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Hokkaido

A spacious land abundant with nature - Festivals held throughout the four seasons
Hokkaido is an island at Japan's northern extremity, surrounded by sea in all directions. It is an extensive land, accounting for 22% of Japan's total area. Low humidity makes the summers pleasant, while in winter you can enjoy winter sports. The island is gaining popularity as a tourist destination throughout the four seasons.  In Hokkiado you can enjoy the magnificence of nature to your heart's content: Daisetsu-zan National Park, which forms the roof of Hokkaido; the secluded Shiretoko-hanto Peninsula; Kushiro Marsh, home to many precious living things such as Japanese cranes; the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, which is full of volcanoes and lakes; and the ever-changing Shakotan Coast. There are also numerous hot springs, like Noboribetsu-onsen, Jozan-kei-onsen and Soun-kyo-onsen Hot Springs, where you can leisurely get over the tiredness from your journey. In winter there is the Sapporo Snow-matsuri Festival and Monbetsu Ice Floes-matsuri Festival. In summer there is the Furano Lavender-matsuri Festival, as well as port-matsuri festivals in every coastal town to pray for a good catch and safe fishing. Hokkaido boasts over 1,200 festivals and events all year round.

Getting there
Shin-Chitose Airport is 1 hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 2 hours 10 minutes from Osaka Itami Aiport.Around 17 hours by sleeping car from Tokyo to Sapporo.
 

  • Sapporo "Sapporo Station and Odori Avenue Park"
    A trendy shopping center and the location of the Snow Festival
    Sapporo in western Hokkaido is divided up in a grid pattern, and is the largest city on the island. Odori Avenue Park stretches from east to west in the center of the city, and is a symbol of the city - full of art objects, fountains, lilac and acacia plants and lots of flowerbeds. To the north stand trading companies, financial institutions and local government offices, while to the south is a large underground shopping mall, which is always busy as the city's main shopping center. It is directly connected to Sapporo Station, which is the transport hub for all Hokkaido and is the place to board JR Lines, the subway, and both local and tourist buses. The city contains many essential sights, such as the Sapporo City Clock, which has been marking time for over a century; the old Hokkaido government building, a neo-baroque building known as "Red Brick" that is lit up after dark; and the poplars outside Hokkaido University (formerly the Hokkaido Agricultural College). Odori Avenue Park is more than 1,400 meters long. In summer it is full of beer gardens, while in winter it forms the location for the Yuki-matsuri (snow festival) Festival. During the Snow Festival, this big park is lined with magnificent snow statues and beautiful ice statues.

    Getting there
    Shin-Chitose Airport is 1 hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 1 hour 55 minutes from Kansai International Airport. Sapporo Station is 36 minutes from the Airport by JR Rapid Train.

     

  • Hitsujigaoka
    Pastoral scenery with grazing sheep - The venue of the 2002 World Cup
    Hitsujigaoka stretches out on the southeastern side of Sapporo City, which is situated in the southwestern part of Ishikari Plain, Hokkaido. Hitsujigaoka welcomes you with a peaceful and relaxing pastoral view where gently rolling hills and sleepy grazing sheep are in sight. The whole pastureland especially, which glows with a beautiful golden color in the sunset, is really something for you to remember. There is an observation point where many people visit to view the whole scenery of Sapporo City and Ishikari Plain that lies lazily in the distance. In a corner of the observation area, there is a bronze statue of Dr. William S. Clark, an American professor who set up Hokkaido University and was also known as "the father of Hokkaido pioneering." His name is well-known for his famous phrase "Boys, be ambitious." Japanese still often quote this phrase on the many occasions when someone needs encouragement. The statue is lit up at night and it is a popular spot for young people to take photos. Barbequing mutton in what is called "Genghis Khan style" is one of the specialties of Hitsujigaoka. Hitsujigaoka is the venue of the Football 2002 World Cup, which will be co-hosted with Korea. The Sapporo Dome in Hitsujigaoka opened in June 2001 is the 5th all-weather type stadium to be constructed in Japan.

    Getting there
    An hour and 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Shin-Chitose Airport. Thirty-five minutes by JR Chitose Line Rapid Train from Shin-Chitose Airport to Sapporo Station. Thirteen minutes by City Subway from Sapporo Station to Fukuzumi Station. Twelve minutes by bus from Fukuzumi Station to Hitsujigaoka-tenbodai (view spot).

     

  • Mt. Moiwa-yama
    The Moiwa Virgin Forest, a natural monument, and a night view that shines like a sea of light
    The 531-meter-high Mt. Moiwa-yama has wide foothills that stretch into the southwest of Sapporo. It is known for its fine night view, and is popular among local people as a place for dating or just to go and admire the scenery. To get to the summit, take the Moiwa-yama Ropeway from Sanroku Station (5 minutes). Then get on a lift that takes you to the summit (3 minutes). There are attractive coffee shops near the entrance to the ropeway. From the peak, you can of course see the grid shape of the city of Sapporo. You can also see Ishikari Plain, and all the way from Ishikari Bay to the Yubari Mountain Range and Mt. Eniwa-dake near Lake Shikotsu. What is especially beautiful is the night scene of Sapporo shining like a sea of light, and the entertainment district, Susukino glimmering with red and yellow neon lights.

    The northeastern side of Mt. Moiwa-yama is covered in thick vegetation. There are 160 types of trees and plants, including varieties of linden, oak, katsura and wild cherry, and the Moiwa Virgin Forest has been designated a Natural Monument. Also on the mountainside are a museum about the virgin forest and a farm dedicated to the virgin forest. In winter, the south side becomes a ski resort.

    Getting there
    Shin-Chitose Airport is 1 hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport. The streetcar leaves from Nishi 4-chome, near the subway Odori Station, and takes 20 minutes to reach Ropeway Iriguchi Station. The ropeway Sanroku Station is 8 minutes walk away.

