February: the time when most of us in the northern hemisphere look at the calendar in despair as spring takes its sweet time to arrive. It’s also the perfect month to get away to a warmer locale, soak up some sun and recharge yourself to be able to get through the last (hopefully) weeks of winter.
But instead of packing a swimsuit and sunscreen for that trip to the beach, our beloved reporter Mr. Sato instead decided to fully embrace winter and booked a stay at an ice hotel in Hokkaido for a vacation he’ll never forget or let (it) go.
Operated by a famous Japanese chocolate company, Royce’ Ice Hills Hotel is a (very) temporary hotel in Tobetsu, just north of Sapporo, made entirely out of ice and snow. Before the spring thaw, Mr. Sato wanted to give this literally cool hotel a try since it is only open until March 15.
There are a couple of booking options, but Mr. Sato decided to go with a travel package that includes one night’s stay as well as the cab ride to and from Tobetsu. Usually this package requires at least two people paying 23,000 yen (US$193) each, so Mr. Sato had to pay in total 46,000 yen to be able to have the room to himself. (On the bright side, he was given a 3,000-yen discount for only eating one breakfast.)
Despite the terrible weather the day before, Mr. Sato got lucky and had a smooth flight from Tokyo to Sapporo and arrived right on time. But despite arriving on time, he still had to wait around before leaving Sapporo because guests are only allowed to stay a total of 15 hours in the hotel. Mr. Sato’s hired ride was scheduled to meet him near the Sapporo train station at 8pm. He worried a little bit about who this driver would be and if there would be any problems with his reservations, but there were no issues and he was on his way to the ice hotel.
▼ Mr. Sato’s plane ready to leave from Tokyo snow-less Narita International Airport
▼ The snow-covered land of Hokkaido as Mr. Sato gets ready to land at New Chitose International Airport
▼Mr. Sato takes a selfie with the hired cab that will take him to the ice hotel
The drive to the ice hotel from Sapporo was supposed to take about an hour, which allowed for plenty of small talk between the driver and Mr. Sato. As they got further from the city, Mr. Sato was surprised to see the sudden appearance of snow on all sides of the car. There was practically no snow in Sapporo, but it was everywhere once they got out of the city limits. The driver told Mr. Sato that the area around the ice hotel has lots of snow that gets blown in from the Sea of Japan.
▼ The snowy roads on the way to Tobetsu
Finally, Mr. Sato arrived at the ice hotel. He felt at ease seeing that the hotel was not very far from the management office, just in case there was any issue. And he could see plenty of hotel staff making him feel good that he wasn’t being dumped in the middle of a snowy field.
▼ Mr. Sato’s cab makes contact with Royce’ Ice Hills Hotel
There are three rooms in the ice hotel and since Mr. Sato ended up being the only guest that night, he decided to stay in room C. The entrance to that room made it seem like a cave, but once you got in, you could see the high ceilings that made it seem very spacious. There was also some impressive spiral ice art to greet you. When he walked it, Mr. Sato noticed the contrast between the jet-black of the night outside and the white snow made it seem like he had just woken up in a dream.
▼ The three ice chambers, aka hotel rooms
▼ The fluffy door to the rooms
▼ The cave-like entrance to room C
▼ Some of the ice art in room C
▼ A tall piece of spiral ice art in room C
The three rooms were each laid out a little differently, but all had the same amount of space inside. There is a bed in the middle of the room with a thick, polar bear rug on top. The rug is so incredibly soft and looks very inviting to sleep on. But don’t be fooled, Mr. Sato says the rug is not very warm but merely acts as a barrier between you and the cold around you. The light switches are located very conveniently on the side of the bed, but other than that, there is not much else in the room. Also, eating and drinking is not permitted in the room. After all, no one wants to spill apple juice on the floor and leave a suspicious yellow stain for the next guest, do they?
▼ Room A from the outside
▼ The beds in room B
▼The, ahem, artwork in room B
▼ Guys, stop giggling. It’s perfectly innocent ice art
▼ Mr. Sato’s bed for the night in Room C
▼ The light switches near the bed
▼ There’s no light outside, so if you need to use the facilities, be sure to take this lamp
Apart from the hotel, there is another building made of ice that houses a bar. As part of Mr. Sato’s travel package, he had two complimentary drinks, so he made his way to the bar quickly after arriving. Unsurprisingly, everything in the bar is made out of ice, even the bar itself. And it is lit with blue light, giving the whole room a very “luxurious feel,” according to our man.
▼ An ice display in the middle of the bar
▼ Some rather chilly seating options
▼ The bar
Luckily for Mr. Sato as the only guest that night, he was given superb service by a very attentive staff. And Mr. Sato admits that the friendliness might have caused him to drink a little more than he should… Besides drinks served out of gigantic chunks of ice, the bar also had an ice slide where you could drink very chilled shots.
▼ The ice shot slide: where deliciously cold and dangerous decisions get made
▼ Mr. Sato giving our readers a demonstration of the ice slide
▼ The bartender serving up some cool drinks in ice blocks
▼ An ice “glass”
▼ One of the yummy and colorful drinks available at the bar
▼ Our wine connoisseur samples the drinks
▼ Mr. Sato’s gives his evaluation of the ice bar
Thanks to the many drinks at the bar, Mr. Sato was all warmed up and ready for bed. The hotel has very high-end sleeping bags available to guests that can keep you warm until morning. Mr. Sato could definitely feel the cold air at times during the night, but remarked that it wasn’t unbearable by any means, and he slept through the night.
▼ Tucked in a ready for bed
Breakfast was served the next morning and consisted of bread, corn soup and coffee. Everything was delicious, but tasted even better since it was served warm after a pretty cold night.
▼ Breakfast at the ice hotel
If Mr. Sato’s trip up north inspires you, make sure you book quickly because, again, the hotel will only be around until March 15. Then you will have to wait until next year to pay good money to sleep on a block of ice. Check out the two videos below to get a further look at the ice hotel, and let us know what you think! Would you want to stay in a room surrounded by ice and snow?
▼ Mr. Sato’s adventures at a Hokkaido ice hotel
▼ Mr. Sato at the ice bar
All photos & videos ©RocketNews24
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