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Hokkaido Travel Guide The second largest and northernmost of Japan's islands

Hokkaido is best known for its unspoiled nature. With 20% of the country's land area but only 5% of its population, the island is the perfect place for outdoor lovers. Aside from breathtaking scenery and plenty of opportunity for adventure, Hokkaido also offers excellent food, especially seafood. In Sapporo, the vibrant capital, and other cities, you can enjoy modern city life.

Photo: Biei Landscape by Chi King

Things to Do

If you love nature you will find something exciting to do in Hokkaido all through the year. Skiers and snowboarders can pick from a number of popular ski resorts, including Rusutsu, Furano and - probably the most famous one - Niseko. From June to September, you can camp, hike, and cycle, enjoying the forests, lakes, and mountains located across the island.

Visit Shikotsu-Toya National Park and see the caldera lakes and hot springs, including the famous onsen towns of Noboribetsu and Jozankei. Another popular destination for hiking and the like is Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido's largest national park.

In addition to Sapporo, Hakodate is one of the most popular cities to visit in Hokkaido. Famous for its 334m-high Mount Hakodate, you can enjoy the romantic and dramatic nighttime views. The morning fish market, and other foodie spots will satisfy any gourmand.

Located in the center of Hokkaido is Asahikawa. The island's second largest city is best known for its zoo. On a day in Asahiyama Zoo you’ll spot wildlife native to Hokkaido as well as animals from across the world. We love the glass tunnel through the penguin pool and you can even see organized “penguin walks” in winter. Animal lovers and families can spend a fun and education time in Asahiyama!

Photo: Dusk by H.L.I.T

Flavors of Hokkaido

Hokkaido's fresh produce and delectable cuisine is famous across Japan. Food lovers will savor the high quality seafood, dairy, fruits and produce. The abundance of fresh, high-quality ingredients results in an equally abundant number of restaurants and eateries.

Make sure you try one of the signature dishes of Hokkaido, Genghis Khan, or Jingisukan, slices of lamb and mutton charcoal-grilled on a cast iron dome. Another typical Hokkaido dish is “soup curry.” Dig into this mixture between soup and Japanese curry, packed with fresh vegetables and meat. Typically you can choose your soup base, meats, and spice level.

Ramen lovers visiting the prefecture will have a hard time picking their favorite noodles. Set aside some time to taste your way around “Ramen Alley” in Sapporo or the Asahikawa Ramen Village. You will find some of the best ramen shops in all of Japan.

Hokkaido is especially well known for its fresh seafood. A must-try for every foodie should therefore be the kaisen-don, assorted sashimi and raw seafood on top of warm rice.

Image: 海鮮丼 by sodai gomi

Events & Seasonal Happenings

Most likely the biggest festival in the whole prefecture and definitely the most famous one is the Sapporo Snow Festival. The annual event is held in early February in the middle of Sapporo City at Odori Park. You will be able to see a variety of different snow and ice sculptures, some as high as 10 meters!

If you're not a big fan of the cold and would rather visit during the summer, (especially great for golfing)  try to catch the Yosakoi Soran Festival held every year in June. The vibrant dance parade features hundreds of dancers dressed in yukatas (summer kimono) and happi coats (traditional straight-sleeved coat). The parade is fun to watch and will definitely make you wanna dance!

Another great must-see festival during summer is the Kachimai Fireworks Festival. Held in mid-August, this is the biggest firework festival in the whole prefecture, featuring about 20,000 shots! Fireworks are an essential part of Japanese summer culture, so make sure to see one!

Image:snow festival 2009 by hirotomo t

What to Bring Back

The prefecture is famous for its fresh food and dairy produce. Naturally, the best souvenirs to bring back from Hokkaido are food-related. Shiroi Koibito is undoubtedly the most famous food souvenir from the island. The European-style sweet has white chocolate sandwiched between langue de chat, or 'cat tongues' the charming name for this butter cookie.

Other must-buys include Jaga Pokkuri, a Hokkaido limited edition potato snack, Asunaro Farming Yogurt, and Strawberry Chocolate, freeze-dried strawberries covered in white chocolate sold by Rokkatei.

Photo: Hokkaido Milk by insatiablemunch

Wrap Up

No matter the season, Hokkaido is definitely worth a visit. Amazing outdoor activities and the most beautiful natural scenery, the northern island will not disappoint the adventurous traveler. If you’re not an outdoorsy person, Hokkaido has still great things to offer; delectable dishes and snacks, relaxing hot spring spa-weekends and fun festivals. Make sure not to miss an opportunity to visit this beautiful island!

Photo: Biei at Dawn by Chi King

Getting there:

From Tokyo

- 90min by air (Haneda/Narita Airport to New Chitose Airport)
- 8h by train (Tokyo Station to Sapporo Station)

From Osaka

- 2h by air (Itami/Kansai International Airport to New Chitose Airport)
- 11h by train (Shin-Osaka Station to Sapporo Station)



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