The ferocity of Hakkoda’s wind and snow can be fearful! On some winter days, withering blizzards reduce the mountain scenery to little more than a white curtain. In 1902, a group of Imperial Army soldiers braved the mountains in preparation for cold weather marching and soon found themselves lost amidst a dreadful storm. 193 of the 210 men on the journey died from the freezing conditions. The incident has been recounted in both print and film media.
With that said, Hakkoda isn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: the extreme conditions mean that Hakkoda offers some of the best snow in the world for skiers and snowboarders. Snowshoeing is also a popular activity.
Riding the ropeway up to the summit station gives you an idea of how just much snow Hakkoda gets. The ropeway towers are thickly layered with shells of frost, and the trees as well, standing like formidable snow monsters. The windows of the ropeway car are constantly frosting over, and an attendant diligently scrapes away at the ice while pointing out landmarks left and right.
In contrast, the ropeway stations at the base and summit are downright toasty. Skiers and snowboarders sit huddled around the gas heaters as if they were campfires, warming up and drying out their equipment.
Walking out of the summit station onto the mountain is like stepping into a world of silver, especially beautiful on clear days. Dressing warm is a must, but braving the cold is worth it to see the looming snow monsters up close. The fallen snow is pure powder, perfect for skiing and boarding.
JR Bus, Bound for Lake Towada*, 60 minute ride(¥1,100)
Hakkoda Ropeway Base Station