Hoshino Resorts Tomamu’s “UNKAI TERRACE” is an amazing view place above the sky, popular to people from all over Japan and the world. “How is the place like?” “How do we get there?” “When can we see sea of clouds?” - This article answers all questions. Those who want to visit there one day and who are planning to visit should check out this guide!
Table of contents
- What is UNKAI TERRACE?
- How do we get to UNKAI TERRACE?
- How is the place like?
- What kind of Unkai (sea of clouds) can we see?
- When can we see the sea of clouds? Check out the Unkai Forecast!
- I hope you can see beautiful clouds
What is UNKAI TERRACE?
UNKAI TERRACE is a place where people can enjoy a cup of coffee and explore around as they see the amazing sea of clouds. This observation spot is located near the summit of the mountain which turns into ski mountain in winter, at the height of 1,088 meters above sea level. It opens only a few hours every morning from spring to autumn.
▲Sea of clouds appears mainly in the early morning. This magnificent view is a privilege for people who woke up early! (The picture is provided by Hoshino Resorts Tomamu)
The place was originally built as a ski area. Only staffs working for maintenance of ski gondolas knew about this fantastic views of sea of clouds in the early morning from spring to autumn.
“Our customers would be very amazed if they see the view.”
The history of UNKAI TERRACE started from this small comment by a staff. They decided to do the test-run after numerous discussions and preparations.
▲They started the early morning cafe as a prototype in 2005. They named the cafe “Mountain Terrace”. (The picture is provided by Hoshino Resorts Tomamu)
The test was successful. They built new facilities such as new terrace and officially re-opened as “UNKAI TERRACE” in 2006. Since then, they keep extending the observation space by developing new terraces, etc. Visitors increased each year, and it has become the popular tourist destination which attracts hundreds of thousands of people from all over Japan and the world.
How do we get to UNKAI TERRACE?
UNKAI TERRACE is located near the summit of Mt. Tomamu, within the property of Hoshino Resorts Tomamu. You don’t have to climb all up to the mountain in spite of its location. You can take the “UNKAI Gondola”, so please relax!
You can also visit UNKAI TERRACE as a day trip. However, you have to visit in the early morning to enjoy the sea of clouds so it’s much easier if you could stay at one of the hotels on their property! So head to one of the hotels to start.
▲The hotels on their property. The two towers in front are “Hoshino Resorts Tomamu The Tower”, and the two towers in the back are “Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Tomamu”.
<Visiting by Trains>
You can take a free shuttle bus from “Tomamu Station” of Sekisho Line” to both hotels. The timetable of the shuttle bus is scheduled to leave after each train arrives so that you can take the bus right after the arrival. It takes about 5 minutes to Tomamu The Tower and 10 minutes to RISONARE Tomamu. There are no trains in early morning arrive by the closing of UNKAI TERRACE, so you need to stay a night before in Tomamu if you are visiting here by train.
The best way to Tomamu Station is to use the express train connecting from Sapporo Station to Obihiro Station and Kushiro Station. If you are arriving at Shin-Chitose Airport, transfer to the express train for Obihiro or Kushiro at Minami-Chitose Station.
<Visiting by cars>
The hotels are about 10 minutes from Tomamu I.C. of Dotou Expressway. The place is easily accessible from each location including Shin-Chitose Airport.
- Approx. 100 minutes from Shin-Chitose Airport
- Approx. 80 minutes from Obihiro Airport
- Approx. 120 minutes from central Sapporo
- Approx. 90 minutes from central Furano
<What is UNKAI Gondola?>
UNKAI Gondola is the only transportation going to UNKAI TERRACE. You can’t get to UNKAI TERRACE by car nor by foot so everyone should get on the gondola. You can enjoy about 13 minutes journey above the sky from Sanroku Station to Sancho Station of UNKAI Gondola.
The fees for UNKAI Gondola are 1,900 yen for adults, 1,200 yen for elementary school students, children below elementary school are free, 500 yen for a pet. However, the fee is free for visitors staying at Tomamu The Tower or RISONARE Tomamu! The ticket is available for unlimited rides within the day of purchase.
▲UNKAI Gondola at the ski area. The gondola is for skiers in winter and visitors to sea of clouds in summer.
UNKAI Gondola Sanroku Station is inside the facility called “Resort Center”. You can take the shuttle bus in the area (free) and takes about 5 minutes from Tomamu The Tower and 10 minutes from RISONARE Tomamu.
▲The bus runs quite often from early morning. Check out the timetable at your hotel.
There is a parking near UNKAI Gondola Sanroku Station so day visitors can park and not use the bus.
Well, let’s take a trip to UNKAI Terrace by taking UNKAI Gondola!
How is the place like?
You will feel much colder air from the bottom as you get off the gondola because of the elevation gap. Staffs offer rental jackets on cold days. Great service!
