Sounkyo Winter Wonderland (Hokkaido, Japan)

Located in a quiet, peaceful area surrounded by nature, Sounkyo is situated in Daisetsuzan National Park and is one the popular places for Hokkaido locals to enjoy onsen resorts and winter activities such as skiing and snowboarding. However for us, we came for romance, relaxation, and tranquility at the Sounkyo Choyotei Hotel. (Blog: Sapporo in Winter)

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View of Mt. Kurodake from Cable Car

As soon as we landed in New Chitose Airport (CTS) we headed straight to Sapporo Station for our free shuttle bus bound for Sounkyo Choyotei Hotel. If you’re planning to visit Sounkyo Choyotei via their free shuttle bus, make sure you check in with their Sapporo Station representatives by the lockers at Section “Z” by the Sapporo Station North Exit doors before you step outside and try to look for the bus. Personnel with yellow jackets will ask you to register at their desk and have you line up to board at exactly 11:50.

LocationDeparture Time
Sapporo Station North Exit12:00
15 minute rest at Sunagawa Service Area
10 minute rest at Toma Michi-no-Eki
Sounkyo Choyotei Hotel16:10 (Arrival)

After a 4-hour bus ride, we checked in to our Japanese Western Style room for 3 days and 2 nights (¥35,588). We were greeted by gleefully willing hotel staff as they provided all the essential details, meal stubs, and schedules for onsen operating hours.

Layout and Furnishings

  • A room size of 16 m²/172 ft²
  • 2 large beds and 1 futon
  • Shower and bathtub
  • Seating Area
  • Dining Table
  • Coffee Tables and Chairs
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Sounkyo Choyotei Hotel
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Bedroom

Bathroom and Toiletries

  • Japanese Style Bathrobes
  • Hair Dryer
  • Toiletries
  • Towels
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Bathroom
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Bathroom Amenities

Comforts

  • Heating
  • Slippers
  • Wake-Up Service
  • Free Wi-Fi

Clothing and Laundry

  • Closet
  • Clothes Rack
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Closet with Safety Deposit Box
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Yukata Robes

Safety and Security Features

  • In-room Safe Box
  • Smoke Detector

Dining, Drinking, and Snacking

  • Coffee/tea maker
  • Complimentary Tea
  • Free Bottled Water
  • Refrigerator
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Green Tea Set
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Refrigerator

Entertainment

  • Satellite/Cable Channels
  • Telephone

Meals

Offered by Raicho restaurant, our breakfast and dinner meals were included and both were all-you-can-eat buffet style so we had the choice of Western or Japanese full course cuisine. We loved the abundance of vegetables and other great foods sourced from the local Noguchi Farm for ingredients. The chefs served up hot specialties, like hot handmade tempura and wagyu, in a lively open kitchen environment. Be sure to make it to the buffet on time as seats are limited to due to waves upon waves of tourists!

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Choyotei Hotel Breakfast Buffet
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Choyotei Hotel Breakfast Buffet
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Nattou

Dinner time is at 18:00-20:30, and breakfast time is at 6:30-9:00. Take note that their schedule changes depending on the season. In addition, you should enter at least 1 hour prior to close as last order is 30 minutes before closing time.

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Buffet
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Salmon Sashimi Boat
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Black Chicken Karaage
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Special Dinner Buffet with Shabu Shabu

Onsen

We indulged in 3 different hot springs:

Choyozan”, an aerial open-air bath
-Features the most breathtaking view of Choyotei
-Mt. Choyo and Sounkyo’s rocky terrain are in view
-Located on the 7th floor

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Sounkyo Choyotei Outdoor Bath
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Choyotei Hotel Outdoor Onsen

Kurodake”, a large view bath
-Features a view of the magnificent ravine below and the frozen Sounkyo landscape through a 40-meter glass window
-Located on the 7th floor

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Choyotei Hotel Indoor Bath
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Choyotei Hotel Indoor Onsen

Keigetsu”, a healing bath
-Features a dimly lit atmosphere, calm ambiance, and heavy steam
-Sources its Sasanoyu hot spring water from the mountains about 1 km away, of which can well up to 74℃
-Located on the 2nd floor

The aerial open air bath and the large view bath both offered four pools with a picturesque view of Sounkyo’s range of gorges. Our favorite was the pool with the fresh oranges (located in Choyozan) because not only did they smell amazing but, the oranges’ citric properties helped keep pimples at bay, reduce oiliness, get rid of blemishes and wrinkles. The healing bath had a dark and quiet atmosphere perfect for those times when you want to hear yourself think.

