Hokkaido: Journey in Northern Japan

Earlier Travels in Japan

We love Japan. I’ve visited Kyoto and Tokyo twice with my daughter. I’ve traveled round Hiroshima, the Iya Valley, Miyajima and Naoshima Island with Nationwide Geographic and I dove deeper into Tokyo with AFAR. After I had my household price the 60+ nations we’ve visited, Japan completed within the high 10.

As I had already skilled a variety of the extra well-liked Japanese locations, and have an excellent really feel for Japanese tradition and custom, I used to be excited to listen to that my favourite journey occasion, the Journey Journey World Summit (ATWS), would happen this 12 months in Hokkaido. An ideal excuse to see a brand new space of Japan!


Hokkaido is Japan’s largest and northernmost prefecture. Whereas there are a variety of cities, together with Sapporo, Hokkaido is extra about islands, forests, mountains and lakes than city areas. It could take months to see nearly all of Hokkaido, and sadly I solely had per week, so this weblog publish is barely supposed to offer you a style.


Sapporo is the best place to start out in Hokkaido. With nearly two million individuals, it’s Hokkaido’s largest metropolis by far. Sapporo hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics and is known for its namesake beer, and it’s a enjoyable metropolis – type of a mini-Tokyo. The airport is giant, with each home and worldwide flights. I arrived from Perth, Australia, through Singapore and Nagoya (Japan), after which departed on to Taipei, persevering with on to Los Angeles. There’s a speedy prepare that connects the airport to Sapporo Station – the journey takes 37 minutes. There are many JR workers within the stations that can assist you buy tickets.

Over Hokkaido
Over Hokkaido
Hokkaido Japan: Loved this garden between Odori and Sapporo Station
Cherished this backyard between Odori and Sapporo Station
Hokkaido Japan: Sapporo, and the Sapporo TV Tower, at night
Sapporo, and the Sapporo TV Tower, at evening

Over the course of per week in Sapporo I walked rather a lot and rode the Subway rather a lot. As with most of Japan, there’s not a variety of English, both spoken or on indicators. When you turn into comfy with that, you’ll have a good time. Google Maps is wonderful relating to navigation, together with the Subway, and you may at all times determine find out how to order meals and find out how to pay with out talking the identical language.

The Sapporo Subway system is fairly easy to figure out. Google Maps helps.
The Sapporo Subway system is pretty straightforward to determine. Google Maps helps.

My visited coincided with Sapporo Autumn Fest, a three-week celebration with a whole bunch of meals stalls in Odori Park. Sapporo doesn’t get a variety of vacationers, even for occasions like this, so we had been normally the one non-Japanese lining up for ice cream, curry, noodles and every little thing else. I really like being locations on the earth the place you get to leap into the actual tradition, somewhat than being served a vacationer model!

Hokkaido Japan: Sapporo Autumn Fest
Sapporo Autumn Fest
Hokkaido Japan: Ice cream at Sapporo Autumn Fest
Ice cream at Sapporo Autumn Fest

Maruyama Park

Maruyama Park was my favourite place in Sapporo, and it’s straightforward to succeed in, solely three stops from Odori (my base) on the orange Tozai line. Simply exit at Maruyama Koen Station and stroll proper – you possibly can see the park from the Subway exit. The park is an oasis within the metropolis, with a mountain (straightforward to climb at solely 225m), a picket walkway by the forest, a Shinto shrine, a number of smaller temples and shrines, and a zoo. I reached the highest of Mount Maruyama precisely one hour after leaving my Odori lodge, so go to/climb isn’t an enormous time dedication.

Hokkaido Japan: The wooden walkway in Maruyama Park
The picket walkway in Maruyama Park
Hokkaido Japan: Hiking up Mount Maruyama
Mountain climbing up Mount Maruyama
Hokkaido Japan: At the top of Mount Maruyama, overlooking Sapporo
On the high of Mount Maruyama, overlooking Sapporo
Hokkaido Japan: Hiking down, past shrines and 88 statues of Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy
Mountain climbing down, previous shrines and 88 statues of Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy
Hokkaido Japan: The Hokkaido Jingu Shinto Shrine in Maruyama Park
The Hokkaido Jingu Shinto Shrine in Maruyama Park

Sapporo Okurayama Ski Bounce Stadium

The convention I attended in Sapporo had its opening occasion on the Ski Bounce Stadium, in order that was a straightforward alternative to go to. Extremely really useful even outdoors of a convention setting, as you possibly can see one of many websites of the 1972 video games (there’s a museum) and you may take a ski elevate to the highest of the bounce for wonderful views over Sapporo. Take the Tozai line to the identical cease as Maruyama Park (Maruyama Koen Station) after which board the JR Hokkaido bus (Okurayama Line) to the stadium.

Hokkaido Japan: The Sapporo Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium
The Sapporo Okurayama Ski Bounce Stadium
Hokkaido Japan: At the top of the ski jump, above Sapporo
On the high of the ski bounce, above Sapporo

Lake Shikotsu

It could be a disservice to Hokkaido to spend per week in Sapporo and never see some what makes Hokkaido wonderful – the character outdoors of the cities. So I booked a one-day journey with North Star Journey to go to Lake Shikotsu, roughly an hour away. The prepare took us midway to the lake (to Chitose, simply earlier than the airport), after which North Star organized for a shuttle bus to take us the remainder of the best way.

We began on the Lake Shikotsu Customer Heart to study concerning the nationwide park and lake (it’s Japan’s second deepest lake and mentioned to have the purest water). We then rented e-bikes and cycled from the Customer’s Heart partway across the lake to the Moss Hall (10km).

