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Lake Shikotsu Guide: Easy Sapporo Day Trip To See Spectacular Natural Views of Hokkaido's Pristine Lake!

Lake Shikotsu Guide: Easy Sapporo Day Trip To See Spectacular Natural Views of Hokkaido's Pristine Lake!

Date published: 14 January 2020
Last updated: 20 July 2020

The clear waters are just incredible! If you visit Lake Shikotsu, you will know what we mean.

Lake Shikotsu is just an hour car drive away from Sapporo City, and only 40 minutes from New Chitose Airport, but offers spectacular sightseeing where you can enjoy nature.

Come experience breathtaking views on a boat tour, walk along the bank, enjoy the local prawn raised in these pure waters, and don't forget to try their famous sweets. Here are the spots we recommend.

Table of Contents
  1. So what is Lake Shikotsu like?
  2. Look at Lake Shikotsu's clear waters from a glass bottom cruise ship!
  3. Enjoy Lake Shikotsu's gourmet "chips"
  4. Stroll along Lake Shikotsu's shoreline!
  5. Dining at Lake Shikotsu: Exquisite sweets and more!
▲The crystal-clear lake and bright red train track of Ibaraki's Yama line is the symbol of Lake Shikotsu

So what is Lake Shikotsu like?

Lake Shikotsu surrounded by jagged mountains such as Mt. Eniwa (Eniwadake) and Mt. Tarumae (Tarumaesan) is a caldera lake that is approximately 40 km wide and is the northernmost lake in Japan with a maximum depth of 360m, the second deepest lake in Japan. Lake Shikotsu will reach low temperatures while rarely freezing over, even in the middle of winter.

▲The quality of water and the high degree of transparency are famous! In water quality reports, frequently released by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan, Lake Shikotsu has ranked in at number one on numerous occasions. (Photo: Lake Shikotsu Sightseeing Boat)
▲There is no road that can go around the lake entirely, but there is a road east of Lake Shikotsu's hot springs that you can take north or south and enjoy a lakeside drive.

Lake Shikotsu's hot springs is the main attraction of tourism where there are hot spring hotels, souvenir shops, restaurants, and much more.

Look at Lake Shikotsu's clear waters from a glass bottom cruise ship!

You cannot leave out a cruise when visiting Lake Shikotsu! This cruise lets you see the waters from below.

▲The glass bottom cruise boat of Lake Shikotsu. This cruise lasts for approximately 30 minutes. The boarding fee is 1,620 yen for adults, 810 yen for elementary school students.
▲Here is the view at the bottom of the ship. It looks as if you are in an aquarium!
▲While the view from the bottom is wonderful a view of the lake and the mountains from the deck of the ship is breathtaking as well.

The dock is short walk from Lake Shikotsu's hot spring area. Buy your ticket at the counter and get right on board!
While the view from the ship's bottom is the main attraction, do not forget to enjoy the scenery from above.

▲Immediately after setting sailing, the symbol of Lake Shikotsu, the "Yama Line Bridge" can be seen. Among the green mountains and blue lake, this red bridge completes the picture.
▲After the Yama line bridge, we travel further off the coast!

While at first the color of the lake may appear emerald green, the moment you leave the coast the color turns into a deep blue. Lake Shikotsu is a caldera lake so it becomes deep very quickly, which along with sunlight, gives the lake an appearance of different colors.

▲As we got further from the coast, the lake color changed again

Unlike the ocean, the lake is calm with the rocking of the ship hard to even notice. The cool wind blowing through the lake is a pleasant addition to this spot in the summer!

A few minutes after leaving we arrived at the highlight of the ride. The landscape of Lake Shikotsu where a formation of pillar-like joints have been created by cooled magma that has hardened and expanded over time.

▲Take a look at that cliff!

This unique topography, is not only on the land but also continues underwater!

▲Here, all the passengers are gathered at the bottom of the boat to view the rocks that have formed!
▲While unable to be viewed by ship, such splendid formations can be seen! (Photo provided by Shikotsu Lake Tourist Boat)

After spending some time enjoying the scenery of columnar joints, we return to the pier. This, however, is not the end to our trip. There are so many scenic delights!

▲An encounter with a group of dace! Schools of dace seen so close is a powerful sight!

The contrast between the blue and green colors as well as the unique underwater view from the bottom of the ship really gives you your money's worth. When you visit Lake Shikotsu, make sure to start with the nature of Lake Shikotsu with this glass bottom boat cruise!

