Photo: Famous ice festival in the Lake Shikotsu

Located in northern Hokkaido, Lake Shikotsu (支笏湖) is the second deepest lake in Japan. Only an hour drive from Sapporo, this crater formed lake is the most ice-free lake in the region. In this article we’ll discuss the area around Lake Shikotsu and well as its famous ice festival.

Discover the Lake at the Visitor Center

Before heading onto the lake, the Lake Shikotsu Visitor Center is there to help guide you on your journey. The center features displays of native wildlife, with descriptions on what they are, how they eat and how they life. These descriptions are presented in an interactive format in both Japanese and English for your reading pleasure.

Visiting the Lake Shikotsu Visitor Center lets you understand more about the lake and its history. You can learn about how Lake Shikotsu was formed and its evolution over its lifetime, as well as why it’s called a ‘crater lake’. Thanks to the center, tourists are able to get a cultural understanding of the area, giving them a greater appreciation of their surroundings.

The Lake Shikotsu Visitor Center is open most days, except Tuesdays. The center has different opening times depending on the season, with the winter opening time starting from 9:30 am and closing at 4:30 pm. The summer opening time is extended, with the center opening at 9:00 am and closing at 5:30 pm.

Spot information

  • Spot name: Lake Shikotsu Visitor Center
  • Street address: Shikotsuko Onsen, Chitose, Hokkaido 066-0281
  • Access: A 1-minute walk from Lake Shikotsu bus stop on the Hokkaido Chuo Bus “Lake Shikotsu” line.

Enjoy the Chilly Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival


Lake Shikotsu during summer


Photo: Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival

Every year the Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival takes place at the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. The sculptures, more than double normal human size, are made from spraying water from the lake into the desired shapes. At night, these sculptures are illuminated by different colored lights, giving the area a magical aura.

The Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival offers up much more than just art pieces to look at. It wouldn’t be an ice festival without an ice rink, where you’re able to slide around the ice as majestically as you can. For children, there’s horse riding available, taking you around the park.

Ice Festival 2016

The Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival 2016 was one of the best years to visit the festival. With beautiful sculptures, as well as being around Chinese New Year, it was truly magical experience. The most magical part was the fireworks that went off every day of the festival at 6:30 pm, a tradition that continues with the rest of the festivals.

You can visit the Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival during the winter months. The festival starts on the last week of January every year and ends in the first week of February. Please check the local websites for more up to date times.

Rest at a Lake Shikotsu Hotel

After a long day walking or boating around, relaxing at a Lake Shikotsu Hotel would be number one on any tourists lists. Staying in the area gives you exclusive access to the hot springs and foot baths that litter the streets of Shikotsu at any time.

Lake Shikotsu Tsuruga Resort Spa Mizu No Uta

World class service is on offer at Lake Shikotsu Tsuruga Resort Spa Mizu no Uta. The rooms on offer at the Tsuruga Resort are a slick, modern Japanese style, with all the western flair you need to stay comfortable. Each room has its own big LCD TV and spacious lounge to relax in. A select few of the rooms even come with their own open-air hot spring.

You can check into Lake Shikotsu Tsuruga Resort Spa Mizu no Uta starting from 3:00 pm, and you must be checked out by 10:00 am.

Spot information

  • Spot name: Lake Shikotsu Tsuruga Resort Spa Mizu no Uta (しこつ湖鶴雅リゾートスパ 水の謌)
  • Street address: Shikotsuko Onsen, Chitose, Hokkaido 066-0281
  • Access: A shuttle bus is available to all guests starting from New Chitose Airport, Chitose Station and Minami Chitose Station

How to get from Sapporo to Lake Shikotsu

There’s no easy way to get from Sapporo to Lake Shikotsu directly. The best option if you wanted to do a day trip from Sapporo would be to go via car and drive directly to the lakeside town in around 55 minutes. If you want to go by public transport, which is doable, it’ll take a little longer.

There is a direct bus from New Chitose Airport (新千歳空港) to Shikotsu (支笏湖), which stops at Shikotsuko Kohan. The bus from the airport also stops at Chitose Station, which has a direct connection to Sapporo via the Hakodate line, and only takes 30 minutes on the rapid Airport line.