Hokkaido, formerly known as Ezo, is the second-largest island in Japan and also the most northern. Hokkaido has a long history, dating back to the 18th century, Along the way, Hokkaido has seen itself develop into a modernised city housing over 5.7 million people, as compared to only 50,000 in the 18th century. Hokkaido’s historical landscapes and buildings, most of which date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, have since led to this lovely island being a top tourist destination.
Hokkaido is a fairly large island and it is sparsely populated with many open spaces. The center of the island has a number of mountains and volcanic plateaus, and there are coastal plains located around. Hokkaido is also known for its cool climate, with the highest August temperature usually being around 22 degrees Celsius (71.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and the highest January temperature usually being around −4 degrees Celsius (24.8 degrees Fahrenheit). Also, unlike mainland Japan, Hokkaido is not usually affected by the June - July rainy season. The relative lack of humidity and typically warm, rather than hot, summer weather makes its climate an attraction for tourists from other parts of Japan too.
Hokkaido’s abundance of hot springs, or onsen, has easily become one of its main tourist attractions. And who could forget about the skiing on this lovely island? Being a prime location for skiing, sledding, snowboarding, and winter sports, there’s no denying that skiing is typically included on every traveler’s itinerary. Also, Hokkaido is home to Japan’s best ski resorts, located in the city of Niseko.
But, apart from visiting hot springs and skiing, what else can you do in Hokkaido? We’ve prepared the perfect list for you. Here are 5 things that you MUST DO in summer in Hokkaido:
Hakodate is the third-largest city in Hokkaido, located at the southern tip of the island. Hakodate was actually the first ever harbor opened to international traders and missionaries at the end of the 19th century. Plenty of Western merchants and officials built their residences and churches here, which resulted in the famous western-style early-20th-century buildings that Hakodate is mostly populated with today. These buildings can mostly be found in Motomachi, a neighborhood that sits at the base of Mount Hakodate. This mountain is 334 meters (1,096 feet) high and looms over the entire city, offering amazing night views from its summit, which is accessible by cable car. The city is also located near to some of Hokkaido’s popular tourist destinations such as Matsumae, Yunokawa Onsen, and Onuma Park.
Voyagin offers a Hakodate tour package that features two itineraries: a full-day or a half-day tour. Some of the sights that you can expect to see on this tour include Mount Hakodate, where you can see one of Japan’s best night views, Red Brick Warehouses, a historical building that houses a morning market where locals come for fresh seafood, and the Trappistine Convent, which is an 1898 baroque-style building home of several nuns dispatched from the Trappistine Monastery in France.
See the Beauty of the International Harbor Town Hakodate
Price: from 138 USD upwards
Duration: around 4 hours required
Contact: +65 3163 2067
Otaru is a port city located to the northwest of Sapporo, accessible within half an hour’s drive. Otaru Canal was completed in 1923 and is currently lined with cafes and shopping centers in converted old warehouses. It will also be lit up by 63 gas lamps once the sun sets. The city’s glassworks, music boxes, and sake distilleries captivate many tourists, both international and domestic. Also, its abundance of herring mansions make it one of Japan’s leading herring fishing communities. Otaru was also originally the financial center of Hokkaido and was once called the “Northern Wall Street” because of its glory.
Voyagin offers the Introduction to Otaru package tour where you can learn about the history of this city while savoring local cuisine, such as sushi and ramen. Apart from Otaru’s attractions, you will also visit the town of Yoichi, which is one of Otaru’s neighboring communities. Here, you will have a tour of the Nikka Whiskey Distillery, a beautiful distilling facility with a Scottish atmosphere. You will also have the chance to taste their products for free!
Otaru Rickshaw Tour
Price: from 41 USD
Duration: around 2 hours required.
Enjoy an Introduction Tour to Otaru, Hokkaido
Price: from 270 USD upwards
Duration: 1 day required
Contact: +65 3163 2067
Sushi, ramen and gyoza, who would complain? Sapporo’s local cuisine ranges from fresh seafood to the best ramen that you can find in the whole of Japan. Being the fifth-largest city in Japan and the capital of Hokkaido, Sapporo sees many people swarming the city to get a taste of the local cuisine. Thanks to its vast natural resources, Sapporo offers an incredible variety of unforgettable and unique delicacies. With resources that enable field farming, rice farming, dairy farming, and fishing, it’s no wonder that this beautiful city is popularly known as “The City of Food”.
