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October 10, 2013
Day 7 - Lake Toya

Lake Toya (, Tōyako) is part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. The region around this caldera lake features scenic views of nature and offers many fishing, hiking, and camping opportunities. Located on the shores of Lake Toya is Toyako Onsen, a touristy hot spring resort town.

Mount Usu, an active volcano which last erupted in the year 2000, is located just south of the lake. Hiking trails lead around the mountain, offering a closer look at dozens of craters that were created as a result of the recent eruption. Earlier volcanic activity of Mount Usu in the mid 1940s also gave rise to the neighboring Showa Shinzan, one of Japan's youngest mountains.

Today's Report
 
Lake Toya

One of the craters of the 2000 eruption

This morning, after breakfast, I went to the start point of the hike, at Toya station, where I met my little walking group. Then we set off, for the 8km walk that would take us through very interesting and unique terrain.
In a nutshell, the little onsen town of Toya, is basically build on the side of a very active volcano, mount Usu. The last time it erupted was 13 years ago, in 2000, and scientists predict the next eruption sometime in the next 15 to 20 years. With every eruption, a new volcano and craters are born, as was the case for Showa Shinzan, a 400m peak born during an eruption in the 1940ies. It is still fuming today.
The onsen town is built next to lake Toya, the 3nd biggest caldera in Japan. It is particularly beautiful because of the group of inner islands (Nakajima) in the middle of the lake. These were formed, as everything else around here by volcanic eruptions a long time ago.

View of Toya lake and the Nakajim islands

Showa Sinhzan - a new mountain born in the 1940s

A lot of remnants of the last eruption can still be seen, and during todayfs walk we passed many of them. The first thing we saw was a kindergarten that was evacuated prior to the eruption, a biscuit factory that was in a very badly hit place near the volcano and - ironically - the fire department, that sunk far into the ground what it gave in. We also saw the remnants of national route 230, that was literally torn into pieces - some now 5 higher - because of volcanic activity coming from below.

Cookie factory that was destroyed in the eruption of 2000

Only 143 years ago, this was national route 230, one of the main ones in the city

Probably the earth's only under-water fire station

We continued our ascent and saw various craters, some still fuming - if you touch the ground near them it is still very warm as well - while some other turned into lovely blue caldera lakes.
Coming from countries that do not have any volcanic activity, it's really amazing for me to see people living on an active volcano, knowing it will erupt again in the near future. When I asked people about it, they all answered that when the volcano isn't erupting, it gives the the good side of its activity: a gorgeous lake, fantastic hot springs, bountiful fruit and vegetables.

Craters of the eruption of 2000 - the one in the back is still fuming

In the afternoon I was treated to a boat ride on the lake. The weather was absolutely superb and the water very clear. We went round the islands, which as as lush as they seem to be from afar. We also went to an interesting point of the lake on the other side of the islands, "point zero", where a new island is "growing". It is in fact an underwater volcano, that is slowly rising and will soon emerge. There is still about a meter of water on top of it, but in our lifetimes, a new island will be born!

The volcanic islands in the middle of Toya lake

Amazing lush vegetation and clear blue waters

Under-water volcano that will soon become an island

After the boat ride, we went fruit picking. Japanese fruit being so rare and extremely expensive, what a pleasure to eat so much of it! Thanks to the volcanic soil, the fruit production here is a huge industry. We spent a couple of hours picking (and eating fruit) - I now have a supply for at least a week - happy days!

Japanese grapes that don't cost 20'000 yen a bunch - hurray!

our little helper at the orchard - kawai!

Today's Program
 
Today's Walk: Learn about the destruction caused by a volcanic eruption

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Today's route takes walkers through the area which was heavily affected by the most recent eruption of Mount Usu in the year 2000. Along the way we witness ruins of buildings, spoiled roads, broken phone poles, abandoned playgrounds, as well as some of over 60 new craters that opened up as a result of the eruption.

Date October 10, 2013
Start Time 9:30
Start Toya Station
Goal Toyako Onsen
Distance 7 kilometers (about 3-4 hours)
Terrain The first part of today's journey leads uphill along a road and well-maintained walking trails. The second part leads downhill towards Lake Toya along unpaved nature trails that require proper walking shoes.
Weather Average daytime high: 17 degrees Celsius (63 degrees Fahrenheit)
Average nighttime low: 11 degrees Celsius (52 degrees Fahrenheit)
Weather Forecast for Muroran
Access Local buses operate between Toyako Onsen and JR Toya Station (15 minutes, 320 yen, one bus/hour).
More details on how to get to Lake Toya
Lodgings Several hotels, pensions and a hostel provide accommodation at Lake Toya.
Search hotels in Lake Toya through Agoda, Booking.com or Japanican

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Daily Quiz
The deadline for answering the quiz question for day 7 has passed.

How often are fireworks held at Lake Toya?

9%   Once per year
0%   Every weekend, except in winter
66%   Everyday, except in winter
6%   Everyday around the year
20%   None of the above

The correct answer is: Everyday, except in winter

Fireworks are held daily on Lake Toya for about twenty minutes except during the winter months. However, we also count "none of the above" as a correct answer, because the period without fireworks (November to late April) can be considered to cover more than just winter.

Current Standings: (after 30 days)

28 Points: Csabba, AlexanderStankov
27 Points: gladhiola, almoehi, ZoomX2, mikaelus
26 Points: Rabbityama, Proxy707

More about the quiz
 

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