27th October 2016 – Day 7 Lake Toya -> Usu -> Noboribetsu -> Shiraoi -> New Chitose Airport
Today is the last day of my Hokkaido travel photography adventure, my whole trip till date had been awesome, enjoying the autumn and winter seasons in this trip along with wet, cold and bright sunny autumn weather.
Sunrise shoot (near to carpark beside The Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa)
I wasn’t able to get a nice sunset (I did manage to get a nice sunrise at Biei) during this Hokkaido trip and on Day 6 evening, Kato san suggested to get a sunrise shoot on my last day of my trip. Why not? I set the alarm clock to wake up early and go for a sunrise shoot, keeping my fingers crossed for good weather and not too cloudy sky!
Even though it was autumn, I felt really cold on the 27th October 2016 morning, my autumn wear wasn’t warm and thick enough. Luckily, Kato san loaned me an outdoor overall suit with a pair of rubber boots. That kept me warm for this morning sunrise shoot.
Kato san drove to this hill top, where a luxury hotel is located, the Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa. There was a carpark beside the hotel and it was the spot where we waited for the Hokkaido sunrise above Lake Toya. As the day started to break, we saw a thick cloud cover across Lake Toya. Initially, I was worried that there would be no sunrise with such thick cloud cover. Yet, Hokkaido again decided to bless me with a gorgeous sunset, rising above the mountain range, her rays punching through the clouds as she rose up to warm us up from a cold October autumn morning.
The next thing was to return back to our hotel, warm ourselves up in the onsen. This would be my last onsen and I wanted to enjoy it before returning back to Singapore. The onsen is the most suitable method to warm ourselves up from a cold autumn morning!
Scenic lake drive around Lake Toya
While the early morning sunrise was cloudy, the morning weather at Lake Toya was really good! I saw clear blue sky with thick fluffy white clouds. Kato san drove me around the other loop of Lake Toya. This was a very pretty scenic drive, I found a spot great for car photography shoot (driving on the road with Lake Toya and mountains in the background), we also spotted a pair of swans that swam to us on the shoreline, thinking that both Kato san and myself have some food to feed them!
Ice cream at Lake Hill Farm
When you visit Lake Toya, Hokkaido, this is one of the place that you MUST visit! I heard about this ice cream, it’s really famous, the ice cream is smooth, fresh and very delicious!! There were a lot of flavours and I couldn’t possibly try all of them, I wish I could though!
Lake Hill Farm has a very beautiful garden, with a bird’s eye view of the nearby mountain range! The green garden open space is ideal for the children to play and have fun while enjoying the ice cream!
Check out their website here – Lake Hill Farm!
Zenko-ji Temple (有珠善光寺)
Japan has many Shinto and Buddhist temples across the whole country. I always love to visit them whenever I get to visit Japan. When I visited Tokyo in 2004, I still remembered my visits to Meiji-Jingu shrine and Sensoji temple, I was in awe by their history, tradition and beauty of the holy places.
On Day 6 evening, when we on the way back from Muroran to Lake Toya, we drove past the coastal area and we spotted a Buddhist temple in the Usu area. Since it was already dark, we decided to drive there and take a look in the late morning.
Upon parking the car, we walked into the temple grounds. Nothing prepared me for this visit, I have entered into a very old Buddhist temple in Japan that is still relatively unknown to the world. This temple is listed on the local tourism body website and there are signages showing the location of the Zenko-ji Temple. However, beyond that, I am not too sure if this temple is even known to the rest of Japan and the world.
Kato san had a chat with the locals outside the Zenko-ji Temple, I couldn’t speak Japanese therefore Kato san did the translation for me, explaining the history behind this temple. We were also given permission to enter and visit the temple, along with permission to take photographs of the main prayer hall. Some temples can be strict on photography, therefore I am honoured and happy that permission was granted. They had a gorgeous Japanese garden inside the temple grounds, very rich history and heritage items inside the temple. This had been a real eye opener for me to photograph and share some of photographs of Zenko-ji Temple.
We went exploring behind the temple up onto the small hill, the walk was like entering into an enchanted forest full of mystery. The autumn foliage was in full bloom, making this temple ground even more magical with its bright autumn colours.