  • Lake Shikotsu Sightseeing Boat
    • Address 〒066-0281 北海道千歳市支笏湖温泉/Shikotsukonsen, Chitose-shi, Hokkaido, 066-0281, Japan
    • Phone Number 0123-25-2031
    • Price: Adults 1,620 yen, Elementary school students 810 yen
      Hours of Operation: Mid-April to Early November 8:40 ~ 17:10 *Times may vary
      Closed: Winter

Enjoy Lake Shikotsu's gourmet "chips"

After enjoying the sights of Lake Shikotsu, now it’s time to enjoy the tastes! The special dish of Lake Shikotsu, is their chips. These chips are freshwater prawn fish related to the salmon family that inhabit pure water lakes with low temperatures. This fish is an orange color like salmon, and is delicious no matter how you eat it.

Now let us introduce you to "Shokujidokoro Kotobuki" the shop where you can enjoy this dish located in Lake Shikotsu's hot spring town.

This store opened in 1971 and is a long-established store on the banks of Lake Shikotsu. Be sure to make a reservation as this store is very popular.

Here they offer several chip dishes including different varieties of chip sushi or cooked chips with rice.

Here is their grand menu item, "The Princess grilled set," only ten sets are prepared per day. (2,200 yen)

This set menu contains a grilled chip dish, four pieces of chip sushi, chips marinade, chips and soba noodle rolls, chip soup, and other delicacies. The main entree is grilled to completion allowing you to eat nearly the entire fish.

While grilling this fish, salt is shaken on from head to tail giving the skin a delicious taste all over

This fish, a fancy alternative to salmon, may leave you wondering if this is really a freshwater fish. It is rather meaty and does not have an unpleasant smell that most freshwater fish have. The chip fish sauce is also used for a hint of flavor in the soup, giving a very elegant taste and a pleasant flavor that may linger in your senses.

The chip and soba noodle roll was rather impressive. This item is chips wrapped in soba noodles which is then deep fried, an original item created by this this store with a new and eccentric flavor!

This is no ordinary soba dish, so delicious!

Of course, the chips are products of Lake Shikotsu. In the fishing seasons from June to August, fresh chips are caught each day in the morning and at night and are brought to the store twice a day.
You can taste a wide range of chip dishes while in Lake Shikotsu, which boasts cool, pure water, of the highest quality in Japan

  • Shokujidokoro Kotobuki
    食事処 寿
    • Address 〒066-0281 北海道千歳市支笏湖温泉/Shikotsukonsen, Chitose-shi, Hokkaido, 066-0281, Japan
    • Phone Number 0123-25-2642
    • Hours of Operation: Late April to Mid November 10: 30 ~ 18: 00 L.O.
      Closed: Winter

Stroll along Lake Shikotsu's shoreline!

After a meal, how about some light exercise? Go for a refreshing walk along the bank.

The classic walking course goes around the Yama Line railway bridge and is about four to five minutes on foot from Lake Shikotsu's hot spring town or one to two minutes on foot from the glass bottom boat.

The Yama Line Ibarabashi is a railroad that crosses the track of the miniature (Keibe) railway that carried wood from Lake Shikotsu to Tomakomai's paper mill from 1908 (Meiji 41) - 1951 (Showa), but is now used for human transport.

This red truss bridge stands out in this scenery and is a landmark of Lake Shikotsu

Here you can see the Chitose River that flows out from under the bridge and into the lake.

On one side of the bridge there is a grand view of the lake.
▲ The other gives a view of the river where the mountains close in on the banks. The canoeing adventure that heads out into the lake begins here.

While crossing the bridge, you will find an open recreational area.

▲ Here you can enjoy a calm and quiet atmosphere much different from the nearby town with its many restaurants and souvenir shops.
▲ From there make your way down to the water!

Here is a great place to pass the time looking out at the lake where you can also see plenty of water activities like canoeing, paddle boarding, and "amenbow".

▲ Two-seater "Amenbow" (30 min for 2,000 yen) allows you to row by pedaling a bicycle to travel across the water. Available for rent near the cruise ship.

After some relaxation, it is time for more exercise. Head back up the stairs to the walkway along the cliff.

▲ It is a about a five minutes hike up the stairs.

On the cliff, there is the waterside wild bird forest and nature walk way. Although there are sections that are closed due to natural disasters from 2015 (current as of May 2018), you can still enjoy nature to the fullest.

The songs of these birds echo through the forest as you walk along the path. Taking a stroll you can enjoy the fragrance of the forest and the shade of the trees with beautiful streams of sunlight.

