Ever since I saw pictures of the unkai, meaning "sea of clouds", at Tomamu in a magazine, I've wanted to visit the Unkai Terrace. You can only see this amazing spectacle for a short time during the summer, and finally I got round to visiting in August! But since unkai is a natural event, there's no guarantee that you'll be able to see it while you're there.This phenomenon is most common from June to July, but since we went in the August to September period when there's only a 30-40% chance of it occurring, we accepted that we might not be able to see it but we could be lucky!The unkai phenomenon is most likely to happen on sunny days with no wind and during the time when the biggest changes in temperature happen, like from the morning to midday. When we went it was raining, and the forecast the day before had predicted only a 20% chance of unkai appearing, so we were pretty apprehensive!
It takes about 1 hour 45 minutes to drive from Sapporo to Tomamu on the expressway. We left the expressway at Doto IC to get some lunch.
We headed to the French restaurant Milady in Yubari Rokumeikan, where Emperor Showa (more commonly known as Hirohito outside Japan) is said to have stayed in 1954.
You can choose from a variety of lunch courses costing from ¥2,300 to ¥6,000 (reservation is required for the ¥6,000 option), so we went for the ¥3,000 course.
The appetiser of smoked trout was extremely delicious.
sausages, but I sneaked a bite of the sausage and it was very tasty. I wished I'd chosen the sausages too!
As you might expect from a restaurant that even has a vegetable sommelier, the locally produced vegetables were delicious. In fact, they were so delicious, that even picky children who refuse to eat vegetables ate every last bite. And naturally, since this is Yubari, the dessert featured Yubari melon - it was an exquisite sherbet made by freezing the finest of melons.
By the way, if you stop for a meal at Milady, you can join the tour of the Rokumeikan building for just ¥200 each, rather than the usual ¥500 for adults and ¥300 for children. The Hikari no Kairo ("Corridor of Light") is a corridor decorated with beautiful stained glass windows.
Name: French restaurant Milady
Address: 2-chome Shika no Tani, Yubari, Hokkaido
Telephone Number: 0123-53-2555
Closed: Open every day unless otherwise noted
"Opening Times: Lunch: 11:00 to 15:00 (last orders 14:00)
17:30 to 21:00 (last orders 20:00)"
Once we'd finished the tour and had pleasantly full tummies, we hit the road again and headed to Tomamu.
It took us about 1 hour and 20 minutes to drive from Yubari Rokumeikan to Tomamu Resort where the Unkai Terrace is located, but since Tomamu Resort is located right in the middle of Hokkaido, it takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes from the New Chitose Airport.
If you travel via Japan Rail, you can take the train to Tomamu Station, and Tomamu Resort hotel guests can arrange to be picked up from the station by car. But even if you're not a guest at the hotel, you can still visit Unkai Terrace.
However, since unkai is more likely to occur from dawn until early morning, it's best to stay at a hotel that's as close to the resort as possible.
The Unkai ropeway gondolas are located inside the Tomamu Resort centre, and they cost ¥1,900 for adults, ¥1,200 for children, and ¥500 for pets.
They're in operation from the middle of May until the middle of October.
The sight of a multi-storey hotel rising up from among the mountains makes for a very strange scene.
We set off at 3:30am! It's best to get an early night the day before. We got up early, rubbing at our sleepy eyes, and managed to get on the first gondola of the day. It was still pitch black outside by this point.
Even in summer it's cold up on top of the mountain, so make sure you wear long sleeves.
On the day we visited it was just 12℃ and jackets were available to borrow, so I quickly put one on.
While we were busy waking up and warming up, the Unkai Terrace was still shrouded in darkness. Although it was a cloudy day, as the sky began to lighten up a magnificent sea of clouds appeared!
We knew we only had a 20% chance of seeing the sea of clouds so we'd half given up, but we were incredibly moved when we finally saw it.
The journey to Tomamu is pretty long, so I'm not sure when we'll be able to visit next.
It might have been a cloudy day, but I'm just glad we were able to see such an amazing sight.
Incidentally, this is the picture in the magazine that impressed me so much.
If I had the opportunity to see such an incredible view again, I'd definitely do it.
Since we went to Unkai Terrace, a new Cloud Walk attraction has begun, and from this year the terrace will be open throughout the winter season under the name Muhyou Terrace (meaning Silver Frost Terrace). Although you can't see the unkai in the winter, you can do other fun things like skiing. After enjoying the awe-inspiring sight of unkai, we headed back down on the gondola, passing through the clouds themselves.
I'm so happy I was lucky enough to see the sea of clouds!
Official site http://www.snowtomamu.jp/unkai_terrace/index_en.html