Roots of Japan

Hokkaido

Hokkaido, Japan's northern island.
The population of Hokkaido is 5.38 million (2015) and it has an approximate area of 83,456 ㎢. The inland area is 77,983.90㎢ and it is the 21st largest island in the world, after Ireland. There is a large temperature difference between summer and winter, and once snow falls, it lingers all winter long. The whole island receives heavy snowfall, with some areas dropping to -30 degrees below Celsius.

The Local Brand Survey for 2018 lists Hokkaido as Japan's most attractive prefecture, and it has remained at the top of this list for ten consecutive years. Hokkaido also has the most onsen (hot springs) in Japan! Relax while taking in the magnificent surroundings at Noboribetsu Onsen, known as an "Onsen department store" (for its many types of onsen), and at Kawayu Onsen where a hot spring river runs through the town. There are footbaths at the side of the river where you can soak your feet.

Hokkaido is already a popular holiday destination with locals in Japan, but the number of overseas tourists is also growing rapidly. Today we will feature the best things to do and see in Hokkaido, but first, let’s look at some cautionary points.

- Even in summer, bring something warm to wear. Mornings and evenings can get chilly, depending on the weather.
- Always give yourself plenty of time, as in winter snow may at times paralyze transport systems.
- Get a feeling for the distance between tourist attractions as you make your plans - it is often a lot further then you think!

It’s possible to run out of time just traveling from one place to another. Watch out this doesn’t happen! Let’s now list some of the best attractions Hokkaido has to offer.

1/ Asahiyama Zoo
2/ Mount Hakodate
3/ Otaru Canal
4/ Northern Horse Park
5/ Lake Toya
6/ Odori Park
7/ Furano and Biei
8/ Cape Soya
9/ Fort Goryokaku
10/ Lake Notoro
11/ Cape Kamui
12/ Sounkyo
13/ Tokachi Farm
14/ Taushubetsu River Bridge
15/ Marchen Hill
16/ Abashiri Prison Museum

The night view from Mount Hakodate (2) is spectacular but be aware that it’s cold even in July and August.
We recommend you sample the ice cream, gelato and soft serve ice creams from Tokachi (13) and other farms. As they use fresh milk directly from local farms, the ice cream has a rich milky taste.
Definitely give it a try!

The Hitsujigaoka Observatory with its statue of Dr. Clark, famous for the phrase, “Boys, be ambitious!” and Mt Yotei, also called “Ezo Fuji (due to its similarity to Mt. Fuji) are also popular spots to visit. In Muroran, Night Cruises or Night Bus Tours offer magical night factory views (advanced reservation necessary). Recommended for those wanting a unique night time experience!

The Ainu are the indigenous people of Japan who live in Hokkaido. They speak the Ainu language and have their own culture and traditions. UNESCO recognized ancient traditional Ainu dances as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009. The Akan Ainu Kotan (Ainu village) sells folk crafts and offers visitors a chance to experience Ainu culture. You can enjoy a wide range of experiences by visiting museums, which can be found all over the island.

Hokkaido is full of must-see flower gardens, thanks to its expansive landscape.
1/ Mr. Mishima's Shibazakura park
2/ Farm Tomita
3/ Takino Suzuran Hillside Park
4/ Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park
5/ Himawari no Sato (Sunflower garden)
6/ Shikisai-no-oka (Panoramic flower gardens)
7/ Ueno Farm
8/ Zerubu Hill
9/ Yuni Garden
10/ Shibazakura Takinoue Park


These flower fields spread out before you like a beautiful painting. As you take a deep breath you will feel your lungs fillling with the lovely scent of flowers. The best time to experience this is from May to October. If your schedule allows, come and visit! As mentioned earlier, Hokkaido is an area that gets heavy snow and this attracts local and international visitors who want to enjoy sightseeing attractions unique to such a snowy region.

For example, ski resorts. Hokkaido has top-quality snow, known as powder snow. Some say it is the best in the world!
1/ Niseko
2/ Furano Ski Resort
3/ Rusutsu Resort
There are many other resorts, so find one with the slopes that suit you best!

“Winter Festivals” are also unique to Hokkaido!
1/ Sapporo Snow Festival
2/ Asahikawa Winter Festival
3/ Sounkyo Hyobaku Festival
4/ Shikotsuko Hyoutou Festival

The giant snow sculptures and works of art are so spectacular that you might find yourself gasping in amazement! At night the illuminations give it a whole different appearance.

We’ve featured Hokkaido’s unique culture and tourist attractions but maybe what you're really interested in is the food?! Here is a list of the best local food you can eat in Hokkaido.
1/ Genghis Khan (Mutton and vegetable dish)
2/ Ramen (Asahikawa, Sapporo, Hakodate)
3/ Soup Curry
4/ Ishikari Salmon Hot Pot
5/ Salmon Chan-chan Yaki
6/ Ikameshi (squid cooked with rice inside)
7/ Butadon (pork rice bowl)
8/ Crab

Genghis Khan (1) is a very famous name, isn't it!? It’s a dish made from freshly grilled lamb or mutton. It’s very healthy so feel free to eat as much as you like! We mentioned three kinds of classic ramen (2) above, but there are many other kinds of local ramen to be found. It would be really fun to go around trying all the different kinds of ramen!

A classic example of Hokkaido’s cuisine would be crab (8). Hokkaido boasts Japan's number one catch of crabs, whether bristly crab, king crab or snow crab. Because it’s so fresh, the best way to eat it is raw or "crab shabu-shabu" (crab slices swished in boiling water for a few seconds).

And of course, we can’t leave out other kinds of seafood! Hokkaido also has seafood rice bowls which are topped with the freshest seafood. The sushi is also exquisite. Even at conveyor belt sushi shops, it is said the stores in Hokkaido have the best quality!

The morning markets, which open early, are large, reasonably priced and full of delicious seafood. You can eat the fresh seafood at the market or buy some to enjoy later. There are even dishes you can have prepared on the spot. It might take some time to cook but there is something delightful about eating food that’s piping hot and freshly made!

Start the day right, with a full and satisfied stomach! While the seafood is indeed delicious, it will prove difficult to bring back as a souvenir. So, what kind of souvenirs are popular among tourists?

From long-established and famous sweets such as Gokatteya Yokan (Yokan is sweet bean jelly), Mitsuishi Yokan and Shibetsu Yokan; Wakasa Imo (sweet bean paste in the shape of a sweet potato) and Yoitomake (roll cake made with honeysuckle jam) to the classic Shiroi Koibito (butter cookies with a layer of white chocolate in between) and Marusei Butter Sandwich Cookies, there is only good food to be found in Hokkaido!

The Trappist Monastery, "Our Lady of the Lighthouse Abbey", remains closed to women even today. We recommend trying Trappist Cookies, as well as butter and sweets, which are all made in keeping with tradition. Spread across a vast landscape, enjoy amazing views and plenty of fine food.

A stomach full of good food set against a magnificent landscape - we can't help but have a good time! Amazing Hokkaido, waiting to be discovered by you!

It is my opinion and summary. Please acknowledge that there are various opinions.