On day three of the post-VJTM famil, and our last full day in Northeastern Hokkaido, we were immersed in the natural surroundings of the region. We spent the day hopping from one natural attraction to the next, giving us a true glimpse of Hokkaido’s iconic pure beauty.
The first stop was Sunayu, situated along Lake Kussharo, where we dug our own natural onsens (hot springs) and felt the warm spring water surface from beneath the sand.
Next we visited Mount Iozan, also known as Sulfur Mountain, which is an active volcano located in Akan National Park. The yellow, sulfurous vents make this mountain so unique and can be seen up close if you can stand the smell!
At the base of the mountain is the Iozan Visitor Center that sells eggs cooked by the natural heat of the mountain’s steaming vents.
We stopped in Sumibi-yaki village for a barbecue lunch, but it definitely was not the barbecue I was imagining.
Inside the barbecue house we cooked our own meals – made up of fresh meats, seafood and vegetables – on a small grill over hot charcoal. It was a fun and absolutely delicious experience.
Back on the road we headed to Lake Mashu, a gorgeous lake surrounded by cliffs and often covered by a thick layer of fog.
But for us, there was no fog in sight and the view was incredible – the photos speak for themselves.
The afternoon was spent on a sightseeing cruise on the pristine Lake Akan. Lake Akan is home to the famous Marimo: a spherical moss that was first discovered in 1987 and pronounced a natural monument in 1921.
During the cruise we hopped off the boat at Churui Island to visit the Marimo Exhibition and Observation Center.
We spent the night at Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings, by far the most luxurious hotel of the trip. The hotel’s fit out is modern and elegant with a unique Japanese touch.
It offers a range of both Japanese and Western style rooms, 33 different onsens, spa facilities and restaurants. The staff members were very friendly and professional and many of them spoke English, which was helpful.
After dinner some of the group braved the cold and headed out to a local show about the history and culture of Ainu people – Hokkaido’s indigenous population. Meanwhile, others chose to stay in the hotel to relax in the onsens, enjoy a hot stone spa or have a drink by the fire in the hotel bar.
On our final day we visited the Kushiro Crane Reserve, established in 1958 to protect and preserve Japan’s sacred bird species, before heading to Kushiro Airport for our return flight to Tokyo.
After four days in Northeastern Hokkaido, we have all left with a better understanding and greater respect for Japanese culture and it’s spectacular scenery.
On the famil trip was Endless Turns Ski & Adventure Travel founder Dan Griffith who says the entire tour was professionally planned and guided well by our organised leaders Yoko and Koko.
“It was very beneficial because many people don’t know about Eastern Hokkaido…it’s not going to be tough to get travellers from around the world,” Mr Griffith said.
“Once they come to Eastern Hokkaido I think they’re going to fall in love with Japan, the people, the wonderful food, the culture and the history.”