Hokkaido, one of Japan’s four main islands, may not be the most famous destination in this imperial beauty. The weather can be harsh during winter and the sun isn’t as bright as one would hope for during summer. There is the incredibly numbing blanket of snow that thrills skiers and snowboarders during the colder seasons. Eventually the snow is replaced by dry maple leaves on the same earth that will be shelter to hikers, cyclists and campers during summer. But to those heading to Japan to experience untamed wilderness, Hokkaido is your year-round home.
You can reach this island through the New Chitose Airport, the sole international gateway that caters to flight to and from Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei, Seoul, Busan and Kaosiung. If there is no direct flight from your country, efficient transit hubs from Tokyo and Osaka are available.
The snowfall in Hokkaido commences around early November. The high quality powder snow that carpets the ground and the numerous mountains surrounding the area create a gorgeous backdrop for Japan’s snow sports. Rusutsu Resort, which is 90 minutes away from New Chitose Airport, offers 37 ski courses which amounts to 42 kilometers in length. The ski area is designed to accommodate even beginners.
If you are up for something bolder, try the courses at Daisetsuzan mountain range. Bring the kids with you for either a family dog sledding activity or snowmobiling. You will never run out of things to do here as festivals abound! Several port festivals are held during summer to celebrate and pray for safe fishing and a great catch for local fishermen. The Sapporo Snow-matsuri Festival, held in winter, brings together communities in a colorful expression of cultural creativity.
Explore the unspoiled magnificence of Daisetsu-zan National Park, which forms the roof of Hokkaido. Outdoor enthusiasts will love this densely forested and mountainous area. While you are unlikely to be attacked, watch out for brown bears which roam the park. Located in southwestern Hokkaido, Shikotsu-Toya National Park offers a gentle panoramic view of lakes and volcanic mountains. The wealth of natural beauty doesn’t end here.
For a relaxing afternoon, make sure to experience Japanese-style hot springs. Choose among Noboribetsu-onsen, Jozan-kei-onsen and Soun-kyo-onsen. The hot springs are framed by old Katsura trees that create an ambience of serenity. Nothing beats travel fatigue like a relaxing encounter with life unencumbered by worry!
Be ready for a healthy serving of seafood for breakfast, lunch and even dinner! The menu always includes the royal king crab, delicious sushi, and rich scallops. It is no secret why Hokkaido is called the “kingdom of food”. Don’t forget to try out the yakitori (skewered chicken dipped in world-famous tare sauce), curry ramen (spicy noodle dish served in curry-flavored chicken broth), and yakisoba (stir-fried noodles).
Make sure to bring the right clothes for an enjoyable stay in Hokkaido. Wearing a t-shirt or dress should be fine during summer but make sure to also bring a down-jacket with hood and layered clothing when visiting during winter. A cardigan will keep you nice and warm during both winter and autumn after sunset.