An unspoiled frontier, an escape from industrialized Japan and a chance to connect with nature - although this vision of HOKKAIDO is rose-tinted, Japan's main northern island certainly has an untamed and remote quality. Over seventy percent of it is covered by forest, and wildlife is ubiquitous, both in and out of the enormous national parks, where you'll also find snow-covered slopes, active volcanoes and bubbling onsen. This is Japan's second-largest island, yet a mere five percent of the population lives here.
Sapporo is the aerial gateway to Hokkaido from Tokyo and Osaka and is the island's cultural, economic, and political centre. The city is marked by its neatly laid out checkerboard-like streets. The city's main thoroughfare is the flower-adorned Odori Park, where the internationally popular Sapporo Snow Festival attracts viewers every February. Sapporo's historical monument, the Clock Tower Building, adjoins a museum exhibiting the city's history. The popular hot spring resort Jozankei Spa, is only a short trip from Sapporo. It is a popular haven for many day visitors as well.
Lake Shikotsu, 1 hr. 20 min. by bus from Sapporo, is a beautiful caldera lake tucked among soaring cliffs. The water is deep blue, and never freezes over.
The circular caldera Lake Toya is another highlight. Four thickly wooded islets, dubbed the Nakanoshima Islands, grace the lake's center.
Hakodate, accessible by train from Aomori, is another popular Hokkaido tourist spot. Hakodate is a port town noted for its splendid night view. The starshaped Goryokaku fortress is a principal attraction in the city along with scenic Mt. Hakodate. Well worth a visit is the morning market with buyers and onlookers alike thronging its 360 small shops and stalls filled with fresh fish and vegetables. Simply watching the market's lively hustle and bustle is a great attraction in itself.
Asahikawa in central Hokkaido can be reached in 1 hr. 30 min. by limited express from Sapporo. Another 1 hr. trip by local train brings you to Furano celebrated for its lavender fields in early summer. A vast undulating expanse of fields form exquisite flowery belts of narcissi, lavender and cosmos. Driving through the flowering fields of Furano in this grand natural setting is highly popular among visitors of all generations and a truly unforgettable experience.
Kushiro, the largest city in eastern Hokkaido, is 4 hrs. by limited express from Sapporo. In eastern Hokkaido area you find a world of pristine nature, dotted with crystalline lakes. The greatest highlight here is the Kushiro Wetland which is a wildlife sanctuary. Canoeing down the Kushiro River, which weaves its way through this spectacular marshland, will remain a lifelong memory.
Hokkaido, a land of verdant nature, provides the nature lover with an extensive array of outdoor activities. Attractions include dolphin and whale watching, white-water rafting, horseback riding, woodland trekking, hot-air ballooning, and so much, much more.