Lake Shikaribetsu Kotan is the real version of Cinderella, but in a different form. During the winter, the magic is happening with the creation of an ice village on the frozen lake. And all this, thanks to the locals initiative which started this tradition in 1980, looking to do something fun in these harsh conditions.
But how is this possible? Well, the lake has the highest elevation among all the lakes in Hokkaido, being located 804m above sea level which makes it froze during the winter. A perfect ingredient to create a phantom village, alive in the winter and a beautiful memory for the rest of the year.
Open from 9am till 8pm daily, from end of January till mid-March, it’s something not to be missed. The entry ticket has a fair price of 500¥ and each year it’s gaining not just money, but more popularity. Now, let’s see what the ice village had to offer for its 42nd edition in 2023, as the event is pretty much similar year by year.
The heart of the village are the ice bar and chapel. A two in one, these spaces are linked together under the same roof, creating a charming and hospitable atmoshpere. Grab a drink from the ice bar and enjoy the surroundings. To make it a souvenir to remember, order it in an ice glass (even if of course, it’s more expensive!) or dare to even create your own for 2000¥. The bar opening hours are 10am to 6pm, with last order at 5.30pm. If you missed the bar, the area remains open until 8pm.
Continue with the actual exploration of the ice village. This is the moment when you are trully “walking on the ice”. The further you go, smaller you feel. There are several igloos to discover, fully made of snow and ice.
One interesting igloo is the one dedicated to the lake and village, called the geo igloo. Here, you can learn more about the lake, the ice village and the underwater world. P.S. Don’t miss the outside thermometer!
Open air bath and footbath
One interesting experience for the ones who dare, is to try the open air bath located on the lake. There are two options to chose from, a foot bath or a real onsen experience. Both are challenging especially on days with -23C as when I’ve been, but were several people inside. The onsen is open from 9am to 8pm, with two intervals for same sex bathing only: 5-6.30pm man only, 6.30-8pm women only. As the maximum capacity is limited to 10 people, it is requested to spend maximum 30 min on-site.
Some other activities you can enjoy on site are the snowmobile (3000¥ price per adult), snow rafting (2000¥ price per adult) or crafting your own ice cup (2000¥ price per adult). And last but not least, you can try to sleep in an ice igloo!
Shikaribetsu Kotan Onsen
If the ice village onsen seems too much there’s another option, much more pleasant. Inside the Fusui hotel there is an onsen, with inside and outside baths facing Shikaribetsu lake. For a decent fee of 1000¥ you can take your time admiring the surroundings in a relaxing environment.
Food & Drinks
If you’re getting hungry, I highly recommend Cafe Mubanchi. Located on the top floor of Lake Shikaribetsu Nature Center, it offers not just beautiful views over the lake, but also delicious food and drinks at accessible prices.
The best of all it’s that you don’t have to drive all the way here to enjoy the winter magic, as there is public transportation available. The bus no.51 takes you from Obihiro station straight to Shikaribetsu lake. One way journey costs 1680¥ and it takes a bit under 2h. Just prepare in advance, as there are only 4 busses available per day, starting with 7.52am, 11am, 1.40pm and 4.30pm. The same bus comes back at 10am, 1.20pm, 4.10pm and 6.25pm. Ask at the bus center for return tickets or discounts.
Well, that’s it from my side. I hope you enjoyed the article and one day you’ll visit lake Shikaribetsu ice village by yourself. Meanwhile, get inspired from more articles across Japan and not only, here.
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