Hot Spring Type and Benefits:

  • Hydrogen Sulfide Type
  • Great for high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis
  • Source temperature is 68℃
  • Ph level is at 7.5
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Sounkyo Choyotei Ryokan

We loved immersing ourselves in comfort and relaxation in all of their hot spring baths! They provided healing for the body and mind, something that was long overdue for the both of us. If you want to explore the other onsen resorts in the area, there is a convenient free shuttle bus that brings you to Choyotei’s sister hotel Choyo Resort which departs every hour. Also, it’s important to remember that these are public baths which means men and women are separated and thus have separate operating hours for both sexes to enjoy.

Mon・Wed・FriTue・Thu・Sat・Sun
13:00~3:00WomenMen
4:00~9:30MenWomen
Mon・Wed・FriTue・Thu・Sat・Sun
13:00~3:00MenWomen
4:00~9:30WomenMen
Mon・Wed・FriTue・Thu・Sat・Sun
13:00~3:00WomenMen
4:00~9:30MenWomen

Sightseeing and Activities

Lodging close to nature has it perks. Just 5 minutes away from our hotel is the Kurodake Ropeway Cable Car which leads up to Mt. Kurodake For ¥12,000, we got a round trip ride up to the snowy slopes of Mt. Kurodake, plus a fun snow shoe tour in and around the Sounkyo Kamui forest. Rental snow shoe stocks, snow boots, ski wear, gloves, guide fee, and injury insurance fee are all included. It was surprisingly fun that even beginners like us enjoyed stomping through fresh, sparkling white powder–with the help of a guide to show us the way, of course. Keep in mind that tour operational hours depend on weather conditions. We were lucky that the strong winds died down when we started our climb. We recommend enjoying this tour between the hours of 09:00 and 12:30 as the whole experience can last up to 3 hours long.

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Mt. Kurodake Ropeway
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Kurodake Ropeway
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Equipment Rental
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Mt. Kurodake
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Snowshoe-ing in Sounkyo
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First time to snowshoe!

Later that evening, we rode a free shuttle from our hotel to the Sounyko Ice Fall Festival. Along the Ishikari River, water from the surrounding falls freeze over and turn in gigantic glaciers during winter. Locals have made the phenomenon into a tourist attraction by lighting up the ice with different colors, carving interior caverns and maze-like tunnels, ice-slides for all ages, and shooting fireworks into the cold, winter night sky. They even have an ice bar where you can enjoy refreshing, ice cold umeshu or hot sake to warm you up. Speaking of which, make sure that you dress appropriately! Don’t underestimate the cold like I did. The Sounyko Ice Fall Festival is open from 14:00 to 22:00 and runs from January 25 to March 17. The entrance fee is ¥300 and includes a free commemorative postcard plus ¥100 off your next hot drink.

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Sounkyo Winter Ice Festival
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Ice Wall Climbing
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Sounkyo Ice Fall Festival
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Sounkyo Winter Festival
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Ice Slide
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Ice Slide
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Fireworks
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Ice Bar

Our original plan was to relax at the various hot spring baths, find peace in between the quiet range of gorges, and spend quality time with each other. Albeit, we still ended up going out to play in the snow white powder.  It truly was a winter wonderland with all the fun-filled snow and ice activities we got to do! Hopefully, we find ourselves back in Sounkyo during fall as it is also a popular spot for autumn leaf viewing and star gazing. I heard that the different  colored leaves typically start to appear around the summit of Mt. Kurodake in mid September and the gradually move down the mountain slopes until they reach the valley floor around mid October.

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