This is most likely the last travel entry for my trip last year before we go into the 2nd half of 2019 and recalibrate.
I have written about ramen, donburi/markets, desserts, food reviews for sushi and grilled seafood in Sapporo, and taking the ropeway up to Mount Hakodate for this travel series. While brainstorming for ideas for another travel-related entry, it then occurred to me that I somehow did not blog about the Lake Toya portion of the trip 😛
So Lake Toya happened on Day 5 of my trip after an overnight stay in Otaru the day before. On hindsight now – I should’ve slotted Otaru in between my first 3 days in Sapporo so that I would have spent less time on the train. It was a 35 to 40 min train ride from Otaru to Sapporo, followed by an hour’s wait at Sapporo Station before boarding the Limited Express Super Hokuto for an 1 hour 50 min ride to Toya Station. And then another bus (Donan Bus) to get into the Lake Toya resort area proper. A good part of the day was spent travelling just to get to Lake Toya, but I still managed to reach around 3pm.
After a 15 min bus ride on the Donan Bus (which was fully packed to the brim), we managed to reach the onsen resort area. The nice thing about this bus route is that it actually stops along the stretch of hotels/resorts facing out directly to Lake Toya – which is more cost effective than taking a taxi from the train station to the resort area (costs around 3,000 JPY). Although I think the taxi is quite cost effective if you are travelling in pairs/threes and lugging heavy luggage. But since I don’t drive, I’m glad that the Donan Bus took me right to the door of the onsen resort 🙂
For my 1 night stay at Lake Toya – I booked Lake View Toya Nonokaze Resort.
I was very lucky to be allocated a room right on level 8 on the Spa Resort Building wing (the highest floor before the open air onsen on level 9) in spite of being a solo traveler and having made my booking via Japanican. The room was indeed as spacious as it is shown in various websites, and the views looking out to Lake Toya were indeed as fantastic as it is. And I love that the shower area, washing area and toilet area are completely separate (you will not even get this even in a 4-5 star hotel in space starved Tokyo).
After putting down my luggage, I took a short walk to the lake area right behind the hotel. Although it was only a little after 4 – but as you can see, cloudy skies all over, as November is the off-shoulder period before winter proper.
A small little detail that got my attention during my walk – a hand bath at the entrance of the Toya Kanko Hotel (beside Lake View Toya Nonokaze). No harm dipping my hands into it as it was around 8 to 10 degrees celsius + could definitely do with some joy in my stressful life 😛
The cloudy weather meant that Mount Yotei was pretty shy as it only came into sight from 4pm onwards, before sunset starts to set in around 430 pm onwards. Managed to capture this shot after getting back into my room from my short walk.
It was still pretty early at 5-plus and so I decided to check out the onsens within the resort and thought it might be a better idea to do an onsen before dinner on an empty stomach rather than having to wait for the food to digest after dinner. No pictures of the onsen (since I can’t bring in my phone/camera) but after checking out both the sento on level 2 and both the indoor/open air bath on level 9 – I decided to stick to the baths on level 9 and the quality/views of the onsen were as good as the pictures indicate. There was also the additional option of topping up 3,000 JPY for a 50 min session in a exclusive private onsen but the pools on level 9 were more than good enough for me for that satisfactory onsen soak.
And just in time for dinner post onsen soak.
As this is a more modern/western style resort, the dinner (included as part of the room charge) is served buffet style. There are options to top-up for more exclusive private dining options i.e Japanese-French style and Japanese Kaiseki style.
Strangely for a Japanese hotel, the Japanese section of the buffet wasn’t that great as the quality of the ingredients for both the sushi and sashimi plates leave much to be desired. Especially after having better quality sushi/seafood earlier at Sapporo and Otaru. Also had my one and only bowl of Hokkaido style soup curry (which I did not manage to try in Sapporo) and it was weird for me. The western section was a lifesaver though – the steak was good and I had another 2 helpings of it. If I were to have another chance to come back to Lake Toya and stay here once again, I will definitely top-up for the Japanese-French/Japanese Kaiseki dinner option!
During check-in, I was informed by the hotel reception that there is the Toyako Onsen Illumination Tunnel event nearby the hotel – the one and only nighttime event in this sleepy onsen town at night. Thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do some walking post buffet dinner and so decided to check out this illumination. Which was at best a mini illumination that I walked through in …… 10 mins!
Being in a quiet resort town, there is not much night time entertainment to be expected (quite similar to my experience back at Takayama as well) so it is really the best time to simply relax and do more onsen. Although I ended up not going up to the onsen for another soak post dinner, however it is at this point when I finally start to feel relaxed and really feel like I’m truly on holidays!