     

  • Jozan-kei Valley
    "Sapporo's back parlor" is alongside a ravine. The symbol of Jozan-kei Valley is kappa, the water sprite.
    Jozan-kei (valley)-onsen Hot Spring is located in the southwest of Sapporo along an upstream ravine by the Toyohira-gawa River. Called "Sapporo's back parlor," the spa is surrounded by mountains. It was discovered by a monk called Jozan, and was named after him for the efforts he made to develop it. The spa is known for its plentiful waters, 200,000 liters of which flow every hour. The waters contain a large variety of minerals, including boric acid, sulfur and salt. The symbol of Jozan-kei Valley is the water sprite or kappa. The kappa is an imaginary Japanese animal that lives both on land and in water. It is a funny-shaped hobgoblin, with a plate on its head, webbed hands and feet, and a pointed mouth. It became the guardian spirit of this place from a legend about a young boy who is supposed to have been taken off to the land of the kappa, where he lived happily. Over 20 kappa stand in various poses around the spa town, including the "Great Kappa King." There is also a Kappa Pool, which becomes very lively during the Kappa Festival that takes place in early August.

    There are plenty of facilities for visitors nearby, such as the nature walkway alongside the ravine and Sapporo International Ski Resort. Jozan-kei Valley is also a hub for tourists going over the Nakayama-toge Pass to Lake Toya-ko, and the town is lively throughout the year.

    Getting there
    Shin-Chitose Airport is 1 hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 1 hour 55 minutes from Kansai International Airport. Sapporo Station is 36 minutes from the airport by Rapid Train on the JR Chitose Line. The JR bus from Sapporo Station to Jozan-kei Valley takes 1 hour 20 minutes.

     

  • Maruyama Park
    A park rich in nature with a virgin woods Lions and giraffes in the middle of a snow scene
    Maruyama Park is in the western suburbs of Sapporo, inside the dome-shaped Maruyama hill, 226 meters above sea level. This huge 60,000-square meter area contains a virgin woods with trees like oak, katsura, magnolia and maple, and is a designated natural monument. In spring the park is busy with visitors who flock to see the blooming of more than 1,700 Hokkaido wild cherry trees. At Hokkaido-Jingu Shrine on the hillside, there are giant elm and cypress trees where woodpeckers gather, making it a great place for bird watching.

    Maruyama Zoo contains an aviary for tropical birds and an insect house. The park contains about 200 species of living things. In winter, the zoo is enveloped in snow, and giraffes and lions walk around in the middle of this snow-covered landscape - a strange and wonderful scene you cannot see at any other zoo. A 10-minute bus ride from the park is the Okurayama Ski Jump Slopes, where you can watch ski jump competitions during the season. There are also facilities like ski resorts where you can enjoy winter sports.

    Getting there
    Shin-Chitose Airport is 1 hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport. From Sapporo Station. Take the City Subway Namboku Line to Odori Station (2 minutes). Then take the City Subway Tozai Line from Odori Station to Maruyama-Koen Station (5 minutes).

     

  • Abashiri
    Koshimizu Gensei-kaen: a seaside flower garden - A town where you can see ice floes and cliones
    Abashiri, the largest town on the Okhostk Coast of northeastern Hokkaido, is a product of fishing and tourism. In addition to an abundance of seasonal seafood available throughout the year, it is also blessed with natural beauty such as primeval flower gardens, lakes and ice floes. Abashiri has lots of places to enjoy, such as the Koshimizu Gensei-kaen (Wild Flower Preserve), where about 40 kinds of flowers bloom in spring and summer; Lake Notori-ko, where coral weed makes the surface red as if a carpet had been laid over it; Lake Saroma-ko, which is separated from the sea by a long, thin sandbar; and Lake Tofutsu-ko, famous for its swans.

    Mt. Tento-zan in the suburbs is a great place from which to view Abashiri. In the Okhostk Ryuhyo-kan (Ice Floe Museum) you can see real ice flows even in the middle of summer, and experience a temperature of minus 15 degrees. You can also see a type of conch called a clione, whose back is plumed like a fairy tale angel, and is known as the "angel of the ice flows." Ice floes arrive in Abashiri every year in late January. An icebreaking tourist boat leaves Wakkanai Port, enabling you to see the beautiful, rough blue ice floes.

    Getting there
    Memambetsu Airport is 2 hours 40 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 2 hours 5 minutes from Kansai International Airport. Abashiri Station is 5 hours 19 minutes by Limited Express from Sapporo Station on the JR Hakodate Honsen and Sekihoku Honsen Lines.

     

  • Akan
    The infinite sky that creates a sea of clouds and stardust - A lake of mystery that bears spherical moss
    The Akan National Park is a mountainous park that stretches across the eastern part of Hokkaido. The park includes a group of volcanoes, such as Mt. Meakan-dake, Mt. Oakan-dake and Mt. Akanfuji, which are situated around three famous volcanic lakes - Lake Akan-ko, Lake Kussharo-ko and Lake Mashu-ko. The Akan National Park is a very popular destination for its magnificent panoramic views and hot-spring baths. Since the park is situated inland, the temperature fluctuates rather sharply - it may rise as high as 30 degrees centigrade on a hot summer's day but it can fall as low as 10 degrees centigrade in early morning and at night due to the radiative cooling phenomenon. This phenomenon often produces a sea of beautiful clouds that can be viewed from high elevation locations. Glittery stardust that completely fills the night sky and spectacular soft rimes provide further delights for the eyes in winter. Lake Akan-ko is a lake of mystery and beauty. It is well known for marimo - curious looking spherical moss, which is a natural monument and is unique to the lake. Mt. Oakan-dake elegantly looks over the eastern shore of Lake Akan-ko. Lake Mashu-ko is internationally famous for its highest level of clarity in the world. There is also a primeval forest of spruce and white fir. The Akan National Park attracts many visitors throughout the year with its magnificent scenic wonderland.