Viator offers a sushi tour which starts with a guide showing you around Sapporo fish market in the morning. You will see the market at its liveliest as people bargain for wholesale seafood and fish that have been freshly caught. You will then get to enjoy a unique and delicious sushi meal with the host.
In Voyagin’s 1-day tour, you’ll be taken on an extraordinary food adventure that starts off with famous sightseeing spots. Marvel at historical landscapes, such as the Former Hokkaido Government Office Building, Former Sapporo Appellate Court, and Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art. You will then be taken to Sapporo Central Wholesale Market, where you will stop for shopping and sushi. After that, you can choose to either go to Okurayama Ski Jump Site or Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill to enjoy the views of Hokkaido. After a ramen lunch at Susukino Ramen Yokocho, head over to Mount Moiwa Ropeway and Morris Cable Car where you can bring home the popular souvenirs and gifts of cookies from the local chocolate company.
You can also opt for the dinner tour where you can enjoy a lamb buffet BBQ at Sapporo Beer Garden.
Supreme Sushi Breakfast and Insider Tour at Sapporo Fish Market
Price: from 207 USD
Duration: around 3 hours required.
Discover the Real Taste of Sapporo in a 1-day Food Tour
Price: from 110 USD upwards
Duration: around 11 hours required
Contact: +65 3163 2067
Surprisingly, Japan’s fifth-largest city was only developed at the end of the 19th century. Today, Sapporo’s Western-style buildings, which were built when the new Meiji government was keen on developing Hokkaido on a colonial model with the help of Western expertise, can still be easily spotted all over Hokkaido, proving that its fascinating historical legacies still remain.
Developments resulted in the quick modernisation of Sapporo city, in which Western-style buildings, such as the Former Hokkaido Government Office and the Clock Tower, were built with the help of foreign architects, designers, and other experts.
In Voyagin’s 1-day tour, you will be taken to Sapporo’s best historical landscapes that date all the way back to the 19th century. You will also learn about the facts related to Hokkaido’s reclamation and Sapporo’s development. Be amazed at the Historical Village of Hokkaido, which is a famous open-air museum that was built with the help of the villagers and communities. You will also be taken to Sapporo’s main symbol, the Clock Tower. This tower was designed in 1878 and exudes a unique American Midwest atmosphere. It currently stands as a cultural asset and a legacy of the foreign influence in Hokkaido’s development. You will also be taken to the Sapporo Beer Museum, which houses the internationally-famous beer brand of Sapporo Beer. The first beer was actually brewed in Sapporo in 1877!
Other attractions that you can look forward to in this tour include the Former Hokkaido Government Office, Odori Park, and Sapporo TV Tower.
Sapporo Private Half-Day Tour with Local Guide
Price: from 30 USD
Duration: around 4 hours required.
Discover the Fascinating Historical Legacy of Sapporo
Price: from 250 USD upwards
Duration: around 8 hours required
Contact: +65 3163 2067
Explore the best of Hokkaido starting from Otaru towards Niseko. Unlike Otaru, Niseko is famously-known as a destination for skiing. It is actually the most popular ski resort in Japan, with its abundance of light powder snow and spectacular back country. Its resorts are also very welcoming to tourists, especially with its many long ski runs, endless snow, and a growing number of after-ski activities. Many come here to try off-trail skiing, which is an uncommon activity in the other ski resorts in Japan. There are special gates around the resorts that will allow visitors to access the back country. Also, Mount Yotei, a volcanic cone, can be spotted from Niseko.
On this Voyagin tour, you’ll start from Otaru and then drive toward the city of Niseko. While in Otaru, you’ll be taken to famous sights, such as Otaru Canal, Suiteng Otaru, and Otaru Aquarium. Before heading towards Niseko, you will visit the famous Yoichi Whiskey Factory that’s along the way. Marvel at amazing views of the mountains and nature while you’re along the highway toward Niseko. Lastly, you’ll also visit cafés, cheese shops, ice cream shops, and an organic vegetable market.
This tour also comes with accommodation and you’ll be staying at Cottage Bongo in Niseko.
Discover Otaru and Niseko on a Tour with Overnight Stay
Price: from 375 USD upwards
Duration: 2 days required
Contact: +65 3163 2067
It really isn't just about its hot springs and ski resorts
Japan’s lovely island of Hokkaido has proven that it is not just its hot springs and ski resorts that has attracted locals and tourists. There’s so much wilderness and beauty this island has to offer and some attractions are surprisingly lesser frequented. Don’t depend on clichéd tour suggestions anymore! So go on, explore Hokkaido and have the time of your life!