Hokkaido is one of the best destinations to enjoy nature activities in Japan.
In winter, it was amazing to enjoy powder snow for skiing. When I visited Hokkaido for the first time, I was surprised with the different circumstances and snow conditions from Niigata and Nagano. Sapporo area, the south part of Hokkaido, and the Tokachi area, the center of Hokkaido, had glorious skiing resorts.
When we visited Hokkaido in summer, we could enjoy extremely expansive flower fields and outdoor activities. However, our first summer trip in Hokkaido was terribly busy due to the vastness of Hokkaido. We needed to transfer from one hotel to another every day for a week. We needed to drive for more than 2 hours to visit our next destination in Hokkaido. The view was gorgeous, but it was too hectic.
This time, we decided to stay at Shikotsu Lake for 3 days to enjoy Hokkaido’s early summer nature near Sapporo. Shikotsu Lake was very convenient to enjoy Hokkaido’s nature. It takes 50 mins from Chitose Airport near Sapporo and one hour from Sapporo by car or public bus.
Shikotsu Lake is famous for its degree of clearness. The water temperature of Shikotsu Lake is constant at 3 to 4 degrees, so the lake is not frozen often and plants and leaves do not rot, so the water can keep its clearness. If you go diving in the Shikotsu Lake, you can see 30 meters ahead and unrotten trees and dead deer in the bottom of the lake.
We took a 30-minute Shikotsu Lake underwater cruise twice. Surroundings were unbelievably clear, and we saw cute Kananee and very calm scenery. We didn’t see any dead animals, but saw many fish through the bottom of a tour boat. The water seemed so cold with blue lights. I have no desire to swim there, even though the water temperature stays at 4 degrees all year round.
The fisheries union have worked on the cultivation and release of Kananee since 100 years ago. It was our first experience to see a bunch of Kananee swimming around the boat.
Shikotsu Lake has the second deepest water in Japan with a 226 meters average depth. This is one of the reasons it doesn’t freeze in the winter. When we took a glass-bottomed Canoe in Shikotsu Lake, we could see inside of the lake and suddenly it became deep and we could imagine seeing skyscrapers in the blue sky. I was certain that I would be never found if I had ever fallen down into the depths.
The nature of Hokkaido was so beautiful, but it was distinctive in creating a sense of awe. Some people not wearing life jackets have previously lost their lives because their boat was overturned by wind blasts on Shikotsu Lake. The nature of Hokkaido made me very humble and again I could realize the severity of this environment. We did canoeing and saw the thawed snow water pouring into Shikotsu Lake.
Hokkaido’s nature also teaches us about geological features. When I was a child, I felt geology was boring. It was just observing brown or gray soils. It was not a colorful nor exciting field for me due to the difficulty to imagine how geological features were formed. However, Columnar joints of Shikotsu Lake made me thrilled and excited with their shape and colors. After the eruption of Shikotsu volcano, outflowing lava cooled and hardened as Columnar joints.
The explanation was simple, but the size of Columnar joints was broad and retained their original shape. From a tour boat on the Shikotsu Lake, we could approach them very closely in order to observe. At a museum, we could learn how the volcano erupted and how terrain was created, but real large-scale scenery was the best way to experience the nature.
Around the Shikotsu Lake, there were beautiful flowers and wildlife. We stayed 3 days, but half a day or one or two hours would be enjoyable for sightseeing Shikotsu Lake.
There are many choices of outdoor activities around Shikotsu Lake. We checked out canoeing, diving, kayaking, fishing and hiking, but we finally settled on canoeing and taking a long walk with rain gear due to the drizzling weather. There were several outdoor sports shops near Shikotsu Lake to support water activities including; diving, fishing, kayaking and hiking near the mountains. June was the best season to visit, because the water was so clean and green had started to sprout.
The length of time walking on the sidewalk was good exercise to cause us to sweat after having a huge lunch for 1 and a half hours. The sidewalk was well maintained so we could enjoy the surrounding sounds of nature and put our hands in the water of Shikotsu Lake. Early summer green was all over with chic colored flowers. There were some tourists including us, but the total area of Shikotsu Lake was huge, so it was not crowded at all. We played a lot in the nature and enjoyed the view of the mountains and lake from various kinds of angles.
We usually go climbing in the Tohoku area, in the northern part of Japan and I found Shikotsu Lake’s smell and atmosphere of nature were totally different from what I had experienced before. Tsugaru Strait separates the Hokkaido and Tohoku areas and endemic species are existing in Hokkaido. This would be one of the reasons to create an original view in Hokkaido. Shikotsu Lake area was close to nature and we saw an Ezo red fox and Ezo snails during our walk. Ezo is the old name for Hokkaido.
After enjoying nature to our heart’s content, we had rich local foods and bathed in a hot spring near Shikotsu Lake. It was a good balance to enjoy nature and to have delicious meals with plenty of vegetables at an open-air cafe. There were several B&Bs, nice hotels and ryokans near Shikotsu Lake. We enjoyed hot springs and lunch at Mizuno uta. Marukoma Hot springs near Shikotsu Lake also have a great atmosphere. If you want to find out more about the origin and history of Shikotsu Lake, a caldera lake, please visit Shikotsu Lake Visitor Center and Chitose Aquarium in Chitose City.
How to visit Shikotsu Lake: From Tokyo, book a flight to Chitose Airport in Hokkaido and the flight time is approximately one and a half hours. The public bus from Chitose Airport to Shikotsu Lake run three times per day. It takes about one hour.