Monday, February 12, 2018

Otaru Mt. Tenguyama (小樽天狗山) - Take the Ropeway to the Summit for Great Views & More Activities! @ Hokkaido [Japan]

Our last stop at Otaru, before we departed for Lake Toya, would be a visit to Tenguyama; an iconic hill (not really a mountain) that's said to have an incredible view of the charming port city.

To get to the summit, we just had to pay for a ropeway ride!

The place is more famous during winter as the entire grassy patch next to the observatory would be filled with thick, fluffy snow suitable for skiing.

First picture actually shows a snow school (likely for rental of skiing equipment, snowboards and conduct of ski classes etc) and to buy the tickets, you have to go to the building right behind.

Tengu is the name of the hill / mountain and it refers to this Japanese legendary creature that's also known as the long-nosed goblin for obvious reasons. You may refer to my post here for more pictures of this interesting character.

Ticketing counter!

Fare list - 1,140 yen an adult for two-way tickets with an option for a one-way that cost 680 yen. As we don't really have the luxury of time, two-way it shall be.

Wait - there were combo tickets! We couldn't quite decide as the first two offered food / drinks but the third one appeared to have more fun activities; i.e. the chipmunk and the slide.

Third one it shall be at 1,800 yen an adult - comprising of two-way rope way tickets, a votive tablet, sunflower seed for the chipmunks enclosure (free entry by the way) and a ride on the tenguyama slide, the original price would be about 2,090 yen without factoring the negligible pack of sunflower seeds.

We didn't know what the votive tablet is used for and thought it's for decoration; hence, when we saw the stamp, we assumed it's for the tablet!

To deface one is bad enough yet we managed to literally de-commission two pieces as our dear Alex missed the mark for the first one; sacrilegious....

Souvenirs of Mt. Tengu - one thing i realised in Japan is that their souvenirs are not cheap with a simple key-chain / magnet costing a minimal of S$4-5 each!

Some technical information about the steel rods used for the ropeway, in Japanese; surprisingly, the thickest rod isn't necessarily the strongest.

Time to go to the second level to hop onto the gondola!

We should have taken a bet; which door would be opened for us? As we arrived shortly after their operating hours, there weren't a lot of customers. After going through Mt Tengu, however, i would suggest you to visit before sunset instead.

It's blue!

This gondola with limited seats can take 30 persons and to reach the summit about 700 meters away, it took about four minutes. Nothing too fanciful and after being on a cable / gondola on quite a number of occasions, they all look and feel about the same.

Three pieces of important information; what to note, what to do in emergency and how to use the intercom. The English translation is quite weird although i do understand what it means.

Let's start our way to the summit!

Ishikari Bay!

Photos taken during our ride; on one side is plain wilderness whereas the other side is chock-full of buildings that made up the quaint little city.

There are five main outdoor observatories at Mt. Tengu and i had checked out four of them! Initially, i wanted to come out with a separate posting for it but i really didn't want to have that many sub-postings! Therefore, let's just cover them here!

Rooftop Observatory
This would be the nearest upon disembarkation from the gondola and accessible via a staircase; there are no trees with an expansive blue sky awaiting you to take millions of pictures.

Old school telescopes (chargeable) in case you need a closer look of the streets down below. As i get older, i really don't see the need for them anymore as cameras nowadays are quite powerful in their zoom function and when i am on a viewing platform, i am more interested in the panoramas rather than the closed-ups.

Great view of the city!

The photography stand - an elevated platform for you to stand on to take a selfie with the backdrop of the city below you; it's really helpful!

Don't know what to do? Let my friend show you!

Oh, how could i forget to take the panorama in front of us; although iPhone has the function, i sometimes prefer to use my DSLR as the stitching and angling is better with greater flexibility of how i want the eventual picture to look like.

Map showing the different areas in front you.

I wrongly assumed this would show the location of Suitengu Shrine and our airbnb (AMS Suitengu) but they were on the left of this picture.

First Observatory
Located right beside the ropeway, this would be the perfect place to capture both the cityscape and the gondola as it slowly advances towards / away from the station.

The two benches were placed at the edge of the hill; a nice place to rest and soak in the sights ahead of you or even use them as an elevation for selfie taking.

These kids, with their teacher, were just happy being able to rest their feet! I noticed the gaudy fan that the teacher was holding on; is that a religious fan or the result of an arts and craft workshop?

Our friend took it a step further; closed his eyes for a short snooze on the bench! He can think of all sorts of poses; quite similar to the Great Kon who was also a joy to travel with!

Being camera shy, i think i should adopt the above pose in future trips!

In most cases, i would need a model and Alex always comes in handy for being so photogenic. Although this blog has yet to generate a high traffic compared to many others, he has been identified by friends and family members on a number of occasions.

If you are a friend or family member and decide to message him after seeing him in this blog, do encourage him to continue appearing here as i NEED a face for my travelogues!

By the way, in case you are wondering what are those buildings above Alex's head (the ones surrounded by trees); they are tombs in a Japanese cemetery known simply as Central Cemetery.

Second Observatory
Pathway leading to the second and third observatory.

It wasn't too far of a walk before i arrived at the little hut with the indication (in Chinese / Kanji) that it's the second viewing platform.

While the previous two observatories comprised of a mix of city and forest, the view here focused more for the city and it's like seeing a typical touristy map of Otaru.

Picture within a frame!

Again, there was an indication of the areas for ease of reference; hence, don't make Mt. Tengu your first stopover when you reach Otaru. Explore the port city first like we did and it's more fun to identify the places you have visited, at the observatories.

Second observatory was said to have the best lookout for Otaru and i think so too!
Two half-body statues behind the wooden hut; no idea who they are.

