10 Best Places to Visit When Travelling in Hokkaido, Japan

Updated on September 29, 2012
Lake Toya
Lake Toya | Source
Niseko | Source

Powdery snow, untouched wilderness, rolling hills, clean air, blue skies, and good foods are top things that endear Hokkaido, Japan to Japanese and non-Japanese people alike.

Hokkaido is the northernmost and biggest prefecture in Japan, representing over 20% of the country’s land mass.

With its sheer size, Hokkaido – measuring about 83,457 square kilometers – has so much beautiful space that draws in travelers from within Japan and around the globe.

Foods are great in Hokkaido.

  • Fresh seafood is found all over it. The island’s cold waters support large populations of uni or sea urchin, ikura or salmon roe, ika or squid, and many more.
  • Garden-fresh fruits and vegetables are commonly found in the island, which spans a large area that can aid extensive farming. Melons, potatoes, and corns are some of Hokkaido’s popular produce.
  • Milk and milk products that are from Hokkaido are priced relatively higher than those from other prefectures in Japan for a good reason. In Japan, milk is freshest in Hokkaido, which has a vast countryside that can support a large-scale dairy industry.
  • Hokkaido’s ramen and beer are also very popular among locals and visitors to the island.

Nature in its many wonderful forms, however, is the biggest draw of the island.

  • Mountains in Hokkaido have striking shapes and are often capped with snow. Their slopes are homes to rare plants and animals.
  • Bodies of water in the island are transparent, letting one somehow see through the bottom and the animals swimming below the surface. Ice usually forms and floats in lakes, marshes, and rivers.
  • Hokkaido has many waterfalls hidden in forests and flowing down from rocks. As waterfalls cascade, they form interesting shapes like that of a staircase.
  • Foxes, bears, seals, deer, and so many other kinds of animals have Hokkaido as their homeland. They are not usually found in zoos but rather in their natural surroundings in the mountains and protected national parks.

Hokkaido is big, charming, and has lots of lovely places.

It is quite difficult to come up with just a few must-visit places there.

Still, below is a list of 10 places that tourists should not miss visiting when travelling in Hokkaido, Japan’s coldest and exquisite island.

1. Daisetsuzan

A park that is ten times as big as the bustling Japanese city of Osaka, Daisetsuzan National Park is Hokkaido’s biggest protected park at over 2,000 square kilometers.

It is a haven for nature lovers and animals like brown bears.

It has lush forests, well-preserved mountains, and a wilderness that has been unmoved by Japan’s modernization.

It has about 16 peaks that each towers at over 2,000 meters.

It has volcanoes and even has a group of stratovolcanoes – volcanoes piled one on top of the other.

Hikers and adventure-seekers in Daisetzusan National Park find soothing respite in the park’s stunning hot springs.

2. Shiretoko

A UNESCO World Heritage Site that is so well-preserved, far from civilization, as well as exceedingly important in biodiversity and ecosystem, that it seems to be a frontier of the Earth is Shiretoko National Park.

This park is one of the most isolated parts of Japan, accessible only by foot, boat, and several days of hiking.

Because it is remote, it has become a home to large populations of bears, foxes, and deer.

In wintertime, along the park’s coasts, one can see drift ice gently passing by and coming all the way from the northern hemisphere.

3. Rishiri and Rebun

The two islands dotting the northern tip of Hokkaido are peaceful fishing villages with breathtaking sceneries.

These islands are called Rishiri and Rebun and they are a part of the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park.

In these islands, visitors can go hiking, see wildflowers, and be at awe with slow-paced life near nature.

The striking dormant volcano Mt. Rishiri is found in Rishiri Island or Rishiri-to.

Rolling slopes filled with alpine flowers, on the other hand, are found in Rebun Island or Rebun-to.

4. Onuma Park

A park that is best appreciated by leisure walks or use of bicycles is the Onuma Park, a relatively small park with a dormant volcano called Mt. Komagatake.

Onuma Park is a perfect weekend getaway for the many residents of Hokkaido.

It is near the Hokkaido cities of Hakodate and Sapporo.

In the park, one can see lakes as well as peninsulas and tiny islands.

Boating and canoeing are preferred ways of exploring the lakes in the park, which also has vast forests filled with birch and maple trees.

Onuma Park is a designated quasi national park. It is locally known as Onuma Koen.

5. Lake Toya

Lake Toya or Toyako is part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park that is so scenic it was chosen as the venue of the 2008 G8 Summit, a meeting of the leaders of the world’s most industrialized countries.

The lake itself is picturesque but when combined with the nearby hot springs and the active volcano Mt. Usu, it becomes even more beautiful.

In the park, visitors can go kayaking, fishing, trekking, and camping.

They can also relax in the park’s several hot springs.

6. Noboribetsu

Noboribetsu is a hot spring resort town that is part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park.

Locals and many Japanese people believe that the town’s 11 kinds of thermal waters are the most soothing and healing in the whole country.

Many of the hot springs in Noboribetsu are in the ryokan, Japanese-style inns appointed with traditional amenities and services.

7. Akan National Park

Famous for its three crystal-clear lakes is the Akan National Park, one of the earliest designated national parks in Hokkaido.

It was elected as a protected park in 1934.

The three famous lakes of Akan National Park are the Lake Akan, Lake Kussharo, and Lake Mashu.

Fog often hangs above the surface of these lakes, particularly in Lake Mashu, giving them the impression of mystery and tranquility.

8. Niseko

A ski resort town that has become world-famous for its powdery snow is Niseko, which has vast areas for backcountry skiing and long, wide runs.

The ski areas in Niseko that have become popular among Japanese and foreigners include Hirafu, Higashiyama, Annupuri, Hanazono, Moiwa, and Weiss.

9. Asahikawa

Asahikawa is the second largest city in Hokkaido that is well-known for its local zoo called Asahiyama Zoo and scrumptious ramen aptly named Asahikawa Ramen.

Asahiyama Zoo allows people to watch many kinds of animals up-close and enjoy certain attractions like the famous penguin walks during the winter season and the underwater flights of penguins placed in large glass tunnels.

Asahikawa Ramen, on the other hand, is a soy sauce-based ramen that is quite sinful – very tasty yet oily.

10. Furano

Furano is a town where rolling fields bloom with lovely lavenders in the month of July.

It has rural landscapes that become spots for world-class skiing in the winter season.

Copyright © 2012 Kerlyn Bautista

All Rights Reserved

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