Having been unable to get any accommodation on our first night in Hokkaido we learned our lesson from thereon (not that either of us particularly minded spending a night or two in the car!) and booked a place to stay a night in advance each time. To mix up things a bit we decided to stay at a ryokan (Japanese-style inn) in Toya-ko following our ascend of Mount Tarumae.
This one was called Daiwa Ryokan Annex and was located right on the edge of the lake with some lovely views of the water and Nakajima island in the distance. I always think of ryokan as being in the countryside but this was in the heart of the town and a little bit different as our room had mattresses rather than futons on the tatami matting.
As we approached the town we saw a cosplayer or two and didn’t really think too much of it but then more and more began to appear once we arrived. Having asked the receptionist at the ryokan we were informed that there had been some kind of Anime Festival over the weekend but it had pretty much finished. We popped over the road and caught the end of things where there were still many itasha (decorated cars) and a fair few cosplayers hanging around.
We took a wander down the main street but other than hotels and a few souvenir shops there wasn’t much to really captivate (other than the giant cuddly fox below!) us so after walking back along the pleasant waterfront we had a quick onsen (hot spring bath) in the basement of our ryokan before dinner.
There were many reason we chose Daiwa Ryokan Annex for our stay and one of them was because the evening meal was a ‘Genghis Khan’ BBQ lamb dinner which is one of the dishes Hokkaido is famed for. There was a sufficient amount of lamb meat for us to cook and along with loads of rice and miso soup it was quite nice to experience something a bit more Japanese than what we’d been surviving on up until that point. At 8:30 pm there were the nightly fireworks which we half-watched from our lake-side view room whilst enjoying a few beers before having an early night.
The following morning we had another onsen and a Japanese-style breakfast and then our first port of call was a nearby walking trail weaving its way through a course on Mount Konpira and Mount Nishiyama.
These active volcanoes erupted as recently as 2000 and the effects were pretty devastating on this area as the resulting mudflow washed away a bridge and severely damaged the ground floor of local buildings.
There wasn’t a soul in sight as we freely wandered around the remnants on the disaster in the Konpira Crater. The town was evacuated in the wake of this most recent eruptions (the last one before that was in 1977) and the old hot spring facility building (above) and an apartment building (below) have been left the way there were damaged and it was fascinating to view this ghost town up close.
The trail eventually took us up a slippery volcanic ash path to Yu-kun crater which was formed by the eruption in 2000 and is a mysterious emerald green coloured pond.
Our hike continued on up the slope a bit more as we could see smoke pouring out of somewhere behind the trees but it proved to just be an old incinerator and with that we decided to turn around and head back to the ryokan to collect the car and drive on the relatively short distance to Mount Usu and Showa Shinzan.
You can read ‘Hokkaido 2015 Pt V: Mt Usu‘ here