The Shikaribetsu Lake Village. This phantom village can only be found in the winter months.
Lake Shikaribetsu can be found 810 meters above sea level in the town of Shikaoi, Tokachi. Also known as "Lake of the Sky," Shikaribetsu is the highest altitude lake in Hokkaido. During the winter months the lake is home to the "Shikaribetsu Lake Village" event. I headed to the village to see what made it so unique.
To find out how this event was first created I spoke with Mr. Hiroki Matsumoto, an executive Committee member from Shikaribetsu Lake Village.
"It all started back in 1980 when local residents and hotel employees began building structures on top of the frozen lake for their own entertainment. They continued this yearly and now we have many people from across Hokkaido that come to visit the Shikaribetsu "Lake Village."
The construction of the village begins in January, when the ice reaches a thickness of about 15 centimeters. Local committee members and volunteers from across Hokkaido assemble and work for about three weeks on top of the ice.
Although the temperatures can get as low as minus 20 or 30 degrees at night the walls of the buildings help block the wind and cold air. It's much more common to see the workers sweating while working, rather than feeling the bite of cold air.
▲ About 30 people work on building the village each day.
Of course, due to the cold temperatures during the village's operation no residents can actually live in the houses. Naturally the buildings are made out of snow and ice themselves, making this truly a winter village. Let's go take a peek around town!
▲ There are many igloos around the village.
▲ One popular attraction in Shikaribetsu Lake Village is the open air hot spring. During spring a platform is set in the lake and after the water freezes a plastic tub is installed. Due to the surrounding snow and ice the tub is nearly invisible from the outside, making it appear as though visitors are bathing in ice!
▲ The ice bar. Inside is warmer than you'd expect. (Although temperatures are still below freezing...)
▲ The ice chapel's design is changed each year. Many real ceremonies are held here each year.
▲ Concerts are held right inside the igloos!
▲ There are many activities available such as ice glass making and snowmobiling.
The theme for this year's event is "Shikaribetsu Creatures." If you visit, be on the look out for local creatures lurking in various spots around the ice bar. The igloo designs, which are carefully detailed each year, are another incredible sight. Be sure to stop by for an experience you can only find on Shikaribetsu Lake!
2013 Shikaribetsu Lake Village
Open January 26th to March 31st, 2013.
Held on the Shikaribetsu Lake shore.
Shikaribetsu Lake Village Executive Committee
Location: Shikaribetsu Lakeside, Shikaoi Town, Kato-gun, Hokkaido
㈱北海道ネイチャーセンター内 (Hokkaido Nature Center)
TEL : 0156-69-8181
You can also check out the homepage below:
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Miyashita)
(Photographs provided by the Shikaribetsu Lake Village Executive committee)