    Those who visit the Akan National Park can see traditional Ainu (the natives of Hokkaido) dances at their kotan (village), and enjoy other outdoor activities such as canoeing, mountain bike tours and camping. Hot-spring baths on the lakeside will surely help you to unwind and relax at the end of an exciting day.

    Getting there
    An hour 35 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Kushiro Airport. Two hours 5 minutes from Kansai International Airport. An hour 10 minutes from Kushiro Airport to Lake Akan-ko by bus.

     

  • Asahikawa
    A thriving world of art set against the magnificent background of Mt. Daisetsu-zan
    Asahikawa is located almost in the center of Hokkaido, and is the second largest city after Sapporo. With the magnificent Mt. Daisetsu-zan in the background, and 120 rivers flowing through the town, it is full of natural splendor. It is also the gateway for tourism to Soun-kyo Gorge and Furano. Asahikawa's thriving art world has led it to be called a town for art. Fountains and sculptures dot the shopping park in Heiwa-dori Avenue, the road that leads straight from Asahikawa Station. Situated on a hill overlooking the town, the Hokkaido Traditional Arts and Crafts Village is full of buildings resembling castles from the Middle Ages in Europe, and has the atmosphere of an amusement park. There is a gallery of works using the world-famous Yukara-ori, the traditional textile fabric of Hokkaido, from which you can get a better understanding of traditional Japanese crafts.

    The Ban'ei horse race at Asahikawa Horse Race Track is a race unique to Hokkaido. Horses compete on horsepower and the speed with which they can pull an iron sleigh. Ban'ei horses are said to have twice the power of thoroughbreds, and the races are powerful and dynamic. Also, Asahikawa has a ramen (noodle soup) area the equal of that in Sapporo, and its countless ramen restaurants are always busy.

    Getting there
    Asahikawa Airport is 1 hour 35 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 2 hours from Kansai International Airport. Asahikawa Station is 1 hour 28 minutes from Sapporo Station by Limited Express on the JR Hakodate Honsen Line.

     

  • Erimo-misaki Point
    A cape where a mountain range juts into the Pacific Ocean - You might even meet seals
    Erimo-misaki Point is a cape at the south of the Hidaka Mountain Range that stretches for 150 kilometers in eastern Hokkaido, thus giving it the nickname of "the backbone of Hokkaido." The cape juts into the Pacific Ocean, and at its tip are cliffs standing over 60 meters high that were formed by sea erosion. The mountain range becomes a reef that stretches offshore for several kilometers, and the white breaking waves are magnificent, creating a dynamic scene. Because the cape stands at the meeting point of warm and cold currents, sea fog is often created around the cape. As a whole, the cape has been designated the Hidaka-Sanmyaku-Erimo-Misaki Quasi-National Park.

    The area is one of the windiest in Japan, with winds of over 10 meters per second blowing for 290 days a year. This means agriculture has not developed here, and no tall trees have grown. The Erimo-misaki Point Wind Museum is a museum dedicated to wind, and contains monitors showing the weather in different parts of the world, as well as a facility that lets visitors experience wind of 25 meters per second. Using the binoculars provided in the observatory, you can watch the seals that sometimes appear on the reef.

    Getting there
    Shin-Chitose Airport is 1 hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 1 hour 55 minutes from Kansai International Airport. Take the JR Chitose Line to Tomakomai Station, 41 minutes from Sapporo Station, then change to the JR Hidaka Honsen Line and get off at Samani Station, 3 hours 15 minutes from Tomakomai Station. From Samani Station, the JR bus takes 1 hour to Erimo-misaki Point.

     

  • Furano
    "The navel town" - the center of Hokkaido - Irresistible fragrance invite you into fields of lavender.
    Furano is situated along the middle reaches of the Sorachi-gawa River in the central part of Hokkaido and it belongs to the Furano-Ashibetsu Nature Park. Because of its geographical position, which is almost right in the middle of Hokkaido, Furano has a unique nickname - "the navel town." Every summer, the humorous navel festival is held in Furano, during which 3,000 participants draw funny faces on their bellies and dance around in the main street.

    Furano's natural beauty is very much appreciated in all seasons throughout the year - beautiful stardust in the winter sky, charming mizubasho, Japanese skunk cabbage flowers on the roadside in spring, the inviting fragrance of lavender in summer, and the gloriously red and yellow tinted leaves in autumn. The name "Furano" actually originates from the Ainu (Hokkaido's natives) word furanui - fragrant flame. Furano has created the Furano Lavender no-mori (lavender woods) to commemorate its 80-year history of municipal government. Many people visit the lavender-no-mori in summer when the lavender bloom is at its best. Strolling along the path through the forest of sweetly scented lavender is really a must when you visit Furano in summer. You can also enjoy outdoor activities in Furano all year round. Rafting trips down the Sorachi-gawa River and hot-air ballooning are organized by the Alpine Visitor's Center, and Kitano-mine Peak is a popular ski resort in winter.

    Getting there
    An hour 35 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Asahikawa Airport. Two hours from Osaka Itami Airport. An hour by bus from Asahikawa Airport to Furano Station.

     

  • Hakodate
    Morning market for a rich variety of seafood - City architecture with a harmonious blend of Japanese and Western cultures
    Located in the southwest of Hokkaido and facing the Tsugaru Strait, Hakodate developed as a port town for trading with foreign countries at the end of the 19th century, and is a gateway of Hokkaido connected with Honshu (the main island of Japan) Island by the Seikan Tunnel.

    At the bay area near the railway station, a morning fair is held where more than 360 stalls packed tightly together attract shoppers with freshly caught squid, scallops, salmon eggs, Atka mackerels, and many other fishes and shellfishes. Five minute's walk will take you to the moored Seikan Strait ferryboat named Mashu Maru Memorial Ship, which used to link Aomori in Honshu with Hokkaido. There is a restaurant and a coffee shop at the bow where you can spend a nice, relaxing time viewing the scenery around the port.

