Hokkaido is the final frontier of Japan. Expansive and covered in a vast, untouched wilderness, Hokkaido is unlike any other island of the country.
Only 5 percent of the nation’s total population lives on Hokkaido, meaning you can successfully separate from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo life to enjoy the richness of the Japanese countryside and bountiful nature. When traveling through Hokkaido, here are several sites and attractions that you simply cannot pass up.
1. The Sapporo Snow FestivalPhoto: pinterest.com
Sapporo is the fourth largest city in Japan and Hokkaido’s prefectural capital, meaning that most of Hokkaido’s residents live here. Therefore, it is no surprise they have something festive going on, such as the Sapporo Snow Festival, which becomes more and more popular every single year.
What started out as just snow sculptures has turned into a festival of concerts, food stalls, art exhibitions, ice skating and sliding, snow tubing, snowmobiling, and much more. Since more than 2 million people attend every year, be sure to get your lodgings well in advance. Otherwise, you will miss out!
2. The Blue LakePhoto: pinterest.com
Yes, the wallpaper on your MacBook is not a CG concoction but a real location. The Blue Lake is located near the Shirogane Onsen. Though the lake itself is a man-made creation made to stave off erosion, the blue water was completely unexpected.
Minerals that had dissolved into the soil eventually diffused into the water, turning it into the breathtaking color you see today. The scene is mind-blowing whenever you arrive. Simply take a 5-minute walk along a dirt road, and you will find yourself in a place of supreme tranquility.
3. Shikaribetsu LakePhoto: pinterest.com
Located 810 meters above sea level, near the town of Shikaoi, this is the highest altitude lake in Hokkaido. During the winter months, there is an event that happens here that is truly unique. The people come together to make the Shikaribetsu Lake Village that has ice houses and an open-air hot spring… made entirely out of ice! Concerts, weddings, and much more happen inside these igloos that pop up almost overnight.
If you do not make it for the Shikaribetsu Lake Village event, the location is still miraculous throughout the warmer months too. The mountains ringing the lake kiss the sky, and the blue of the water is so deep and clear, it is surreal.
4. Shikisai no Oka GardenPhoto: shikisainooka.jp
This pathway to heaven may be the perfect landscape for wedding shots (hint, hint to all those who are engaged). Shikisai no Oka Garden, located in Biei, Hokkaido has seasonal flowers blooming from spring through fall over a whopping 15 hectare of land.
There are more than 20,000 plants in total growing across the rolling hills. The gardens even have a specialty restaurant that serves things like lavender and pumpkin flavored soft serve and alpaca farm for you to visit. Just keep in mind that the garden operates between April and October from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
5. Mount AsahiPhoto: pinterest.com
For those who consider themselves mountaineers and backpackers, no mountain may be as satisfying as Mount Asahi, the tallest peak on the island of Hokkaido. Standing at 2,909.9 m (7,516 feet), it is by no means Mount Fuji; that said, the scenery is outstanding.
During the summer, the moderate temperatures and gentle trails make it a popular destination for people who want a relaxing journey to the peak. In the winter, Mount Asahi becomes a ski and snowboarding wonderland.
6. All the National ParksPhoto: pinterest.com
More than 10 percent of Hokkaido’s landmass is dedicated to national parks. There are lakes, waterfalls, forests, mountains, and volcanoes throughout all of these preserved lands, and you can enjoy a variety of outdoor recreations in each of them.
The one park above all national parks in Hokkaido, though, would be Shiretoko National park, located at the northeastern tip of the island. UNESCO has named Shiretoko National Park one of the “richest integrated ecosystems in the world.” In other words, the hikes are going to be epic. Just watch out for the brown bears.
7. Noboribetsu OnsenPhoto: pinterest.com
When you say “onsen” to someone from Hokkaido, they will, without a doubt, mention the famous Noboribetsu Onsen. The water here is rich with healing vitamins and minerals. Not to mention the awe-inspiring views that can be witnessed as you soak in these steamy waters.
The onsen is the perfect getaway from the city. You will indeed be paying a pretty penny to stay here, but this is one of those times when the splurge is more than worth it.
8. Furano SkiingPhoto: pinterest.com
The area known as Furano is popular throughout the year for its magical plains of blossoming flowers. Thousands of people embark on the journey every spring to see the lavender at the Farm Tomita (which also has a Melon House), among other flora.
However, what is truly the breadwinner for Furano would be the downhill and cross-country skiing. The mountains are well known for their soft powdery snow. Mount Tokachi is exceptional for skiing and snowboarding, but if you are looking for autumn leaves, it is also well worth the climb.
9. Tokachi Food ParkPhoto: pinterest.com
One of the things the Japanese people are proud of is their produce. Wherever you go, the specialty crop of certain regions appears in cooking and sweets to be enjoyed. For Tokachi Food Park, located in Tokachi Hills, that would be adzuki beans and other vegetables.
Here, you can try a number of foods that use these beans as the base ingredient. A favorite of many would be the adzuki bean soft serve ice cream. Other places in Tokachi Food Park include a garden with edible flowers, beans, fruits, and other GMO- and pesticide-free vegetables.
10. Moerenuma KoenPhoto: pinterest.com
On the outskirts of Sapporo is a large green space known as Moerenuma Koen, which has a huge circumference of four kilometers. The grounds are well kept, and while the greenery itself is simply beautiful, there are installations like the mini version of the Louvre that is an awesome sight.
The park is a popular place for joggers, cyclists, and picnickers. You would never except some parts of Moerenuma Koen to be the remnants of a waste treatment plant.
11. Rishiri and RebunPhoto: pinterest.com
The two island known as Rishiri and Rebun are located at the northern tip of Hokkaido and are part of the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park. Upon these two islands are small fishing villages, alpine flowers, astonishing coastal landscapes, and some of the most beautiful hiking trails you can ever go on.
Rishiri is also home to the 1721 meter tall Mount Rishiri, a dormant volcano that bares resemblance to Fuji. Then there’s Rebun, a longer, flatter island carpeted in glorious alpine flora.
The beauty of Hokkaido is immeasurable. The island may be the least populated by people, but the world seems to come alive here. Every nook and cranny bears life.
Hokkaido is thus a paradise for those who love connecting to nature and seeing a more simplistic way of life. If you love seafood, the outdoors, and a star-dotted sky at night, then Hokkaido is a one-way ticket to heaven.