10 Places to visit in Hokkaido Prefecture – Hokkaido is a cradle of unique Ainu culture and mesmerizingly beautiful nature spots, spirit and body refreshing rottenburo (open air hot springs) boundless potato fields and green lawns. Once you visit that blessed island you couldn’t help it but make a place in your heart to let that beautiful land in. We prepared 10 spots to visit that will definitely leave you in awe:
1. Lake Shikotsu
Threateningly beautiful and surrounded by the rocks, lake Shikotsu is caldera lake located in Chitose area. With the dormant volcano on the background the whole lake looks like a mere mirage which tends to elude if you approach. As the lake Shikotsu is situated near the mountain forests, it’s usually wispy and the most of sky are hidden behind the clouds.
Local facilities provide tourists with catamarans so you can explore the lake by yourself enjoying the landscape in front of you and translucent water under the pedals. Not only nature strikes you to the heart, but also a little cozy town nestled right next to the mysterious lake. You can find here an old-style omise (Japanese cafe), with authentic atmosphere inside and the wind chimes and faded maneki Neko on the entrance .
Walking along the narrow streets you can encounter a rustic shop dedicated to Ainu culture: a diversity of traditional Ainu amulets and omamori (charm against ill spirits) drags you back to the ancient times when shamans and sorcerers practiced their technic. The high-pitched sounds of original Ainu music instruments only makes that feeling all the stronger. By the way you can also buy those traditional music instruments if you decide to drop in on.
2. Cape Kamui
Located in Shakotan area, the whole way to the Cape Kamui could become an unforgettable trip full of breathtakingly beautiful views of coastlines and cliffs alongside. You can visit that place anytime of year but we recommend you to head there in summer when the foliage is in full swing. Cape Kamui itself looks like a dragon back and also has quite sorrowful legend behind it.
Once you start your ascent up the ridge, you will notice signs prohibiting women from further proceeding and at first you probably assume that it’s tied to the steep slope and bent rusty rails here and there. But it has nothing to do with potential danger to stumble and fall down and related to local legend about the cape itself. It’s said that long time ago local Ainu’s chief’s daughter named Charenka cursed that place for women out of jealousy and jumped off the cliff because her lover left her behind and sailed off.
Despite the legend, women show courage and generally visit that place without hesitation as blue clear water washing the coastline and impressive views from the tip of cape are worth the whole struggle.
3. Shiretoko Goko (5 lakes of Shiretoko)
Shiretoko area is included in list of UNESCO national treasures and actually entitled to be there. Situated in the far north of Hokkaido island, Shiretoko is famous not only among local tourists but among foreigners for its admirably beautiful nature spots all around the area. Radiant waterfalls, sea of Ohotsk with deep blue color of water and dense foliage of surrounding slopes alongside the road – all of this helps to rejuvenate the spirit and draw you mind away from everyday hustle.
But among these treasures we should mention five lakes of Shiretoko as its enchanting beauty is going to blow you away for sure. All five lakes are named by numbers but it doesn’t make its virtues any less: ripples on the water surface and azure sky perfectly reflected in the lake will definitely refresh your mind and maybe inspire you to write a couple strophes. Invigorating views and twittering birds will escort you as you walk down the trail and make you feel like a character from the Disney. But beware the bears – they usually show up in this area in warm seasons and not to guide you to the end of trail.
4. Farm Tomita
Once you get to Hokkaido don’t miss the chance to visit the farm Tomita in Nakafurano-cho. This spot should definitely be in your “must visit” list due to its splendid views and well-done tourist facilities. Farm Tomita is renowned for lush landscapes with great variety of flowers and colorful lavender carpets fluttering on the wind.
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While walking around the garden you can also drop in on local shops with lavender related goods inside and built-in museum of flowers where you can learn more about the cultivated plants and even smell the flowers scents which are separately preserved in special containers. You should also try the lavender ice-cream as it’s available only here and served either in cone or cup.
Farm Tomita is appealing for amateur photographers and gardeners but even if you are not related to them you can still enjoy the picturesque vivid floral sceneries.
5. Blue Pond (Aoi-ike)
Just 30 minutes away by car from farm Tomita and you get to the another sight which is not inferior to mentioned above though. Despite the fact that Biei Is a man-made pond, its bright and amazing blue color provides the perfect symbiosis with surrounding nature. The reason why pond has unusual vivid blue color is aluminum which is contained in the water and breaks the sunlight in the way that it gives peculiar blue hue.
We can tell a lot about that incredible place but the most interesting fact is that pond houses dead trees all year round which makes the whole scenery looks mystical and eerie and attracts a lot of people seeking a spiritual insight. Once you finish the route you can also buy some souvenirs in shop nearby and try original blue-pond pudding. Unlike other spots blue pond is not tied to the seasons so you can come here anytime you wish.
On the outskirts of concrete jungle of Sapporo is nestled a peaceful land for those who need a rest from the city vanity. Jingu or Hokkaido shrine is located in Maruyama area about 10 minutes walk from Maruyama station. Made in 1869, this Shrine is regarded as a heritage of Meiji period and granted as spiritual meeting grounds surrounded by abundance of nature.
Extensive territory with majestic trees alongside the road literally contribute to stress relief while walking around. From time to time you can encounter the forest inhabitants like little squirrels desperately collecting fallen acorns but you’d better stay away from them as you can never predict the behavior of wild animals.
