Located in Japan’s Tomamu Resort, on the island of Hokkaido, the Unkai Terrace is a unique scenic spot perched high atop a mountain peak that is often above the clouds, offering tourists breathtaking views of the white, fluffy sea beneath them.
The “unkai” (sea of clouds) phenomenon has been attracting tourists to the resort town on Tomamu for years. The natural hot springs in the area and the differences in temperature during the few hours when night turns into day determine the formation of an immaculate white blanket of clouds over the mountainous region, but only a few people had the chance to see the unique effect from above, until a gondola system was put in place. It takes early-bird tourists up the mountain to the Unkai Terrace, right above the sea of clouds, where they can watch the sunrise, take photos of the Hidaka and Tokachi mountain peaks as they pierce the fluffy fog and enjoy a refreshing cup of coffee or a bowl of soup. Although the gondola fare is pretty expensive (around $20), the view from Unkai Terrace is definitely worth every yen.
The terrace is open for tourists during the summer months until late September, but even during this short season the sea of clouds can only be observed about 40 percent of the time. On cloudy days, the entire scenic spot is engulfed by thick fog, but you can still have a fun time trekking the winding mountain slopes, and gondola operators are kind enough to give tourists a postcard of what the view from Unkai Terrace would be like if weather conditions were appropriate. And even on clear days, you have to get up pretty early in the morning to catch the clouds in action. The gondola starts transporting visitors at 4 in the morning until just 8.30 am, so if you plan on going above the clouds, make sure to set your alarm clock.