    The area around Motomachi maintains a congenial blend of Japanese and Western cultures in the Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward, an important cultural property, as well as the old British Consulate with its tea lounge, Haristo Sei-kyokai or the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Higashi-Hongan-ji branch temple. At the waterfront overlooking the Hakodate Port, there is a shopping mall of remodeled red brick warehouses, the Old Kanamori Haberdashery Museum and Hakodate Beer Hall.

    Getting there
    An hour 20 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Hakodate Airport. An hour 40 minutes from Kansai International Airport to Hakodate Airport

     

  • Hakodate and Environs
    The night view of Hakodate is deemed one of the world's three most spectacular night views along with Hong Kong and Naples.
    There are numerous scenic spots around Hakodate City, which is located at the tip of the Oshima-hanto Peninsula in the southern part of Hokkaido. Mt. Hakodate-yama, situated to the southwest of Hakodate, facing the Tsugaru Straits, is also known as Mt. Ka-gyu-san because its shape resembles that of a cow lying down (ka meaning "lying down" and gyu meaning "cow"). A cable car travels 835 meters to the summit, 332 meters above sea level. From the all-weather observatory overlooking the port of Hakodate and the city, visitors can enjoy magnificent views in all directions, including views of the Shimokita-hanto Peninsula and Tsugaru-hanto Peninsula to the south. In particular the night view of Hakodate, counted among the world's three best night views along with those of Hong Kong and Naples, is even more memorable when accompanied by lights of squid boats out at sea.

    The Trappistine Convent, 30 minutes by bus from Hakodate Station, was founded by eight sisters sent from France in 1898, and has statues of the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc in the front courtyard. Yunokawa-onsen Hot Spring at the mouth of the Matsukura-gawa River flowing into the Tsugaru Straits is a popular swimming spot in summer. It is also known for the beauty of its squid-boat lights during summer and autumn nights. The hot spring is popular among people of Hakodate for leisure activities and relaxation because of its convenient location only five kilometers from the center of Hakodate.

    Getting there
    An hour 20 minutes to Hakodate Airport from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 1 hour 35 minutes from Kansai International Airport. Around 30 minutes by bus to Trappistine Convent from Hakodate Station, and 30 minutes to the Yunokawa-onsen by streetcar.

     

  • Kushiro
    The port town of illusion that lies in the mist - The Japan's largest marshland - Kushiro Marsh
    Kushiro, which is well-known as "the town of mist," is situated in the southeastern part of Hokkaido, facing the Pacific Ocean. Kushiro plays a leading role in the east of Hokkaido in politics, economics and culture. The marine products industry of Kushiro has flourished since the early 20th century and the long and narrow city centering on Kushiro Port still retains many features in the streets of the early 20th century port town. There was once a famous poet and novelist, Takuboku Ishikawa, who lived in Kushiro in those days so there is also a literary atmosphere to the city. The monument of Takuboku Ishikawa can be found in Yonemachi Park where you can enjoy a fantastic view of Kushiro Port from an observation point. If you would like to treat yourself to gourmet cooking or would like to enjoy shopping, Kushiro Fishermen's Wharf MOO is the place to go. This is a very popular place for local people and visitors and there is always a lively, cheerful and welcoming atmosphere.

    In the north of Kushiro, Japan's largest marshland, Kushiro Marsh, stretches out over the majority of the Kushiro Plain. Kushiro Marsh is listed as a National Park. Kushiro Tancho Nature Park is known for the first successful artificial breeding of Tancho cranes (Japanese cranes), which are designated natural monuments. There are currently about 20 Tancho cranes settling in the park. They can be seen all year-round.

    Getting there
    An hour 35 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Kushiro Airport. An hour 40 minutes from Kansai International Airport. Forty minutes by bus from Kushiro Airport to Kushiro Station.

     

  • Kushiro Marsh
    Two thousand varieties of animals and plants live in Japan's biggest marsh
    In eastern Hokkaido, Kushiro stretches out right to the north of Kushiro. This is a huge marsh with an overall area of 183 square kilometers, and was the first Japanese marshland registered under the Ramsar Convention on wetlands. Two thousand varieties of animals and plants live here, including Hokkaido deer and the white-tailed sea eagle. In summer, all sorts of wild flowers bloom, while in winter the Japanese crane, a designated special natural monument, flies in.

    To view the wide marshland, observation points have been set up in the surrounding hills. At the marsh observatory in Kushiro, a sightseeing walkway has been set up so that you can walk around the marsh. The Hoso'oka Observatory has great views - of the winding Kushiro-gawa River beneath, and the Akan Mountain Range in the distance.

    In summer, the sightseeing train Norokko shows visitors the marsh as it slowly makes its way from Kushiro Station to Shibecha Station. There are also plenty of other ways to enjoy the marsh, such as canoeing for 9 kilometers down the river from Lake Toro to Hoso'oka, looking down at the marsh from 50 meters in a hot air balloon, or riding dosanko, a Hokkaido-bred horse.

    Getting there
    Kushiro Airport is 1 hour 35 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 2 hours 5 minutes from Kansai International Airport. Kushiro Station is 3 hours 32 minutes from Sapporo Station by Limited Express on the JR Nemuro Honsen Line.

