Craters of Toya:

Nishi-Yama Hike in a Disaster Safari!

By Denis Plamondon

Photos by Sandra D’Sylva and Denis Plamondon

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Nishi Yama Crater near Toyako, Hokkaido

Nishi Yama crater near Toyako, Hokkaido

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We were enjoying the scenic view of Toyako from our lakefront Japanese style room at the Kawanami Hotel while reminiscing about last night’s fireworks. The sun was a little shy in the sky, but the clouds were dispersing and the day seemed promising. We had several options to spend the day, some contingent on the weather. Viewing Mount Isu is said to be spectacular from the summit on a clear day, where you can hike across a ridge to witness Isu’s active fumes, and admire Lake Toya, Mount Yotei and Uchiura Bay from an observatory.A local bus that takes you to Mount Isu and Showa-Shinzan volcanoes, is conveniently located from the main road in town in front of major hotels, including ours. If your journey starts at JR Toya train station, you can take the Toyako onsen bus and get off at the Nishi Yama bus stop.

Unfortunately for us, a sea of clouds came rolling in at the last minute! So we opted for nearby Nishi Yama, to the west of Mount Isu, instead. Nishi Yama last erupted in 2000 and left a scene of devastation that local authorities have kept untouched for a better appreciation of the power and danger generated by this natural phenomenon. You approach the crater along a long sinuous path, adjacent to a national highway that once crossed the site, now ripped apart and staggered at various heights. The path continues through a small nearby village, now mostly buried under a landslide triggered by the eruption. Scattered remnants are left as is to preserve the authenticity and eeriness of the devastation – chunks of asphalt, fallen electric posts and road signs, abandoned cars, collapsed houses and a daycare that was evacuated in time. The path is easy to walk, mostly paved or covered with old wooden railway planks. This is indeed an interesting and educational venture for all members of the family as it is for any advance hiker.

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Keeping the fire active while cooking Eggs on a BBQ in Nishi Yama, Hokkaido

At the outset of our one-hour hike, we were greeted by vendors at an outdoor farm BBQ with whole eggs and potatoes, a welcomed boost of energy. Nishi Yama, Hokkaido

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Wooden Sidewalk along Nishi Yama's craters, near Toyako in Hokkaido

Wooden path along Nishi Yama's craters, near Toyako in Hokkaido

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Collapse Road caused by Nishi Yama's volcanic activities in Toyako Machi, Hokkaido

Collapsed national highway caused by Nishi Yama's volcanic activities in Toyako, Hokkaido

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Electric post and road signs left behind after Isu eruption on its west flank in year 2000, Hokkaido

Electric post and road sign left behind after Isu eruption on its west side in year 2000, Hokkaido

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Part of Natinal Highway collapsed in Nishi Yama,, Toyako Hokkaido

Part of highway collapsed in Nishi Yama. Lake Toya, Hokkaido

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Remnants of a collapse house in Nishi Yama, Hokkaido

Remnants of a collapsed house in Nishi Yama, Hokkaido

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All roads go to.... from Nishi Yama Observatory, Hokkaido

All roads go to.... from Nishi Yama observatory, Hokkaido

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Warned by early volcanic activities and land elevation, inhabitants seeked refuge in safer area.

Warned by early volcanic activities and land elevation, inhabitants took refuge in safer area.

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Scallops at the Yakitori no Ippei restaurant were absolutely delicious, Lake Toyako, Hokkaido. Particularily, after a day long hike in the surroundings

Scallops at the Yakitori no Ippei restaurant were absolutely delicious, Lake Toyako, Hokkaido. Particularily, after a day long hike in the surroundings

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Supplementary information and  photographs for Nishi Yama and Lake Toya:

Toyako Onsen Tourist Association

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