The Top 10 Things to See and Do in Hokkaido

Hokkaido | © fisag / Pixabay
Dave Afshar

One of Japan’s top travel destinations for Japanese and foreign tourists alike, the northern island of Hokkaido is famous for its fresh food, unspoiled nature, and coastal villages. From the bustling red light district in downtown Sapporo to the high mountains and deep valleys of the countryside, Hokkaido has something for every kind of traveler. We take a look at some of the best Hokkaido has to offer.

Bathe in an onsen

With some of the most serene natural hot spring resorts in the world, Hokkaido is a paradise for travelers looking to take a dip in the onsen. In addition to the natural hot baths, guests are treated to gorgeous views of snow-capped mountains, lush greenery, and rivers and lakes.

Hot Spring

Check out the Sapporo Snow Festival

Drawing over two million tourists per year, Sapporo’s festival of snow and ice is held for one week every February. The festival features massive snow and ice sculptures, snow rafting, an ice bar, live music, and a beauty contest in which the winner is crowned the year’s “Ice Queen”.

Eat the freshest seafood in Japan

Hokkaido is referred to as “the kingdom of food” by the Japanese, and with good reason. While sushi and sashimi can be found anywhere in Japan, no other region compares to Hokkaido in terms of freshness and taste. Be sure to try kaisendon, a simple delicacy of rice topped with raw seafood.

Visit Otaru, Hokkaido’s most charming port city

Located just 30 minutes from Sapporo by train, this quaint harbor city is the perfect day trip for anyone looking for a relaxing or romantic atmosphere. The small city is best known for its European-inspired cafés, glasswork shops, and seafood restaurants. In the evening, oil lamps light the cobblestone street along the Otaru Canal.

Otaru Canal at Dusk (HOKKAIDO/JAPAN)

Hit the slopes

With some of the best powder snow conditions in the world, Hokkaido is heaven for skiers and snowboarders. From family-friendly resorts to unspoiled backcountry trails, there is something for every kind of rider. The most popular resorts are Niseko, Kiroro, Rusutsu, Furano, and Moiwa.

Hike an active volcano

Hokkaido accounts for the majority of volcanic activity in Japan, and many of the volcanos on the island are still active. Hikers who are feeling bold (or perhaps looking to return home with some bragging rights) should check out the trails on Mt. Rishiri, Mt. Daisetsuzan, and Mt. Tarumae.

Drink beer

Drinking beer is the favorite pastime of, well, pretty much everyone. The Sapporo beer factory and museum offers enthusiasts some insight into the history of beer in Japan and how it is brewed. Most importantly, the tour ends with a 30-minute, all-you-can-drink beer session.

Visit the Ainu village

The Ainu are the indigenous people of Japan. While the vast majority of Ainu have assimilated completely into modern Japanese society – most of whom are not even aware of their Ainu ancestry – the remaining descendants live in Hokkaido. This small village and museum provides a window into the remnants of the culture, language, and lifestyle of a once prosperous people.

Party in Sapporo’s red light district

Known as the Kabuki-cho of Sapporo, Susukino is the spot for travelers looking to enjoy a taste of the city’s nightlife scene. The neighborhood is packed with izakaya, bars, restaurants, and other less than wholesome establishments.

Enjoy a meal named after Asia’s most prolific conqueror

Jingisukan (“Genghis Khan”) is a grilled lamb and vegetable dish named after a dude who spent three decades raping and pillaging everything in sight. While the meal is unlikely to inspire diners to repeat Khan’s behavior, it is quite delicious and pairs well with several glasses of Sapporo beer.

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