     

  • Lake O-numa
    A lake with islands connected by 18 bridges - Art nouveau glasswork
    Lake O-numa located in the southern part of Hokkaido is part of the O-numa National Park, together with the nearby Ko-numa Marsh and Junsai-numa Marsh. Lake O-numa is 24 kilometers in circumference and was formed by the eruption of Mt. Koma-ga-take. It has 126 islands, large and small, and is famous for the spectacular views of these islands connected by 18 bridges. It takes approximately 60 minutes to walk around the lake through a series of arched bridges, including Kogetsu-bashi Bridge, Ukishima-bashi Bridge, and Hinode-bashi Bridge. Visitors can also enjoy a circuit of the lake by rented bicycle, pleasure boats operating from spring through autumn, or an exciting motorboat ride. The lake is renowned as an attractive spot to watch the sunset in summer among a beautiful display of mizubasho (Japanese skunk cabbage) flowers.

    In the neighborhood is the O-numa Venetian Glass Museum, which displays some 170 pieces of elegant art nouveau glass works, such as those of Emile Gare. These works include a superb lace-glass pitcher - one of only three of its kind left in the world. Visitors can also sample low-fat O-numa beef, milk straight from the farm, soft cream, O-numa-brewed beer, and enjoy other tasty treats. O-numa is a well-equipped resort area with facilities for horseback riding, tennis and golf as well.

    Getting there
    An hour 20 minutes to Hakodate Airport from Tokyo Haneda Airport, or 1 hour 35 minutes from Kansai International Airport. Twenty minutes to O-numa Station from Hakodate Station by JR Hakodate Honsen Line Limited Express.

     

  • Lake Shikotsu-ko
    Known as the most northerly lake that does not freeze over - Clear water with visibility of 25 meters
    Lake Shikotsu-ko is in southwestern Hokkaido in the west of the city of Chitose. It is a crater lake that was formed over 30,000 years ago by volcanic activity, and has a maximum depth of 360 meters, making it the second deepest lake in Japan. It is an oligotrophic lake with 25 meters visibility, and does not freeze in most winters. This makes it the most northerly lake that does not freeze over. The eastern lakeshore near the mouth of the Chitose-gawa River is the center for tourists, and has hotels and pickup points for pleasure boats. Other facilities include Hokkaido's largest campsite and a wild bird observatory on the southeast shore, and a national campsite on the west shore. On 10-meter-high bluff rock faces that stretch for 500 meters, is a cave mouth covered thickly with about 30 varieties of moss. It has a lustrous, dreamlike beauty.

    In summer, people enjoy boating on the lake - in pleasure boat tours, cruisers and motorboats - or they fish for rainbow trout or go scuba diving. In winter the Chitose-Shikotsuko-Hyobaku-matsuri Festival (Ice Fall Festival) features objects made out of ice from the lake water, which are lit up to produce a fantastic spectacle.

    Getting there
    Shin-Chitose Airport is 1 hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 1 hour 55 minutes from Kansai International Airport. The JR bus from Chitose Airport to Shikotsu-kohan terminal takes 40 minutes.

     

  • Lake Toya-ko
    A lakeside spa resort - Spirals of white smoke above Showa Shinzan Volcano
    Lake Toya-ko, which is situated in the southwestern part of Hokkaido, belongs to the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Repetitive volcanic activity in the early 20th century created a depression in the ground, giving birth to Lake Toya-ko as a result. This wide lake lies 200-500 meters below the outer rim of the crater. The active volcano that stands proudly near the lake with white smoke rising above it is Mt. Showa Shinzan. The volcano was elevated when the ground cracked during a huge earthquake in 1943. Toya-ko-onsen Hot Spring, which stretches out along the 43-kilometer diameter crater lake, is one of the best spa resorts in Hokkaido.

    Lake Toya-ko is an ice-free lake. It never freezes even in winter when the temperature falls quite drastically. The beauty of this northernmost ice-free lake can therefore be admired anytime throughout the year. There is a little island called Nakano-shima in the middle of the lake and on it, there is Toya-ko Lake Forest Museum, which is a part of the sightseeing boat route. Trout and smelt fishing are very popular sports in and around the lake.

    There are many places of interest around Lake Toya-ko including the Volcano Science Museum where they show visual images of the eruption that occurred in 1977 with a special sound system. There also camping sites that are well facilitated around the lake.

    Getting there
    An hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Shin-Chitose Airport. An hour 55 minutes from Kansai International Airport. An hour 20 minutes by JR Chitose Line Limited Express from Shin-Chitose Airport, change at Minami Chitose Station to Toya Station.

     

  • Matsumae
    The only castle town in Hokkaido that proudly boasts 10,000 cherry trees in 250 varieties
    Matsumae Town is situated at the southern tip of Oshima-hanto Peninsula, which protrudes into Tsugaru Channel at the southern part of Hokkaido. Matsumae is the northernmost castle town in Japan and it has played a central role in Hokkaido pioneering in politics, culture and economics since Matsumae (Fukuyama) Castle was built in the 17th century. There is a reference library inside the beautifully restored castle tower of Matsumae Castle, which tells you a lot about the local history. Matsumae Park, which has been created around the castle ruins, proudly boasts as many as 10,000 cherry trees in 250 varieties and is much loved by local people as a place for recreation and relaxation. There is a reference library at the park, where you can learn about cherry trees, and cherry blossom-related paintings and artifacts are on display.

    There are many other places to visit around the castle ruins, including Hogen-ji Temple that is proud of its gateway, the most ancient in all of Hokkaido. The gateway of Aun-ji Temple was originally Matsumae Castle's gate, and Matsumae-han Yashiki is a theme park of a replica village of the whole Matsumae Clan area in the 1850's when the town prospered with 30,000 people in 8,000 households. There are also festivals held in Matsumae such as the Cherry Blossom Festival in spring, which is the best known in all of Japan for the numerous varieties of cherries, and Joka-matsuri Festival (the Samurai Warrior Festival) that is held in summer with a spectacular parade of decorative floats.

    Getting there
    An hour 20 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Hakodate Airport. An hour 35 minutes from Kansai International Airport. Twenty minutes by bus from Hakodate Airport to Hakodate Station. Two hours 50 minutes by bus from Hakodate Station to Matsumae.

