Japan’s northernmost prefecture provides numerous outdoor pursuits and its cities, nestled against the backdrop of mountains and lakes, provide culinary delights and a dose of culture.
A year-round destination, Hokkaido features national parks with excellent facilities for hiking, mountain biking and rafting. Bathe in volcanic waters or observe the natural flora and fauna in their native habitats.
Where to go:
The annual Sapporo Snow Festival in February attracts visitors from all over the world, but in other seasons, Sapporo’s green expanses and blossom displays are also real crowd-pleasers. This young, wide-open city is also famous for its beer, beef, ramen, seafood and fresh produce.
In the heart of Hokkaido, Furano is a large expanse of rolling hills that lead up to Mt. Tokachi. Situated along the Sorachi River, Furano belongs to Furano-Ashibetsu Nature Park and is well-known for its lavender farms.
In winter, Furano is prime downhill and cross-country skiing territory with world-class slopes. Warmer weather is perfect for river rafting, trekking, cycling and golf.
The eastern region of Hokkaido offers some of the most pristine scenery and wildlife habitats in Japan. Home to three of Hokkaido's six national parks, this vast and secluded corner of Japan is well worth the trip at any time of year.
Southwest of Sapporo, Niseko is the most famous ski area in Japan, popular with visitors for its powdery snow and welcoming attitude. Beyond the snow season, there are hiking trails and sports from rafting to golf.
What to eat:
Japan is synonymous with seafood, yet for the freshest and widest array, Hokkaido is considered the place to go. Crab, scallops, sea urchin, squid and salmon are but a few of the delicacies for which the area is famed. To try a little of everything, order kaisendon - a generous assortment of fresh seafood served on a bed of rice.
The Ishikari River is famous for its salmon and this forms the basis of one particular local specialty. Ishikari nabe marries this salmon with locally grown potatoes and various seasonal items in a kelp and miso broth, all cooked together in a boiling clay pot.
When to go:
While Hokkaido is synonymous with skiing, there’s plenty to do outside winter. Summer is lavender season in Hokkaido while the cherry blossom season is in May. Autumn is the perfect time for freshly harvested local produce.
How to get there: Hokkaido is accessible by plane from all major airports in Japan to New Chitose Airport outside of Sapporo. It's also possible to take the bullet train from Tokyo; the journey is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
# Hitting the slopes of Niseko and Rusutsu - a dream for powder lovers
# The rolling hills of Hokkaido’s lavender farms
# Fresh seafood and produce, such as sea urchin, melon, corn and ice cream
# The unspoiled wilderness of Hokkaido’s national parks.
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