Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost island, with a colder climate than the rest of the country and less population. The region is a touristc treasure. It has a bit of everything, from delicious and fresh food to amazing landscapes. This article presents 20 things you can do while visiting Hokkaido.
1. Visit a flower field
Furano and Biei are two cities in central Hokkaido that are renowned for their beautiful flowers fields. Each season has its own specific – spring lupines and tulips, summer is an explosion of color thanks to blue salvia, poppies, lavender, and sunflowers while the fall season is colored by yellow mustard and dahlias. The flowers can be observed in various flower fields that allow visitors. Some farms even organize tractor tours among the flowers!
2. Go fruit picking
Hokkaido has many fruit orchards that grow strawberries, cherries, grapes, honeysuckle, plums, apples, pears, blueberries, etc. And the best part is that many orchards allow visitors to pick and eat fruit with a prior reservation. The prices range from 500 yen for fruits like pears to 1000 yen for strawberries and cherries. Besides being amazingly delicious, the views are also spectacular. The experience will surely leave you great memories!
- English pamphlet: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/library/brochures/pdf/activities_in_hokkaido_en.pdf
3. Buy local souvenirs
Souvenirs from Hokkaido mostly center on food because the island has many delicious sweets and snacks that are not brought to the rest of the country. This is because preservatives are hardly used, so the products would not stay fresh for enough days to withstand transportation. Some famous sweets and snacks are: Marusei Butter Sand cookies, Jaga Pokkuru chips, Shiroi Koibito biscuits, Sapporo Times Square sponge cake, Mifuyu Matcha wafers or Royce chocolate.
4. Go hiking
Hokkaido is a paradise for those who love nature. The region has a bit of all: tall mountains, bubbly rivers, scenic lakes. Some of the most beautiful places are: Mount Hakodate, Mount Moiwa, Lake Kussharo, Mount Asahidake, Lake Akan, Mount Tengu, Mount Daisetsuzan, Lake Mashu and Mount Yotei. Hiking trips with different levels of difficulty can be organized, from simple walk to rock climbing.
5. Enjoy the food
Just looking at Hokkaido food will leave your mouth watering. Because the waters around the island are full of nutritious planktons, the sea life is very abundant and has a richer taste than in other parts of Japan. The region boasts delicious sushi and other fresh sea creatures. There are also specific dishes you must try, like Ishikari nabe, a hot pot of salmon and vegetables or Genghis Khan, that refers to mutton and vegetables that are basted with sauce and then roasted.
6. Stay at a ryokan
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese Inn with excellent conditions and services. Traditional décor, futon bedding, hot spring baths, body massages and delicious Japanese cuisine. What makes ryokans in Hokkaido even more special is that many of them are located on scenic lake shores or next to picturesque mountains. Nothing can beat the feeling of being inside a hot bath while looking at a tall mountain covered in lush green forests.
7. Go cycling
As Hokkaido’s population is smaller than the rest of the country, there are considerably less cars on the roads. This combined with the amazing landscapes is all a cycling lover can ask. As a plus, all roads are in excellent condition, with very smooth surfaces. Not to add that exploring the surroundings by bike lets you find beautiful hidden places that you would otherwise not see. Bicycles can be rented in a lot of spots thorough the region, at hotels, ryokans or special renting centers in big cities.
8. Attend a festival
Hokkaido has many attractive festivals, like Sapporo Beer Festival, Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkudai Festival, Hokkaido Shrine Festival and Otaru Snow Light Path Festival. The most famous of all is Sapporo Snow Festival, during which thousands of snow and ice sculptures are display in various parts of the city. The event is held for one week in February and attracts a large number of tourists from all over the country every year.
9. Visit an alcohol factory
Visiting an alcohol factory is extremely fun. Not only you are able to see how the liquors are made, but you also get to taste different kinds of products. In Hokkaido, Asahi Breweries and Nikka Whisky Distilleries offer factory tours. A guide accompanies the visitors, explaining in detail the whole manufacturing process. The tours also include video presentations, ingredients exhibits and an introduction to the history of the products.
10. Go skiing
Hokkaido has some of the most famous ski resorts in the world, such as Niseko, Rusutsu, Furano, Tomamu and Sapporo Teine. Because the mountainous area and northern location favors heavy snowfalls, the powder snow here is said to be the best of the best. The ski season is also very long, starting from late November and ending in early May. The slopes in the resorts have various inclinations, fitted for any kind of experience level, from beginners to advanced.
