Lovers Sanctuary on Mt. Moiwa
We woke up to a beautiful sunny day. The grey clouds from the day before had cleared up. It was the last day of our Hokkaido trip. We lazed around at the hotel discussing the amazing places we had been to on this trip. It wasn’t until noon that we left the hotel for Mount Moiwa.
How to reach Moiwayama
Mount Moiwa (藻岩山) is one of several small, forested mountains southwest of Sapporo. The mountain is known for the spectacular view of the city from an observation deck at its summit. From here one can view a spectacular panorama of the streets of Sapporo, Ishikari Bay and the Shokanbetsu Peak.
Our hotel was near the Nakajima-koen Park. From there, we took the subway to Odori Station. From Odori, the streetcar took us towards the Iriguchi Ropeway stop. The streetcar costs a fixed ￥170, wherever you are going. It keeps running in a loop and is very frequent. If you are catching the streetcar, note that you should catch the counter-clockwise loop. The clock-wise streetcar takes a longer time. During our visit they were giving a discount coupon for the ropeway. One can obtain it at the tourist information counter, or pick it up in the streetcar itself, like we did.
From the Iriguchi Ropeway tram stop, there is a shuttle bus that leaves every 15 minutes. The ride on the shuttle bus is free. It took us right up to the entrance of the ropeway. It appears no one goes to this place in the daytime. We were the only couple on the shuttle.
We bought our tickets and waited at the lounge while the Gondola came down to pick us up. The tickets are priced at ￥1500 per person. The Mt. Moiwa Ropeway climbs from the base of the mountain to about three-quarters up the mountain to a transfer station. The cabin has large glass sides and it was quite thrilling to see the wild forest and the city as we went up the mountain.
Sapporo Peace Pagoda
Halfway up Mount Moiwa, I noticed a Stupa. The bulbous white stupa is more of a peace memorial, like the one we visited in Hiroshima. It was built in 1959 by the Nipponzan-Myōhōji monks to commemorate peace after World War II, and supposedly contains some of the ashes of the Buddha that were presented to the Emperor of Japan by Prime Minister Nehru in 1954.
At the transfer station we had to change to the green colored “Moorisu Car”, a mini cable car, that took us rest of the way to the upper station at the summit. Both the transportation’s are unique and fun. The mini cable car is called Moorisu, named after the cute mascot of the mountain.
Mt. Moiwa in Winter
Mt. Moiwa, reaches an altitude of 531 meters. The original name of the mountain is “Inkarushibe” in the Ainu language and it was considered sacred by the Ainu. The mountain is a popular trekking destination during the summer weekends.
We reached the summit quite a bit before sunset.
Lovers Sanctuary on Mt. Moiwa
The summit was much colder. It was refreshing breathing in the fresh air of the mountain. On the deck there is a unique structure known as Lovers Sanctuary. It features a bell. Some padlocks were hanging by the sides on the handrails.
Fortune bell and Love padlock on Mount Moiwa
It is said that if the lovers attach the love padlock (sold at the shop in midway stop) to the handrails around the sanctuary, and ring the bell together, happiness will follow them into their future. The summit deck was empty with maybe 4-5 other visitors apart from us. I thought there would be more.
It’s a wonderful sight from up here. On one side I could see the sprawling city of Sapporo and on the other side an amazing the panoramic views of Ishikari Plain, Ishikari Bay and far mountains.
Gradually the sun set behind the mountains and the city started to come alive, twinkling like countless diamonds floating on a dark sea. On the other side the ski slopes on Yubari Mountain Range, lit up like a flash-fire in the mountains.
Occasionally flying flurries would start to hit our unprotected faces. The temperature was beginning to drop fast and we were freezing. Mani got us a cup of hot coffee from the vending machine inside the deck and let me reiterate, it felt like I held heavens between my palms.
Mt. Moiwa is one of the Hokkaido’s top three night views, along with Mt. Hakodate and Mt. Tengu. We didn’t have time for Mt. Tengu in Otaru, the day before, so it was really nice to catch this one on Mt. Moiwa. As the sun set, large groups of tourists started pouring in. It turned into a huge gathering in a few minutes. With the crowd came a team of video bloggers. They set up their big lights and cameras and blocked everyone. It was quiet frustrating as they overran every photogenic spot at the sanctuary.
Sapporo at Night
For the skiing enthusiasts, the Mount Moiwa Ski Resort lies on the mountain’s southeastern slope. Note: it is approached from a different direction than the Mount Moiwa Ropeway.
We stayed back until darkness set in. It was getting more and more crowded now. Our heavy jackets were barely holding up in the cold. I took a last shot of the structure and we headed back to the midway station.
The ride back downhill on the Gondola, felt like sinking into a sea of twinkling stars.
The last night of my Hokkaido trip and I felt reluctant that it was ending so soon. Hokkaido is really beautiful and a place to see different things each season. I’ll be back, I hope. Don’t know when, but definitely I will be back!!!