Chasing the Unkai

The sea of clouds above Tomamu Resort

By Bonson Lam    - 2 min read

It is all about the silhouettes. Taking photos with the sunrise directly on the camera is hard enough, but the silhouette of overjoyed couples and Unkai pilgrims from near and afar against the heavenly clouds left me speechless. This was before breathlessness took over as I hiked the steep ascent to the summit hike, far above the oohs and aahs of the throngs below. I felt it was comparable to my experience making the ascent to Machu Picchu, though the legends of monkeys riding clouds to the end of time are less visible. It is nature’s glory that takes pride of place here.

Like the cherry blossoms and other objects of beauty in Japan, the Unkai can be elusive. Only a day earlier, the weather conditions had banished its appearance. It reminded me of the Japanese concepts of mono no aware and ichigo ichie. Visitors may only have a once in a lifetime opportunity to see this, and so we should appreciate every moment. In the days of old, people had to hike through the night or stay in the mountains to see unkai. Now we are only a gondola ride away from the summit. Nevertheless, the convenience does not take away from the majesty of the spectacle.

After I descended from the summit at the end of this experience, my feet immediately took me back to the gondola entry, instead of going to the bus stop back home. Be warned, getting up at 4am and being blown away as you are lifted above the clouds can render your brain useless.

Getting there

There is a complementary shuttle bus from Tomamu station to the resort, which is 90 minutes from Chitose Airport. The gondola operates from mid May to mid October to see the Unkai

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Bonson Lam

Bonson Lam @bonson.lam

I knew my future was destined to be with Japan the moment I flew from Sydney to experience the atmospheric lane ways of Kyoto last century. From the skies above Sapporo to the old charm of Naha's alleyways, I have been enchanted by the beauty and variety on every island. I am humbled to have met many distinguished people in my role as Regional Partner, especially the national living treasures of Japan, such as the doll maker to the Imperial Family. From sushi cooking classes to Ninja training grounds I welcome your ideas on what you like from JapanTravel.com. Please visit us in Kyoto or Osaka and have some green tea or sake with us.