Nov 23, 2016

5 Wonderful Things to Do in Hokkaido

With its rich cultural heritage, spectacular National Parks, beautiful countryside sceneries, and tempting culinary traditions, Hokkaido is certainly a place you shouldn’t miss when you visit Japan. The country’s largest prefecture and second-biggest island offers a whole host of places to see and activities to do for travelers who are willing to look beyond popular destinations like Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, and the Kansai Region.

Here are some the best things that you can see and do while on the island:

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Play Winter Sports – Hokkaido is a premier destination for winter sports enthusiasts, thanks to the powder snow that is created by the winds that blow in from the frigid regions of Siberia every winter. This snow is world-famous for its weightlessness and dryness. On the island, you can experience prime tracks and slopes covered in this snow in any one of Hokkaido’s many luxury ski resorts.

If you’re looking for a place where you can experience the best snow on the island, you can book a stay at the Kiroro Resort. The complex is conveniently located just 1.5 hours’ drive away from the New Chitose Airport in Sapporo and offers a wide array of dining, shopping, spa, entertainment, and ski and snowboard training facilities for visitors. It is also just 30 minutes away from the charming fishing town of Otaru. If you’re visiting Kiroro in February, make sure to catch the Sapporo Snow Festival and the Snow Light Path Festival in Otaru.

Jozankei Onsen 定山渓温泉
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Bathe in an Onsen – Hokkaido offers an alluring array of hot spring baths knows as onsen. Sure, you can probably dip into a hot spa bath in your hotel, but for an even more authentic Hokkaido hot spring experience, you should visit some of the most famous onsen on the island. For instance, the Noboribetsu Onsen, the most well-known hot springs in Hokkaido, is within the spectacular environs of the Jogokudani “hell valley”. It may be called hell, but its natural hot water baths with different chemical compositions are said to provide heavenly relief to various bodily conditions. If you are looking for something nearer Sapporo, consider going to the beautiful Jozankei Onsen hot spring village, which can be reached after an hour-long bus ride from the city.

Sapporo Central Wholesale Market Crab Market 札幌市中央卸売
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Feast on Seafood – Hokkaido is like seafood nirvana to traveling foodies, and many visitors claim that the island’s seafood offerings are the best in the world. For the freshest sushi, sashimi, kani (crab), ika (squid), hotate (scallops), sake (salmon), and uni (sea urchin), go to Nijo Market in downtown Sapporo or visit the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market Crab Market. In the fishing town of Otaru, you can also enjoy a bowl of kaisen donburi—which is made with rice and seafood ingredients like maguro (tuna), uni, kani, and ikura (salmon roe).

Matsumae Castle 松前城
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View the Flowers – Hokkaido is an amazing place to see the beautiful blooms of spring and summer. The time between early May and the middle of May is the height of sakura (cherry blossom) season on the island, so this is the best time to see Japan’s iconic flowers in full bloom. You can visit the Matsumae Castle grounds in Matsumae and the Goryokaku star port in Hakodate to see the best clusters of sakura. You can also go to the Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park near Yubetsu to see the tulips in a field known among visitors as “little Netherlands”. If you go to Takinoue Park, on the other hand, you’ll be able to witness the carpets of pink shibazakura (moss phlox) covering entire hills and fields. In July, you also can visit the towns of Furano and Biei in the heartland of Hokkaido to see their beflowered lavender fields.

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View the autumn leaves – Alternatively, you can also go to Hokkaido in October and November to see the grandeur of Japanese autumn in some of the island’s most famous national parks. These include the Shiretoko National Park, the Daisetsuzan National Park,the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, and the Akan National Park.

In Sapporo, there are also many places where you can take in the sights of the fall season. For instance, you can visit the campus of Hokkaido University or stroll down the pathways of Nakajima Koen Park. The Takino Suzuran Hillside National Government Park, with its wide-open spaces and hilly landscapes, is also one of the best places to enjoy autumn in Sapporo.

Hokkaido is clearly one of Japan’s most interesting holiday destinations, so make sure not to miss out on all the wonderful things that it has to offer. If you love expansive natural landscapes and pristine wilderness environments, Hokkaido is sure to be one of the most magical places that you’ll ever visit.

Javin Tham A master's degree graduate in engineering, a musician at heart, loves playing with soft toys.

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