Imagine a beautiful remote lake in Hokkaido. Now, how would you like to stay there in a village made entirely of ice that exists only for one winter season?
For the people living in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, the severe cold and heavy snow in the winter can be a real challenge. But the organizers of a unique event called the Shikaribetsuko Kotan seem to have found a way to turn the cold into an asset by offering visitors the chance to have the full Hokkaido winter experience.
The event, which takes place at Lake Shikaribetsu (Shikaribetsuko in Japanese) in central Hokkaido, was started about 35 years ago by local youths who wanted to turn this lonely lake with very few visitors during the winter into a special place where people would actually be able to enjoy the cold weather. Their brilliant idea? Building an entire village of ice and snow on the lake each year!
The lake itself is a place of amazing unspoiled natural beauty, located on the southern end of the Daisetsuzan National Park. The pristine body of water is one of the clearest lakes in Japan, and the cold climate means it completely freezes over in the winter, making it possible to create buildings of ice on it, including igloo shaped ice lodges, an ice bar lounge and even an ice chapel. And you know what just might be the coolest part about all this? Because all the buildings and structures are made using only natural snow and ice from the lake, the entire village simply melts away and disappears come springtime!
▼ Yes, all of this will be gone in the spring!
The actual buildings are built from blocks of ice made by compressing the snow, which allows the structures to be made in various, aesthetically pleasing shapes with a certain degree of architectural freedom. The lodges where the guests stay in particular are constructed in an attractive igloo shape.
▼ The ice lodges look beautiful, especially by moonlight.
▼ Here’s what it looks like inside one of the lodges.
▼ They’ve also built gorgeous ice chapels in different shapes over the years.
▼ The interior of the chapel looks otherworldly, cast in a beautiful pale blue light.
▼ They even have an ice concert hall where singers, bands and dancers give live performances.
▼ Of course, you need a bar when you’re on vacation, right? The ice bar at Shikaribetsuko Kotan is utterly cool both in temperature and in awesomeness!
▼ The ice bar has been a fixture at the event for over 30 years, and it features counters and pillars made of huge ice blocks cut out from the frozen lake, allowing you to admire the magnificence of natural ice.
▼ People seem to be having a grand time enjoying drinks at the bar:
▼ And you can even relax in an outdoor hot bath with a spectacular view!
Other activities guests can enjoy at the Shikaribetsuko Kotan include an ice theater where videos are shown projected on a screen of ice in the bar area, a small ice maze for kids, rental snow mobiles, ice cup and sculpture making classes, nature walks in the woods and cross-country skiing.
This year’s Shikaribetsuko Kotan will be held from January 28 to March 21, and it should be a fascinating winter experience in a stunning natural environment, but it is in a remote area of Hokkaido, so if you’re interested, you may want to inquire with a travel agency that can help you make transport and accommodation arrangements. It certainly should make for an unforgettable snow filled vacation — just make sure to keep warm!
▼ We’ll leave you with a Google Street View of the Lake Shikaribetsu area:
Source: Shikaribetsuko Kotan website, Shikaribetsuko Nature Center
Photos: courtesy of Shikaribetsuko Nature Center