     

  • Mt. E-san
    Over 600 kinds of alpine plants - Distinctive wine-red hot springs
    Mt. E-san, located in the southeast of the Kameda-hanto Peninsula extending into the Pacific Ocean from the south of Hokkaido is an active volcano 618 meters above sea level, and a part of the E-san-do-ritsu Nature Park. Mt. E-san offers a scenic location commanding a panoramic view from Mt. Yotei-zan to Mt. Komaga-take, and on a fine day, as far as the Shimokita-hanto Peninsula in Aomori Prefecture. Over 600 varieties of alpine plants, including azaleas and cowlberries, flower with one another in beauty in the volcano's crater, and E-san Tsutsuji-matsuri Festival (E-san azalea festival) is held each year in early summer. Another seasonal highlight is that of the autumn colors, which set the whole mountainside ablaze with color.

    At the foot of Mt. E-san is the E-san-onsen Hot Spring, renowned for its distinctive wine-red color since the latter half of the 19th century. At Todo-Hokke-mura Todai Family Hakubutsukan (Todo-Hokke-mura Village Lighthouse Family Museum) on the northern side, visitors can marvel at the constellations glittering on the ceiling, and compare the blasts of different foghorns, including those used by lighthouses, to warn passing ships of hazards. At the Mizunashi-Kaihin-onsen Hot Spring there is a bathtub right at the seashore, where visitors can enjoy an open-air bath with the added attraction of relaxing views of the countryside, with the sea and Mt. E-san in the distance. The temperature of the bath changes at low tide.

    Getting there
    An hour 20 minutes to Hakodate Airport from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 1 hour 35 minutes from Kansai International Airport. An hour 45 minutes by bus from Hakodate Station to E-san Tozanguchi.

     

  • Noboribetsu
    Jigoku-dani Valley, fuming with volcanic gas - Noboribetsu primeval forest with mixed broad-leafed trees
    Noboribetsu in southwestern Hokkaido contains Noboribetsu-onsen, Karurusu-onsen, Noboritbetsu-rinkai-onsen Hot Springs, and has a rich variety of scenery including forests, lakes and marshes. It has been designated a part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Noboribetsu-onsen is one of Hokkaido's best-known hot springs, and is surrounded by virgin forest 200 meters above sea level. It has over 10 kinds of water, containing minerals such as hydrogen sulfide, salt, and iron. The quality of these minerals means the spa ranks among the world's most exceptional hot springs.

    The most impressive scene at the hot spring is Jigoku-dani Valley (hell valley), where yellowy gray volcanic gas is given off from the surface of the rocks. This makes the whole place smell strongly of sulfur, and gives it an image of hell. The valley is a 450-meter diameter volcano mouth, which produces 3,000 liters of hot water a day. In the northeastern part of the hot spring grow many sorts of wide-leafed trees, including oaks and a bamboo grass called kumaizasa. This is called Noboribetsu Genshirin, or primeval forest, and has been designated a natural monument. Around Shiho-mine Peak to the west, there is a bear farm where you can see brown bears. From the mountain summit you can view Lake Kuttara-ko, whose clear water is the second most transparent in Japan.

    Getting there
    Shin-Chitose Airport is 1 hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport. Noboribetsu Station is 37 minutes from Minami Chitose Station by special express on JR Muroran Honsen Line. The JR bus from Noboribetsu Station to the hot spring area takes 13 minutes.

     

  • Nosappu
    From the oldest lighthouse in Hokkaido on the easternmost end of the island, view Kunashiri, Shikotan, and Habomai Islands
    Nosappu Point is located at the tip of Nemuro-hanto Peninsula, a part of eastern Hokkaido known for its production of crabs called Hanasakigani. This is the eastern extremity of Hokkaido, and is visited early in the morning by people who want to be the first to see the sun rise in the world. At its tip stands the oldest lighthouse in Hokkaido, which was built in 1872. The peninsula consists almost completely of pasture, and presents a quiet scene of grazing.

    The white tower on Nosappu Point that rises above everything else is Heiwa-no-to, the Tower of Peace. If you climb up to the 90-meter high observation deck you can get a 360-degree panoramic view of the area. On a clear day, the islands of Kunashiri, Shikotan and Habomai can be seen. Spread against the horizon, they make a grand view. There are lakes and marshes throughout the peninsula, some large and some small, and they form a paradise for wild birds. One of these lakes, Lake Furen-ko, is known for its giant swans.

    Getting there
    It takes 1 hour 40 minutes to Nemuro-Nakashibetsu Airport from Tokyo Haneda Airport. Nosappu is 40 minutes by bus from Nemuro Station. Kushiro Station is 3 hours 32 minutes from Sapporo Station by Limited Express, and Nemuro Station is 2 hours 10 minutes by Rapid Train from Kushiro Station, both on the JR Nemuro Honsen Line.

     

  • Notsuke-hanto Peninsula
    Fields, marshes and Japan's largest sandbank - Fir trees washed and withered by seawater
    Notsuke-hanto Peninsula has a strange shape said to be like a shrimp's bent back. This has been formed by sea currents moving the sand and earth that has been flushed out of the Shibetsu-gawa River. Located in eastern Hokkaido, this expanse of land stretches like a fine thread between the Nemuro Straits and Notsuke Bay. It is made up of fields and marshes, and at 28 kilometers is Japan's largest branching sandbank.

    On this peninsula can be seen woods of withered trees called Todowara (fir straw) Woods. This is the result of fir trees growing on the Notsuke-hanto Peninsula that were washed by seawater until they withered. Their trunks and roots have become like skeletons, and stand exposed in clumps in the green marsh. There are also woods called Mizunara (beech trees) and Narawara (oak straw), which were formed by beeches and oaks that had been blown and withered by strong winds till they bent. There is a wooden path here that takes 20 minutes to walk along, and which makes it easy for visitors to see the woodland. Near Todowara Woods is the Notsuke Gensei-kaen (Wild Flower Preserve), where many varieties of flower bloom in summer, such as Japanese bush clover, sweet brier and the Hokkaido yellow day lily. At the end of Todowara Woods is a wharf, from which pleasure boats depart for trips around the 1 to 5 meters deep shallows of Notsuke Bay.