Hokkaido Japan: E-biking in the rain near Lake Shikotsu
E-biking within the rain close to Lake Shikotsu

The Moss Hall is precisely what it feels like – a canyon coated in moss. There are literally 30 several types of moss within the hall, and it was a shocking stroll – even within the rain. North Star supplied guides to stroll us by the hall, declaring the totally different volcanic layers and mosses. Considered one of my all-time Japan highlights!

Hokkaido Japan: In the moss corridor: one of our guides showing soil layers tied to different volcanic eruptions
Within the moss hall: certainly one of our guides displaying soil layers tied to totally different volcanic eruptions
Hokkaido Japan: The Moss Corridor
The Moss Hall
Hokkaido Japan: In the Moss Corridor, toward the end of our 1.3km walk
Within the Moss Hall, towards the tip of our 1.3km stroll
Hokkaido Japan: Walking back to our bikes
Strolling again to our bikes

We biked again to the Customer’s Heart, had lunch close by (actually good fish/sushi from the lake), after which rented see-through kayaks from Ocean Days. We kayaked out onto the lake, however with diminished visibility the lake wasn’t thrilling, so we kayaked by the river to the dam. My first time kayaking in Japan and it was an amazing couple hours – straightforward kayaking on nonetheless water.

Hokkaido Japan: Very fresh fish for lunch from Lake Shikotsu
Very contemporary fish for lunch from Lake Shikotsu
Hokkaido Japan: Afternoon kayaking near Lake Shikotsu
Afternoon kayaking close to Lake Shikotsu

The place To Keep in Sapporo

I booked the Tokyu Stay Sapporo Odori. I wished to be close to Odori, because the Tozai subway line stops there, the Autumn Pageant takes place there, and there’s a big pedestrian space, together with Ramen Alley. As a base in Sapporo, Odori is ideal! I discovered Tokyu Keep on TripAdvisor and it appeared ultimate. I paid round $90/evening. My room was small however comfy, and it had a full washer! On condition that I used to be visiting Sapporo after touring round with the world, with stops in Qatar, Zanzibar and Perth, I knew I’d wish to do laundry. There’s additionally a espresso machine within the foyer, which I used rather a lot – regardless that it doesn’t begin working till 6:30am.

Hokkaido Japan: My room at Tokyu Stay Odori
My room at Tokyu Keep Sapporo Odori
Hokkaido Japan: The washing machine in my room!
The washer in my room!

I booked my room by Hotels.com. Due to my Lodge.com/Expedia standing, I used to be in a position to test in early and take a look at late. My associates who booked although different web sites didn’t have the identical perks. The room didn’t include breakfast. There’s a Starbucks a block away although, and I discovered a wonderful French bakery on the Maruyama Koen Subway station (Ache Au Traditionnel). Or you possibly can pay for breakfast on the lodge.

Starbucks is an easy breakfast option around the world. Or eat at your hotel.
Starbucks is a straightforward breakfast possibility around the globe

The place To Eat in Sapporo

For a really quick lunch/dinner in Sapporo, or wherever in Japan, head to a comfort retailer. Significantly. Lawson’s has good sandwiches, and seven/11 has good fried rice bowls and dumplings. In any other case simply go into the primary small place that you just stroll previous that appears good. In case you Google Ramen Alley, there are a dozen ramen locations there. We beloved Ramen Sora in Odori. However actually, it’s straightforward to seek out cheap, good meals all through Sapporo. And once more, don’t fear concerning the language barrier – simply level to photos on the menu to order.

Hokkaido Japan: If you see a Melon Pan truck (or shop), get some! So good!
In case you see a Melon Pan truck (or store), get some! So good!
Hokkaido Japan: Ramen Alley in Odori
Ramen Alley in Odori
Hokkaido Japan: At Ramen Sora. My shirt is from Unbound Merino.
At Ramen Sora. My shirt is from Unbound Merino – they make the perfect journey garments. And Ramen Sora made the perfect ramen.

Hokkaido – Abstract

I beloved Hokkaido and Sapporo. This isn’t touristy Japan – it’s the Japan for locals, and adventurers, and it’s an ideal addition to your Japan itinerary after you’ve visited the principle cities. After I return I wish to discover outdoors of Sapporo. There are sake distilleries that invite guests. There are islands to bike round. There’s snowboarding in winter. There’s kelp harvesting. There’s a variety of wonderful mountaineering. There’s greater than sufficient to do for a month!

Hokkaido Japan: Flying out I had a Hello Kitty boarding pass. Because Japan.
Flying out I had a Hiya Kitty boarding cross. As a result of Japan.

Journey Specifics

I took the lengthy approach to Sapporo, stopping in Zanzibar and Perth first merely to finish my objective of visiting each continent in the identical 12 months. I used Qatar Airways factors for tickets from LA to Zanzibar to Perth. I booked Singapore Airways from Perth to Sapporo, and EVA Air from Sapporo to LA. It really works properly to e book around the globe tickets that method – as a number of one-way tickets, utilizing a mixture of factors and cash. 5 flights had been in enterprise class and 4 had been in financial system.

I bought by with a carry-on and a backpack. However most of the time the airways made me test my carry-on as a result of it weighed greater than 7kg, regardless that it simply match their measurements. Annoying! I took just a few shirts from Unbound Merino, two pairs of pants, two pairs of footwear, a sweatshirt and toiletries.

I at all times park at The Parking Spot at LAX.

Hokkaido – Your Flip

Have you ever visited Hokkaido? What had been your favourite adventures?