Under the watchful eye of Mount Usu in Hokkaido, Lake Toya is a place of beauty and wonder with many wondrous hot springs and parks. Due to how Lake Toya was formed it has inspired many stories and inclusions in popular media, like Pokémon and Gintama. In this article we’ll discuss Lake Toya, what to do there and its impact on Japanese Pop Culture.

The Environment of Lake Toya

In an overview of Lake Toya, you can’t help but discuss the surrounding area. Located in the western area of Hokkaido, on Uchiura Bay and surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, Lake Toya is truly a one of a kind area inside the greater Shikotsu-Toya National Park.

The lake was formed when the underground magma basin for the nearby Mount Usu emptied and created a sinkhole which filled with water. This has caused Lake Toya to be the second most transparent lake in Japan and the most northernmost lake in Japan to never freeze over, even during the cold Hokkaido winters.

Centralized in middle of Lake Toya is four islands, all of which are barely touched by humans. The largest of these islands is Nakajima Island, where you can be one with native Japanese animals and enjoy the wildlife surrounded by crystal clear water. Watch the deer frolic through the 350-year-old trees and feel the breeze from special air holes in the island giving the island natural air conditioning.

On the lakeside is the town of Toyako, where its main economy is the water from underground spring. Many hotels on the promenade have onsen inside where you can pay 1,000 yen to enjoy the warm purifying water.

In front of the hotels are ashiyu (foot baths) to cleanse your feet after walking through Nakajima Island all day, of which you can to from boats which launch from the promenade. In the summertime, the promenade host daily firework shows in the evening.

Stay in a Lake Toya Hotel

If you’re watching the fireworks, or have an early tour booked for Nakajima Island, then staying at a Lake Toya Hotel would be the best idea. Most of the hotels in Toyako are on the promenade and, if you’re a guest, you get to use the onsite onsen for free. Out of all the hotels in the area, one does stand out.

The Lake View Toya Nonokaze Resort

The Lake View Toya Nonokaze Resort is the perfect getaway with one of the best views in Japan. You can watch the evening fireworks from the open-air bath from natural spring water which looks over the entire lake.

The resort also has an indoor public bath (that you have to be a guest to go to), a traditional Japanese sento bath, a spa and a sauna, all to enjoy at your own leisure. You can choose to stay in a Western style room, a hybrid western-Japanese style room or even a wheelchair accessible room.

Spot information

  • Spot name: Lake View Toya Nonokaze Resort
  • Street address: 29-1 Toyakoonsen, Toyako-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 049-5721
  • Access: 20 minutes by taxi from Toya Station or Free Shuttle Bus from Sapporo Station

Lake Toya’s Influence on Gintama

Due to the folklore and ambience of Lake Toya, Gintama, a popular manga and anime series which used to run in Weekly Shonen Jump, and many other Japanese pop-culture media incorporates the name and stories in their fictional world.

About the Lake Toya Sword

In the hit series, Gintama, the Lake Toya Sword features very heavily as the main weapon of the protagonist, Gintoki Sakata. Gintoki's Bokuto, also known as Toyako Bokuto is inscribed with the words Lake Toya on it and is said to hold a great power, though due to the nature of the series, it could just be an exaggeration by the main character.

Pokémon and Gintama Lake Toya Influences

In the popular video game series Pokémon, its 4th generation titles on the Nintendo DS, Pokémon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum are set in a version of Hokkaido, with its version of Lake Toya, Lake Verity being part of the main story of the game. While the popular anime, Gintama, references Lake Toya as an inscription on the sword of the main protagonist.

Folklore of Lake Toya, Gintama

By visiting the lake in real life, you can understand why the manga creator wanted to put it in his series. The natural beauty of the lake mixed with the serene atmosphere gives off a vibe that can only be experience at Lake Toya itself.