Seas of clouds - known as unkai in Japanese - are layers of clouds or mist viewed from above. Unkai Terrace in Hokkaido is one of the most popular of these places to visit!
So how do unkai form? They are a natural occurrence that happens under certain circumstances, but when it occurs, it is truly an amazing sight to behold. There are various types of seas of clouds in Japan, such as mist above the ocean or a lake, or fogs created by humid air on low grounds being pushed up the mountainside by winds.
Hokkaido has a large landmass and is surrounded by an ocean – so this means there are a number of areas where you can see a sea of clouds!
- Table of Contents
- Unkai Terrace Has Many Viewing Spots
- 5 Observation Decks to View Unkai from Lake Mashu and Lake Kussharo
- Panorama Deck 900: Enjoy the Hokkaido Sea of Clouds that Spreads Across Mount Tokachi and the Basin
- Hihijikikogen Camping Ground: Offering a Magnificent Refreshing View
- Yotei Panorama Terrace: Overwhelmed by the View of Mount Yotei Floating on a Sea of Clouds
- Tips when going to see the unkai
Unkai Terrace Has Many Viewing Spots
Unkai Terrace is an observation spot in Hokkaido’s largest scale resort “Hoshino Resorts Tomamu” in Shimukappu Village. It is one of the major viewing spots in Hokkaido for Japan clouds and, in the autumn of 2018, Unkai Terrace has attracted over 1 million people since they had opened 13 years ago.
The reason behind its popularity is that you can view 3 types of unkai. The “Pacific Ocean Unkai” can be seen when the eastern part of Hokkaido is covered with high pressure and sea fog is generated, the “Tomamu Unkai” is seen when the Tomamu area is covered with high pressure, and radiative cooling occurs, and the “Bad Weather Unkai” is seen when the weather is bad or is about to become bad.
Hokkaido's sea of clouds can be seen from mid-May to mid-October and has a 40% chance of occurrence. At the Hoshino Resorts Tomamu website, you can see the next day unkai forecast.
Another charm is that they have various spots where you can view the sea of clouds as if you are one with nature. Based on the Cloud 9 plan that suggests 9 ways to enjoy unkai, they have produced the Cloud Pool and Cloud Walk.
- Address Hoshino Resorts TOMAMU ,Naka-Tomamu,Shimukappu,Yufutsu,Hokkaido 〒079-2204
Business Period: Mid-May - mid-October (May 11th to October 14th for 2019)
Hours: May 11th - May 31st, 5:00 a.m. - 7:00 a.m.
June 1st - October 14th 5:00 a.m. - 8:00 a.m. (Excluding September 1st - September 30th)
September 1st - September 30th 4:30 a.m. - 8:00 a.m.
*For 2019. Times include the final gondola going up
Fee: Adult 1,900 yen, elementary school student 1,200 yen, pet 500 yen (available to resort guests and day trip customers)
*Pet requires cages
Access: about 10 minutes on the shuttle bus from JR Tomamu Station
Home page: https://www.snowtomamu.jp/summer/
Phone: 0167-58-1111 (Hoshino Resorts Tomamu representative)
5 Observation Decks to View Unkai from Lake Mashu and Lake Kussharo
Akan-Mashu National Park that spans over 1 city and 10 towns including Akan and Mashu is the most historical national park in Hokkaido. The caldera lake, Lake Mashu, and Lake Kussharo are the two most popular tourist spots that represent the area.
From June to October, the area can be covered in mist that drifts from the Pacific Ocean in the south; if the conditions are right you can see the unkai sea of clouds in Hokkaido.
Lake Kussharo’s caldera is the largest in Japan, the outer ring has 4 observation decks, which provides a unique view of the sea of clouds. Tsubetsu Pass Observation Deck located west-southwest of the lake is at an altitude of 947m and is known as the spot where you can most likely see unkai.
Bihoro Pass Observation Deck located to the west of the lake offers a great panoramic view of the unkai. Mokoto Pass Observation Deck located on the north side is popular with photographers because it provides direct light.
Lake Mashu is known as “Misty Lake Mashu.” Throughout the year the water temperature is low and ascending air currents are likely to occur in the summer, and there is a rare chance that thick mists will cover the lake and create an unkai.
If you are lucky you can see unkai with the sunrise at Lake Mashu First Observatory Deck located to the southwest and Lake Mashu Third Observatory Deck located to the north.
Panorama Deck 900: Enjoy the Hokkaido Sea of Clouds that Spreads Across Mount Tokachi and the Basin
The popular tourist site Furano is known for its lavender fields, but it also has a spot to view unkai. Furano Ski Area located on the west side of New Furano Prince Hotel operates its aerial lift during the summer.
Panorama Deck 900 is located at the peak station, and from here you can get a view of the Furano Basin and the Tokachi Mountain Range far out.
Unkai is likely to occur early in the morning from September to October. The probability of seeing unkai increases when the weather is good and the temperature difference between morning and evening is large. The view of the unkai covering Furano Basin is spectacular. Depending on the weather conditions you can sometimes see the unkai until 9:00 a.m.
If you are lucky, you can get a view of the colored leaves and unkai at the same time from around late September. Also it’s quite rare, but unkai can occur in the winter too.
