Travel Diary: Sōunkyō, Hokkaido, Japan

Natural landscapes and formations never cease to amaze me. Although I grew up in a city full of high-rise buildings clustered into a small island, I feel most happy and at ease when surrounded by nature – not the deep blue though, because its sheer vastness and our lack of knowledge on what lies within scares me. Some of my fondest memories are those of exploring and being close to mother nature; until today, I can recall distinctly my first time going horse-riding in Perth when I was 5.

If I close my eyes, I can transport myself back there again – I feel myself being lifted up onto the tall brown horse by the farmer’s rough but strong hands wedged beneath my arms. I feel myself sliding around on the seat because of my smallness, always sitting to one side of the saddle and never quite successfully managing to look like the princess I convinced myself I was in my imaginary kingdom. Then there’s the coarseness of the reins in my hands, the scent of the woods but also the ache in my butt for an entire day after the ride. It’s funny how I can’t recall anything before that point, but I suppose, in a way, that life for me only really began when I had my first adventure.

Sōunkyō is a range of gorges in the Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido’s largest at a whopping 2,268 sq. kilometers. The area is known for its many cliffs, waterfalls and onsens. Our hotel was situated right next to a wide rushing river whose beauty I savored by day but found slightly terrifying by night due to its sheer ferocity.

The road into Sōunkyō was long and meandering, weaving along and around the sides of the gorges. There was still some evidence of the snowfall of the past Winter, leaving the scene sprinkled with patches of white. Turning each bend, one never really knew what to expect – the face of a cliff graced by a small waterfall, or at other times, the rocky faces parting to reveal an aerial view of the gorges, now hooded with the lush greenery of Spring.

Mount Kurodake Ropeway Sounkyo Japan

As we rode the Sōunkyō ropeway up Kuro-dake, the peaks of the mountain ranges came into view in the distance, still wearing their hats of white. We rode the chairlift all the way to the top where there was still several inches of snow, some of which was quickly melting from the heat into small fast-flowing streams. It was a very gradual climb which only got steeper towards the top. I swung my legs around and took videos and selfies, entertaining myself (and my cousin, or so I’d like to think) until I got a little drowsy and settled into the seat, stretching out my limbs and rolling up my sleeves because I decided I might as well get myself more color from the sun in the meantime. The sunny warmth at the bottom never hinted at how cold it would get at the top of the chairlift, so after walking around a bit and taking in the view from the viewing platforms of Kuro-dake, we went into a cafe housed in a hut to get something hot to drink.

Bento lunch by Gin Ga No Taki Hokkaido

We brought our bentos and had lunch by Gin Ga No Taki, a towering waterfall tumbling into fast flowing rapids. As we sat on huge rocks in the shade, I savored my Teriyaki Hotate Don (Scallops with rice) and sat mesmerized by the sound of the rushing water and sunlight streaming through the canopy above, watching the light reflecting off the water to produce little figures leaping around on the rocks.

Sounkyo Gin Ga No Taki Waterfall Hokkaido Japan