A kaleidoscope of colour all year round…
It’s a sobering -20°C, and you’re standing in a giant igloo filled with the glow of luminescent reds, pinks and purples.
The colours warm the interior with a charming glow that evokes fairy floss, big tops and other childhood pleasures, and cast an enchanting light on the icicles beckoning towards staircases, winding through tunnels and leading to waterfalls and ice sculptures, all frozen in time.
This is the winter guise of the Ishikari River in Sounkyo, a hot spring village etched into the base of a spectacular series of intersecting gorges in Daisetsuzan National Park. The villagers have refined the process of building the sculptures as the river freezes over to an art officially known as the Sounkyo Ice Fall Festival, which attracts visitors from near and far every year from late January to late March. In 2016, the festival takes place from January 23 to March 27.
Many of these visitors are also in Sounkyo to enjoy powder skiing and boarding, carving fresh trails down the 1,984m Mt Kurodake by day, and imbibing in the best of local produce by night. Let’s not forget the snowshoe hiking either of course! In between all this are countless hours spent lolling about in the village’s hot springs, tastefully constructed institutions set off pleasant little walkways lined with brilliant flower beds in the warmer months.
What makes a stay in Sounkyo exceptionally memorable is the sublime simplicity, yet sophistication with which the locals have harnessed nature’s bounty to welcome visitors, all with a down-to-earth sincerity unique to the countryside of Japan. It leaves you with the feeling of wonder as you walk away that you have experienced a genuinely unspoilt part of the nation’s frontier, where the dynamic beauty of the natural landscape remains in pristine condition for all to enjoy.
Where is it?
110 minutes from Asahikawa.
How long can I ski?
Mid-November to early June.
Tell me more!