The best travel destinations in Hokkaido

Otaru, photo by localjapantimes on Flickr

The northernmost island of Japan is hardly the first choice of travel destination for foreign tourists, and few Japanese tourists make it very far north either. But Hokkaido’s famed untamed wildness is a genuine magnet for the more adventurous kinds of travelers, who can’t resist the cultural and natural attractions of the island. The more touristy areas of Hokkaido have many examples of those most beloved Japanese tourist spots: hot springs, and Hokkaido becomes quite a popular destination in the warm months. The Ainu heritage of Hokkaido, coupled with various natural and man-made attractions, make is a great spot for travelers. Here are some of the best travel destinations in Hokkaido that you’re guaranteed to enjoy.

Sapporo

As the capital of Hokkaido, Sapporo is the largest city on the island, also one of the newest and prettiest in Japan. Although it is far smaller than Tokyo, Sapporo is vibrant and colorful, and even if it lacks the traditional architecture of older cities, its wide open and tree lined streets are lovely in summer and winter as well. Sapporo has quite a few interesting museums, some lovely parks, shrines and even some corny but really fun attractions like the Ishiya Chocolate factory.

Hakodate

Furano, photo by Yoshiki on Flickr

Hakodate is a large city that has a bit of history at every corner. Much like Yokohama and Kobe, it was among the first cities in Japan to be opened for trade with foreigners, so some foreign influence can be noticed in the architecture of the city. Hakodate is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan, with loads of attractions in and around the city. Mount Hakodate offers spectacular view of the city, and Motomachi, the historical district, has temples, churches and European-style buildings.

Asahikawa

Asahikawa is the coldest city in Japan, and a severely underrated tourist destination when it comes to foreign travelers. Asahikawa Zoo and the delicious Asahikawa ramen are enough to attract countless domestic visitors, and in winter the Asahikawa Winter Festival on the banks of Ishikari River makes people bear the cold happily. The Otoyama Sake Brewing Museum is also an interesting attraction for those interested in the Japanese national drink, and Arashiyama Pottery Village is a great place to pick up souvenirs.

Otaru

Asahikawa, photo by Yoshihito Miki on Flickr

The port city of Otaru has several iconic features that act not only as tourist magnets, but as symbols of the city as well. The food, the historical architecture and the shops of Otaru are famous, and the best way to explore them is on foot. Walk along the Otaru Canal and admire the historic buildings, eat some of the famous Otaru sushi and visit the famous Otaru Music Box Museum.

Furano

Furano is a quiet city most of the year, and while in summer it is known for its stunningly beautiful flower fields (most notably lavender fields), in winter it is famous for its powdery-fine dry snow. Many travelers come to Furano for its winter sports, but in summer there are many lovely hiking paths that make a trip to Furano a one of the best travel destinations in Hokkaido for outdoorsy tourists.

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