A quaint harbor city just thirty minutes outside Sapporo by train, Otaru is known for glasswork shops, cozy cafés, local restaurants, and old-fashioned architecture. In the evening, oil lamps light the cobblestone streets that run alongside the gorgeous Otaru Canal, pictured below. For travelers looking for a relaxing or romantic evening, this is a must-visit.
One of the most well-known onsen destinations in all of Hokkaido, Jozankei hot springs can be reached in less than an hour by car from central Sapporo. With over 50 sources of hot spring water in the district, each bath has its own unique atmosphere and temperature. Getting there is easy – there are daily shuttle buses departing from Sapporo, Susukino, and Odori stations.
Arguably Hokkaido’s most famous hot spring resort, Noboribetsu takes about one hour by car from Sapporo city. The area is known for its picturesque mountain views and snow-covered landscapes, all of which can be enjoyed from the warmth and comfort of a hot bath. The various minerals in the spring water are said to have positive effects on health and beauty.
Curious about what life was like in the days of old Japan? The traditional architecture of this village was designed to give visitors the feeling of exploring the country in its “frontier days.” The structures are modeled after those of the Meiji period (1868 – 1912) and continue through the Showa period, which ended in 1989. Guests looking for a more authentic experience can tour the old town in a horse-drawn trolley.
Named after its two lakes, Shikotsu and Toya (pictured below), this national park is hugely popular due to its scenic views, hot springs (see above), and hiking trails. Hikers will have the chance to climb Mt. Yotei, an inactive volcano that bears striking resemblance to the legendary Mt. Fuji.
Another option for the history buff in your group, this museum provides a window into the life of the Ainu, the indigenous people of northern Japan and Russia. The museum is comprised of five traditionally designed Ainu houses, with each house representing a unique aspect of Ainu culture and lifestyle. Visitors will have chances to see a dance performance, join a craft workshop, try authentic Ainu cuisine, and play traditional Ainu musical instruments.
Every winter, massive chunks of ice break off from the coast of Russia and drift south toward Abashiri Harbor in Hokkaido. The area receives heavy tourism during this time as watching the drift ice has become a popular sightseeing activity. However, the Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum, a hands-on science center that gives visitors a look into the culture and history of this unique location, remains open throughout the year.