For coffee lovers, nothing beats a cup of their favorite morning beverage enjoyed overlooking a natural, picturesque view that one doesn’t normally see in local city cafes. Caffeine serves as an instant jolt to sleepyheads and to some, just like me, a vital part of our regular diet. If you happen to stay in Japan this season and have already tried out some of the most bizarre or anime-inspired cafes complete with the gorgeous maids and butlers at your service, then great! You made the right call.
But here’s the thing. It’s not yet over. Japan never fails to amaze people. And the Unkai Terrace in Hokkaido exists to do just that – amaze you with its natural awe-inspiring view that even the man-made Skytree tower in Tokyo can’t compare. Seriously.
How? Here’s a simple imagery. You are enjoying coffee and bread at a cafe situated above the mountains, atop a sea of thick clouds. If the term “heaven on earth” is a metaphor to you, then wait until you see this place and experience its reality!
As I’ve mentioned, Unkai Terrace is located in Hokkaido, specifically in the Hoshino Resort Tomamu in Yufutsu District. It’s open from mid-May to late October, so you still have ample of days to gear up.
To go there, you’ll have to reserve a flight headed to the New Chitose Airport which is the nearest to the location. For tourists coming from the Tokyo International Airport (Haneda), the trip is expected to last for about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
You may also check available flight schedules for the following departure points:
- New Kansai International Airport
- Chubu Centrair International Airport
- Osaka International Airport (Itami Airport)
- Kobe Airport Terminal
- Fukuoka Airport via Haneda
Schedules are susceptible to changes every now and then so better reserve your flight in advance using HyperDia.
Relax. About 3 hours more to go and you’ll get to the resort. As soon as you arrive, you’ll have to go to Minami-Chitose station and board the limited express train “Super Ozora” that will lead you to Tomamu station. From there, free shuttle buses are available to transport you to the resort.
Nope! Not so fast. Unlike most of the city cafes you enjoy, Unkai Terrace isn’t open round-the-clock. Also, you’ll need a special 13-minute ropeway gondola ride (which is an adventure in itself) to get to the actual spot.
So here’s what you should do:
- Book a place at Hoshino Resort for your overnight or extended stay.
- Secure your entrance ticket.
- 1,900 yen for adults
- 1,200 yen for kids
- 500 yen for pets (Yup! They can join you for breakfast!)
- Set your alarm clock early. Gondola lift starts at 4:30 am and ends at around 8:00 am.
- Confirm the schedule of lift from the staff or call the resort in advance. In bad weather conditions, schedules could be canceled.
- Dress right. It’s early morning, above the mountains. Of course, you can’t just wear your thin, lightweight summer clothing!
The terrace is located at 1,008 meters above sea level so you’ll have ample of time savoring the breathtaking sight on and before sunrise. Coffee, soup, and even occasional yoga sessions are held on the site, so you can satiate your caffeine cravings after a nice meditation-slash-exercise activity. Just keep in mind that the thickness of clouds varies depending on the current weather. In fact, based on past visits by tourists, only about 30% to 40% saw the full “unkai phenomenon” at its best. But don’t fret! The sight that would welcome you as you step into this exotic coffee place is a real view to behold!
Plus, considering this place’s rather remote location, not everyone – especially some of your friends – could actually spend time to drop a visit. Be their eyes and ears by sharing your firsthand experience.
And by the way, your ticket serves two purposes: as an entrance pass and as a postcard. Feel free to send it to your friends using the “Unkai Mailbox!” Enjoy your coffee! Cheers!