11. Learn about the region’s history
Tourists can learn more about the history of Hokkaido at the Historical Village in Sapporo, an open air museum that exhibits around 60 old buildings that are specific to the region and teaches visitors about farm life as it used to be in the old days. Harvest festivals are held in the village every autumn. Other places to see the historic part of the region includes Goryokaku fort, a star shaped citadel that was built in a western style or Matsumae Castle, the northernmost castle in Japan.
- Name: Historical Village
- Price: 830 yen
- Access: a 20 minute walk from Shinrinkoen Station
- Opening hour: 09:00
- Closing hour: 17:00
- Holiday: Mondays from October through April
- Website: http://www.kaitaku.or.jp/info/info.htmgoo
12. Enjoy the nightscape
Few things are better than seeing a city from above at night, when its streets are lined with millions of little lights. The best place to do this in Hokkaido is from the top of Mount Moiwa, a small forested mountain in central Sapporo. There is an observation deck on the top of the mountain that allows visitors to enjoy views of the city. The top of the mountain can be accessed by a ropeway and a mini cable car.
13. Go kayaking
Hokkaido has plenty of waters perfect for river or ocean kayaking. Various tours can be organized which are lead by an experienced guide. This way, even beginners can feel safe and enjoy the ride! The tours can last from a couple of hours to as much as six hours and is usually organized when a minimum of two persons apply. Small children need to be accompanied by a guardian, while those under 3 years old cannot participate.
14. Bathe in a hot spring
The island is abundant in natural hot springs, with many hot spring resorts such as Noboribetsu, Toyako, Yunokawa, Sounkyo, Utoro, Niseko, Tokachigawa, Akanko and Kawayu. The hot springs can be found as public baths where anyone can enter, or at Japanese traditional inns, where you have to stay overnight to have access. The good part about using an inn’s hot spring is that it can be reserved for private use. The baths are often combined with amazing landscapes, like lush green forests and tall mountains.
15. Visit famous landmarks
Hokkaido houses many attractive landmarks, such as the Sapporo Clock Tower, a building constructed during the city’s development era, the Goryokaku Fort in Hakodate, a big star shaped citadel, Sapporo Beer Museum, the place where Japanese beer was born or Matsumae Castle, the northernmost castle in Japan. These attractions are not only interesting, but they will also help visitors understand the region’s history and culture better.
16. Go shopping
Sapporo, the island’s capital, is a shopper’s paradise. The city is filled with huge malls that have hundreds of shops. You can find everything you ever dreamed of: women’s, men’s and kids’ clothes, shoes, souvenirs, toys, cosmetics, jewelry and electronics. Many shops are underground, are roofed or have underground passages connected to the train stations, so that people can comfortably shop even during bad weather. Some notable malls and shopping districts are: Sapporo Factory, Tanukikoji, Pole Town, Aurora Town and Lafiler.
17. See a puppet show
Kogumaza is a puppet theater dedicated to kids located in Nakajima Park, Sapporo. The establishment is the first Japanese public theater dedicated to puppets. Performances are held every weekend (and on weekdays too during the school vacations) and nobody minds if the little ones laugh out loud or shout during the show. The performances are made for them, after all. Going to see a show at Kogumaza is a perfect family activity to do in Hokkaido.
- Price: differes from show to show
- Access: a 5 minute walk from Nakajimakoen Station
- Opening hour: 09:00
- Closing hour: 17:00
- Holiday: Mondays
- Website: http://www.syaa.jp/sisetu/gekijou/kogumaza/
18. Go fishing
With such extensive fresh waters that are packed with water creatures, fishing in Hokkaido is another option for a fun relaxing day. Various types of fishing can be done: ocean fishing, ice fishing or river fishing. Fishes that can be caught include: salmon, mackerel, pollock, sardines and trout. And not only you will get a delicious meal for free, but the beautiful landscapes will make your day even better!
19. Visit a farm
Visiting a farm can be extremely fun. You are able to see how a work day looks like, you are taught various things about animals and you learn how to milk cows. These visits are especially recommended for families with small children. The kids will have the time of their lives playing with the animals and learning new things.
20. Go horseback riding
What better way to enjoy such scenic landscapes than from the back of a horse? There are many organized tours in different locations that let you enjoy horseback riding with the guidance of a private instructor. The tours range from 60 minutes to 120 minutes and consist of a lesson in an enclosed arena followed by the actual walk. The whole experience will definitely leave you with lifelong memories!
Enjoy beautiful Hokkaido!
Have a good trip and travel!