ITINERARIES A Winter Trip to Hokkaido Celebrate Hokkaido's wintry landscape and discover the animals that call it home
Japan's northernmost island, Hokkaido, is a mountainous region with an abundance of nature and ample snowfall.
- Observing wolves, penguins and other animals in a more natural light at Asahiyama Zoo
- Exploring the life of the samurai at the end of the shogunate at the Historical Village of Hokkaido
- Seeing some of the world's biggest snow sculptures at the Asahikawa and Sapporo Winter Festivals
How to Get There
See some of Hokkaido's most loved animals at Asahiyama Zoo . This zoo is very popular for its unique facilities that put you in the enclosures. Here you can see animals behave as they would in their natural habitats. Watch penguins fly through water from a tunnel below, and come face-to-face with polar bears while in a glass dome that puts you in the place of their prey.
The Asahiyama Zoo has a number of different exhibits highlighting animals native to the island. At the Hokkaido Animal House, you can see animals like the Hokkaido squirrel and Steller's sea eagle. Meanwhile, at the Ezo Deer Forest, you'll spot this Japanese deer. And nearby you can see cranes at the Japanese Crane House.
In addition to the local animals, the Asahiyama Zoo is home to a host of animals from around the globe. Take your time and visit the exhibits like the Arctic Fox House, the Wolves' Forest and the Penguin House.
Next to the zoo is Asahiyama Snow Village, a snow park that's perfect for visitors of all ages. Here, you can enjoy activities like skiing and riding snowmobiles. The park has gentle slopes that make it the perfect place to try skiing.
If you're visiting Asahikawa in winter, don't miss the Asahikawa Winter Festival . Held every February, this snow festival features some of the world's largest snow sculptures, with one making it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Ride down slides and make your own masterpieces. If you have time, you can also enjoy the Asahikawa International Ice Sculpture Competition.
Learn the history of the samurai at the Historical Village of Hokkaido. At the end of the Edo shogunate, many samurai retired to Hokkaido. Here at the village, you can explore 52 historic structures that show the townscape and lifestyle of the former warriors. Sleigh rides and other winter activities are available in winter.
If your timing is right, make sure to check out the Sapporo Snow Festival . This snow festival is held in February every year throughout Sapporo City and is one of the greatest events in Hokkaido. The largest of the snow sculptures can be found in Odori Park, where you'll be able to walk and enjoy hot food from the food stalls in between the sculptures.
The Tsudome area is a playground of snow during the festival where kids can have fun on the snow slides or snow rafts. Later on, the Susukino venue is perfect for an evening stroll and hot beverage, with ice sculptures along the middle of the street.
If you can't make it to the Sapporo Snow Festival, there is still plenty to do in the city. Glittering exhibitions of lights along Odori Park, Ekimaedori, and Minami-ichi-jo dori begin in late November and last until late-December to mid-March during Sapporo's White Illumination , and the Sapporo German Christmas Market is another festive attraction during this time.