Discover the top 20 things to do in Hokkaido, Japan: stunning natural landscapes, hot springs, delicious food, and more.
Hokkaido is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan. The beauty of northern Hokkaido is best known for its tremendous land, great nature, and gifted landscape.
In fact, 22% of Japan’s land area belongs to Hokkaido, and many parts remain untouched and wild. Not only the magnificent nature, but Hokkaido fascinates us with many tourist attractions such as flower fields, ski resorts, Onsen baths, snow festivals, and local food.
There would never be enough time and space to describe all the beautiful things in Hokkaido, but let me give you a very quick introduction to this treasure land of northern Japan today. We share the list of things to do in Hokkaido with the 20 highlights you can’t miss.
Top 20 Things To Do In Hokkaido, Japan
Here are the best things to do in Hokkaido, Japan!
1. The Sapporo Snow Festival
If you are looking for the best things to do in Hokkaido in winter, the Sapporo Snow Festival is Japan’s largest winter festival and one of the most spectacular snow festivals in the world.
The festival is held in the city of Sapporo for a week in February each year, and hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures are displayed in various locations (Odori Park, Susukino, etc.).
Apart from hosting the Sapporo Snow Festival, the city of Sapporo is also an amazing place to explore.
Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido and offers a wealth of tourist attractions all year round, such as beautiful cityscapes, extensive parks, unique museums, the local fish market, and the delicious regional food of Hokkaido.
3. The City Of Otaru
Otaru is a small port town along Ishikari Bay. It is a popular excursion destination from Sapporo and can be reached by train in about an hour. Otaru is known for its beautiful cityscape with the preserved canal area and old 19th-century warehouses.
The Otaru Snowlight Trail is a popular snow festival held every February in Otaru City, with snow lights and lanterns illuminating the city at night. In 2023, the Otaru Snow Light Path will be held from February 11-18.
Niseko is the most popular ski resort in Hokkaido. Niseko is known for its fine powder snow, and the quality of the snow has attracted skiers from all over the world.
Niseko offers a wide variety of ski slopes with spectacular scenery, and there are many foreigner-friendly hotels and restaurants with English-speaking guides.
Hakodate is the southernmost city in Hokkaido and a popular tourist destination. The city has a unique culture influenced by Western countries and a beautiful cityscape.
The night view of the city seen from Mount Hakodate is counted as one of the most beautiful night views in Japan, along with Kobe and Nagasaki. The city of Hakodate is now accessible by Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo or by plane.
6. Lake Toya
Lake Toya is a picturesque lake in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park (between Niseko and Noboribetsu Onsen). The lake is known for its scenic view of the active volcano Mount Usu and the surrounding nature.
Outdoor activities such as canoeing, sailing, hiking, and camping can be enjoyed in this area. It is also one of the most popular hot spring destinations in Hokkaido, and numerous onsen resorts are located near Lake Toya.
Lake Toya can be reached from Sapporo by bus or train, which takes approximately 2 hours.
7. Noboribetsu Onsen
Hokkaido is home to hundreds of Onsen resorts. Noboribestu Onsen, located in southwestern Hokkaido, is considered one of the best onsen resorts in Japan and is part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Its hot springs are known as the best and most effective in Japan.
The city is also rich in nature, with lakes, mountains, and forests.
8. Asahiyama Zoo
Asahiyama Zoo is a popular zoological park located on the outskirts of Asahikawa.
The zoo exhibits various types of animals, including native Hokkaido wildlife such as deer, eagles, and red foxes, as well as animals from around the world, such as penguins, polar bears, tigers, leopards, giraffes, and lions, among others.
9. Daisetsuzan National Park
Daisetsuzan National Park is the largest national park in Japan (226,764 ha). The park consists of numerous mountains and untouched nature with wild animals.
The most popular activities are hiking, climbing, and hot springs. One of the mountains, Mount Asahi, is the first place in Japan to see autumn leaves and snowfall.
Furano is a city in central Hokkaido known for its beautiful rural scenery. The city is rich in nature, and there are many fields and gardens with colorful flowers that bloom brightly during the summer.
It is known for the lavender fields that can be seen in July. Furano is also a popular destination for snow activities, such as skiing and snowboarding in winter.
11. The City Of Biei
Biei is a small town next to Furano and a great rural area to explore.
The best way to get around Biei is by car. There are several scenic driving routes in Biei that showcase magnificent scenery with farmland and surrounding nature.
In summer, you can see colorful flowers, and in winter, you can capture wonderful snowy landscapes and winter phenomena.
12. Blue Pond
Located on the outskirts of the city of Biei, Blue Pond is one of the most spectacular sights in Japan. It became widely known when its image was used for the iPhone wallpaper.
The pond displays a breathtaking view in every season of the year. You should also visit another natural scenic spot, the Shirahige Waterfall, about 3 km from the Blue Pond.