Maybe due to the heat, i thought this path (which would take about 20 minutes) is the way towards the third observatory! I can't afford 20 minutes and realized, to my horror, after my trip that it's only a hiking trail.

Too bad for me then; another scenic picture of the port city for your viewing pleasure. 

Tengusakura Observatory
This shall be the last outdoor viewing platform for the day and in my opinion, better than first and rooftop observatory even though it's also beside the gondola station.

View was unblocked and even though it's quite similar to the first observatory; there's not slope and falling beyond the edge would likely be fatal for a mere human.

A lovely installation for the couples!

If you look closely at the markings on the floor behind the 'love' frame, the couple is supposed to stand facing each other which means it's a kissing pose! So sweet right!?

There's a reason why this observatory is known as tengusakura; this tree next to the 'love' frame is actually a 100 year old cherry tree that's planted during the Meiji era!

How did i derive from the Japanese wordings? I used google translate and understand the species to be the ezo yamazakura cherry. Honestly, i really thought it's a normal tree and just happened to chance upon a picture with it in full blossom; hence, the curiosity to know what tree is it.

Just for laughter - entering the gang of five.

Now that we are done with the outdoor observatories, let's check out the rest of the summit as i kid you not; there's a lot to be done here and in fact, we spent more than two hours on Mt. Tengu!

For example, we wasted quite a lot of time playing at this playground. Of course i am kidding as i am so over the age limit. Hahaa.

Be in awe of this humongous head statue of the long-nosed goblin! Rub the nose, according to the instructions given on a side panel, for luck! For more pictures and the instructions, click here

Write down your wishes on the votive tablet and hang them up! Yes, the tablet is to be used for this purpose and not as a decorative material for us to desecrate it.

Checking out the Tenguyama Shrine! Pretty interesting with another shrine honouring a dragon god and a statue of a Shinto priest. Click here for details!

Next activity would require us to take out the pack of sunflower seeds!

The chipmunk enclosure where you can use the seeds to entice the timid chipmunks to come out and feed from your palm! No seed? It's okay as the enclosure is free for entry for all visitors and to be frank, i don't see a lot of chipmunks which means the ones we saw could have been sick of all the seeds they get on a daily basis! Click here for more pictures.

Cuteness max; reminded me of Jovyn when she was younger.

Motors for the chair lifts that would be operational this time of the year; i.e. winter. I was under the initial impression they were no longer in use until i realised the stretch next to it would be capped with thick snow a few months later.

As we toured Hokkaido in summer, we didn't have the luxury of skiing down a bed of snow but we did manage to have a little bit of excitement at the Tenguyama Slide (also known as the Mt.Tengu Bobsleigh)! To know more, check out my post here.

Next to the Tenguyama Slide is an open area with some obstacles; from far, it kind of reminded me of a dog run even though on closer look, i think it's more a kid's adventure arena with a trampoline. It's not free and charged 500 yen per person per hour.

It was so bloody hot outside and i am definitely embracing the cooler temperature indoor at the ropeway station. Believe it or not, there were more to explore within!

Aside from the souvenir buying where you can get expensive tengu-related mementos and Hokkaido biscuits / pastries / snacks / puddings.

There's a doorway next to the Tengu restaurant which would open your eyes to the Otaru Ski Museum and the impressive Tengu House with over 700 displays/artefacts of the long-nosed goblin!

I had a hard time finding a pen to write my wish on the votive tablet and you can find one on a display next to the washrooms. In addition to the marker, you can also pay 100 yen for a divination lot! Hm.... that hole on the box is for the money right? So how to get the lot?

Anyway, we shall proceed to the last observatory which is blessed with two advantages; it's indoor which means you can continue to stay there when it's raining, and it's air-conditioned.

The Panorama Restaurant Tengu!

It commands an impressive view and despite the two advantages i shared two paragraphs above, it has a disadvantage; it's hard to take pictures as using flash would result in it bouncing back from the glass.

The red gondola!

Now, i wrote somewhere at the start of this post that i would suggest you to visit before sunset and the reasons are as follows; Tenguyama is said to be ranked number 3 for night view in Hokkaido and the setting sun would likely wash the city with a glow over it, making in even more alluring.

In the past, i don't quite understand why some people term the housing in Japan as matchbox houses. From the above photograph, the term seemed quite right. 

Bet my dad would enjoy it as much as this ojisan did. Except he would likely get bored after a while with perpetual yawns that would infect me! Oh, by the way, the binoculars were provided by the restaurant and free for you to use. 

Got a shaved ice at 300 yen; it was just a bowl of not-so-finely-shaved rice drizzled with a sugary syrup. Why didn't anyone think of bring ice kacang, ice jelly, cendol etc to Hokkaido!? 

Menu of Panorama Restaurant Tengu for your reference.

Bumped into Jovyn lookalike again; to be totally truthful, she is cuter than Jovyn and i so wanted to pull her cheeks! I think her mum is used to strangers asking to take pictures of her adorable kid.

Time to leave and we got the blue gondola again! Maybe it's luck or maybe because all six of us are guys and it's fitting to give us something blue! 

The gap that all acrophobics should avoid; keep your head up and just walk into the gondola! My feet almost turned to jelly when i took the photograph. My condition isn't that serious i guess.

Last two photographs before i end this long post! 


Tenguyama, Otaru, 
Hokkaido 047-0012, Japan

Operating Hours of Ropeway
9.00 am to 9.00 pm

Map of Mt Tengu Summit
As above.

Attractions on Summit

As appended above; i have saved it in its original resolution so to view the image in full, right click and save to download to your local drive. :) 

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