A Travel Guide to Visiting Hokkaido, Japan

A Travel Guide to Visiting Hokkaido, Japan

Autumn is a fabulous time to visit Hokkaido, the northern part of Japan.  This area is one of the more unexplored region's of the country, making it a great way to escape the crowds.

Here are some tips to make the most out of your Hokkaido Trip:

Accommodation:

Since it's not a typical tourist destination, it's pretty easy to get great deals on places to stay. Usually most hostels charge 2,500-4000 JPY per night for a dorm room.  I stayed at Yu Yu hostel in Sapporo, Takimoto Inn in Noboribetsu and Perry's House in Hakodate. All are good places to stay and I can recommend them. Takimoto Inn is slightly more expensive, however, and cost me 8000+ JPY per night, but Onsen cost is included in the rate.

 

Food:

Hokkaido is heaven for seafood lovers. You can't get better seafood than here. Fish markets are a must visit. There are many cheap places to eat in Hokkaido. My favorite was the Ramen noodle shops and Soba Noodles... and of course there's the tempura. You can get a big bowl of Ramen for 800 JPY. In general, meals range from 250 - 1250 JPY. Also, I preferred buying groceries from the supermarkets, and you can find vending machines almost everywhere.

 

Transportation:

Japan has excellent public transport. Everything runs on time and is very well organised, though quality comes at a price and transportation can become incredibly expensive. Personally, the bulk of my budget in Japan went towards transportation.

Trains are the fastest but most expensive mode of transport in Japan. If you're traveling for long distances, getting a JR Pass makes sense, otherwise buses are better. They're cheaper, but take a bit more time than trains. For example, a train ticket from Sapporo to Toya costs approx. 5000 JPY, while a bus ticket costs only 1000 JPY.

However, buses run much less frequently than trains so be sure to check the timetables before venturing out.  In most cities you can buy a day bus pass for less than 1000 JPY, which gives you unlimited access to all bus routes for 24 hours. Inter-city bus tickets usually cost around 2,500 JPY.

 

Activities:

Most attractions like temples, lakes, parks, valleys, and museums are free to enter except for the most popular ones.  For instance, visiting Hell Valley in Noboribetsu is free, but you have to pay to use the onsens (Japanese hot springs).  To score a deal, look out for city or attraction passes that are valid for a day or more. To give you an idea, a one-day pass to Jozenkie that includes a return bus fare and onsen costs 1700 JPY.

 

Must Visit Places in Hokkaido:

Sapporo:

Sapporo is the capital and the biggest city of Hokkaido and is a great place to use as a base. It's easy to take day tours to nearby cities such as Otaru or Jozankei.  In Sapporo itself, must-sees include the TV Tower, Odori Park, University area, and Morning Fish Market amongst other places.

 

Jozenkei:

Jozenkei is known as an onsen town great for autumn leave viewing.  Make sure to visit its dam site and Fatumi Park.

 

Yoichi and Otaru:

A day trip from Sapporo will take you to the town of Yoichi where you must visit the Nikka Whisky Museum. Yoichi is also famous for its fruit and drinks. Don't forget to try their free samples. After Yoichi visit Otaru, which is most famous for its canal.  You'll be hard pressed to figure out whether you're in Japan or Europe.

 

Lake Toya:

Lake Toya is a paradise for nature lovers where you’ll see the beauty of a volcanic caldera lake right along-side the modern art in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park region. Don't forget to take the boat cruise that takes you to all of the small islands in the lake. Onsen is a must when you are here.

 

Noboribetsu:

The onsen village of Noboribetsu is also known as “the department store of hot springs” because of the nine different kinds of hot springs that well up here. It's a one street village with hot spring hotels on both sides. If you visit Noboribetsu, definitely experience the onsen at Daiichi Takimotokan Hotel. It has 20 different hot spring baths located both indoors and outdoors with amazing views of the Hell Valley.

 

Hakodate:

Hakodate is one city where the mountains meet the beach. On one end of the road you have Mt. Hakodate towering over you and on the other end waves crash on the shore. It's a sight to behold. The aerial view that you get from Mt. Hakodate is something that dreams are made of. At the base of the mountain lies Motomachi, a neighborhood of steep streets that look like they are from 20th century Europe.

 

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