries, to grapes and even chestnuts. The place to do so is the Sobetsu Fruit Village, which is open throughout the year except for winter.

Apples at Hamada Orchard @ Sobetsu
Fruit picking: 880-1080 yen per adult, 680-880 yen per kids up to 12 years old, 480-680 yen for 5-12 year olds

Apart from the hot springs, another thing that Toyako town is famous for is scallops. Visitors can enjoy it scallop curry at Roadside Station ‘Aputa’, a station that drivers (especially rental car drivers) can rest and enjoy a meal while enjoying the scenic view of the Uchiura Bay.

Scallop curry
Scenic view of Uchiura Bay

Sometimes, it’s nice to take things slow once in a while. One way to do so is to visit the a herbal ranch at Lake Toya, where visitors can pick their own herbs to make herbal water (for skincare) and herbal tea. Homegrown by the owners themselves, visitors can choose from a range of herbs such as thyme, mint, wild strawberry and stevia and concoct their own tea by using a simple distillation instrument.

Herbal ranch
Picking out your own herbs
Opening hours: 10:00 – 15:30, closed every Tuesday

My day ended with a trip to the Toyako Visitor Center, where visitors can gather more tourist information on Lake Toya and learn more about the geology of the area. Perhaps more significantly, Lake Toya is the host venue for the 34th G8 summit held back in July 2008. Political leaders from all over the world such as German chancellor Angela Merkel, UK prime minister Gordon Brown, US president George Bush and United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon were present at the summit, and the town was proud to host a historical event.

G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit Memorial Museum
Conference table used during summit

My journey continues down south of Hokkaido: Hakodate, to be covered in my next blog post. Stay tuned!

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