    Getting there
    Nemuro-Nakashibetsu Airport is 1 hour 45 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport. From the airport, it takes 30 minutes by bus.

     

  • Obihiro
    Easy to get about in Obihiro City - Canoeing, hot-air ballooning, hot-spring baths and more around - Lake Shikaribetsu-ko
    Obihiro occupies the central part of the Tokachi Plain along the middle reaches of the Tokachi-gawa River in the southeastern part of Hokkaido and it is the center of the region in politics, economics and logistics. The city center is divided into sections like a checkerboard, which imitates that of Washington, D.C. in the USA, so it is therefore very easy to get about even if you are very new to the city. The magnificent Midori-ga-oka Park and Suiko-en Garden, which are located 1 kilometers from the city center, are proud of their 50 hectares of green area. Obihiro-Hyakunen-kinenkan (Obihiro's 100th Anniversary Hall) in the park was built in 1982 and contains many references and much information about Obihiro's history. Wildlife habitats that symbolize the nature of Tokachi are also on display here. There is also a memorial museum of Naomi Uemura - the great mountaineer - near the park. In summer, an idyllic view is created when Yachiyo Public Farm puts 1,500 cows out to pasture.

    Lake Shikaribetsu-ko is another place for you to visit. This beautiful lake is situated at the southeastern tip of the Taisetsu-zan National Park and is surrounded by a primeval forest of white fir and spruce. Canoeing and hot-air ballooning can be enjoyed on the southwestern side of Lake Shikaribetsu-ko. Tokachi-onsen Hot Spring is an ideal place for you to relax. Tokachi-onsen Hot Spring is famous for its high quality spring water - very smooth to the skin, which bubbles out of the center of Tokachi Plain. It is a very popular spa resort that links Taisetsu and Akan.

    Getting there
    An hour 35 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Obihiro Airport. Two hours 20 minutes from Kansai International Airport. Thirty-seven minutes by bus from Obihiro Airport to Obihiro Station.

     

  • On'neyu-onsen Hot Spring
    A cuckoo clock with mechanical dolls and a pink-tinged azalea mountain
    Opened in 1890, On'neyu-onsen Hot Spring is one of Hokkaido's leading hot spring resorts. It is in Rubeshibe-cho, a town in northeastern Hokkaido more than 30 kilometers away from Kitami, which is known for its peppermint production. The riverbanks are lined with hotels, and at sunset the hot spring area is bustling with people going out for walks.

    Its highlight is the symbol of On'neyu-onsen Hot Spring, the world's biggest cuckoo clock. This symbolizes a town that developed as an accumulation point for lumber. The clock is 20 meters high and built in a spiral shape. Every day at midday, mechanical dolls appear, and music plays. The hot spring is also famous for the Hokkaido purple azalea, which has been designated a natural monument. In early summer, as many as 280,000 flowers on azalea bushes along the riverbank are awash in pink.

    Nearby is a northern fox farm, where the northern fox, one of Hokkaido's most famous animals, is bred. The rare silver fox can be seen here. Also, at the town aquarium and local museum can be found Japan's biggest freshwater fish, the itou, a type of salmon known as the "phantom fish" due to it being designated an endangered species.

    Getting there
    Memambetsu Airport is 1 hour 40 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport. An hour 15 minutes by Limited Express from Abashiri Station to Rubeshibe Station, on the JR Sekihoku Honsen Line. The bus to On'neyu-onsen Hot Spring takes 20 minutes from Rubeshibe Station.

     

  • Otaru
    The retro town and the canal create a nostalgic mood.
    Otaru is situated in the western part of Hokkaido, facing Ishikari-wan Bay. It has developed and prospered as "the sea entrance of Hokkaido" over the last 100 years and it has gained the nickname "Wall Street of the north." The glassworks shops, coffee shops, restaurants and shopping malls along the canal have been converted from stone-built or brick-built warehouses, which were used for storage when the canal was crowded with jostling barges in former flourishing days of commerce. When night falls, oil lamps on the cobbled streets are lit. The town gently evokes a nostalgic mood.

    Otaru's nickname is "the town of hills" as there are so many hills including Jigoku-zaka (the hill from hell) - a very steep slope - and the long-winding Funami-zaka. Mt. Tengu-yama that towers behind Otaru becomes a popular ski resort in winter. There is an observation point on Mt. Tengu-yama and the panoramic view including the whole of Otaru and its port is absolutely wonderful. There are also cable cars to the mountaintop. The coastal area in the suburb of Otaru belongs to the Niseko-Shakotan-Otaru-Beach Quasi-National Park and beauty spots including Otamoi Cliffs attract many visitors especially in summer.

    Getting there
    An hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Shin-Chitose Airport. An hour 55 minutes from Kansai International Airport. An hour 11 minutes by JR Chitose and Hakodate Line Rapid Train from Shin-Chitose Airport to Otaru Station.

     

  • Shakotan and Niseko
    Blue sea and fantastic crags - Shakotan, where the cliffs extend Niseko, where you can enjoy outdoor sports
    The Shakotan-hanto Peninsula, in western Hokkaido, juts into the Sea of Japan and forms a beautiful coastline full of variety and clear water. The area from O-gon-misaki Point to the Shakotan-misaki Point and Kamui-misaki Point is Hokkaido's only sea park. Rental cars are available at the station in Yoichi, which is at the base of the peninsula. Using this as a starting point, you can drive around the peninsula on a single road. A seabed sightseeing boat leaves from Bikuni Port, and you can see Shakotan's blue sea from the underwater glass observation room. Also, the Yoichi Uchu-Kinenkan (Yoichi Space Memorial Museum) commemorates Mamoru Mori, the astronaut who was born here. There, you can experience being a space shuttle pilot through a simulation device.

