Hokkaido is the most northern prefecture in Japan and has the biggest area amongst the 47 prefectures – it is a huge island on its own. It is famous for its winter events such as the Sapporo Snow Festival. However, a distinctly different taste of Hokkaido can be experienced according to the seasons. Beautiful sakura flowers embellish the fantastic landscapes in spring, lush greenery covers the land in summer and the scenery transforms yellow-red during autumn. From core cities, such as Sapporo, Hakodate and Otaru, to majestic landscapes like Shiretoko and the Daisetsuzan Volcanic Group, Hokkaido is filled with nature and culture that is bound to amaze you.
Here are 10 of the best destinations in Hokkaido you should spend your holiday at:
1. Soak up fantastic night views of Otaru Canal
Otaru developed into an established trade hub during the Meiji Era (1868 - 1912) and is a place perfect for photo-lovers and city-explorers. Located just a 30-minute train ride away from Sapporo via Japan Railway, it is an easily accessible city. Otaru Canal is one of the most symbolic tourist spots there. At night, the boulevard along the canal is lit up by 63 gas lamps, creating a romantic atmosphere that is perfect for a date spot.
2. Marvel at the mystical lake
Located at Akan National Park in eastern Hokkaido, Kami No Ko Ike, near Lake Mashu, is famous for its mysterious emerald-blue colour. Kami No Ko Ike, literally translating to ‘God’s Child’s Pond’, is named as such because it is created from the springing of the clear ground water from Lake Mashu, known as ‘The God’s Lake’ by the native Ainu people. The lake is so clear that we can even view the fallen trees at the bottom of the lake that are known to never decay. Akan National Park can be accessed from Kushiro Airport via bus, which takes one hour and 20 minutes.
3.Hokkaido’s jewel box!? Admire the night view from Mount Hakodate
With Hakodate Bay on the left and the Tsugaru Strait on the right, the night view of Hakodate is so spectacular it looks almost like a painting. Being awarded a 3/3-star review in The Michelin Green Guide: Japan, the scenery from Mount Hakodate is bound to entrance you.
4. Go lake hopping at Shiretoko
Shiretoko, eastern Hokkaido, is listed as one of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites. It is filled with various natural monuments, and among them are the Shiretoko Goko Lakes. With no river flowing in and out of the lakes, the tranquil atmosphere there is uniquely Hokkaido. If you are lucky, there is a chance you might see the wild animals that call the place home. It is a must-go for nature lovers!
5.Visit Farm Tomita, the greatest lavender farm in Hokkaido
Furano is a city in central Hokkaido, about 2 hours from Sapporo by car. There you’ll find Farm Tomita, a lavender farm with the longest history in Japan. With carpets of lavender decorating the place, not only does the natural aroma allow you to spend a relaxing and enjoyable time, but the panoramic view from the Traditional Lavender Garden section is simply stunning!
6. Discover Jigokudani, Hell’s Valley
About 1 hour and 30 minutes from Sapporo by car, Noboribetsu Onsen is among the various famous onsens in Hokkaido. Jigokudani, meaning Hell’s Valley in Japanese, is one of the major water sources of the Onsen, with water that can be up to 98 degrees Celsius (208 degrees Fahrenheit) hot! The origin of its name comes from the sight of the bubbling water, reminiscent of hell with demons living in it.
7. Feel peaceful at Hokkaido Shrine, the shrine that lived through history
You will see a huge Torii gate as soon as you enter Hokkaido Shrine from Maruyama Park, Sapporo. In view of the development of Hokkaido, the Hokkaido Shrine was built in 1872 under the instruction of the Meiji Emperor to provide people with a place to pray. Despite being located near to the city, Hokkaido Shrine is a place that maintains a perfect harmony of nature and culture. The ezo squirrel is often seen there and it is also a famous site among birdwatchers. .
8. Discover the highest point in Hokkaido at Daisetsuzan National Park
The mountains of the Daisetsuzan Volcanic Group can be found in Daisetsuzan National Park, the biggest national park in Japan. It is called the Kamui Mintara by the indigenous Ainu people, which means ‘the garden where gods play’ in their language. Found in the national park is Asahi Dake, a place famous as a power spot. It is also the highest point in Hokkaido, which can be visited via the Asahi Dake ropeway that operates throughout the year.
9. Relish Lake Akan, home of the Marimo
Lake Akan lies quietly in Akan National Park, east Hokkaido, surrounded by mountains such as Mount Meakan, Mount Oakan, and Akan Fuji. It is a lake where one of Japan’s natural curiosities, the rare marimo moss ball can be found. Immerse yourself in the majestic nature of Hokkaido as the sightseeing cruiser brings you around the lake! The mountains there are also popular among trekkers, along with Mount Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture and Yakushima in Kagoshima Prefecture.
10.Walk through Hokkaido’s history at Odori Park
Odori Park played a crucial role as a landmark during the development of Sapporo, where the city was built around it in a grid-like manner. The various architecture and monuments that can be found within the park tell the story of Sapporo’s growth. The Sapporo Television Tower, one of Sapporo’s symbols, can also be visited there. Visit the observatory at Sapporo Television Tower to have a bird’s eye view of the city!
Hokkaido, though huge, is full of attractive sites!
If you are still planning your next holiday, it is highly recommended that you explore Japan’s northernmost island. Known as one of the most popular tourist destinations not just in Japan, but throughout the world, picturesque sceneries, fantastic culture, and splendid food will welcome you with open arms. Visit Hokkaido for the greatest experience of your life!
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