Lake Toya is one of two destinations that we stayed in for two days instead of one. And today is our checkout day from Kawanami. After the big breakfast this morning, we checked out and took a cab to Toyako Onsen Bus Terminal. The plan for this morning was to do a quick visit to Nakajima Island, the green mound in the middle of Lake Toya, before we left Toya for Hakodate at noon. There were large lockers in the terminal, so we dropped off our luggages and backpack, and head out again for the ferry.
Nakajima Island is actually a group of four islands. We went to the largest island called O-shima. It has a pier and every half an hour, there is a ferry that dropped off and picked up visitors from the Ekimae Sambashi Pier at Toyako Onsen (near where we were bicycling yesterday). These islands are uninhabited, so no visitors were allowed to spend the night there. Therefore, they don’t sell a one-way ticket to the island. The price to cross to the island was 1,320 yen for adults and 660 yen for kids, round trip. Noushka found a 10% off coupon from the Ferry fliers at the Bus Terminal. Hooray for discounts!
There were a few ferries running back and forth between the Ekimae Sambashi Pier and the O-shima Pier. The most famous ferry is shaped like a castle. Yep, a castle ferry called The Espoir… It looked like it was imported from Disneyland — it was so weird, gimmicky, and quite a mismatch with the surroundings. But quite iconic, indeed. And Aina seemed to like it. This ferry was also used during the daily fireworks show, so visitors can buy a slightly more expensive ticket, and watch the fireworks on the water from the ferry.
In total, the ferry ride from Toyako Onsen to Nakajima Island and back to Toyako Onsen again took around 50-60 minutes. The interval between ferries arriving were 30 minutes, on both piers. So if you only want to see the island by boat, without setting foot on the Nakajima Island, make sure you have about an hour to spare. But if you want to walk around O-shima, you need at least one and a half hour to spare.
On our way to O-shima, we ended up taking a normal looking, non-castle ferry, named The Adventure of Tom Toya… (get it? Tom Toya!). The ferry was large and had an open deck, so you can choose to stay outdoor. We decided to stay inside (we were a bit sleepy at that time). All the time we were in the ferry, there was an audio recording that told stories about the four islands. Whenever we passed one of the islands, the recording would tell a story about it. So it felt like a water tour… It explained that the smallest island is called Manjujima had a lot of viper snakes in it… thus it is also called the Snake Island. I was glad that we were not stopping there… The other two islands, Bentenjima and Kannonjima were connected by a thin sandbar, so you can walk from one island to the other.
O-shima had a lot of shrines. And tall trees. The trees were uniformly tall, it looked almost mystical. We also found out that most of the island was fenced, leaving only a small part outside of the fence…The reason why they fenced the island was to prevent humans from disturbing the natural habitat of the island. This way, they could control the human traffic in the forest and preserve nature. To go beyond the fence, you have to sign up for a guided tour. Yes, apparently, there was a guided tour! I was a bit bummed for not knowing about this and didn’t plan ahead to squeeze some time to take the tour. This tour will take you inside the fence, walking among the huge tall trees, the Nakajima nature and if you’re lucky, you can meet their resident deers. Deers! There goes our chance of meeting the deers again…
There was also a small museum on the island about the natural habitat of the Nakajima Island. But too bad, we didn’t have time to go in there because we had to catch the bus back to the Toya Station.
On our way back to Toyako Onsen, we finally got our chance to try Espoir the Castle Ferry… Aina’s wish came true!
Now, the fun thing about this Castle Ferry was it had an even larger outdoor area… it had a double deck outdoors. They also sold bread to feed the seagulls. And it looked like the seagulls around Lake Toya had recognized that these ferries were a food source, so as the ferry traveled through the water, there were ten to twenty seagulls flying all around the us… They kept following the ferry, swooping down to catch the bread pieces that were thrown by tourists, and flew back up to follow the ferry again. Some of them took a rest on the railing, right next to us… They didn’t seem to be scared of humans. It was sooo amusing.
We got back to Toyako Onsen Bus Terminal right on time to catch the bus to Toya Train Station. Then our bus traced the way back up the mountain and down again to the sea shore. I’m actually quite amused by the climbing ability of these buses. Those were pretty steep hills with sharp corners!
Then, we took the train to Hakodate. Bye bye Toyako… I think we need to come back here again in the future… 🙂
Other entries of this trip is at Hokkaido Trip Summer 2015.