Sounkyo Onsen: An onsen resort tucked in a gorge of the northern outdoors
Located in Hokkaido’s immense Daisetsuzan National Park is Sounkyo, a gorge that showcases the magnificent natural landscape of the area. Tucked inside the gorge is the hot spring town of Sounkyo Onsen.
The history of Sounkyo Onsen dates back to the mid-nineteenth century. It was first discovered in the late Edo period (1603-1867) by Ichitaro Matsuda and other employees of Ishikari Town Hall who had set off on an expedition to the Daisetsuzan mountain range. Subsequently, in the years 1900 and 1913, Mizujiro Shioya and Kiuemon Kunisawa, respectively, also discovered hot springs and named them after themselves. In the 1950s, the hot springs officially opened as a modern onsen resort under the name “Sounkyo Onsen.” It is now popular as one of the biggest onsen resort towns in Hokkaido. The quality of the hot spring is a simple sulfur spring, and it is said to be beneficial for rheumatism, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
The onsen town offers ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) and other types of accommodation, parking lots, restaurants, free foot baths, and the hot spring facility “Kurodake no Yu.” Not only that, but there are restaurants that specialize in dishes that use local ingredients such as Daisetsu Kogen beef, rainbow trout, and wild vegetables. Unlike other onsen towns in Japan, visitors can also feel as though they have been transported abroad at the Western-style “Canyon Mall,” a facility that was modeled after a Canadian mountain resort.
There are plenty of sights to see along the roughly 24-kilometers of the precipitous gorge including fresh verdure and flowers that blossom proudly during the spring and summer, crimson leaves during the fall, and frozen waterfalls during the winter. Needless to say, there is unique scenery for every season. Momijidani is a hiking path famous for its autumn foliage, and at the “Sounkyo Onsen Ice Fall Festival” held every winter, travelers can see the majestic sight of massive frozen waterfalls and ice structures illuminated in seven different colors. Visitors can also experience dog sledding during the winter season. Zipping across the vast sheet of the snow-white valley with a pack of dogs has become an extremely popular activity.
With the Sounkyo Visitor Center, Sounkyo Onsen acts as the perfect base for mountain climbers ready to venture up the Daisetsuzan mountain range. There is also the Daisetsuzan Kurodake Ski Resort, Daisetsuzan Soukyo/Kurodake Ropeway, and a campsite. If travelers have energy to spare, it is highly encouraged recommended to go and climb Mount Asahi-dake and or Mount Kuro-dake as well, as this can be done in a day.
Haneda Airport -> 95 min by air -> Asahikawa Airport -> 45 min by Asahikawa airport bus -> Asahikawa Sta. -> 120 min by Dohoku bus -> Sounkyo Onsen
Sounkyo Tourism Association
*The information herein is as of May 2021.