One of the highlights of our trip to Japan in December 2017 has been the day where we traveled to Tomamu. Tomamu is a ski station situated inland on the island of Hokkaido, about one hour by train from Sapporo. The village has many ski resorts and winter sport stations, so it was the occasion to take our daughter to enjoy her first sledding and snow experience.
Taking the train to Tomamu
The train to Tomamu leaves from Sapporo main railway station, and it is an understatement to say that the walk to the train station was quite… icy! Snow covered the streets and in most parts had frozen up.
The cost of a return ticket was of about 27,000 JPY for a reserved seat for two adults and one kid. If you don’t buy a reserved seat, you end up having to pay the controller with an amount almost double the cost of a ticket.
The train trip is pretty easy and fun, and comfortable.
The difficulty of finding transportation in Tomamu
If you are not staying at one of the ski resorts of Tomamu, hitching a ride to the place can be quite a challenge. There are strictly no taxis or other transportation at the station, and all you have are the buses of the resorts. This being said, the drivers are quite nice and they offered us a ride to the winter sports station.
In fact, nobody checks who boards the buses upon arrival in Tomamu, as they only care of picking your luggage. Of course, the station stays closed day and night. So, no way to go around, unless you have your own transportation. As a consequence (and as you might expect), food prices are quite expensive both, at the resort and at the local restaurants. If on a budget, it is best to come from Sapporo by train, enjoy the activities and go back at night.
GAO Snow Academy
We went straight to the GAO snow academy, which is a lovely place for children. Not only do they have lessons for learning how to ski, but also they provide quite a number of services, such as snowmobile outings, sled rental, etc. We rented a sled and took our daughter out for the fun.
The fun part was to fly the drone in that lovely setting.
Of course, big kids enjoyed too sledding…
The tiring part was probably having to pull the sled back up the hill.
Maria-Sophia had a lot of fun building her snowman… Which she, of course, named “Olaf” according to the character of “Frozen”. Let us not even talk about the number of times she rolled herself in the snow. I guess snow always conserves its magical nature for kids.
Tomamu, of course, has a lot of the markings of a mountain ski station… Like lovely isolated fir trees, making for excellent photographic subjects.
The mountain light
The best moment was probably when the sun broke the clouds to illuminate a valley in Tomamu. I just had the time to grab a few shots of the marvelous light.
Tomamu’s ice village
As night fell on Tomamu, we headed to another very reputed winter attraction of Tomamu. The ice village of Tomamu, which is worldwide reknown is only open from 7PM. Normally, entry is free for anybody who is residing at one of the Tomamu resorts. For others, you have to pay a moderate entrance fee, about 5 K JPY.
It is obviously totally man-made and artificial, but it is also a dreamlike vision seeing this igloo village nestled in the middle of the mountains at night.
You can have warm drinks inside the individual igloos, or you can admire ikebana flower decorations in some of these igloos. A lot of people also queued to slide down to the ice village on an ice slide.
Returning to Sapporo
After visiting the ice village, came the time of going back to Sapporo. I mentioned earlier that Tomamu station was closed most of the time… This means that the station is basically abandoned and short of a stinky waiting room, there is nowhere to shelter from the cold.
Mitch, who was already tired thus buried her nose in her scarf while waiting in the room… And Maria-Sophia and me, we continued throwing snowballs at each other (although, by that time, my daughter was running on fumes, as the day had taken its toll).
Nevertheless, all in all, Tomamu is really one of the best winter sports station in the world. The Japanese spirit and the availability of great facilities for families and kids, makes it truly a lovely place to visit. The natural beauty of the mountains adds to the great feeling.