Lake Toya 洞爺湖
The path up the slopes of Mount Usu.
Nakajima seen from the bank of Lake Toya
Mont Showa Shinzan
Another view of the slopes of Mt Usu.
South of Hokkaido, near Sapporo, Lake Toya (Toyako) reveals its uniqueness and tranquility in the heart of Shikotsu-Toya National Park.
Lake Toya was created when a caldera formed after a volcanic eruption in the area, over a hundred thousand years ago. This intense volcanic activity, that continues today, shaped the characteristic landscape of Lake Toya and its surroundings. To the north, Mount Yotei proudly bears the nickname Ezo Fuji (or, the Mt. Fuji of Hokkaido); to the south rise the Showa-Shinzan and Usu Mountains.
More than 10 kilometers in diameter, Lake Toya has a group of four islands at its center, called Nakajima.
Accessible by ferry from the city of Toyako-Onsen, the main island, Oshima, offers tours taking a few hours in the middle of lush vegetation filled with the wild deer of Hokkaido.
Walk on volcanoes
For a nice hike towards Mount Usu, after an ascent by cable car and a stop at the panorama overlooking the lake, guests can take a stroll punctuated by fumaroles spewing steam and gases. The highlight of the circuit? Stunning views of the surrounding area, between the ocean and volcanoes.
Rising to 735 meters, the last eruption of Mount Usu was back in 2001. Still very active, eruption can be anticipated through the many tremors that occur three to ten days beforehand.
Nearby, the smaller Mount Showa-Shinzan is one of the curiosities of the lake's surroundings. This volcanic mound with an altitude of 398 meters formed in the middle of a field as a result of multiple tremors between 1944 and 1945.
Known for making the skin soft, supple and healthy, the onsen in the spa town of Toyako-Onsen are particularly popular. These natural hot springs with water drawn from between 60 and 150 meters deep, are rich in minerals such as sodium, calcium or sulphates. They are supposed help treat neuralgia, burns, muscle pain and other everyday ailments. Beside these baths, accessible from private hotels and bath houses, there is a circuit which passes through the city, dotted with smaller onsen for the feet or hands.
At just over two hours by car from Sapporo, the lake also hosts many festivals throughout the year, and is illuminated through the nightly fireworks from April to October. Visiting in winter? Add to your experience in Hokkaido by skiing on the slopes of Niseko, less than an hour from Lake Toya.