Prior to our arrival in the area of Lake Toya neither Ethan or I were unaware of the volcanic lava-dome that is Shouwa-shinzan until we drove by it with a look of bewilderment on our faces. Intrigued by it we set off the next day to see it up close and then climb Mount Usu but having spent longer than expected looking around the remnants of the 2000 disaster we were short on time so had no real option but to take the Usuzan Ropeway up to the crater rim walk.
The highly impressive Shouwa-shinzan (below) could be seen from the car park and it really is hard to believe that this miracle mountain appeared out of the earth following the eruption of Mount Usu in 1943. As we travelled 1,370 metres in the cable car in seven minutes we could look down on this relatively new mountain which is designated as a special national natural monument.
On disembarking at the summit station the path around the crater basin was a gentle tarmac slope offering views of Volcano Bay and Ginnuma Crater which is the largest crater created by the 1977 eruption.
I was kind of hoping that this crater walk would be an easy stroll but the sight of hundreds of steep steps descending to the outer rim boardwalk was not what I really wanted to see with the scars of Mount Tarumae and Mount Meakan still fresh!
All in all though it was well worth it as there were very few tourists or hikers on this stretch of the crater and the views in all directions were pretty awesome. There was the lava dome and crater basin on one side, Mount Yotei in the distance ahead and the stunning Volcano Bay on the other side.
On a trip where it had rained every day this was a rare hot day and as we returned closer to the ropeway station, Ethan wanted us to make the next cable car so we absolutely caned it up dozens and dozens of wooden steps and ran around the remaining course and just made it in time. We were absolutely dripping with sweat as we descended the mountain and once back at ground level and having cooled down a bit we finally saw a bear….but as you can see below it was just a stuffed one standing outside the souvenir shop which we had a quick look around.
There was actually a Bear Park here that is home to about 100 two-metre long bears but we decided against going in as we only wanted to see one in the wild although the chances of that happening on this trip had already gone. Also, time was against us and though we could have kept the rental car till the following day we decided to return it earlier as we didn’t feel we would need it in Sapporo for our last day and it would also save us a bit of money. Subsequently we dropped the car off back at the car-hire place near Chitose Airport mid-afternoon and then took the train to Sapporo station for our final 24 hours in Hokkaido.
You can read ‘Hokkaido 2015 Pt VI: Sapporo Dome‘ here