Have you ever heard of the northernmost island of Japan? With its frozen sea and mountains, Hokkaido offers an enchanting landscape revealing the magic of winter. In summer, the island is appreciated for its mild temperatures and breathtaking sites. In autumn, the island is adorned with flamboyant colors. Hokkaido is an ideal destination for nature lovers and hikers. As the former land of the Japanese aboriginal people, the region has preserved its wild soul. Discover one of the most beautiful islands of the archipelago!
❄ Small presentation of Hokkaido Island in Japan
Not far from Siberia, Hokkaido (北海道) is the largest island of the archipelago just after Honshu. Moreover, it is separated from the latter by the Tsugaru Strait. It is surrounded by the sea (Sea of Japan and Sea of Okhotsk) and the Pacific Ocean, and its name means "way of the North Sea". Hokkaido represents both a region and a prefecture of Japan.
The island covers an area of 83,454 km2 offering magnificent landscapes: mountains, forests, lakes and large plains inhabited by wild animals. It also includes small islands such as Rishiri, Okushiri. Hokkaido is a very famous destination for its ski resorts, hot springs and magnificent nature sites.
A low population density
The number of inhabitants remains low for this large territory. In fact, the Japanese island has only a little more than 5 million inhabitants, which is very low compared to the national average. It is important to know that the region has been colonized by the Japanese less than two centuries ago. The population is mainly concentrated in Sapporo, the capital. Built during the Meiji era, it is today the 5th most populated city of the archipelago. Moreover, its architecture is particularly modern with its western style.
An aboriginal culture
In the past, the island of Hokkaido was occupied by the Ainu. Remember, the Ainu are the aboriginal people of Japan? Today, they represent only a small part of the population but the culture of this indigenous people remains very marked on the island. For example, there are many names of sites and cities of Ainu origin. The Ainu consider that each animal or plant has a soul and venerate the deities of nature.
Icy winters and cool summers
The climate is particularly harsh in winter with temperatures reaching -20°C in some places. Also, snowstorms coming from Siberia are quite frequent. In summer, temperatures are pleasant and turn around 20 degrees. That's why Hokkaido is a popular destination for Japanese people from May onwards.
🤩 Travel to Japan: what to do in Hokkaido?
Wonder, relax, practice sports, eat well... there is no lack of activities on this wonderful Japanese island. Here is our top 7 things to do in Hokkaido.
1. 🧊 Attend the Sapporo snow festival
The Sapporo snow festival or Sapporo yuki matsuri is one of the most incredible festivals in Japan. Famous all over the world, it attracts many tourists every year in February. In the Odori park, you can admire the huge snow sculptures that light up at night. Not to mention the ice statues in the Suskino district. An unforgettable experience!
2. ⛷ Skiing in Japan, at Niseko resort
Hokkaido's ski resorts are very popular among the Japanese for their winter activities. In addition to its 500 km of slopes and numerous ski lifts, the snow is of an exceptional quality. Skiers and snowboarders can enjoy a great time! The most famous international ski resort is undoubtedly Niseko United. This is also one of the biggest resorts in Japan. With its four ski areas, you will have plenty of time to enjoy the snow!
3. 🍺 Taste the famous Sapporo beer
Gastronomy is not left aside on the island of Hokkaido! You can enjoy the tasty local specialties such as seafood, fish, ramen and drink delicious beers. That's right, Sapporo's beer is one of the most popular in Japan. It can be recognized by its golden color and its slightly bitter taste. It is the oldest beer in the country and famous all over the world. Do not hesitate to visit the beer museum which is actually the first industrial brewery in Japan.
4. 🏞 Stroll around in one of the national parks of the island
Regardless of the season, Hokkaido's scenery is absolutely stunning. Take a walk in Japan's most beautiful national parks, among volcanoes, lakes and forests. Hike in the abundant nature of Daisetsuzan Park or Akan National Park. Observe the unspoiled flora and fauna in the Shiretoko Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You might be lucky enough to see wild animals like brown bears and red foxes.
5. 🦅 Observe Japanese cranes in Hokkaido
Emblem of Japan, the crane almost disappeared in the early 20th century. This majestic bird is particularly venerated by the Japanese and is a symbol of longevity and luck. Today, there are more than 1800 individuals on the island of Hokkaido where you can admire them. Kushiro Shitsugen National Park and Tsurui Village are the best places to spot them. Don't miss the spectacle of seduction dances during the breeding season.
6. 🌋 Relaxing in an onsen at Noboribetsu
Onsen are Japanese hot springs of volcanic origin. People in Japan love to bask in these spas especially when it is cold outside. Enjoy a relaxing hot spring in the middle of the mountains after a busy day. Noboribetsu Onsen is one of the most famous resorts in Hokkaido and Japan with its 9 hot springs and beautiful surroundings. You will not be disappointed!
7. 🌼 Admire the lavender fields in Furano
In the heart of Hokkaido, two hours from Sapporo lies the town of Furano, known for its lavender culture. In summer, around July, it is the flowering period and the town attracts many tourists. Discover the Tomita farm and its large fields of brightly colored lavender. You will be able to fully enjoy the colorful palettes offered by the hyacinths, marigolds and other cultivated flowers. The beauty of the landscape is unparalleled.
Hokkaido is not always the first destination that springs to mind when talking about a trip to Japan, yet its charm is striking. Both modern and preserved, this island of a thousand wonders will seduce the nature and snow lovers without any doubt. And you, which Japanese island is your dream destination?