Tomamu Ice Village (Hokkaido, Japan)
We detoured to Tomamu from the route of ‘Sapporo – Noboribetsu – Niseko’. This detour costs us about an additional S$100+/pax! So what’s the big deal at Tomamu? I wanted to visit Tomamu ICE VILLAGE!
If after reading this post, you decided to try something novel, here’s useful travel and dining information of Tomamu, The Tower (Resort).
Hokkaido Japan has many winter festivals, notably the Sapporo Snow Festival, and ice villages during the end and beginning of a year. However, the time of our travel was in late February, and most of them were already over by then. Good thing that there’s still one at Tomamu and it’s not too far away from Sapporo and usually begins from early December to mid-March, depending on the weather conditions.
Opening Hours and Directions
The ice village opens from 5:00 pm to 9:00pm (last entry 9.30pm) and is free of charge!
You have to first get to where Hal Dining (Alpha Resort) is by the 1) tube walk or 2) internal shuttle bus and alight at the bus stop “Ice Village”. Then from Hal Dining, follow the signs and find your way out of the building to the other side, walk down and up some slopes and stairs to get to the ice village. It’s about 5-10 minutes walk.
This ice village appears only in winter at Tomamu and the temperature is about -20 degrees throughout. If you are not geared up for such a temperature, you can grab a winter jacket at the entrance to the village. It’s free! Look out for the gingerbread house (picture above) as soon as you past the gate. The white jacket you see me wearing in the photo below is theirs!
Tip: Go as early as 5:00pm if possible to avoid the crowd. Most people will still be unwinding from their ski. Also, there will be a higher chance you can get the extra clothing. And of course, it gets colder later in the night!
Before we entered the village, we climbed up a flight of stairs to have a good view of the whole village. After that, you can slide down an ice slide or walk down the stairs to enter the village. Ice, ice baby, it’s solid ice everywhere.
What can you expect?
After the slide, there were a few fireplaces to warm our hands, and a warm cabin for us to enter and defrost. Yes, I was freezing up after standing around for a few minutes.
Here’s Tomamu Ice Village map to guide you if you don’t want to get lost in the ice village (it’s too small for you to get lost, but just in case):
The big ice skating rink in the village is open to the public. Some brought their own skates, but for most people you can rent a pair of adult skates at ¥1,000 (S$12.55) and a pair of children skates (6-12 yo) at ¥500 (S$6.30) in the warm cabin.
As we walked on, the various buildings made of ice fascinated us. They mimicked the igloos!
You can actually order alcohol in their ice bar and they will serve you in ice cups. Also you can order food and deserts in the ice restaurant. Sit on the ice chairs and they will serve the food and drinks to your ice table. If you have a sweet tooth, you can also dig into a dessert buffet after dinner! After filling your stomach you can go shopping at the ice souvenir shop.
An ice theater was showing animation in Japanese. It would be better if there was subtitles. But it’s nice to see the Japanese children sitting around and enjoying the animation!
I was curious to see the ice hotel, because to think people will actually pay to stay in the cold, and on ice. If you are interested, it’s ¥20,000 (S$251) per person for one night. But be warned, you will be surrounded by ice, and the only warmth if any seemed to be the fur (?) on the ice bed.
And at last, the ice chapel! I thought we wouldn’t be able to see it when we were there during end Feb, because the website (even the map) stated that it’s opened only from 8 Jan to 14 February.
So I was really happy to be able to walk in, even though the icy church aisle was out of bounds. Imagine attending a church service in this icy place. If you are getting married, you can consider and book this church as a wedding venue to exchange vows! How cool, literally!
We probably spent an hour touring the ice village, that was without eating, drinking or skating. You might spend even more time in the ice village if there happen to be some other events going on. For example, earlier in February, there was an ice concert where a Norwegian musician played an instrument made of ice. Too bad there wasn’t any when we were there. :(
Church On Water
This famous architecture, Church on the Water is located near to the ice village. It is built by international renowned architect Tadao Ando. It only opens from 8.30pm to 9.30pm, and the resort recommended to visit after 9pm when the crowd is smaller.
We finished touring the ice village early and thus decided to go back to our room for a cup noodles dinner (you’ll know why here) and then return at 8.30pm. The cold made us so tired and we just wanted to laze around in the room. But the photos of the church was nice…and since we already spent extra to be at Tomamu, we shouldn’t miss the chance!
But… the place was underwhelming. There was not much to see. The cross was half buried in snow. We didn’t know what’s going on, and what’s this all about. Meditative music was playing in the background. We thought we missed something as quite a number of people got up when we arrived and the rest looked to the front. A flurry of activity.
Tip: Ski shoes or shoe spikes are not allowed into the church on water.
Later I realised that it’s just like any other church/cathedral where people can sit and meditate on the cross. I like to do so at St Andrews’ Cathedral in Singapore. The peace. But there were just too many people moving around here, coming in and out. I am sensitive to sounds and movements, so this was definitely not my place to be still.
Most people came by after their visit to the ice village. We kind of regretted leaving our warm comfort zone to travel back here. Think compared to the photos, there’s nothing much to see during the night and winter.
Oh well, at least we got a good sleep at Tomamu, and thereafter visited Noboribetsu where we had a superb experience!
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Related Posts: Overview Itinerary: Hokkaido and Tokyo (Winter/Spring 2016) Tomamu, The Tower (Resort) Pocket Wifi or Prepaid SIM Card in Japan? Noboribetsu in Winter
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Travelled in February/March 2016
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