Hokkaido is the second largest, northernmost and least developed of Japan's four main islands. With its unspoiled nature, Hokkaido attracts many outdoor lovers, including skiers and snowboarders in the colder seasons and hikers, cyclists and campers from June to September. For those seeking breath-taking scenery with National Parks, wetlands, volcanoes and mountains, Hokkaido should certainly be high on your list.
The capital city, Sapporo is one of the nation's youngest major cities and is built on a North American style rectangular street system. The city hosted the 1972 Olympic Winter Games making it world famous, and today, Sapporo is well known for its ramen (noodles), beer, and the annual snow festival held every February.
Hakodate is Hokkaido's third largest city, located at the island's southern tip. Regular, daily flights to Hakodate link this southern part of the Hokkaido region to Tokyo and from April 2016, the super fast bullet train will open it's direct route from Tokyo to Hakodate. Hakodate is best known for the spectacular views to be enjoyed from Mount Hakodate and its delicious, fresh seafood. As one of the first Japanese harbour cities to be opened to international trade after the country's era of isolation, Hakodate has experienced notable influence from overseas, and the foreign population's former residential district and a Western style fort are among its main tourist attractions.
Onuma Park, a quasi national park with beautiful, island dotted lakes, is located only half an hour north of Hakodate and makes a nice side trip or a stop along the journey between Hakodate and Sapporo.
The downhill slopes of Furano and Biei transform into Lavender fields in July & August. The hot spring resort of Noboribetsu, is surrounded by forested hills and at Jigokudani or "Hell Valley" the aromas of the sulphurous steam vents, streams and ponds can be smelt. It is an area of unspoiled nature, offering activity orientated travellers the opportunity to ski and snowboard in the winter and hike, cycle and walk from June to September.
Shiretoko National Park, located on the Shiretoko Peninsula in eastern Hokkaido, is one of Japan's most beautiful and unspoilt national parks. No roads lead further than about three quarters of the way up the peninsula, and the northern tip can only be viewed from boats or reached on multi day trekking tours. Home to a variety of wildlife, including brown bears, deer and foxes, in winter, the peninsula's coast along the Sea of Okhotsk becomes one of the northern hemisphere's southernmost regions to see drift ice, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to the irreplaceable value of the peninsula's ecosystem and biodiversity.
Another larger National Park, Daisetsuzan, preserves a densely forested, mountainous area of virtually unspoilt wilderness, which equals more than ten times the size of Osaka City. It is a paradise for hikers, outdoor lovers, deer and brown bears
- Visit Sapporo in February for the annual snow festival with snow sculptures galore
- Go fishing, hiking, rafting and canoeing amidst crystal clear lakes and active volcanoes
- Dine on fresh seafood, Ramen noodles and locally brewed beer
- See the countries only known population of Japanese Cranes at the Kushiro wetlands National Park
BEYOND THE ORDINARY
Travel by ferry to the islands of Rishiri and Rebun. Located off the northernmost tip of Hokkaido these small islands offer some wonderful walking trails, small fishing villages, alpine flowers and dramatic coastal scenery.