lake akan ski park

Spring Break in Hokkaido: Skiing at Lake Akan National Park

We spent a few weeks exploring Northern Japan, in particular the island of Hokkaido. March is a wonderful time to travel to Japan especially if you love to ski. Read this post to find out more about how to get to Kushiro City and Lake Akan, where to stay in Lake Akan, ice fishing in Kushiro, and skiing at Lake Akan National Park.

Still haven’t decided where to go for your Spring Break vacation?

Why not follow in our footsteps and take a trip to Hokkaido, Japan?

Spend a day or two in Sapporo then head southeast to Lake Akan, one of Japan’s best-kept hidden secrets. It’s the kind of place you don’t want everyone to know about cause it’s just that beautiful.

The kid-foodies are big fans of skiing – we usually take our annual ski vacation to Whistler Blackcomb in Canada, but we thought to do something different for our last ski trip. To go somewhere different – Japan!

If you’re from the US, Japan might not be the first ski trip destination you think of, or even in your top 5. But, it should be. Especially if you live in Hawaii like we do! Japan has some lovely kid-friendly ski slopes and ski parks like Gala Yuzawa Ski Resort near Tokyo. A direct flight from Honolulu to Japan takes approx 8 hours – it’s just a couple hours more than heading to the mainland, plus you get to explore a different country!

Watch Our Skiing in Akan YouTube Video

Where is Kushiro and Lake Akan?

Kushiro City lies in the North of Japan’s island, Hokkaido. It is located in the southeast of Hokkaido, facing the Pacific ocean. It has 2 national parks, Kushiro Shitsugen National Park and Akan National Park. It’s where we ch ose to spend Spring Break last year. The city contains 4 main areas, Kushiro, Lake Akan, Akan Tancho no-sato, and Onbetsu. Each area has its own character and charm.

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How to Get To Kushiro and Lake Akan

Known for its natural hot springs, ski resorts, and food, Hokkaido has become a hot-spot for families looking for a more laid-back spring break vacation in Japan. We decided to check out Lake Akan as we heard wonderful things about their hot springs, ice sculptures, ice fishing, and most importantly skiing at Lake Akan National Park.

By Air

If you’re flying directly to Hokkaido, you want to fly in to New Chitose Airport – it’s Hokkaido’s largest airport and has both domestic and international flights by United, Hawaiian Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Thai Airways and more. And, it’s one of the kid-friendliest airports we’ve been to in a while!

By Train

We used our Japan Rail or JR pass (which you must purchase prior to your trip to Japan) and reserved our seats on the JR Super Ozora to Obihiro, which takes approximately 2.5 hours from the Sapporo Station.

From Obihiro Station we were picked up by our hotel shuttle, taking a 2.5 hour bus ride to our hotel in Lake Akan. The ride was beautiful, the views scenic as went up the mountains and we stopped at least once for a bathroom and food break.

Where to Stay in Kushiro and Lake Akan

Ainu and the Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings Hotel

The Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings hotel is what Japanese would consider a “New Style Hotel” – a stylish and contemporary hot spring Ryokan (Japanese inn). It is known for its stylish rooms, delicious and beautiful buffet dishes, and of course their on-site hot spring onsens, which in our opinion, is one of the best things about staying at the Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings hotel.

kids with ainu bear carvings - skiing at lake akan national parkAt the reception, we were greeted in the lobby by the sight of fascinating large bear wood carvings or “ainu” made by local wood carvers in Lake Akan. Ainu are Hokkaido’s indigenous people who have unique culture and customs. There is also an Ainu traditional dance show that you can buy tickets for and many of their locally handmade crafts are sold at Ainu Kotan, which is just across the street from the hotel.

Ohhh the Onsens

There are 6 hot springs communal baths which are rotated daily between male and female guests. The onsens are beautiful, with the highlight being the rooftop spa – it overlooks the lake, which is frozen in the Spring. There are additional onsens at their sister hotel, Akan Yuku no Sato Tsuruga, you can use free of charge as well.

We checked into our room and spent the rest of the afternoon soaking in the onsen. We were staying in Lake Akan for 3 nights, so we were in no rush to get outside. This was the first time the children had a traditional onsen experience, which means bathing nude with a lot of other people and by the end of our stay, they were seasoned pros. The best part of our onsen experience was when we were sitting in the rooftop onsen on evening when it began to snow.

Click here to discover even more hotels in Kushiro and Lake Akan

Breakfast and Skiing at Lake Akan National Park

The next morning we headed to the breakfast buffet and ate like royalty. Everything you could possibly eat for breakfast was at that buffet, it was truly incredible! We spoke to the receptionist inquiring about skiing at the nearby ski resort and with just one phone call the hotel shuttle bus was outside waiting to take us up the mountain.

It was less than a 6-minute drive and we were at Lake Akan Ski Park. It took us less than 30 minutes (because it was in the middle of the week and the resort was empty) to rent our ski gear. The kids were soon taking lessons and my dear husband was snowboarding.

I sat in the lodge, reading and enjoying my hot cup of tea. Two hours later, the kids joined me for ramen and fried rice and then went back out in the snow on their own for another 2 hours. The resort itself is a bit outdated, but has wonderful, fresh powder, and the facilities are clean, the food served was excellent and you always service with a smile in Japan.

We headed back to the hotel and the kids immediately asked to go back to the onsens. We spent the rest of the afternoon soaking and ordered dinner in the room.

Let’s Go Ice Fishing!

The next day was spent roaming around Kushiro and shopping in the city. We also spent the afternoon learning the art of ice fishing. The best part about ice fishing was….well, everything!

The entire experience of ice fishing in Kushiro was fun.

From choosing a pole, to choosing a tent, and hooking up the live worms for fishing. We could have stayed there all day but after a plate full of fish we were starting the get hungry. The staff informed us that we could keep the fish (smelt) we caught, take it to a nearby restaurant where they weigh and fry it up for you to eat.

So we did, and it was delicious!!

We headed back to the hotel, for more onsen soaking and some rest before another full day of skiing.

As we packed up our bags to go back to Sapporo we felt utter sadness. To leave such a beautiful place was heartbreaking. Yet we knew the memories we shared at this resort would never be forgotten and maybe, just maybe we’ll return again someday to appreciate this beautiful lake in the summer.


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1 thought on “Spring Break in Hokkaido: Skiing at Lake Akan National Park”

  1. Hi, Wendy! You are right- one my not consider Japan for a spring vacation, but it seems like a perfect place! You did an amazing job giving good reasons for everyone to spend their vacation here. I was wondering, is there anything you wish you knew before taking this trip?

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