    Niseko is a large resort area encompassing Mt. Yotei-zan, which looks like Mt. Fuji, and has the Niseko Range of peaks at its center. You can easily enjoy a variety of outdoor sports throughout the year, including skiing, hiking and rafting. There are also so many hot springs that it is said to take six days to visit them all, even if you bathe three times a day. There is also a park where fresh water gushes out from Mt. Yotei-zan: this is known as the source of one of Japan's 100 best-tasting water.

    Getting there
    Shin-Chitose Airport is 1 hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 1 hour 55 minutes from Kansai International Airport. Yoichi Station is 55 minutes from Sapporo Station on the JR Hakodate Honsen Line. Niseko is 1 hour 38 minutes from Sapporo Station on the JR Hakodate Honsen Line.

     

  • Shiretoko
    An unexplored region where the cliffs stretch for miles, and cormorants and white-tailed sea eagles live
    Shiretoko-hanto Peninsula in northeastern Hokkaido juts out into the Sea of Okhotsk. It is said to be the last unexplored region of Japan, and consists of steep mountain peaks covered with virgin forest. Cormorants and white-tailed sea eagles live there, and the whole area has been designated a national park. The towns called Utoro and Rausu on the eastern side of the peninsula are the starting points for tourists. Vistors can see the whole of the peninsula and its cliffs by boarding a sightseeing boat that departs from Utoro Port. Shiretoko is known as a waterfall kingdom, and many waterfalls can be seen from the sightseeing boat: the warm-water Kamuiwakkayu no-taki Falls, which gives off steam; Furepe-no-taki Falls, which is so beautiful it is called "maiden's tears"; and Oshinkoshin-no-taki Falls, which flows alongside a road and drops magnificently towards the sea. There are also Lake Shiretoko-go-ko (five lakes), which are small, quiet lakes surrounded by virgin forest, and known as "the five jewels." You can walk round these five lakes in about an hour. In winter, the coasts of Shiretoko are sometimes surrounded by ice floes.

    Utoro and Rausu are connected by the Shiretoko Odan Road. They are known for Rausu konbu, a kind of seaweed, and hot springs that bubble up into the sea. Makkausu is a cave formed by sea erosion, and has luminous moss growing on it.

    Getting there
    Memanbetsu Airport is 1 hour 40 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 2 hours 5 minutes from Kansai International Airport. A bus from the Memanbetsu Airport takes 2 hours 15 minutes to Utoro.

     

  • Soun-kyo Gorge
    A hot spring with plentiful hot water and a giant gorge bordered by cliffs that stretches for 24 kilometers
    Soun-kyo Gorge is situated at the foot of Mt. Daisetsu-zan, which is called the roof of Hokkaido. Soun-kyo Gorge is a giant gorge consisting of 100-meter cliffs formed by the erosion of tuff, and forms the center of the Daisetsu-zan National Park. The hot spring boasts magnificent scenery and plentiful hot water, and attracts 3 million visitors a year.

    The gorge contains lots of waterfalls, of which the Ryusei-no-taki Falls ("shooting star" falls) and Ginga-no-taki Falls ("Milky Way" falls) are especially worth seeing. At both these waterfalls, water falls directly over the cliff, giving them a sense of power. Obako and Kobako are said to be the most beautiful places in the gorge. Obako features wide rock faces that resemble byobu (folding screens), while Kobako has many fantastic crags. You can rent bicycles here. If you change from the Daisetsu-zan Soun-kyo Ropeway to the Kuro-dake Lift, you can climb to 1,700 meters and enjoy a magnificent view of Mt. Daisetsu-zan. Soun-kyo-onsen Hot Spring is in the middle of the gorge, and is full of modern hotels. In summer the gorge fire festival takes place, while in mid-winter there is Hyobaku-matsuri (an icefall festival).

    Getting there
    Asahikawa Airport is 1 hour 35 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 2 hours from Kansai International Airport. Take the JR Hakodate Honsen Line from Sapporo Station to Asahikawa Station, 1 hour 25 minutes by Limited Express. From Asahikawa Station, take a JR bus to Soun-kyo Gorge in 1 hour 50 minutes.

     

  • Wakkanai
    The "wind town" sandwiched by two seas - Soya Point - the northernmost point on Hokkaido
    Wakkanai, the most northerly point in Hokkaido, is a port town sandwiched between the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk. It is called the "wind town" because strong winds blow on so many days. The port is a center for bringing in rich catches of shellfish, such as crab, sea urchin and scallop. It also has ferries going to the Rishiri-to Island and Rebun-to Island, both of which are designated as national parks. Along the coastline is one of the few seawalls in the world that is shaped like a Greek temple. It is in the shape of a 427-meter half-arch, and contains a walkway inside.

    A 10-minute bus ride from Wakkanai Station is Noshappu Point, the location of Wakkanai Lighthouse - the tallest in Hokkaido. The cape is known as a place where you can watch the sun set beautifully below the horizon of the sea. Thirty kilometers east of Wakkanai is Soya Point, the northernmost point in Hokkaido. This has a stone monument in the shape of a triangular pyramid, which was built in the image of the Pole Star. On a clear day, you can see the outline of Sakhalin Island 43 kilometers away.

    Getting there
    Wakkanai Airport is 1 hour 45 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport. The journey takes 3 hours 35 minutes from Kansai International Airport via Shin-Chitose Airport. Wakkanai is 4 hours 58 minutes from Sapporo Station by Limited Express on the JR Hakodate Honsen Line and Soya Honsen Line.

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  Information provided by Japan National Tourist Organization.

 

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