On a bluebird late spring Sunday, Haidee and I decided to head to the closest natural hotsprings to our place: Tsuru-no-Yu onsen. We’d been there before, but hadn’t realized at the time that it was in fact Hokkaido’s second-oldest hot springs.
The most direct route from our place in Chitose is via Route 36, the main road linking Chitose with Tomakommai. However, unless absolutely necessary, that horrible stretch of noisy, busy 4-lane highway is best avoided. Therefore, we took a route towards the east of Route 36. This route starts by heading towards the Rera Outlet Mall on the back road out of Chitose.
Just after heading under the expressway overpass, there is a little road running parallel to the expressway. This links up with a road that cuts through the western edge of the Eastern Chitose Self Defence Force base. Stands of oaks provide just the right amount of shade. After a few kilometers through the base, the road pops out into what I can only describe as a forgotten world. Just a few kilometers to the west is the airport and Route 36 and traffic and haste. Here, it is just quiet and green. Friendly wee horses and picturesque farmlets.
Don’t miss the old train that used to run between Sapporo and Tomamu ski resort in the winter. Until 15 years ago or so, the train, owned by Japan Rail, would run only during winter. That was until the old Tomamu resort went bust. The train was kept at the Naebo train yards in Sapporo, before plans were announced to scrap it. “A train-mad guy from Sapporo couldn’t bare seeing it go to waste, so he bought it and had it transported here,” explained the 80-year old Mr. Takeda from Takeda Farm, where the train is kept. “Apparently the transport cost more than the train itself!”
Onwards towards Tsuru-no-Yu onsen, the road continues through a quiet valley.
We arrived at Tsuru-no-Yu just on 12 noon. After a quick soak and lunch at the attached restaurant, we had a walk around their fantastic pond and garden area. Geese, lilies, and sunshine. Just perfect. We just added some coffee.
From the onsen, it was simply a matter of getting back home, preferably without retracing our steps too much, and without spending too much time on Route 36. This effort took us past a flower hot-house (we bought some geraniums)…and over the beautiful Bibi River at least twice.
While we didn’t have quite enough time to drop in to the Northern Horse Park, our route home did take us around the back of the park. We were treated to some curious horses, keen to find out what we were up to. After leaving home at 10am in the morning, we finally got home at around 4:30pm. A perfect gentle ride around the countryside!