When in Hokkaido, don’t miss a trip to visit Lake Shikotsu 支笏湖 and stay at this quiet yet luxurious onsen hotel. Tsuruga Mizu no Uta is an onsen spa and resort located in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. With a warm fireplace and well-designed communal spaces, Tsuruga Hotel had me when I walked into the lobby and saw people roasting marshmallows in yukatas. It is rare to find such an effortless blend of modernity with Japanese onsen culture.
Oh and the food! In the mornings, we enjoyed traditional Japanese breakfasts with our own clay pot of steamed rice. With the rice, we indulged in unlimited ikura and fresh sashimi. Dinner comes with a selection of sake, and each guest is served a plated main dish alongside the buffet. By the end of our weekend stay, we tried everything from wagyu beef to local Hokkaido produce.
While Mizu no Uta is off-the-beaten path, it is well worth the trek for those that want a cozy retreat from the hustle and bustle of Sapporo city. I rarely share hotel recommendations but this is one of my favorite gems I’ve discovered in my recent travels.
Head over to Lake Shikotsu in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park–it is much less visited than Lake Toya but no less beautiful
There are shuttles to and from Sapporo Airport to the hotel, as well as from Sapporo Main Station. Make sure to reserve with the hotel a day in advance
Tsuruga Mizu no Uta has has perfect lake view and many communal areas to relax in–our favorite one was the lakeside foot onsen
Pictures don’t do the hotel lounge justice because it was our favorite spot to relax in–incredibly cozy and warm, with live music and drinks at night (PC: Tsuruga Mizu no Uta)
After a complimentary upgrade, we stayed in the junior suite with outdoor jacuzzi pool (PC: Tsuruga Mizu no Uta)
The room was a mix of Japanese and Western styles, with tatami mats in our living room and western beds. I highly recommend visiting the Pillow Gallery to select your own pillow!
As the hotel is separated into multiple wings, there are Japanese yukatas and quilted coats for guests to use on the hotel grounds
Follow this beautiful corridor into the west wing for dining
This wood-pellet stove in the middle of the corridor was a thoughtful touch–we stopped here everytime we were in this corridor
The dining hall is bright and airy, with literal window seats and excellent views
Breakfast options are light, with plenty of pickled vegetables and fresh fish
The best part of breakfast everyday was this pot of rice, perfectly cooked in a cute Staub pot
For those that enjoy salmon roe, pour some over steaming rice with a little bit of soy sauce on top–it’s a perfect morning combo
Who knew you could find incredible viennoiseries in a Hokkaido hotel–I should’ve asked about their pastry chef because these were amazing croissants
Leaving this here because you will thank me when you catch the fresh pastry cart in the mornings
After breakfast, visit the outdoors ‘so-so no yu’ or ‘hot springs for foot’ and enjoy the lake view. This helps improve blood circulation!
Visit the onsen, located on B1, to fully unwind
No pictures are allowed inside but the open-air onsen is incredible especially when there’s light snow outside (PC: Tsuruga Mizu no Uta)
The onsen has showers, a massage lounge, and a small library to relax in afterwards
After our bath, we swung by the hotel patisserie to pick up some cakes
I highly recommend the Japanese sponge cakes with local strawberries and Hokkaido fresh cream
We decided to take our afternoon tea in our room, on our tatami mats
While our room had an outdoor jacuzzi, there are suites with private onsens–definitely don’t let it go to waste and take full advantage!
At dusk, take a walk out to the hotel deck
Dinner comes with your choice of a plated main dish–this wagyu beef was excellent and came recommended by our server
The ochazuke station was perfect for Hokkaido’s chilly evenings
Before another onsen soak, toast some marshmallows in the lounge and enjoy the relaxing sound of a crackling fireplace
There are also two session of live music in the evenings (when we were there, there was a beautiful harpist playing)
Explore the Lake Shikotsu Area
My pictures don’t do Lake Shikotsu justice so look online for its pictures during fall foliage, spring blossoms and winter snow! Pro tip: during sunset, walk along the lake and past the bridge for a nice panoramic view. We found Lake Shikotsu’s surrounding town, Shikotsu Kohan, very small but full of delightful finds as well. During our many walks, we spotted a hipster grandpa making hand-drip coffee through LOG BEAR’s large windows and couldn’t resist peeking in. That somehow turned into us having coffee and chatting with the owner for hours.
From the local eatery to the visitor center, there was a nice charm to Shikotsu Kohan. Things were not overly polished but everyone was genuine and eager to chat. I appreciate this small town type of feel–something very comforting about going to a foreign country and being shown a snapshot of locals’ everyday lives.
LOG BEAR is a bed & breakfast, as well as a cafe in the day
Run by the incredibly cool grandpa sitting behind me in this picture, LOG BEAR has a fun collection of magazines and wooden toys for you to pass time with
Having traveled to 20+ countries in his youth, the LOG BEAR grandpa has a lot of interesting stories to share so don’t be shy and chat him up! His English is perfect and he’ll share the journey of how he built LOG BEAR from scratch
Swing by the Lake Shikotsu Visitor Center to learn more about the local wildlife as well as surrounding activities to do
The visitor center was very well-designed and beautiful in the afternoon sun. We grabbed a warm drink from the vending machines & slowly read up on Lake Shikotsu’s history (hint: it was formed by a volcano eruption)
The local eatery was pretty much our guilty pleasure spot–we found all sorts of Japanese comfort food here, from yakisoba to cheesy mochi
From left to right: buttery soy-sauce scallops, fried mochi with cheese inside, and ginger pork yakisoba
It was our first time having this, but something about the fried mochi with oozing cheese was just insanely good
Lake Shikotsu has less tourists than Lake Toya so if you’re looking for a quiet onsen retreat, visit here instead
From hotel design to service details, Mizu no Uta was a luxurious onsen experience. As it is not part of an onsen town, Lake Shikotsu is a retreat for those that want to enjoy the slow life for a bit. Spend a weekend unwinding in Shikotsu-Toya National Park, with incredible food & access to open-air onsen. You’ll feel fresh-faced & well-fed in no time.
*The hotel is a 45 minutes drive from Chitose International Airport. Make sure to call the hotel in advance to arrange for a free shuttle. After your stay, you should also reserve an airport shuttle or ask to be put on the bus to Sapporo city.