Hokkaido

Hokkaido (北海道) is a prefecture in northern Japan.

The largest (and north-most) of the prefectures in which there are winter sports, snow festivals, and awesome seafood. Hokkaido is known for it's ramen noodles (inventors of miso ramen) and Genghis Khan, a lam and vegatable dish you cook on a dome shaped grill at your table. Also know for the seafood and beer (Sapporo, have you heard of it?).

Before travelling to Hokkaido, make sure and contact the Hokkaido tourism center. They speak English, are super helpful and will send you a huge packet of information. http://www.visit-hokkaido.jp/en/

Getting There

  • Ferries
    One from Akita City leaves at around 5-6pm, so you might have to leave work early.
    The 7am ferry is nice because you arrive to Tomakomai and can take a bus to the Tomakomai for ¥700. You arrive in Tomokomai port around 5:30pm. You can take a bus from Akita station to the Akita port. The bus leaves Akita station around 6am and arrives at Akita port by 6:30am. There is also a free parking area across the street from the Ferry station and across the street from the Lawson.
    Another one leaves from Aomori City to Hakodate leaves around 2330, but you have to drive up there (free parking). It might seem far, but it's completely doable. This ferry takes significantly less time, only about 4 hours as opposed to overnight.
    You can take your car with you on the ferry for a fee. These are overnight rides, depending on which class you are in, you will either have a bunk in a room of about 24 bunks, a double room with hotel amenaties, or share a carpeted floor with other travellers. _Some Ferries arrives early, before buses start running. If you don't want to take a taxi, you can walk to the train station, but it is quite a hike.
    The [Tsugaru Kaikyo] Ferry goes from Aomori City (3 hours 40 min) as well as Oma (1 hour 40 min), and provides a vehicle ferrying service. Bring blankets for a comfy nap on the boat before venturing into or from Hokkaido! There's a restaurant on the Aomori<>Hakodate boat, and a small cafe like area on the Oma<>Hakodate ferry. Board early for access to outlets in 2nd class on the Aomori trip.
  • Train
    There is a train tunnel to Hokkaido.
    There's also a sleep train, which is beautiful, shiny and expensive. The price for the sleep train can very depending on where you come from. But the price from Tokyo to Hokkaido and the price from Akita to Hokkaido are pretty close to the same. It is also hard to get a ticket during busy times. You can reserve a ticket 30 days in advance at a ticket office, but sometimes there will people in front of you that somehow got there name on the list early.
  • Fly
    About 1.5 hours from Aktia to Minami-Chitose airport (south of Sapporo)

Getting Around

You will need to see what kind of travelling you're putting in to decide how to get around. Hokkaido is quite vast for Japanese standards, so train coverage can be sketchy in some areas. However, there is a JR Hokkaido Pass. Taking your car on the ferry might be another option. Or car rentals.

Sapporo (札幌)

Big place with grid like streets labled with numbers and directions. For example, south 5 east 6th street. Very easy to navigate.

  • Sapporo beer Museum - Free museum with history, memorabilia, and a 400 yen beer sampler (Three fresh beers).
  • Snow Festival - Great by day or night (ice looks better at night.) Be sure to wear warm shoes with god traction, as the snow gets packed with all the foot traffic and can get slippery. BOOK HOTELS EARLY. You might have to book rooms outside of Sapporo in Otaru, or even Tomakomai (about 1/2 hour by train to the south)
  • Tokeidai - Once the tallest building in Sapporo, this clock tower has a clock from a company in Boston.

Food/Drink

Make sure you snag the "サッポロ食べちゃるガイド" from the station. It's got lots of ads, great maps, coupons, and info about events.

  • Curry Soup HiriHiri
    北海道札幌市中央区南1条西17丁目1-22
    Walking distance from Sapporo eki, nicely renovated, good...beware if you're not into spicy. Their "spicy level" is very subjective.
  • Sapporo Ramen Houryu
    札幌市中央区南6条西3丁目(ススキノ本通り)
    Also walking distance from Sapporo eki, it's been in business for 51 years and is a celebrity favorite.
  • Ezo Beer
    〒064-0944 札幌市中央区 円山西町5-7-57
    A great beer bar with a massive selection of import beers. The master is an American who knows his beers. He is the official Rouge importer in Japan. Also sells over the Internet. Homepage

Otaru (小樽)

A romantic little town with a short Venice like canal and lots of historic buildings. Known for its glass and music boxes.

  • K's Blowing You can try glass blowing here and have it shipped home once its cool, about 2000 yen.[1]
  • Food - Giant size takoyaki balls, bread wrapped fish cakes.

Hakodate (函館)

  • There is a nice shopping area near the waterfront called Akarenga, where they converted the old brick warehouses into a toursim/ commercial area.
  • Hakodate Mountain at night does have a nice view. And there's one fancy house where you can indulge in your sense of Victorian-style cos-play for 2000yen.
  • The Morning Market near the station is also a great place to get some of Hokkaido's famous fresh seafood. (squid sashimi so fresh it still changes colors when you touch it.)

Niseko (ニセコ町)

Great place for winter sports

Tokachi (十勝支庁)

Toyako (洞爺湖町)

Small town, but gives you a chance to get close to a recently (still bubbly) volcano. They've kept some of the damage as-is, to show visiting school children the impact of the volcano. Includes a destroyed road, destroyed buildings, and so forth.

Shiretoko/Utoro (知床/ウトロ)

On the peninsula which is/was considered by the Ainu as the "End of the World." Gorgeous views of mountains over lakes at Shiretoko, an onsen water fall (Kamui Wakka), and lots of wild deer who won't pester you for food like they do in Nara. Actually, you'll be able to eat the deer in the form of a burger or in curry at the lake's visitor center.

Kushiro (釧路市)

Way off the beaten path on the eastern side of Hokkaido. If you want to see Japanese cranes in the winter, this is the place. It's a 4 hour train ride. You can take the bus once you get there if time allows, or rent a car (the GPS is really helpful). You can also see the cranes in the spring....perhaps all year. There's an international crane center somewhere between Kushiro and Akan Kotan.

Minami-Chitose (南千歳市)

Airport with the best omiyage section EVER! If you're flying home, you can get everything here. There are also outlet malls in the area

See also

Akita JET Travel Guide
Hokkaido Hokkaido
Tohoku Aomori • Akita • Fukushima • Iwate • Miyagi • Yamagata
Kanto Chiba • Gunma • Ibaraki • Kanagawa • Saitama • Tochigi • Tokyo
Chubu Aichi • Fukui • Gifu • Ishikawa • Mie • Nagano • Niigata • Shizuoka • Toyama • Yamanashi
Kansai Hyogo • Kyoto • Nara • Osaka • Shiga • Wakayama
Chugoku Hiroshima • Okayama • Shimane • Tottori • Yamaguchi
Shikoku Ehime • Kagawa • Kōchi • Tokushima
Kyushu Fukuoka • Kagoshima • Kumamoto • Miyazaki • Nagasaki • Ōita • Saga • Okinawa