13. Lake Mashu
Lake Mashu is located in Akan National Park in eastern Hokkaido. It is a crater lake formed in the caldera of a potentially active volcano.
The lake has been regarded as the clearest water lake in the world and the most beautiful lake in Japan. There are some observation platforms around the lake that offer a spectacular view. In addition, visitors can enjoy hiking in the mountains surrounded by unspoiled nature.
14. Shiretoko National Park
Shiretoko National Park is located on the Shiretoko Peninsula in eastern Hokkaido. The park is considered the most beautiful and unspoiled national park in Japan and was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2005.
The park is one of the most remote areas in Japan, accessible only by foot or boat. It is home to numerous wild animals, such as brown bears, deer, foxes, and others.
15. Skiing And Snowboarding
For snow holiday lovers, Hokkaido is one of the world’s most popular destinations, attracting skiers and snowboarders from all over the world.
The quality of powder snow in Hokkaido is highly prized, and numerous scenic ski runs are located in the majestic Hokkaido Mountains. Niseko, Furano, and Rusutsu are the three most popular ski resorts in Hokkaido.
16. Drift Ice
Drift ice (Ryuhyo) is one of the most spectacular winter phenomena, which can only be seen in a few places around the world, such as the Arctic Ocean and the Southern Ocean, and the Sea of Okhotsk in the eastern part of Hokkaido is the only place where you can see the dynamic view of drift ice in Japan.
There are two tour boats operating in Hokkaido during winter: Garinko from Monbetsu City and Aurora from Abashiri City, both of which can take passengers to the frozen open sea through the drift ice. Take the most exciting winter journey.
17. Shikaribetsu Kotan
Shikaribetsu Kotan is a special event featuring a village made of ice and snow during winter. The festival is held at Shikaribetsu Lake in Shikaoi City.
At the festival, there are various kinds of snow and ice attractions and activities, such as igloos, an ice bar, an ice theater, a snow Onsen bath, and lights at night.
Hokkaido is undoubtedly Japan’s greatest gourmet city. It is impossible to choose just one of its local specialties, as the variety of Hokkaido’s local food is as vast as the land.
As we all know, the best of Hokkaido is seafood. Excellent fresh seafood dishes are sold in the markets of almost every city, apart from the central area of Hokkaido.
Hokkaido also has a high consumption of mutton compared to other prefectures. Jingisukan is one of Hokkaido’s best-known dishes, which consists of roasting lamb with vegetables in a special iron dish.
Ramen is also a very popular dish in Hokkaido, and many cities have their own local ramen. When in Sapporo, try their miso Ramen of Sapporo.
Central Hokkaido, such as Furano and Biei, is known for its vegetables, dairy products, pork, and rice. Hokkaido’s most famous fruit is the melon of Yubari City, called Yubari melon, which is extremely sweet. Soft ice cream with rich, fresh milk is also a popular dessert in the area.
Let’s bet you never go hungry in Hokkaido!
As much as you enjoy the delicious local food of Hokkaido, be sure to take some of them home with you. Numerous confectionery and dessert companies are based in Hokkaido, and their products are very popular as souvenirs.
The most popular confectioners are chocolatier Royce and veteran Rokkatei, who create sweets using local ingredients.
20. New Chitose Airport
The new Chitose Airport is Hokkaido’s main transportation hub, connecting Hokkaido and numerous cities through numerous domestic and international flights.
The new Chitose Airport is not dedicated to air service but is a wonderful place for shopping and dining. The airport’s large terminals are home to hundreds of stores, restaurants, and cafes serving delicious local Hokkaido dishes, desserts, and souvenirs, and you can easily spend 2-3 hours.
In case you forgot to buy souvenirs during your trip, the new Chitose airport offers some amazing stores for “last minute” shopping.
So these are the 20 best things to do in Hokkaido, Japan!
Hokkaido is a unique destination that offers endless opportunities for adventure, cultural immersion, and relaxation. From exploring stunning natural landscapes and soaking in hot springs to indulging in local cuisine and experiencing traditional Japanese culture, there’s something for everyone in Hokkaido.
Whether planning a winter getaway to hit the slopes or a summer escape to enjoy the stunning scenery and outdoor activities, Hokkaido has it all.
With its breathtaking vistas, unique local experiences, and friendly people, it’s no wonder this region is one of the most popular destinations in Japan.
So, whether you’re a nature lover, foodie, culture enthusiast, or simply looking for a unique travel experience, Hokkaido has something for you.
Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this stunning region and discover all the amazing things to do in Hokkaido, Japan.
About The Author Of “Top 20 Things To Do In Hokkaido, Japan You Can’t Miss”
Rebecca James is a writer for Traveler Magazine, where she shares her passion for exploring the world and discovering new places and cultures. With a background in journalism and a love for travel, Rebecca’s articles offer insights and tips for fellow travelers looking to make the most of their adventures.
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