The calm caldera lake of Toya-ko (洞爺湖) is a unique tourist spot in the western part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park. The active volcano Usu-zan (737m) has erupted four times in the 20th-century, which created Showa-shinzan (398m) next to its mountain in 1944. Great eruptions caused a lot of damage in this area, however on the other hand, volcanic activity brought various benefits such as onsen and impressive views.
Highlights Toyako Onsen, Toyako Kisen Cruise, Konpira Crater Hazard Area, Usu-zan, Sobetsu Park
Tourist Information Toyako Tourist Information Center (洞爺湖観光情報センター): Tel 0142-75-2446 / 2nd floor of Toyako Onsen bus terminal / 9am-5pm / www.laketoya.com
01 ONSEN TOWN
洞爺湖温泉 / Toyako-onsen-cho / www.laketoya.com
Toyako Onsen lies on its southern shore, take at least stay one night off your trip. A lakeside promenade is a good stroll place, with a free ashi-yu (footbath). From late April to October, the fireworks set off on the lake at 8.45pm every night. It is a base of staying and hiking, plus good transport links from Sapporo and Noboribetsu Onsen. Take at least stay one night off your trip.
02 LAKE CRUISE
Toyako Kisen Cruise
洞爺湖汽船 / 8am-4.30pm late Apr-Oct (twice hourly) via Naka-jima, 9am-4pm Nov-early Apr (hourly) / ¥1420 / www.toyakokisen.com
Toyako Kisen loop cruise is the best way to seeing this beautiful lake. From spring to autumn, boats call at Naka-jima (中島) island where you can visit the Forest Museum (森林博物館: ¥200) or hike a footpath (fill out an entry register). There is a night cruise (departing at 8.30pm / ¥1600) during the fireworks season.
03 VISITOR CENTER & LOCAL HISTORY
Toyako Visitor Center
洞爺湖ビジターセンター · 火山科学館 / 142-5 Toyako Onsen-cho / 9am-5pm / FREE / www.toyako-vc.jp/en
A 2-minute walk from the bus terminal, this wooden visitor center features bird’s-eye view of the lake and wildlife information. On-site Volcano Science Museum (¥600) displays the volcanic activities of Usu-zan in 1977 and 2000, with an experienced-based theater.
04 GEOLOGICAL SITE & HIKING
Konpira Crater Hazard Area
金比羅火口災害遺構散策路 / Konpira-kako Saigai-iko Sansaku-ro / 7am-6pm late Apr-mid Nov, to 5pm after Oct / FREE / www.toya-usu-geopark.org
Located behind the visitor center, this hazard area holds a destroyed 5-storey apartment, bathhouse and bridge by the 2000 eruption and its mudflow. Fortunately, all residents had been evacuated before the eruption.
From here, you can traverse the Konpira-yama Trail (2.3km) to the Nishiyama Craters Promenade, following an old national route, two craters (Yu-kun and Tama-chan) and some ruins overlooking the lake. Before the 1977 eruption, there was a residential area here.
05 GEOLOGICAL SITE & HIKING
Nishiyama Crater Promenade
西山火口散策路 / Nishiyama-kako Sansaku-ro / 7am-6pm late Apr-mid Nov, to 5pm after Oct / FREE
The most famous volcanic disaster remnants in the 2000 eruption of Usu-zan, a 3km-long trail follows the craters, fumaroles, destroyed buildings and roads. Take the local bus to Nishiyama-yuhodo from Toya Station (15min / ¥280) or Toyako Onsen (3min / ¥160). There is a small volcanic photo gallery (free) at the old fire station. It is closed in winter.
昭和新山 / Showa-shinzan, Sobetsu-cho
This 398m-high active volcano appeared in 1944 (Showa period) in the countryside, close to Usu-zan. Today the ground is still hot and not allowed to climb, but you can see it from the observation square. The daytime parking fee is ¥500 except December to March.
Donan Bus has four daily services between Toyako Onsen and Showa-shinzan (15min / one-way ¥340, return ¥620).
07 CABLE CAR & HIKING
有珠山ロープウェイ / Around 8am-6pm / Return ¥1600 / usuzan.hokkaido.jp/en
Hokkaido’s most active volcano of Usu-zan (737m) offers dynamic views and geological sites. From the car park of Showa-shinzan, Usu-zan Ropeway takes you to the summit with observation decks.
From here, a 3km-long outer rim trail (2hrs return / Closed Nov-Apr) leads to the Gairin-zan Viewpoint (外輪山展望台) looks down the ocean and lake. Otherwise, you can climb down the trail from the Gairin-zan viewpoint to Usu Station (有珠駅) on the JR Muroran Line. It takes roughly 100 minutes (5km).
08 SCENIC VIEWPOINT
壮瞥公園 / Sobetsu Koen / Higashi-kohan, Sobetsu-cho / 24hrs May-Oct / FREE
On the southeastern hills of Toya-ko, Sobetsu Park boasts great views over the lake, Usu-zan and Yotei-zan. Fields of plums bloom here in early May. The nearest bus stop is Takinoue (滝の上) close to the Sobetsu-taki (壮瞥滝) falls. There is a footpath from the town center of Sobetsu.
TRAIN: Toya Station (洞爺駅: tickets 6.55am-6.20pm) on the JR Muroran Line is about 7km southwest of the lake.
The limited express train Hokuto runs from Sapporo (1hr 50min), Noboribetsu (40min) and Hakodate (1hr 40min). There are also local trains from Oshamanbe (40min) and Muroran (1hr).
BUS: All buses for Toyako Onsen are stopping at the bus terminal. Donan Bus runs from Toya Station to Toyako Onsen terminal (洞爺湖温泉ターミナル: 18min / ¥340). Some buses from Toya Station to Toyako Onsen terminal continue to Higashi-machi (東町) at the Toya Sun Palace Resort & Spa.
Donan Bus operates services from Sapporo Station (4 daily / 2hrs 40min / compulsory reservation), stopping at Jozankei (1hr 50min) and Rusutsu Resort (40min). Three buses continue to the Toya Sun Palace Resort & Spa.
There are two highway buses Iburi-go (いぶり号) from and to Noboribetsu Onsen (1hr).