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Region
Hokkaido
Island
Hokkaido
Largest City
Sapporo
Population
5,682,950

Hokkaido

Japan's epic northern wilderness

It's a whole new world on the northern island of Hokkaido.

The northernmost and least developed of Japan’s main islands, Hokkaido is a vision of untamed, epic wilderness. It’s wild bears roaming in the deep green forests, hawks circling above crystal clear lakes and smoking craters, rugged shores and offshore islands within touching distance of Russia.

It’s also home to the Ainu, Japan’s indigenous population of hunter-gatherers who are fighting to maintain their way of life as globalization looms.

Heavy snowfall during the winter attracts skiers and snowboarders to the powder capital of Japan, Niseko, while mild summers see the mountains almost overrun with city-dwellers looking for relief from the muggy climate of the main island. There are National Parks galore; Shiretoko, a World Heritage site, and Daisetsuzan are the most popular.

eneral view of people snowboarding on a tree-lined piste in the Niseko Grand Hirafu ski resort, Hokkaido, Japan. Mt Yotei can be seen in the background.

Niseko scores top points for apres-ski culture.

Sapporo is the bustling capital city of Hokkaido. It’s actually Japan’s fifth largest city having grown from a population of seven people to approximately two million in just over one hundred years. The annual snow festival in February, which displays gravity-defying snow sculptures throughout the streets, and the famous Sapporo beer, have established the city as a tourist destination in its own right.

Goryokaku Park in Hakodate, Hokkaido

Miss Japan: Hakodate boasts the title of ‘Japan’s most attractive city’.

The harbor city of Hakodate, at the island’s southern tip, was one of the earliest cities in Japan to open to international trade and there’s some exceptional seafood to be had along its cosmopolitan streets. Smaller, but just as perfectly formed, Otaru is a canal-lined port city also famed for its food. Asahikawa, the second largest city in Hokkaido after Sapporo, is worth a visit for its exceptional zoo.

Canals of Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan.

Canal-lined Otaru is sometimes called the Venice of the North.

Hokkaido is world-famous for its seafood and fish, especially crab and sea-urchin, as well as being the main producer of the nation’s dairy. A Hokkaido dish will usually have some kind of dairy addition – ramen is served with a knob of butter – and outside of the island, you’ll notice that the most coveted dairy products are usually Hokkaido brand.

Famous Noboribetsu hot springs, Hokkaido, Japan

Noboribetsu is a hot spring haven in the belly of Jigokudani or Hell Valley.

It wouldn’t be a Japanese natural landscape without the promise of hot springs. Head to Noboribetsu, Hokkaido’s most popular onsen retreat, for a spot of incredibly scenic R&R.

Places to visit

Hakodate

In 2015, Hakodate was voted Japan’s most attractive city and it’s not hard to see why.

Sapporo, Japan downtown city skyline at Odori Park.

Sapporo

An entertaining gateway to the Hokkaido wilderness.


eneral view of people snowboarding on a tree-lined piste in the Niseko Grand Hirafu ski resort, Hokkaido, Japan. Mt Yotei can be seen in the background.

Niseko

World-class powder at Japan's most famous ski resort.

Famous Noboribetsu hot springs, Hokkaido, Japan

Noboribetsu

Noboribetsu's hot spring retreat turns a visit to hell into a dream vacation.


Canals of Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan.

Otaru

The Venice of the wild North.

Biei Blue Lake Hokkaido

Biei

Pretty enough for your desktop.


Field of flowers stretching for miles. Taken in Biei, Japan.

Furano

So this is what they mean by frolicking.

Mountain landscape near Asahidake in Daisetsuzan national park, Hokkaido. With ropeway station.

Daisetsuzan National Park

The spectacular soul of Hokkaido.


A group of penguins, which is the popular main tourist attraction in Asahikawa Zoo in Hokkaido, Japan.

Asahikawa

Exercising penguins. That's all you need to know.

Lake Shikotsu at Shikotsu Toya National Park in Hokkaido, Japan.

Shikotsu-Toya National Park

Located not far from Sapporo and New Chitose Airport, this natural haven is the most easily accessible national park in Hokkaido.


Moerenuma Park

Get in touch with art and nature at this stunning outdoor sculpture park just outside of Sapporo.

Sapporo Clock Tower

Sapporo's symbolic landmark straight from the American mid-west.


Asahiyama Zoo

Asahiyama Zoo

Take a front-row seat to all the animal action at this interactive zoo.

Shiroi Koibito Park

Heaps of delicious treats and old-world charm can be found in the heart of Sapporo at Shiroi Koibito Park. Shiroi Koibito is the name of a famous European-style biscuit manufactured in Hokkaido....


Jozankei, Japan Town Skyline

Jozankei Onsen

The great Kappa King awaits you in Sapporo’s backyard.

Goryokaku

Step back in time at this historic Hakodate fort turned public park.


Lucky Pierrot

Only in Hakodate: Local burger chain serves up zany, cheap and tasty fast food. Try the Chinese Chicken Burger!

Sapporo Snow Festival

Join the most popular winter festival in Japan in February.


Odori Park

The coolest park in Sapporo, even when there's no snow!

Sapporo Beer Museum

When in Sapporo…


Hokkaido Jingu

Try the first shrine visit of the year here for an authentic Japanese New Year experience.

Hakodate Bay

Take a cruise on the Blue Moon while exploring Hakodate’s famed commercial district.


4 LGBT Bars in Sapporo

A night out in one of Japan's most LGBT-friendly areas.

Maruyama Park

Get a breathtaking view of Sapporo’s seasons in the city’s most picturesque park.


Susukino

Sapporo's entertainment district with some of Japan's best miso ramen.

Yoichi Nikka Whisky Distillery

Visit the home of Japan’s 'Father of Whisky' while treating yourself to world-class spirits.


Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden

Hot-tubbing monkeys in winter and some of the world’s most exotic plants.

Demon Fireworks of Noboribetsu

Is the path to hell paved with good intentions, or fireworks?