Lately, “sky castle” type scenery, where guests are surrounded by a sea of clouds, have skyrocketed in popularity in Asia.
Hokkaido’s Hoshino Resort Tomamu and nearby Unkai Terrace, which is used to view cloud scenery from above, are famous for easy gondola access and massive, jaw-dropping cloud scenery. They had 10,000 visitors in 2013 alone.
The Unkai Terrace will give you the best scenery if you get up early. To make the visit as smooth as possible and truly feel like you’re on vacation, the best place to stay is the Risonare, located at the Hoshino Resort Tomamu.
Check-in early to prepareThe Risonare Tomamu Hotel’s elegant twin towers are located towards the back of the massive resort area. Each guest room is at least 100m2, and each room comes with a hot tub and sauna.
Tons of books are available at the on-site coffee shop Books & Cafe, and Wifi is also available.
Books can be checked out similar to a library and taken to your room or read in one of the hammocks outside (most books available in Japanese only).
The cafe is self-service, and there’s no need to worry about overstaying your welcome. There should be plenty of time to enjoy the cafe, even after checking in early and doing all of your preparations for the trip up the gondola the next day.
Check weather updates frequentlyWith a 30-40% chance of the sea of clouds phenomenon occurring each day, it should happen (statistically speaking) about once every three days. However, mother nature is often unreliable.
That’s why the sea of clouds forecast comes in handy. It’s available on the Hoshino Resort’s Twitter page, by phone, and even on the TV’s in each room in the hotel.
The chance of the effect occurring the following day is posted at 3:00PM, and the actual conditions are available same-day from 4:00AM.
The best approach is to wake up early to check the conditions. If you’re unlucky and there’s no sea of cloud effect, then no worries – just slip back into your dream.
Visible from guest rooms as wellThe sea of clouds, or unkai in Japanese, is a popular tourist attraction in Asia, and people come to this hotel specifically to see it. While unkai is the broad terminology, there are many different types, depending on the conditions.
The clouds often produced on the Tomamu side are caused by temperature variation between night and day. These usually burn off by late morning. They appear at low altitudes.
Looking in the direction of the nearby Kushiro area, which is famous for fog, the effect is caused by the Pacific Ocean, as low flying clouds or fog attempt to pass over the mountains.
Still other types of unkai can be caused by sheer bad weather, and the Unkai Terrace itself can sometimes be engulfed by clouds.
On the morning after my night’s stay, I was able to see the Tomamu clouds from my hotel window in the form of morning fog, which had trees interspersed throughout. It was a wondrous sight to behold.
It takes about 30 minutes by bus and gondola from the Risonare Hotel to the Unkai Terrace, so if the quickly-disappearing Tomamu clouds show up and you don’t have time to make it to the terrace, you can always view from your hotel room.
All aboard! Now departing for the Unkai TerraceThe Unkai Terrace is located at an elevation of 1088 meters. Of course, it’s cold to begin with in Hokkaido, but the high elevation makes it even chillier. But, at least the sun’s rays are powerful enough to heat you up a bit, and jogging in place will help you warm up.
The area around the terrace will likely be covered in morning dew, so it’s best to wear shoes with good grip and bring plenty of towels.
At the Unkai Terrace guests can also stroll around or even hike up the remaining 150 meters to the peak. Most people will probably skip breakfast to get to the terrace early, so if you’re considering the hike it may be a good idea to pack a light snack.
Head back to the room for a blissful morning jacuzzi bathAfter waking up much earlier than usual to enjoy the clouds, you’ve still got a lot of time left in the day, and your body might already be tired.
This is the perfect time to make use of the Jacuzzi and sauna in your room. There’s also a deck chair next to the Jacuzzi for maximum relaxation. Take a nice slow dip in the Jacuzzi for that unmistakeable resort feeling.
Fitting the Hoshino Resort Tomamu into your Hokkaido plans
If you choose to stay at Hoshino Resort Tomamu longer, it only increases your chances of seeing the full sea of clouds effect, so it’s not a bad idea. It’s an unforgettable vacation spot, regardless of how long you spend.