Panorama Deck 900 at Furano Ski Resort富良野スキー場「パノラマデッキ900」
- Address Nakagoryo,Furano,Hokkaido 076-8511
Operation period: mid-June - mid-October (June 15th - October 14th for 2019)
Hours: June 15th - July 12th, August 19th - September 13th 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (last return ride at 4:20 p.m.)
July 13th - August 18th 8:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. (last return ride at 7:20 p.m.)
September 14th - October 14th 7:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (last return ride at 4:20 p.m.)
Price: Adult 2,000 yen (one way 1,800 yen), Children (7-12 years of age) 1,000 yen (one way 800 yen), infants free.
*For 2019 *Operation period, time and price may change. Please check their official web site or call for confirmation (call Furano Ski Area for confirmation)
Access: about a 10-minute drive from JR Furano Station
Home page: https://www.princehotels.co.jp/ski/furano/summer/
Phone: 0167-22-1111 (New Furano Prince Hotel)
Hihijikikogen Camping Ground: Offering a Magnificent Refreshing View
The Hokkaido Shinkansen that opened in March 2013 stops at Hokuto City located in southern Hokkaido. Kijihiki Highland, located about 15 minutes by car from Shin-Hakodate Hokuto Station, is known as a spot where you can look down at the Hokkaido Shinkansen viaduct. It is also a popular spot for locals and campers to view unkai.
The unkai is most likely to occur from May to June and September. The source is said to be Onuma Lake, Funka Bay, Hakodate Bay, and Ohno Plain’s paddy fields (the paddies are filled with water from May to June).
If the temperature at night is low and the temperature in the morning is 10 degrees higher, it is more likely to occur. If you are lucky you may be able to see the cloud fall that flows from Onuma to Ohno Plains.
We recommend visiting between 8:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. However Khijiki Highland gates open from 8:30 a.m.; for that reason to get there early, we recommend camping at the Hihijikikogen Camping Ground. From Kijihiki Highland Panoramic Lookout located at an altitude of 560m and Funkawan Observation Deck higher up, you can get a view of the Koma-ga-take and Mount Hakodate floating above the unkai.
- Address 174 Murayama,Hokuto,Hokkaido 〒041-1244
Business Period: late April - end of October (April 20th - October 31st for 2019)
Hours (Panoramic Observatory): 8:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
*Gate 1 located to the side of Kijihikikogen Camping Ground is open from 8:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Access: about 15 minutes by car from JR Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, About 50 minutes by car from JR Hakodate Station
Yotei Panorama Terrace: Overwhelmed by the View of Mount Yotei Floating on a Sea of Clouds
Rusutsu Resort is a resort complex in Rusutsu Village that has a hotel, amusement park, golf course, and ski area. From spring to autumn the “Yotei Panorama Terrace” opens at the peak of the ski course West Mountain (Mount Sorioi). You can reach the terrace with the Yotei Gondola.
If you are lucky, you might be able to see the unkai between June and August. During this time when the unkai is likely to happen, the unkai early morning gondola (available to hotel guests only) operates. You can enjoy the view of Mount Yotei’s peak sticking out of the unkai under the morning sun.
According to feng shui, the terrace is a power spot receiving energy from Mt. Shiribetsu. The terrace is located in a spot that increases your fortune for relationships and money. There is also the “bell of happiness,” which is a popular photo spot.
[Yotei Gondola - Unkai Early Morning (available to hotel guests only)] *operation hours for 2019 May change depending on the year.
Operation period: early June - mid-August (June 8th - August 18th for 2019)
Hours: 5:30 a.m. - 6:30 a.m. (Last gondola going up at 6:30 a.m., last gondola going down at 6:45 a.m.)
April 27th - September 29th weekends and holidays, April 30th - May 2nd 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (Last gondola going up 4:30 p.m., last gondola going down at 4:45 p.m.)
September 30th - October 14th 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (Last gondola going up at 3:45 p.m., last gondola going down at 4:00 p.m.)
Yotei Panorama Terrace羊蹄パノラマテラス
- Address Rusutsu Resort 13Izumikawa,Rusutsu,Abuta,Hokkaido 〒048-1711
Price: amusement park entrance ticket (*) can be used multiple times as long it is valid. Hotel guests without the amusement park entrance ticket require 1,200 yen for the round trip. Day trip customers can’t only use the gondola
* junior high school student and up 5,000 yen (5,500 yen during summer vacation), elementary school student 4,000 yen (4,500 yen during summer vacation), above 4 years of age and below elementary school 1,200 yen, 60 years and up (proof of age required) 1,200 yen
Access: hotel guest bus from New Chitose Airport (requires reservation), free shuttle bus from Sapporo for Rusutsu Resort customers (requires reservation) about 2 hours, about an hour and a half drive by car
Home page: https://rusutsu.co.jp/
Phone: 0136-46-3331 (representative), 0136-46-3111 (reservation center)
Tips when going to see the unkai
The spots covered in the article are located in high altitude areas. Even in summer, the temperature is quite low early in the morning, so make sure to dress accordingly.
Text by: minna no kotoba sha
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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