A boat sits on the mirror like water of Lake Toya, with a view of trees in the background.
Location: Lake Toya, Japan

As if the landscape in Hokkaido couldn’t get any more beautiful, I find myself toeing the crystal clear blue waters of Lake Toya, and I’m blown away all over again by Japan’s natural beauty. In only an hours drive from Niseko, I found myself at one of Hokkaido’s most active volcanic areas, with Lake Toya itself formed in an old caldera that measures roughly 43km around.

A temple sits silently by the side of the lake.

I wandered along the waters edge and contemplated taking the castle boat across to the Nakajima islands, which is a small chain of four islands, but with only a half day I had to keep my feet on this side of the lake, maybe next time Lake Toya. Around the lake were some lovely sculptures with the view of both Nakajima islands and Mount Yotei in the distance behind it; I headed up to the Usu Volcanic Global Geopark where I walked through an eerie landscape of half buried buildings left as a memorial to the last (and successfully evacuated) eruption in 2000.

A smooth marble scultpture sits in front of the lake and Mt Yotei in the background.

The eruption in 2000 came incredibly close to the town, and it’s amazing that people continue to live here despite the ever present threat of another eruption. Mount Usu and Showa-shinzan loom ominously in the background, complete with steam still spewing out from volcanic vents as a reminder of the activity brewing below the surface; yet life rolls on in the area and the tour buses continue to roll in and out of this popular natural hot spring town.

The ruins of a building in the shadow of the volcano.

Unfortunately I had to cut my time short in Lake Toya, as I was also heading to see the seaside for the first time in three months, but I hope to return one day to try out the hot springs and do some of the hikes in the area. The Lake Toya area is incredibly beautiful, and especially during the fall when the leaves are changing to shades of yellow and orange, and one worth including on a trip to Hokkaido. I can’t wait to see you again Lake Toya.

A group of people watch the sunset on the Toyako coast.

I was lucky enough to do this side trip to Lake Toya whilst participating on Workaway, and you can read more about the experience here.

Photographs by Jelena Stipanicev.