Lake Shikotsu, one of the most awe-inspiring landscapes of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, should be top of anyone’s to-do list in Hokkaido. In the early morning, the waters of this caldera lake glisten under the warming sun as Mount Tarumae stands magnificently in the background. The best way to enjoy this glorious sight is to stay at Marukoma Onsen Ryokan, a traditional hot spring on the lake shore.
Retreat from the crowds
To get to this rural location you’ll need to have a car, that in itself means that mainly Japanese people visit the hotel. If you are searching for a truly immersive Japanese experience, one that isn’t built for foreign tourists, then the Marukoma Onsen Ryokan is ideal. Although the hotel staff do not speak fluent English they go out of their way to ensure that you have an excellent stay and they are very accommodating and supportive. Particularly for first timers!
The hotel is 27 miles (44 km) away from Sapporo and 24 miles (40km) from New Chitose Airport, so although a car is necessary, it is still easily accessible. This is an excellent option for a retreat and to pamper yourself after a few days exploring the bright lights of Hokkaido’s cities.
Relax and unwind in a public bath
Marukoma is well known by the locals for its excellent attention to detail and top-notch relaxation facilities. It is one of only a selective number of traditional onsens that offer open-air baths, both private and public. These public baths are open to guests and non-guests. Changing facilities include lockers, full mirrors, toiletries, dressing area and hairdryers. They are also fully naked baths, so obviously, no photos allowed!
What makes staying extra special is the private baths that can booked for a very reasonable additional fee. These open-air baths are ideal for couples or families who are of mixed gender and want to share the experience together. When reserving your room you can purchase a private bath, then on arrival, you will be asked to select your day and time. If you wanted the full experience we would recommend purchasing one to enjoy during the daytime, and one late at night. These private baths are secluded from sight but each overlooks the lake. During the day session, you can enjoy watching the birds swooping across the water and at night, as you listen the forest behind you can see the stars reflected on the water. Sounds blissful doesn’t it?
Specialist stone bath
Carved into this stone bath is ideal for reflecting and peacefully watching the world pass by. The stones will help to exfoliate your skin and you’ll come out feeling refreshed, recharged and above all else, super smooth!
Exquisite food and excellent value for money
It is worth noting that although the check-in time is until 8pm you should arrive earlier in order to enjoy the onsite facilities and to make sure that you don’t miss out on excellent tradition style meals that are prepared freshly each day. The dining area has a number of cubicles, of various sizes, which each offer their own privacy as the waiter will pull down the Noren (a mid-length, decorated privacy curtain) so that you can enjoy your meal. This is a truly romantic affair!
The meals, which include vegetarian options, are absolutely excellent value and quality. You’ll soon be staring in amazement at the sheer number of dishes that are laid out elegantly before you. If you’re a meat eater, you’ll enjoy the BBQ style grill that comes with the dishes.
The breakfast is less formal and is primarily Asian-style although they do offer a few continental pastries and cakes alongside fruit, hot drinks and juices. Asian options include a number of cooked dishes, miso soup and omelette. It also provides an ideal opportunity to try the time-honoured side dish, Natto (fermented soybeans), which people seem to either love or hate.
You can also request to eat your meals in the comfort of your own Japanese-style rooms.
Are Japanese tatami mats really that comfortable?
The answer here is yes. Japanese-style rooms at the Marukoma each have tatami mats, which for those of you who don’t know, are typical Japanese bedding. In fact, the whole room is comfortably furnished with thick tatami mats, pillows, and plush duvets. Additional features include a floor seating area with a low-rise table, decorated china tea-set, small fridge, and television.
The rooms are spacious and bright with many enjoying expansive views over the lake. There is a separate toilet area, but it is worth noting that body washing facilities are, as expected, within the main baths.
You will be provided with an elegant ryokan yukata for both genders, it is generally expected that you wear this throughout your time at the ryokan. As this is a traditional Japanese immersion ryokan make sure you Google beforehand how to correctly wear it.
It's not all relaxation, be ready to have fun too!
As you may or may not know, the Japanese love to sing karaoke and so you too can join in the fun at the onsite cocktail bar. You could while away a few hours enjoying a coffee from the coffee shop before relaxing on the private pier into the lake. There is also a full business and event space, behind the gift shop, which is often used. If you want something a little bit more interactive then the games center should keep you occupied with a number of fun entertainment options.
What else can I do nearby?
As we’ve previously mentioned, Marukoma Onsen is ideal for those of you looking to escape from the hubbub of Hokkaido’s cities. The property is nestled into forest land and has long winding roads that twist and turn through the mountains. Sapporo is one hour drive away, but there are also many other points of interest in the surrounding area.
A 20-minutes drive clockwise around the lake from the hotel will take you to a lookout point where you can hire pedalos and paddle boats to use on the lake. On a sunny day, this is an ideal way to see the beautiful surroundings from a different angle. Eniwa Valley is a 40 minute drive and has a number of excellent trails which each feature a number of waterfalls. Finally, Moss Cave is an interesting and unique feature of the landscape. Inside this microclimate, you’ll find over 60 different types of mosses growing on the walls. It almost looks like green velvet!
Peaceful, plentiful and purity
These three words aptly describe your stay at the luxurious Marukoma Onsen Ryokan. The surrounding areas, with the forest and lakeside, are peaceful, miles away from the bright lights of the cities. Take the time to unwind and disconnect from your mobile devices and televisions during your stay. If you desperately need wifi then it is available in the main lobby but is not present in any of the bedrooms.
The meals and care from staff is plentiful, you are well looked after at all times. Staff are happy to answer any questions that you may have during your visit.
The soothing bathing waters will wash away any stresses and pressures to ensure that you leave Marukoma well-rested, well-loved and ready to face the next day. So, what are you waiting for? Book today and discover a whole new you by the shores of Lake Shikotsu in Hokkaido, Japan.
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