The First Impression of Hokkaido

Hokkaido, the “dō” in the Japanese administrative divisions commonly referred to as to-dō-fu-ken, takes up the entire Northern Island and is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the country. Hokkaido is a mysterious natural island, and immersing yourself in the open, natural sceneries can make all your worries disappear. It is geographically divided into four districts: Central Hokkaido, Eastern Hokkaido, Southern Hokkaido and Northern Hokkaido. 
 
From Hakodate in Southern Hokkaido to Central Hokkaido, you can visit Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido and Otaru. You can then travel from Asahikawa in Northern Hokkaido to Kushiro and Abashiri in Eastern Hokkaido. Take in the 80,000 square kilometers of land and enjoy all the landscapes and sceneries that Hokkaido offers—from the coasts of the Japan Sea to the Pacific Ocean, from Tsugaru Strait to Sea of Okhotsk.

There is Hokkaido’s highest peak called Asahidake, the tranquil and clear Lake Akan, as well as the Jozankei Onsen. You must also visit the renowned flower fields in Furano and enjoy Japan’s mythical powder paradise of Niseko.
Lake Akan|Photo by Nao Iizuka via Flickr
Locals say that you can never fully explore the beauty of Hokkaido without visiting it in each of the four seasons. The alternation of seasons endows Hokkaido with various attractions—from the blooming of cherry blossoms in the spring, the huge variety of flower seas in the summer, the magnificent red leaves on mountains and lakesides in autumn, and the boundless powder white snow in winter. The unique beauties of Hokkaido can by no means be summarized in one sentence or season.

Hokkaido is a primary supplier of Japanese agricultural, animal, and fish products, and so there will never be a shortage of delectable dishes to try here. Beautiful nature breeds great food ingredients, after all. It is known as a gourmet paradise, and boasts of the most delicious seafood and dairy products in the country. Fresh and abundant local food materials, pure and natural water resource, and expert cooking skills have contributed to the delicious, distinct local cuisine. Be it king crab, Sapporo ramen, soup curry or Genghis Khan Barbecue, all food materials embodying the Japanese spirit of craftsmanship have contributed to Hokkaido’s stellar reputation for delicacies.
King crab|Photo by MiNe via Flickr

Without doubt, you will fall in love with Hokkaido.

Highlights

If you can only come once, come in the winter 

You will understand the real Hokkaido only if you have seen it in winter. The annual Sapporo Snow Festival is one of the greatest winter celebrations in the world, and is home to massive ice sculptures and endless food stalls. You can take the train to Asahikawa, which is famous for its local ramen, Asahiyama Zoo, and the Asahikawa Winter Festival. You can also take the SL Fuyu-no Shitsugen steam train heading for Eastern Hokkaido, from Kushiro to Abashiri, to see the red-crowned cranes against endless snowfield, or ride a special sightseeing boat to watch drifting ice on the Okhotsk Sea. Don’t forget that hot springs and skiing are also musts for Hokkaido winter visitors!


The best seafood and desserts in Japan are produced here 

It is safe to say that Hokkaido exhibits all the classic cuisines in Japan. From cheap and fresh seafood dishes to endless ramen choices and unforgettable desserts, you will almost certainly find a place that satisfies your taste buds. You can order a big bowl of seafood paella at Kushiro Washo Market, taste the different kinds of crab in Sapporo, or fill yourself with tonkotsu shoyu ramen in Asahikawa. You also must try their flavorful desserts here. Don’t miss Shiroi Koibito, LeTAO double cheesecake, Rokkatei strawberry chocolate balls, and light Snaffle cheesecake!


A “Love Letter” in Otaru

Yes, Shunji Iwai wrote the script of “Love Letter” in Otaru—making it the capital of romance in the minds of many. Roam along ancient Otaru Canal, choose from a wide variety of glass ornaments and music boxes, and queue up at the Zheng Sushi Bar for a satiating dinner. Love Letter fans can visit the seaside town and visit the famous sites one after the other—from Temiya Park and Funamizaka slope to Tenguyama Ski Resort, where you can shout “O Gen Ki (How—are— you?)” from a distance. By then, you have successfully sent out the “love letter” that has been kept deep in your heart for a long time.
Otaru Masazushi