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Story Seasonal Activities in Hokkaido by JNTO on 04 January 2018

Hokkaido has plenty of events and activities which are celebrated according to its seasons.



There are several ice festivals throughout Hokkaido, with the Sapporo Snow Festival (February 5-12) being the most well-known. Held across the city in venues like Odori Park, Susukino and Tsu Dome, you can view hundreds of ice sculptures which are lit at night. At Tsu Dome, there are even snow slides.


Sapporo Snow Festival in Odori Park, Susukino and Tsu Dome


The town of Otaru holds its Snow Light Path Festival (February 9-18) in winter, when candlelit lanterns line the Otaru canal, and the former Temiya railway line is decorated with snow sculptures.


Snow Light Path Festival in the town of Otaru


The town of Abashiri also has a display of ice sculptures that take advantage of the ice floes at the Abashiri Okhotsk Drift Ice Festival (February 10-12). From January to February, you can view the drift ice on the shores of Okhotsk from the Ryuhyo Monogatari train that runs along the coast, or board the Aurora icebreaker ship that cruises the frozen Sea of Okhotsk from January to April, breaking up ice up to 1m thick. From Utoro in the Shiretoko peninsula, you can even don a thick wetsuit for a walk or swim in the sea ice.


the Aurora icebreaker ship that cruises the frozen Sea of Okhotsk


Wakkanai hosts the biggest dog sled race in Japan, a tradition that’s over 30 years old. Traditionally raced with the Karafuto Ken, a Japanese breed native to Sakhalin Island, the Japan Cup 2018 is scheduled for February 24-25.

Spring and summer


Cherry blossoms herald the beginning of spring across Japan, and in Hokkaido it blooms later – usually in early May – thanks to its colder climate.


One of the prettiest cherry blossom sites is Matsumae, the only castle town during the Edo era (1603-1868) when the island was considered wild. Matsumae Park, with its charming castle, boasts 10,000 cherry trees of around 250 varieties and bloom longer than most other spots across Japan. In Hakodate, Goryokaku Park’s star-shaped fortress is a popular cherry blossom site when about 1,600 light-colored Yoshino cherries bloom.


Goryokaku Park’s star-shaped fortress is a popular cherry blossom site


In mid May, an 8km stretch of road leading to the onsen town of Noboribetsu is covered in a veil of cherry blossoms, creating a ‘flower tunnel’ composed of 2,000 cherry trees. Another gorgeous road is Shizunai Nijukken Road, often regarded as the best row of cherry trees in Japan containing roughly 3,000 trees of the darker Sargent’s cherry variety.


cherry blossoms creating a flower tunnel


Hokkaido’s other flowers are also celebrated from May to June. The Sapporo Lilac Festival is held in both Odori Park and Kawashimo Park. Odori Park is said to have 400 lilac trees, and first-day visitors are given lilac seedlings; Kawashimo Park boasts about 1,700 lilac trees of 200 varieties.


One of the most spectacular natural sights is when the shibazakura (moss phloxes) bloom, carpeting the entire landscape in a shade of pink. The best places to see this are at the Takinoue Park (near Asahikawa) and Higashimokoto (Abashiri) from early May to June.


Sapporo Lilac Festival in Odori Park

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