Powder Snow Paradise
As the cool fresh air of Hokkaido fills your nostrils for the first time, you feel an invigorating rush--your winter adventure is about to start. From perfect powder snow to good food to relaxing hot springs, Hokkaido has something for every discerning traveler looking to make the most of winter.
Hokkaido is Japan's biggest prefecture, as well as the second largest island in the archipelago. Sharing a border with Siberian Russia, Hokkaido understandably has a reputation for particularly intense winter weather. Frequent heavy snowfall during this time of the year, starting from December, in addition to a notably dry climate, means an excess of deep, powder snow.
Because of this, Hokkaido has been lauded as a powder snow paradise, with skiers and snowboarders flocking to the multitude of ski resorts found in Hokkaido. Even those who may not have much experience with winter sports can enjoy other snow activities--snow shoe hikes and sledding are just some of the popular winter pastimes that people of all ages can enjoy. Various snow-related events are held throughout the prefecture--perhaps the most well-known being the annual Sapporo Snow Festival.
But, if you find that you need a break from the cold, never fear--Hokkaido is also renowned for its many natural hot springs. "Onsen", as they are called in Japanese, are wildly popular--for good reason. Great for a variety of ailments, plus packed with skin-beautifying minerals, onsen can really help you relax after a long day.
Another Hokkaido claim to fame is excellent cuisine. The frigid sea waters surrounding the island mean seafood is especially delicious here--with winter fishing bringing in some of the best catch. Also, as much of Hokkaido is agricultural, the dairy and produce here are renowned throughout Japan. There are all sorts of delectable dishes to enjoy.
Whether it be the snow, the food, or the onsen that bring you here, you'll be sure to have a fun, delicious, rejuvenating adventure that you won't forget for many winters to come.
Urban Gateway to Hokkaido
By far the biggest city in all of Hokkaido, Sapporo lacks none of the urban conveniences usually found in metropolitan areas. There is plenty to enjoy, whether shopping at the most fashionable shops and prestigious department stores, having a night out on the town in the nightlife district of Susukino, or stuffing yourself silly with Hokkaido specialities like miso ramen and jingisukan. The downtown area is easily traversed on foot; taxi cabs are also plentiful. Interesting landmarks of historical or cultural value are interspersed throughout the city, so there is always something to spice up a stroll.
What really sets Sapporo apart from other big cities in Japan is the environment. Mountains often cloaked in mist or decked in veils of white snow surround the city. Especially in winter, the frosty air will liven you up as it nips at your nose. The locals can be seen walking down the street with a characteristic shuffle so as to not slip on any icy patches. Piles of snow cover the urban landscape, transforming areas such as Odori Park into ideal venues to showcase the enormous snow sculptures of the world-famous Sapporo Snow Festival.Getting to Sapporo →
Getting to Sapporo
Air: The quickest way to get to Sapporo by fair is by air. Many airlines serve the nearby New Chitose Airport, and the express train from the airport to Sapporo Station will take about an hour.
Train: Not as convenient as flying but still an interesting ride, take the Shinkansen to Shin-Aomori Station and board a limited express bound fro Hakodate in southern Hokkaido. From here, board the JR Hokuto limited express and you should arrive in Sapporo in about three and a half hours. If you are looking for an even more unique transit, a few night trains are still in operation that will take you directly to Sapporo from Tokyo.(hide information)
Industrial Chic and Historical Charm
Otaru exudes a particular ambience all its own, thanks to unique historical circumstances. Facing Ishikari Bay, the Japanese Imperial government established Otaru in 1899 as a international port open for trade. Because of this, Otaru flourished well into the 20th century--at its peak, Otaru was the chief economic hub of Hokkaido, until Sapporo eventually emerged as the bigger city.
Much quieter than bustling Sapporo, Otaru provides a restorative contrast to its urban neighbor. The highlights of Otaru include the romantic atmosphere provided by its many Victorian-style historic buildings and beautifully preserved canal. Otaru is also renowned for its glasswork and music boxes, while sushi lovers will rejoice in some of the best, freshest seafood Japan has to offer.Getting to Otaru →
Getting to Otaru
Train: Otaru can be reached in as little as 30 minutes from Sapporo and 70 minutes from New Chitose Airport via the JR Hakodate Main Line if taking the express. If taking the normal train, add another 30 minutes to the transportation time. The train ride from Sapporo to Otaru is quite enjoyable as it runs adjacent to the sea for a time, creating an illusion of floating on the ocean.