▲ There is also a wild bird observation hut on the path. What birds might you see? Be sure to bring binoculars and your camera.
There is also an observatory where you can see Lake Shikotsu.
▲ Though the surrounding trees make it difficult to see much from the observation deck, there is a beautiful view of Lake Shikotsu between the gaps in the trees!

After enjoying the forest head back down to Lake Shikotsu's hot spring town.

▲ You can also enjoy your visit by bicycle, available for rent (500 yen a day, 2,000 yen deposit) from Lake Shikotsu's Visitor Center.

Dining at Lake Shikotsu: Exquisite sweets and more!

Now it’s time to enjoy some desserts!

We recommend the Sweets shop Patissier Lab located in the hot spring hotel, Lake Shikotsu Tsuruga Resort Mizu no Uta.

▲ The entrance of the store faces the road so you can drop in even if are not staying at the hotel.
▲Here plenty of sweets made with local Hokkaido ingredients are lined up.

The most popular item at this shop is the "Tarumae-zan Cream Puff" (220 yen). You will find a queue out the door when they put out a fresh batch of these tasty treats.

▲ This Mt. Tarumae 'Lava Dome' contains plenty of orange-flavored custard cream inside and is topped with crushed almonds.

The texture and taste of these cream filled desserts are exquisite! Since these sweets can be carried with one hand, it is a popular choice to purchase and eat in the car. One taste and you will surely be back for more!

Other popular choices are the "Tsuruga Roll" (280 yen) and "Kimimaru Pudding" (370 yen).

▲ The Tsuruga Roll (upper shelf) is a moist roll wrapped with cream and black sengoku bean and is on the hotel's buffet menu. This item is so popular it is hard to keep in stock!

The Kimimaru Pudding uses "Yellow Bottle" eggs produced in Hokkaido for their recipe. Enjoy the contrast of creamy milk and eggs at the top combined with bitter sweetness of the caramel at the bottom!

▲ Mt. Tarumeu Cream Puff, (front) Tsuruga Roll, (right), Kimimaru Pudding (left). Coffee (260 yen) and other items are also available for purchase.
▲ Customers can sit down on the benches and enjoy the gardens outside normally reserved only for hotel guests.
  • Sweets shop Patissier Lab
    スイーツショップ パティシエ・ラボ
    • Address 〒066-0281 北海道千歳市支笏湖温泉 しこつ湖鶴雅リゾートスパ 水の謌/Lake Shikotsu Tsuruga Resort Spa Mizu No Uta, Shikotsukonsen, Chitose-shi, Hokkaido, 066-0281, Japan
    • Phone Number 0123-25-2211
    • Hours of Operation: 9:30 ~ 17:00 (16:30 from November to late April)
      Open everyday

For those of you who are still hungry we have one more recommendation for you!

In the corner of the hotel garden where the sweets can be found, there is a burger takeout called "Mizu no uta Garden", here the local Chitose city burgers are made.

▲ The water garden as well as the pastry laboratory face the road so you can access them without entering the hotel
▲ The "Chitose Burger" (680 yen) is made using Chitose eggs, the highest grade of egg in Hokkaido. All the vegetables and meat are local as well.
▲ How do you eat this thing? I'm thinking about how to take the first bite!

There are also other Hokkaido-like menu options such as "Zantare Burger" (680 yen), "Hotate Burger" (680 yen). Which one to choose?

  • Mizu no uta Garden
    • Address 〒066-0281 北海道千歳市支笏湖温泉 しこつ湖鶴雅リゾートスパ 水の謌/Lake Shikotsu Tsuruga Resort Spa Mizu No Uta, Shikotsukonsen, Chitose-shi, Hokkaido, 066-0281, Japan
    • Phone Number 0123-25-2211
    • Hours of Operation: Late April to around the end of October 11: 00-15: 00
      Open: every day during the season (closed in winter)

So what did you think of Lake Shikotsu? It is surprising to see nature that can be enjoyed so close to Sapporo and The New Chitose Airport.

As gourmet dishes and sweets can also be enjoyed, it is the perfect place for a quick getaway. Of course, they also offer hot spring hotels and much more, so feel free to stay awhile and relax when you can.

▲ As the day ends the color of Lake Shikotsu changes again. The silhouette of Mt. Eniwa along with the reflection of the sunset makes for quite the view!

* Rates and prices written in the articles are all tax inclusive

Written by : Nobuhiro Kawashima

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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