Welcome to Hokkaido, Japan’s northern most island. The region is most well-known for its world class skiing areas however, there’s a bunch of other eminent frontiers to explore. Those who adore the outdoors will enjoy exploring the volcanic landscaped national parks, filled with peaceful secluded lakes and natural hot springs. Yes, Hokkaido is less developed than the countries other main islands however, it definitely does not lag when it comes to excellent Japanese dining. Here’s our list of see, ski, eat tips to ensure your ‘Holiday in Hokkaido’ is a mountain of fun.
SIGHTSEEING IN HOKKAIDO
Lake Kussharo is truly beautiful sight to behold. Located in eastern Hokkaido and centred in Akan National Park, one of the oldest National Parks in Japan, this caldera lake is geothermically heated and littered with onsens (hot springs). There’s many sections of the shoreline where you can take your shoes off, dig your toes into the warm sand and revitalising onsens – even in the middle of winter. Hint; Wakoto Peninsula at the lake’s southern end features attractive walking trails through towering forests and minerally charged outdoor onsen baths, free for public use.
Shiretoko Peninsula is a must-see Hokkaido destination. The easiest way to explore the rugged western coastline is to book a sightseeing cruise anytime from April to November. The benefits of experiencing the Shiretoko Peninsula by sea is the ability to get an uninterrupted view of the variety of wildlife that can been seen by boat. Brown bears can often be sighted along the rocky shoreline with their tiny cubs! Same goes for foxes, deer and mammoth like sea lions.
Niseko Ski Resort is officially the number one ski locale in all of Japan. Regularly recording upwards of 15 metres of snow each season! Powder hounds will unequivocally lord the four interconnected ski resorts of; Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and An’nupuri. The quality and consistency of snowfall here makes it an enviable destination for intrepid folk who love to ski or snowboard the slopes.
Worth noting is that the terrain caters for beginners right through to experts. Niseko accommodation options range from luxury ski in / ski out chalets through to affordable cosy ryokan style rooms. Tip; Resort Instructors speak clear English, so there’s no excuse for not strapping on your snow boots and ski suit and getting amongst the white stuff.
Food lovers take note, the Niseko dining scene is a prominent part of its appeal as a travel destination. Aside from the superb Japanese cuisine found here, visitors will also be able to dine in Korean, Italian, Thai, Indonesian and even Nepalese style establishments. With over 40 restaurants in Niseko Village alone, guests to the area are guaranteed to find a tantalizing place feast.
HOKODATE CITY DELIGHTS
While everybody knows that Sapporo is Hokkaido’s largest city, Hokodate is its lesser known but equally enticing metro counterpart in the south. It’s also a convenient location to board a bullet train (Shinkansen) from and continue to Tokyo (just 4 hours travel time). Nevertheless, we suggest you take to the Hokodate city streets in search of quirky museums, ancient shrines and excellent Japanese eats, all encompassed by traditionally welcoming Japanese hospitality.
Seafood is the go to cuisine in the Hokodate region. We’re talking fresh fish straight from the sea, to the morning market, to your meal time dish. Think tuna, squid, sea urchins, king crabs, sashimi, oysters and other assorted ocean delicacies. We recommend port city dining at Hakodate Seafood Cuisine Kaikobo – ranked the number premier seafood restaurant in the area on Trip Advisor.
A cable car ride to the peak of Mount Hakodate is a much-highlighted activity. There’s panoramic city vistas from the observation deck at the summit and a kitsch souvenir store and café onsite. Come night, the views really do take the proverbial cake as the lights of Hokadate city glitter below in a show of orchestrated unison. In fact, the outstanding evening mountain view of the city scape places it alongside Kobe’s Mount Rokko and Nagasaki’s Mount Inasa to round out Japan’s top 3 favoured alpine look outs.
UNIQUE HOKKAIDO ACTIVITIES
The Hokkaido lavender fields are a wonderful point of interest to visit during Summer time. The lavender season garners a special mention from us, as unlike the more famous, albeit fleeting Cherry Blossom season, the lavender florals bloom for several months. Be sure to stop by the quaint city of Furano to admire the remarkable purple hued views anytime from late June to early August.
History buffs will love a walking tour of the Historical Village of Hokkaido (Kaitaku-no Mura). Effectively it’s an entire ancient village converted into an open-air museum! All the houses, factories, religious shrines and public buildings here are preserved in time and inviting for visitors to inspect at leisure.
Overall a holiday in Hokkaido will suit people who seek an authentic overseas experience. Sure, the modern glamour of Tokyo and the old-world allure of Kyoto are viable vacation options too. However, there’s something to be said about the epic mountain ranges, sprawling national parks and lively snow field action that make a trip to Hokkaido a most memorable adventure.
By Roxanne Williams