There are many viewpoints in UNKAI Terrace. The most popular places are “Minato (port) Deck” located right in front of the gondola station and “Todai (lighthouse) Deck” at the upper stairs from Minato Deck.
▲You can get the view of beautiful sea of clouds and Minato Deck from Todai Deck. This is one of the most standard photo shooting spots. (The picture is provided by Hoshino Resorts Tomamu)
There is “Tenbou Cafe” built at Minato Deck. You can relax with various drinks such as “UNKAI Coffee” while gazing at the magnificent scenery.
You can also find “Kumo No Yubinya-san (the post office above clouds)” at Todai Deck.
▲You can buy and send a postcard (200 yen, including the postal fee) from here to any places in the world.
It has been pretty long since e-mails, and social networking have become the dominant communication mediums but sending an analog postcard might feel somewhat different.
▲To whom would you send a postcard?
There is a promenade called “Kumo No Nagisa (cloud beach)” along the ridgeline of the mountain, and you can keep walking. Then you will find a view spot you have never seen after 2-3 minutes walk from Todai Deck.
▲“Cloud Walk” protruding from the slope allows visitors to enjoy the experience as if they are walking on clouds or above the sky!
After climbing a slope from here, you will find more and more viewpoints!
▲“Sky Wedge” rises out to the cloud like a bow of a ship. This is another excellent photo shooting spot! (The picture is provided by Hoshino Resorts Tomamu)
▲“Contour Bench” is a group of benches designed from the inspiration from contours. Visitors can relax and enjoy the floating clouds. (The picture is provided by Hoshino Resorts Tomamu)
▲“Cloud Pool” is like a giant hammock above clouds. You can enjoy the magnificent views and thrilling adventure at the same time! (The picture is provided by Hoshino Resorts Tomamu)
▲“Cloud Pool” is approximately 8 meters high from the ground at the highest. It’s stunning even if we see it from the bottom!
It’s no doubt you will be amazed by the views no matter where you see and where you take pictures!
Those who are energetic can hike to the summit of Mt. Tomamu by the trail. It’s about 40 minutes hike one way with approx. 150 meters elevation gap and approx. 600 meters distance.
What kind of Unkai (sea of clouds) can we see?
There are many patterns of sea of clouds. In UNKAI Terrace, visitors can see encounter three patters.
<Pacific Ocean-grown Unkai>
This is the most dynamic pattern of sea of clouds as it’s like a giant waterfall made with clouds. It appears when sea fig made at the Pacific Ocean in Tokachi or Kushiro area travels to Tomamu by the south-east wind, passing the Hidaka Mountains.
▲This is magnificent!
This pattern of clouds looks as if clouds stay in the bottom of the basin landscape of Tomamu. It occurs in the next morning of the calm and clear night because of radiation cooling phenomenon.
▲Sometimes, buildings such as Tomamu The Tower appears between clouds and creates a magical atmosphere. (The picture is provided by Hoshino Resorts Tomamu)
This style of Unkai looks as if clouds are sticking to mountains around. It occurs when the weather is bad or turning bad. The moves of clouds are very fast so you can enjoy various shapes of clouds for better or worse.
▲Sometimes, UNKAI TERRACE gets completely covered with clouds.
▲However, it sometimes turns out sunny! This picture is taken on the same day as the picture above.
Staffs of UNKAI TERRACE give a tour to explain more details about mechanisms and forecast of sea of clouds, etc.
▲UNKAI guides will take you to the tour! (Available three times a day, each about 10 minutes, free) *The guide service may be canceled according to the weather (The picture is provided by Hoshino Resorts Tomamu)
When can we see the sea of clouds? Check out the Unkai Forecast!
Most people’s biggest concerns are when can we encounter sea of clouds.
Unkai (sea of clouds) is a natural phenomenon so no one can promise the encounter. It may appear and not appear depending on the weather. Unfortunately, you have to rely on luck.
Well, but everyone wants to visit on the day with highest possibilities. So “Unkai Forecast” becomes useful!
▲UNKAI Forecast is available when you turn on the TV in guest rooms.
UNKAI Forecast is available on their website, and it’s shown all over the hotel such as near the front desk and TVs in guest rooms.
The appearance rate of Unkai is about 40% throughout the season. The weather is sunny, cloudy or rainy, or inside clouds other than that. You can enjoy various views depending on the weather.
▲You can still get this fantastic views on sunny days so don’t give up!
I hope you can see beautiful clouds
UNKAI Terrace is a magnificent view spot above clouds which people can enjoy in the early morning from spring to autumn. No one can predict what kind of views and when we can see. You can not reencounter the same sea of clouds. This is a fascinating spot to feel the power of nature by enjoying a one-time view. It makes me want to visit again and again to get different views.
I hope you can get a fantastic view of sea of clouds on the day of your visit!
* Information in this article, including prices, are as of May 2018.