A sauna of ice and fire.

We’ve seen the ice hotels of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, before. But for those looking for a little more warmth in their cool vacations, the Moving Inn’s Tokachi Sauna & Avanto might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Tokachi is a part of southern Hokkaido, where temperatures can get as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 degrees Celsius) in the winter. To get there, staff from the sauna met us at the Tokachi-Obihiro Airport, and then we drove 40 minutes to where the Tokachi River feeds into the ocean, where the sauna is located.

▼ It was pretty far out there. Nothing around us but snow!

▼ The cold currents make everything feel freezing.
It was 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius) when we went.

And then, before we knew it, the staff parked the car… on a part of the frozen river. We were worried at first, but they assured us that the ice was a foot thick (30 centimeters), so we anxiously stepped out and walked around.

▼ And we were immediately taken in by the view.
Only the car, a tent, the trailer-sauna, and snow as far as we could see!

▼ It doesn’t get much more rustic than this.

▼ We also got our first look at the natural “cold bath.” It’s a three-foot (one-meter) deep hole cut into the ice, so you can touch the bottom with your feet.

But before we had any intention of diving into the cold bath, we wanted to warm up first. Inside the tent they provided bathing suits in all sizes to change into, as well as sandals and bathrobes.

▼ Changed and ready for the sauna, we dashed across the cold air and blistering wind to the warm promise of the sauna.

▼ Ahh, yes. Much better.

The inside of the sauna was equipped with a wood stove and steamer. It could comfortably fit four people, and the window gave a great view of the snowy outdoors.

▼ The stove kept the room at an incredible 176 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius)…

▼ …and when we put snow on it to fill the room with steam, the temperature got up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius)!

It was so hot inside the sauna that we desperately wanted to go back out into the snow… but at the same time, we were afraid of dipping into the actual frozen river.

Finally though, our sweat got the best of us, and we headed back outside with our bathrobe on.

▼ Sitting on the edge of the world…

▼ …and then plunging in!

The crazy part is, it didn’t even feel that cold. The sauna had made us so warm that it merely felt cool, and we were able to easily pick up ice and play with it no problem.

▼ Not to mention make some swimsuit snow-angels.

▼ Feeling quite comfortable outside now, we relaxed in front of the fire on a chair.

After having our fill at the sauna, we went to the cottage where we would spend the night. It had a shower, mini-kitchen, and all the amenities of home.

▼ The cottage was divided into upstairs and downstairs.

▼ And both halves…

▼ …had spectacular views.

▼ The cottage has a hot tub of its own, powered by a wood stove, where you can watch the sunset, or just hang out and enjoy anytime.

Dinner was prepared by a chef using healthy, local foods. The meal included vegetable minestrone, bagna càuda (fondue-like dip), grilled steak, and sweet potato for dessert.

▼ What service!

▼ And it was all topped off with some local Tokachi wine.

Having gone to the Tokachi Sauna & Avanto, it feels like other saunas may have been ruined for us, because nothing will ever compare to this. The intense heat, intense cold, and having it all to ourselves was an incredible experience. It’s the closest you can get to a Russian or Finnish sauna experience without having to leave Japan.

▼ Huge thanks to the staff for making this possible!

Pricing for the sauna is 68,000 yen (US$620) on weekdays and 98,000 yen on weekends for a group of one to five people. Groups are limited to one day, and the sauna is only around until March when the river thaws, so if you’re interested, make your plans soon!

And if you can’t make it to Hokkaido, no worries, there are still plenty of great sauna experiences in Tokyo too.

Related: Moving Inn Homepage, PR Times
Images: ©SoraNews24
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