Hokkaido Shrine is also regarded as an important place to visit in January. It’s believed that new year will bring wealth and happiness to those who go to Shrine and send prayers and gratitude on the next day of New Year (hatsumode). In spring the Shrine is well known for picturesque views of cherry blossom and attracts a lot of people from different parts of country.Yatai or food stalls serving Japanese traditional food like yakitori (chicken scewers)and oden (hot pot) all across the Shrine add the spirit of Heian period and make you feel like you are walking around the old Japanese village.
Perfect place for stress relief and immersing into the authentic atmosphere of ancient times.
7. Otaru canal
Completed in 1923, Otaru canal or Unga used to be central part of local busy port. Various goods were transported by ships directly to warehouses situated along the river. But once modern dock facilities appeared, this way of shipment became obsolete and has been pushed back. Humbly served for long time Otaru canal couldn’t just be abandoned and forgotten so citizens decided to rebuild the canal and breathe new life into this place.
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Once you take a glance at the reconstructed alley you’ll be assured that citizens didn’t waste their time and wholeheartedly dedicated themselves to this project. Spirit of nostalgia is hovering over the air and settling on the surface of canal or alongside the alley that embellished by big flowerpots and vintage lamps. Old ivory warehouses were shut down and reopened as shops and cafes and nowadays popular among local people and foreign tourists.
The whole scenery looks exactly like one of the canvas of street artist and could be a suitable spot for morning jogging as well as for evening promenade.
8. Melon Terrace
Hokkaido is known not only for alluring nature spots but also for delicious and varied food. One of the most famous melon brand is also produced and collected in Hokkaido, Yubari area, and then distributed to markets throughout the island. It takes about an hour from Chitose to the Yubari city, producing area of legendary melon, and on your way you can observe how cityscapes are gradually getting lost into dense mountain forests.
There’s also an unforgettable captivating view of vast Ubari river streaming through the forests once you get closer to point of destination. Yubari city is encompassed in nature and has practically nothing but thick row of trees and bushes stretches for kilometers. That’s why the spot named Melon terrace is easy to be noticed and found. 2-storied cafe shop with detailed green Ubari bear, which is mascot of local area, on the entrance serves and sale original Ubari melon and beverages.
Facility also provides guests with outside terraces, so you can savor the mellow dessert while relishing the view of continuous forest and occasional cars going by. Served Melon is usually cut into few pieces so visitors could easily pick them either by the toothpick or fork and keep clothes clean while savoring. The melon for sale looks so fresh so you probably assume that it has just been harvested and delivered to the market specially for you.
Besides the groceries, you can find a lot of green Ubari bear related souvenirs which will gladden the friends and family of yours when you come back home.
9. Takino Suzuran Hillside Park
Situated in Sapporo city, Suzuran hillside park is popular site for tourists and citizens as it features various entertainments and could be fascinating for both adults and kids. Divided into three segments Suzuran hillside park provides its visitors with delightful tulip spreading zone, waterfalls zone and kids zone so you’ll hardly get bored while walking around. Colorful tulips carpet along with fresh air and clear sky make a splendidly relaxing view and fill the atmosphere with some ethereal fantastic vibes.
This place is perfect for professional photo shoot as well as for amateur selfie-lovers. Once you proceed further there will be a vast play ground (kodomo no tani) at first sight looking like a huge anthill with roller slides and tunnels all over the area. Not only kids but also adults can have fun and embrace a child-like spirit riding tall slides and hiding in wide lodges. Unlike tulip segment and playground area the Keiryuu zone of Suzuran park featuring the three waterfalls is calm and perfectly fits for unhurried stroll.
Local silence is disturbed only by birds chirping and synchronized buzz of cicadas. The air is filled with mystical and a bit eerie notes as even on clear days the sun rays barely get through the thick foliage of local trees. Ashirikawa waterfall is located at the end of route and included in list of “Japan’s top 100 waterfalls”. Due to its unique atmosphere and soothing sounds of dropping water this place attracts a lot of spiritual seekers.
10. Shiroi Koibito Park
And last but not least in this list is Shiroi Koibito theme park which is renowned for its fascinating British-style architecture and relaxing atmosphere. Shiroi Koibito park is operated by Japanese confectionery manufacturer that produces popular Japanese sweets. The legendary product is Shiroi Koibito cookie made of two butter crusty cookies and thin layer of white chocolate between them.
The whole park looks like a piece of England somehow transported and embedded into the Hokkaido island. Bright-colored houses along the alley and open terrace with parasols make you feel like you’re somewhere on avenue road. The passing red bus (which you can actually get on) just intensifies this feeling. You can also choose whether visit paid or free area which also quite distinct from each other.
Free route allows to drop in on nearby shops without difficulties and take pictures of surroundings whereas the paid route provides guests with the chance to observe the process of producing the legendary chocolate through the large windows and even have an experience to make and customize the cookie the way you like.
If you are one who chase new experience and and unforgettable memories you had better put mentioned spots in your “must visit” list and let yourself enjoy the genuine splendors of Hokkaido area once you come over.
See you again next time!
Born and bred in Kazakhstan and being an EFL teacher by training by vocation I consider myself as a writer. My leisure time I spend learning languages and reading books thanks to what I can travel from one point to another in space and time without getting on the planes and trains.