This area is my favourite part of this Hokkaido trip. The Lake Toya (toyako) region is part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park and features, of course, a beautiful lake with a little island in the middle.
For those unfamiliar with Japan, this place may not be something often heard of. For Hokkaido you usually hear of only Sapporo, Hakodate and maybe Asahikawa. I would classify Lake Toya as one of those places which is more known to domestic tourist rather than foreign tourists.
I had planned my Hokkaido trip without a template and I found this region by chance. I was looking for somewhere midway between Hakodate and Sapporo and the location looked good. The more I researched about this area, the more gems I found about it!
And when I got there for real, it was A LOT more beautiful and enjoyable than I thought it would be. I feel lucky.
It wasn’t part of my initial plan, but just days before my trip, I found out about a really good restaurant in the Toya area, in the Windsor Hotel. Windsor Hotel Toya is a high end hotel located on a hill and it overlooks the scenic Lake Toya from above. Lake Toya already looks beautiful from ground level, and from above it was a whole new level.
This restaurant is Michel Bras Toya and I’ve written about it here.
Besides the Windsor Hotel, another way to overlook the lake would be to take the Usuzan 有珠山 Ropeway. I wanted to do that but did not have time (I love ropeways, cable cars and all those stuff). At least I managed a view from Windsor Hotel!
A short drive down from Windsor Hotel, you’ll find Lake Hill Farm. This is a very popular farm serving ice cream and dairy products.
It’s still summers so there are still colourful flowers. I think summer should be the best time for this region and such activities in Hokkaido, if you want colourful flowers and ice cream.
Lake Toya is generally less crowded than Hakodate, but Lake Hill Farm was so popular, the people flowed in non stop.
This is the cafe side, where they serve savoury food like pizza which looked pretty good.
The ice cream takeaway counter was on the other side. You first line up to buy tickets for either the gelato or the soft serve, and then line up again to redeem it.
Tip: You can purchase multiple tickets first, and then redeem your second (or third?) ice cream after you’re done with the first!
The queue wasn’t that long, 20mins max at around 3pm. Summer is the peak season I suppose.
I really had a hard time choosing my flavours. Everything is nice. The texture was so good and the milk was so fresh! Hokkaido milk products are generally known to be one of the best, and having it at a farm is even better.
If you ask me which is better, scoop or soft cream, I’ll say – get them both!
Lake Hill Farm
127 Hanawa, Toyako, Abuta District, Hokkaido Prefecture 049-5724, Japan
Next stop was a fruit farm for fresh fruit picking! This activity happens mainly in the summer and early autumn months, and you’ll get different fruits each month. For end September, it was grape season! I normally am quite indifferent towards grapes, but Japanese grape is a different story.
There are fruit farms all over Hokkaido which welcomes visitors. It was hard to determine which is ‘best’ so I just decided on Sobetsu Fruit Village near Toyako since it’s most convenient for me. If Toyako isn’t in your plans, you could visit other farms convenient for your Hokkaido itinerary. This file may be useful to you.
Unlike most other farms listed in the directory, Sobetsu Fruit Village is a cluster of individually owned fruit orchards and not just one farm. Once you’re on that road (takino-machi) you’ll see a whole line of fruit orchards on both sides. The fruit variety depends on each orchard.
I stopped by one by random chance and it turned out pretty good! It costs ¥880 per adult and you can eat as much as you want. To take out any fruits, it is chargeable by weight. It costs way less than what you find in supermarkets and there’s always something special about the fruits handpicked by you, so it is very worth it.
Not exaggerating. They’re delicious! Even when I was stuffed from my lunch + multiple ice cream cones, I could still find the grapes delicious.
They also had pear and apples. The pear season only just started and wasn’t at it’s peak, so there weren’t a lot to pick from since not everything is ripe.
Big news – Hokkaido is not good for everything it turns out. Apples were in season but it wasn’t fantastic, and very normal tasting. The BEST place for apples is Aomori!
Takashina Kanko Orchard タカシナ観光果樹園
362, Takino-machi, Sobetsu, Usu, Hokkaido, Japan 052－0101
In a scenic and relaxing place like Toyako, it’s best to stay in a ryokan to complete the experience. It was the Silver Week in Japan, with 5 days straight of public holidays and weekends, so it was the high season for domestic tourists. Most of accommodation around Lake Toya was fully booked but thankfully I found a decent ryokan, Hokkai Hotel 北海ホテル, with a decent price.
It’s nothing fancy and more towards the basic side, but ryokan stays are always good.
Every room is facing the lake.
View from the room. This feels like a holiday. During the months of summer, there will be fireworks on display every night at Lake Toya. The fireworks were visible from my room and it was a very pleasant surprise! I didn’t know about this earlier.
Changed up into the provided yukata for dinner. Obviously not wearing it the right way.
Like all ryokans, dinner is provided on board. I always love seeing a variety of dishes laid out in front of me.
Hokkai Hotel 北海ホテル
147 Toyako Onsen, Toyako-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido
Had to admire Lake Toya once more before leaving.
Took a walk out from the hotel to a nearby park for some fresh morning air.
No idea what the significance of these lion cub/ lioness sculptures was but it’s cute!
I hope to come back again soon!