Visiting Lake Toya: Japan’s Volcanic Caldera Lake

About Lake Toya

Lake Toya makes for an exceptional getaway where you can immerse yourself in a unique natural experience, given that it allows you unique access to Mount Usu, an active volcano that erupted in 2000. You can reconnect with nature, enjoy a wonderfully relaxing hot spring bath, and visit many beautiful sights. 

You can find Lake Toya in Shikotsu-Toya National Park, located in the Abuta District of Hokkaido, Japan. The lake itself is a circle within a caldera, which is formed as a consequence of a volcanic eruption.

This lake is also part of the Global Geoparks Network, which helps protect its natural integrity. 

Shikotsu-Toya National Park 

The Shikotsu-Toya National Park is an expansive park that spans a large portion of Hokkaido. This stunning park features an incredible array of sights to see, from lakes to hot spring baths to onsens and resorts. 

The Shikotsu-Toya National Park is fairly close to the city of Sapporo, a popular tourist destination.

City Of Sapporo Skyline

Many tourists will choose to travel to the park from Sapporo, given that it’s an easy trek to get away from the bustle of a busy city. 

Visiting Lake Toya

Lake Toya offers some fantastic activities that help you safely get a glimpse at Mount Usu, the active volcano that helped to form the lake itself.

Many paths exist along the lake and nearby to allow you to get to various sites. You can even stay by the lake if you want more time to soak in the region’s beauty. 

Mount Usu Lookout

There are also campsites speckled throughout the area where you can set up a tent and sleep in the great outdoors.

Some spots allow you to park and camp in your car, as well as lodges you can rent to sleep in. You can also grab a canoe and take a nice ride throughout the transparent lake. 

Camping At Mount Usu Via Tripadvisor

Even in the winter, this lake never freezes, making it a destination worth traveling to regardless of the time of year.

The western shore of the lake borders the city of Toyako, and the opposite side borders the city of Sobetsu. Nakajima Island sits in the middle of the lake, where wild deer roam. 

Toyako City

Usuzan Ropeway

The Usuzan Ropeway takes you inside a car that travels up Mount Uzu along a sturdy rope. Some windows allow you to look out at the lake below and the environment surrounding it.

This ride will take you to the summit of Mount Uzu, which is close to the top of the volcano. 

This is unprecedented access to a volcano that offers you a very unique memory to take home with you. You’ll get to observe the earth around you from two observation decks, each offering its own unique vantage points. 

On clear days, you’re able to see a good portion of the Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, days with good visibility might also allow you to see dolphins and orcas swimming around with their families. 

Takarada Nature Observation Trail 

If you want to learn more about what makes Lake Toya such an environmental wonder, the Takarada Nature Observation Trail is an excellent trek to make.

This will lead you to the Toya Takarada Nature Experience House, where you can become more educated on what types of flora and fauna can be found in the lake.  

You also get to see some visual learning materials regarding the biological information collected from the lake and surrounding area and participate in some fun activities such as crafts and cooking. 

Usuzan West Craters

These particular craters were formed when Mount Uzu last erupted in 2000. A stream of walking trails allows you to traverse around these new craters.

You get to see a glimpse of some of the destruction formed by the eruption, as some of the surrounding amenities were unfortunately destroyed during this event. 

One of the trails that takes you around these craters is the Kompirayama Walking Trail. This trail takes about 40 minutes to complete, and you travel from the Toyako Visitor Center to the Nishiyama parking lot. 

This parking lot is also the starting point for another trail, known as the Nishiyama Crater Walking Trail. This particular trail takes about 20 minutes to traverse, and the craters you see surround even more devastation from the volcanic eruption of 2000. 

Showa Shinzan 

Showa Shinzan is considered a young volcanic mountain in that it wasn’t formed very long ago, compared to some of the other volcanic mountains in Japan.

The site of this mountain actually used to be a wheat field until the 1940s, when the small mountain suddenly burgeoned up from the earth. 

The name comes from Emperor Showa, who was the emperor of Japan at the time. The Showa Shinzan isn’t far from Mount Uzu, and if you take the Usuzan Ropeway ride, you’ll get the best view.

There is also a walking trail nearby where you can gaze upon the young volcano from the ground. 

Lake Toya Marathon

If you enjoy running marathons, you’ll want to participate in the Lake Toya Marathon if you’re at Lake Toya in May.

This scenic marathon was started in 1975 and brings tourists worldwide every year. The path is flat and spans about 40 kilometers, with options to run smaller courses if need be. 

Toyako Anime And Manga Festival 

The Toyako Anime and Manga Festival is an exciting event held every year in June. You’ll be able to see various attendees dressed up in cosplay, and you can even join in as your favorite anime or manga character.

Cars Designed With Anime At Toyama Anime Festival

There is also food and various vendors at the event, and you may even be able to meet one of your favorite characters there. 

Toyako Onsen

If you want to stay at Lake Toya for more than a day, the Toyako Onsen is a hot spring resort that sits along the shore of Lake Toya.

Toyako Onsen Via Tripadvisor

There are a plethora of hotels and onsens in the area where you can unwind in a hot spring bath after a long day of hiking. 

Various foot baths offer the perfect way to loosen up your feet after walking all day. Even if you don’t plan on staying at Lake Toya for a night, you can visit the baths for a fee. If you’re visiting between May and October, you’ll be treated to fireworks at night. 

There is also a promenade within this little resort that offers boat cruises around the lake, offering an expansive and noteworthy view of the surrounding marvels. 

Walking Around The Lake 

Some trails surround the lake to allow you to walk right by the stunning clear water. The people that live around the resort are also very friendly and can offer recommendations for what to see and do. 

Getting To Lake Toya

You have quite a few options for transportation that takes you to Lake Toya from other regions of Japan.

New Chitose Airport

For instance, you can ride the shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo or fly from Tokyo to the New Chitose Airport and board a train from there. Various buses will bring you to Toya Station, or you can grab a rental car and park at the resort.

My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.