HOKKAIDO Hokkaido Explore Japan's northernmost prefecture
The wilderness of Hokkaido provides numerous outdoor pursuits, and its cities, nestled against the backdrop of mountains and lakes, provide culinary delights and a dose of culture
How to Get There
Hokkaido is accessible by plane from all major airports in Japan to New Chitose Airport outside of Sapporo. It's also possible to take the bullet train from Tokyo; the journey is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
The fastest way to reach Hokkaido is by plane. Flights from Tokyo to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport take about 90 minutes. By train, it takes around eight hours from Tokyo. Take the JR Tohoku/Hokkaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, then transfer to the Hokuto limited express to Sapporo. There are also some inexpensive long-distance ferries from Honshu to ports outside of Sapporo. Niigata, Oarai (Ibaraki Prefecture), Sendai, Nagoya, Maizuru (Kyoto Prefecture) and Tsuruga (Fukui Prefecture) all have ferries that go to Hokkaido.
- Hitting the slopes of Niseko and Rusutsu—a dream for powder lovers
- The rolling hills of Hokkaido’s lavender farms
- Fresh seafood and produce: sea urchin, sushi, melon, corn, ice cream, and more
- The unspoiled wilderness of Hokkaido’s national parks
Explore Hokkaido by Area
Trending Attractions in Hokkaido
The Ishikari River in Hokkaido is famous for the delicious salmon that swim in its waters. Ishikari nabe marries this salmon with locally grown potatoes and various seasonal items in a kelp and miso broth, all cooked together in a boiling clay pot.
Japan is synonymous with seafood, and it features on menus everywhere throughout the country. Yet, for the very freshest, most delicious and widest array, Hokkaido is considered the place to go. Crab, scallops, sea urchin, squid and salmon are but a few of the delicacies for which Japan's northern island is famed. To try a little of everything, ...
It's curry in a delicious soup form. This spicy dish is filled with all manner of seasonal vegetables such as pumpkin, okura and lotus root. It often includes meat, from wagyu beef to Hokkaido snow crab.
A hybrid melon grown in greenhouses in Yubari that is famous for its perfectly round shape and intense sweetness. You might never enjoy another melon quite as much ever again.
Traditional Ainu Crafts
Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido is home to the Ainu, indigenous people who have a deep respect for nature and believe God is found everywhere. They once survived by hunting, fishing and foraging, and created many beautiful objects used in their daily lives such as knives and clothing.
Pig farming flourished in this region in the 1930s, and many yakitori restaurants began putting Muroran yakitori on their menus. Also known as Muroran yakiton, the dish got its name because the juicy chunks of pork are skewered and grilled in the same way yakitori is prepared.
Locally sourced pork is aged briefly to bring out its natural umami, then grilled and served over Hokkaido rice. A simple dish that showcases the natural flavors of Hokkaido.
Served in a rich miso soup and topped with butter, sweet corn, bean sprouts and pork, this winter warmer is on the menu at ramen restaurants throughout Sapporo and the rest of Hokkaido.
While most yakitori places offer the standard, recognized chicken parts, Bibai is all about the gizzards, hearts and livers. Try a few skewers and see what you've been missing.
Kegani, horsehair crab, can be served raw, boiled or grilled, and yields exceptionally sweet, tender meat. You can find kegani in sushi, bento boxes and hot pots across Hokkaido.
Hakodate ramen takes the traditional pork or chicken soup base and adds kelp or other seafood to give it the flavor of Hakodate's rich fishing heritage. The result is a lighter, less oily soup stock.
Buy a bowl of rice at Kushiro Washo Seafood Market and wander the stalls, filling it with as much fresh, reasonably priced seafood as you like.
Okhotsk Atka Mackerel
Hokke, also known as the Arabesque greenling, lives in the cold waters of the Sea of Okhotsk. A flavorful, juicy fish, hokke can be served raw, boiled or grilled with lemon and soy sauce. Its high fat content makes it a great partner for white rice and alcohol.
Cuts of lamb or mutton and vegetables are cooked at the table on a domed metal grill. Served with dipping sauces, it's a delicious, communal style of dining. The dish's name refers to Genghis Khan, because the Japanese thought lamb was a favorite of Mongolian soldiers.
With an extra layer of oil on top of a delicious soy sauce-based soup, Asahikawa ramen is extra fun to slurp thanks to its thin, firm and wavy noodles.
Yakumo Wood-Carved Bears
Farmers in the little town of Yakumo, Hokkaido, couldn’t work in winter because of the snow, so in 1924 they started carving kibori kuma as souvenirs to make money and fight boredom. This carving of a bear biting a salmon has become one of Hokkaido’s most iconic souvenirs.
Bolta ningyo are dolls welded from bolts, nuts, washers and other components, made in Muroran, a city of iron in Hokkaido. The five-centimeter-high bolta character comes in 100 poses, appearing as a warlord, musician, singer, tennis player, tea ceremony master, astronomer, thinker and many other guises.
Nibutani Tree-Bark Textiles
Bark from Manchurian elm or Japanese lime trees is handspun and woven into distinctively textured fabric. Used in regional kimono, workwear and accessories, this durable, breathable natural textile is Mother Nature’s Gore-Tex. Nibutani tree-bark cloth was a common material in Ainu households for centuries.
Hand-carved wooden trays featuring traditional motifs unique to Ainu culture, including soft spirals, diamond-shaped eyes, thorns and fish scales. Each piece is intricately fashioned to accentuate the wood grain. Ainu bachelors didn't put a ring on it, they carved love tokens, including Nibutani trays.
As the snow melts, Hokkaido transforms. Hokkaido's northern location means its cherry blossom season is later in the year, in May.
Summer is lavender season in Hokkaido, and there are dozens of other flower festivals too. The last mountain snows melt, allowing opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, rafting and other green season sports.
In fall, view spectacular illuminations in the cities and colorful foliage in the national parks. Taste Hokkaido's seasonal produce when it is freshly harvested.
Hokkaido is synonymous with skiing in Japan. Don't miss a chance to glide down the slopes of the Niseko, Rusutsu or Furano resorts after a fresh snowfall. Sapporo's world-renowned winter snow festival, with its massive snow and ice sculptures, attracts thousands of people every year.