Unkai Terrace, Mount Tomamu, Hokkaido
Nope, the above image isn’t a production still from a live-action version of The Pilot’s Love Song or Zelda: Skyward Sword. Rather, this glorious view can be seen from the popular “Sea of Clouds” (unkai) Terrace on Mount Tomamu, which is entering its ninth year of service.

Such a magnificent vista is generally the sole privilege of determined hikers, but this resort attraction in the heart of Hokkaidō delivers you to it in a mere 13 minutes, and you don’t even need an ounce of upsidasium! Whether you’re a nut for Laputa, a hardcore Bioshock Infinite cosplayer, or just a nature lover like me, you’ve got to check out this unique mountaintop experience.

The terrace is a part of Hoshino Resorts Tomamu, in Yūfutsu District. A multi-complex family resort that’s open all year round, it’s famous for its vast slopes and powder snow thanks to its northern latitude.

Aside from the usual skiing and snowboarding, vacationers can enjoy a host of “off-season” activities such as horseback riding and hot-air ballooning. The main draw, however, may be this ever-changing, awe-inspiring natural phenomenon that’s quite rare and hinges on multiple factors. By utilizing the chairlifts that carry skiers in the winter, nature enthusiasts can glide through the air simply and leisurely for 13 minutes, in order to reach the top and witness the distinctive formations from a prime location. Last fall, the terrace welcomed its one-hundred-thousandth visitor since its opening in 2006.

Unkai Terrace, Hoshino Resorts, Mount Tomamu, Hokkaido
Though the terrace is located at the very top of the chairlift (1,088 meters above sea level), it is roughly 150 meters below the actual summit. Because the terrace juts out from the mountainside, the billowy cloud layers may start right at your feet if the conditions are just right.

▼ Kids, don’t be tempted to hop onto this cloud à la Mario!

Unkai Terrace, Tomamu, Hokkaido

girls sitting with coffee above clouds, Hoshino Resorts Tomamu

This “sea of clouds” phenomenon is dependent on both the terrain and climatic conditions, its synthesis the result of a complex and specific amalgam. In fact, tomamu means “wetlands” or “peatlands” in the Ainu language. The chance of unkai appearing is around 30 to 40 percent during the terrace’s open season. Luckily, a handy weather and probability chart is featured on the official English homepage.

▼ Sorry honey, my bad…

view from Sea of Clouds terrace, tomamu mountain

If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll be able to gaze in wonder at one of several types of unkai, as investigated and described by experts from Hokkaidō University! Low-level stratus clouds may leave some peaks of the Hidaka mountain range in view, or clouds that originate above the Pacific may flow in from the east and create what appears to be a turbulent waterfall.  In poor weather, the terrace itself may be shrouded in fog, or you may be sandwiched by the far-reaching blanket below and storm clouds above.

unkai cloud formation like waterfall

▼ Did everyone jump for their Loftwings?

sunrise, unkai terrace, Tomamu, waterfall cloud formation

While you’re there, why not get a hot drink or light snacks from the adjacent café to beat the cold of dawn, or even participate in the yoga program? Another fun fact: the entrance ticket is actually a postcard, and you can send it from the terrace for free. To let your friends know where you’ve been with the special postmark, just drop it in the blue “Sea of Clouds” mailbox.

▼ Could sort of imagine a Kal-el Albus cosplayer here, screaming “Nina Vientooo!”

unkai terrace, yoga above clouds, sunrise

The terrace’s hours are specific so be sure to check its website if  you’re interested: it is open during early morning hours from May 17 to October 14, and during midday hours from July 26 to August 31.

Have you ever been to this terrace, or is there another jaw-dropping destination you recommend? Share with fellow readers in the comments section!

Sources:  NariNari, Hoshino Resorts Tomamu, Wikipedia, Kamui Mintara
Featured image: Astro Farmer
Inset images: Rakuten Travel, PIXIMUS, Ikyu, Hoshino Resorts Tomamu 12, 3
Video: YouTube