Toyako Onsen is a pleasant hot spring town on the southern shore of Lake Toya in Toyako-cho town. It is the lake's main town and tourist base. Besides numerous lakeshore hotels with hot spring waters, the town has a nice lakeside promenade, splendid views of the Nakajima islands, outdoor sculptures, lake cruises, swan boats, and free hot spring foot and hand baths. A day trip is also viable to enjoy the healthy spa.
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The Ekimae Sanbashi Pier, almost front and center along Toyako Onsen's lake shore, has cruise boats leaving for lake cruises to the Nakajima islands every 30 min. from 8 am to 4:30 pm during April-Oct. During Nov.-April, it operates every hour from 9 am to 4 pm. The cruise takes 50 min. if you don't get off to visit the Nakajima islands. Otherwise, allow 80 min. if you want to get also step foot on the Nakajima islands.
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I rented a bicycle at Toyako Onsen and rode around Lake Toya counterclockwise which is easier than going clockwise and the lake view is better on the left side of the road. From the hot spring, I rode through the eastern shore while admiring cherry blossoms (blooming in early May) and plum blossoms (which bloom at the same time as cherries). Lake Toya's east area is part of Sobetsu town.
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Continuing from Lake Toya's east shore, this album completes my counterclockwise cycling trip around the lake as we head north and then to the western shore back to Toyako Onsen. The northern shore has a nature trail, the Toya Mizunoeki tourist rest stop, Ukimido lakeside pagoda, and some beautiful cherry trees along the shore.
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Showa-Shinzan (398 meters high) is a sub-volcano and lava dome of neighboring Mt. Usu. Looking like a bald spot, it was created during 1943-45 from what used to be a flat piece of land. In the valley between Showa-Shinzan and Mt. Usuzan is a tourist village (called Kazan-mura) with souvenir shops and the Usuzan Ropeway terminal. The ropeway takes you up to Mt. Usu where you can see a great views of Showa-Shinzan and Lake Toya. A hiking trail also goes to another crater on Usuzan.
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The Nishiyama Craters are a series of craters on the west side of Mt. Usu, created during the latest eruption in March 2000. A walking trail takes you near the rim of a few craters, including wrecked roads and buildings still remaining. Very impressive with steam still being emitted. Takes 3 min. by bus from Toyako Onsen or 15 min. from Toya Station. The trail takes about 40 min. to walk one-way. Open from April 20 to Nov. 10. Free admission.
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Sobetsu Koen or Park is in Sobetsu-cho town on the eastern shore of Lake Toya. It is a hillside park with numerous ume plum trees and grand views of the lake. The plum trees bloom during early to mid-May, at the same time as cherry blossoms.
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With 24 tournament victories, Kitanoumi was one of sumo's greatest Yokozuna (grand champion) in modern times. "Kitanoumi" means "Lake of the North," and this refers to Lake Toya. Kitanoumi hails from Sobetsu town which is on the lake's eastern shore. This Yokozuna Kitanoumi museum is dedicated to him with numerous photos, memorabalia, and sculpture of Kitanoumi performing the dohyo-iri. The museum also houses the Sobetsu History Museum (壮瞥町郷土史料館).
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During July 7-9, 2008, the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit will be held in Toyako town fronting Lake Toya in Shikotsu-Toya National Park in southwestern Hokkaido. Toyako was selected as the venue for its natural beauty and environment. The Lake Toya area, which includes Toyako and Sobetsu towns, are in a Welcome mode with welcome signs everywhere. A slew of Summit merchandise is also on sale. These photos were taken in early May 2008.
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JR Toya Station is the main railway gateway to the Lake Toya area. It is on the JR Muroran Line. Express trains run from Sapporo and Chitose. The station building has been renovated with a spacious waiting/exhibition room. In 2008, it is in welcome mode for the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit with welcome signs.
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