Lake Utonai and around Mt.Yotei ウトナイ湖、羊蹄山
The morning in Mukawa Shiki no Sato breaks bright and warm. We are near the ferry port but our ferry leaves tomorrow night. So, with two days to fill we head inland towards Sapporo, or at least Chitose, to Lake Utonai. This lakeside boasts six walking courses and a bird sanctuary. Lake Utonai is apparently a stopover for migratory birds and over 250 different species can be seen, during presumably in spring and autumn. As we approach Chitose along R.36 in rush hour we meet more traffic than we have seen in weeks.
Eventually, we arrive at the michi no eki Lake Utonai. Here we find an observation tower, relatively new, that provides binoculars. Sadly, the only birds it can produce are a couple of grubby swans asleep on a nearby shingle beach. These occasionally raise their heads to hiss in irritation at tourist who, to snap pictures, get too close.
We set off, on a walking trail from the Wildlife Conservation Centre next of michi no eki, through the woods towards the Nature Centre. This trail is a rough 3-kilometre round trip. The woods are loud with bird song which is, unfortunately, drowned in the roar of passenger jets gaining altitude as they leave Hokkaido behind. These commercial aircraft are drowned in their turn by the scream of military jets streaking overhead almost as frequently.
We walk some distance but spot no birds or other wildlife save dragonflies and butterflies. The scenery is monotonous, so we head back.
On the way, however, we come across 3 excited birders, who have spotted a Narcissus Flycatcher. One of the ladies, hefting an impressive camera, shows us some excellent pictures she has taken. I deleted my attempts.
Lake Shikotsu and Kinoko Okoku
Our next destination is Lake Shikotsu. Here, once again, we are unable to find anywhere stop and gain access to the water from R.453. Three years earlier we had the same problem, stuck on a busy road with no clear place to stop. As before, we give up the lake and find ourselves at Kinoko Okoku (mushroom kingdom).
This is a successful mushroom emporium that has eclipsed the michi no eki next door which has since closed or rather been incorporated into Kinoko Okoku. Consequently, the mushroom establishment provides a 24-hour toilet, so it is possible to use it as a michi no eki.
The place sells all manner of mushrooms, all manner of mushroom goods and serves all manner of mushroom dishes. It is possible to sample many of the mushroom preserves, etc. Good stuff, especially the mushroom soup which is very tasty and only 100 yen.
From this place we approach Yoteisan (Mt.Yotei). Because the mountain is beautiful, and, as it is getting late in the afternoon, decide to check the 4 michi no eki on the mountain’s flanks to decide where to spend the night. Two we discount and decide to stay at Meisui no Sato Kyogoku rather than Niseko View Plaza, mainly because it was not worth going back.
Meisui no Sato Kyogoku
Meisui no Sato is a tourist attraction of sorts and there are many tourist buses full of people coming and going. There are natural springs emerging carrying water away from Yoteisan (Mt.Yotei-Ezo Fuji). and a park called ‘Fukidashi Koen’ for people to walk around.
A viewing point has been created but the view is away from the impressive mountain behind you which is obscured by trees. From this vantage point, however, we realize that there is an onsen just across the road, so we take a bath.
The onsen is ok, not bad at all really, but the view of Yoteisan from the outside bath is hidden by ornamental trees that are not that ornamental. D. says the view from the women’s bath is fine.
＊Kyougoku onsen ; 600 yen / adult
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.