Through my photographs and few paragraphs of sharing, I hope this would give this Buddhist temple more publicity and awareness. If you are visiting Hokkaido, the regions of Lake Toya and Noboribetsu, do consider visiitng the Zenko-ji Temple in Usu.
Address from Google Maps: 124 Usuchō, Date-shi, Hokkaidō 059-0151, Japan
Facebook Page : https://www.facebook.com/datekanko
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/f.akatsuka
Leaving Usu, Kato san started driving towards Noboribetsu region, a very popular tourist destination, very famous for its onsen and they have some nice locations for autumn colours foliage too. First stop was Lake Kuttara, along the route u to the next few destinations that I am sharing in the later paragraphs.
Hiyoriyama Observation Deck日和山展望台
Driving uphill from Lake Kuttara, a short drive away, we arrived at the top of the hill, Kato san parked his car and we walked towards the Hiyoriyama Observation Deck. The smell was strong and pungent with sulphur fumes in the air, it was unbearable at times for me since I am not used to sulphur smell in the air. I was also able to spot the hot steam vents from the observation deck. I enjoyed the sceneries around it; this was indeed a good place for autumn colours foliage photography. However, I was struggling with the pungent fumes, just not used to it!
At the foot of the hill lies, Oyunuma Pond, where we headed to next after a short time spent at this observation deck.
At the foot of the hill, we arrived at Oyunuma Pond, it’s surrounded by forest and trees. The strong pungent sulphur smell was very distinctive and powerful, visitors would be learn more about the physical geography of Noboribetsu, that makes this region very famous for their minerals and volcanic grounds.
I reckon this area makes a good spot for autumn colours foliage photography especially when it reaches the peak season.
Jigokudani (Hell Valley)
Just round the corner from Oyunuma Pond, we arrived at a very famous tourist destination in Hokkaido. Welcome to Jigokudani, also known as Hell Valley, this is a very popular tourist destination with both local and international visitors. A short walking distance away is the town of Noboribetsu Onsen and the onsen in this region is very popular due to the proximity of the sulphur and minerals from the Hell Valley region. Kato san shared that the onsen in Noboribetsu Onsen town has different types of onsen baths for the visitors, I might try it one day in the future if I ever get the opportunity to visit Noboribetsu region again.
When I walked into the valley of hell, I wasn’t afraid of the place, Jigokudani is beautiful during the autumn foliage season! I am just not used to the strong pungent smell of sulphur fumes coming out from the grounds of Hell Valley!
My Last (and very delicious) Lunch in Hokkaido
Kato san asked me what I would like for lunch before he drove me to New Chitose Airport for my evening flight home back to Singapore. I wasn’t sure of the food options and I listened attentively to his suggestion. He showed me some photos of this beefsteak at this nice little wooden hut restaurant, I saw the price and it was really reasonable for its excellent quality and standards (when I returned back to Singapore, eating a similar beef steak here would cost 3-4 times more)
Soon, we left Noboribetsu onsen town and head towards Shiraoi along the expressway. A short car ride of approximately 45 minutes, I entered into a farm, stopping in front of a nice little wooden hut restaurant. I am thankful and grateful to Kato san for helping me with the ordering and translation.
Two hot and sizzling pan soon arrived at our table, I was so excited! Once I took my first bite, I was like in food heaven! The beef tasted really delicious, soft, tender and juicy beef.
After finishing my super delicious beef steak, I was so happy with my last lunch! I reckon that they are one of the best beef producers around in Hokkaido (if not the best).
New Chitose Airport
This was the final leg of my Hokkaido autumn travel photography adventure 2016, the road trip journey from Shiraoi to New Chitose Airport. I made the decision to go there early, have a rest and coffee with my friend, Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san.
Reflecting back on my Hokkaido autumn travel photography adventure 2016, I had so much fun traveling solo and with my Hokkaido Photo Guide Kato san. If you are a photographer and would love a customised travel photography plan, I highly recommend my Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san, drop him an email on his website or Facebook page!
Goodbye Hokkaido, I am sure I will be back again! Maybe I might lead a group of photographers next time, or maybe I might come back to continue exploring the other regions of Hokkaido that I haven’t visited yet!
Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 7
Hokkaido Autumn 2016