Ferry: For the adventurous who don't mind a day-long journey, several ferries departing from ports such as Niigata and Maizuru on Honshu Island are available as a more leisurely mode of transportation.(hide information)
Catering to the Powder-Hungry
Arguably the most internationally-famous ski resort area in Japan, Niseko draws avid winter sport enthusiasts from across the globe. The reason why is simple: the powder snow here is superb for skiing and snowboarding. Niseko is also well-adapted to foreign visitors--English is common, there are many shops and eateries, and everybody is there to have a good time. As officially regarded, Niseko is divided up into 4 resort areas: Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village, and Annupuri. Also located nearby is the smaller Moiwa ski area, which offers a bit more intimacy, as well as Rusutsu, which boasts Japan's biggest ski resort.Getting to Niseko →
Getting to Niseko
Bus: During the winter season multiple buses are available departing from Sapporo. The ride can typically take anywhere from two to four hours.
Train: Niseko is accessible from Kutchan Station. Take a train departing from Sapporo or Otaru to get here.(hide information)
Noboribetsu & Toyako
Hot Springs and Geothermal Wonders
Any hot spring lover needs to put Noboribetsu and Toyako on their bucket list. These hot springs, or onsen in Japanese, owe their greatness to the unique features of the local terrain--in this case, its important to note that both areas exist within Shikotsu-Toya National Park.
Noboribetsu is perhaps Hokkaido's most famous onsen resort worldwide. Within its borders is the infamous Jigokudani, or Hell Valley, a volcano mouth from which the town's hot spring is sourced. Because of this, Noboribetsu boasts 11 different kinds of hot spring water--all of them luxuriously relaxing.
Toyako, on the other hand, is known for its crater lake--Lake Toya. The town also is situated at the foot of an active volcano, giving the onsen here an extra geothermal edge. Visitors to Toyako Onsen may enjoy panoramic views of Lake Toya as they soak in the hot spring.Getting to Noboribetsu & Toyako →
Getting to Noboribetsu & Toyako
Train: Noboribetsu is served by JR Noboribetsu Station while Toyako is served by JR Toya Station--both situated about halfway between Sapporo in the north and Hakodate in the south via the JR Hokuto limited express (around 2 or 2.5 hours). To get to either onsen resort from here, you will need to get on a bus or taxi (about 15 minutes for both destinations).(hide information)
Furano & Biei
Family Fun and Scenic Views
Practically located smack dab in the middle of Hokkaido, the farming towns of Furano and Biei draw visitors from all over the world looking for a taste of Hokkaido's simple life.
Furano is especially well-known, thanks to it's world famous flower fields that paint endless stretches of bright colors in the fields. In the wintertime, folks flock instead to Furano's ski area and Kan Kan Mura, where you don't have to know how to ski to have fun in the snow.
While Furano is quiet though, Biei is much more quiet. Mostly known for its pleasant, idyllic scenery such as Patchwork Road, that becomes fully-covered with snow in the winter, as well as the hypnotically turquoise waters of the Blue Pond.Getting to Furano & Biei →
Getting to Furano & Biei
Bus: If arriving from Asahikawa Airport, a bus ride to Biei takes about 15 minutes, while going to Furano takes about one hour. If coming from Sapporo Station, it's about a 3-hour bus ride to Furano.
Train: From Sapporo, take a limited express bound for Asahikawa--change trains here and board the JR Furano line, which will take you directly to JR Biei Station or JR Furano Station. The trip takes about 2 hours.(hide information)
Hotels in Sapporo
SapporoGuest Rating: 4.38
Excellent for sightseeing and shopping due to its convenient location between Sapporo Station and Odori Park, this hotel, built in 2007, offers stylish accommodations and great views of the city from its top floor bathing facilities.
Limited Offer! - CROSS STAY PLAN -
from 5,000 JPY
Hotels in Otaru
OtaruGuest Rating: 4.51
Formerly a mercantile house built during the good old days of the Meiji period, these lodgings offer a terrific location right by the famous Otaru Canal and a chance to unwind in relaxing on-site hot spring facilities.
from 11,600 JPY
OtaruGuest Rating: 4.22
Each of the 19 guest rooms is unique, from the interior design to the furnishings. Stylish and modern while still retaining an essence of traditional Japanese design aesthetic, these sophisticated accommodations, complete with hot springs, offer privacy and relaxation.
ONSEN(Hot Spring)!Breakfast Plan
from 23,400 JPY
Hotels in Niseko
NisekoGuest Rating: 4.04
Set in a secluded, pristine area of Niseko Moiwa, this hotel provides an exclusive yet welcoming ambience, making it especially appealing for couples and families. The condominium-style accommodations also make the hotel ideal for longer stays.
Advanced Purchase 28days - Non Refundable
from 15,550 JPY
RusutsuGuest Rating: 4.13
Situated near Niseko in Rusutsu, this picturesque ski resort boasts the distinction of being Hokkaido's largest, with deep powder snow, hot springs, stunning scenery--and even an amusement park.
Book Earlier! Save More!Early Bird Winter 45
from 20,700 JPY
Hotels in Noboribetsu & Toyako
NoboribetsuGuest Rating: 4.92
While away the time in posh accommodations with stunning hot spring facilities--this chic luxury hotel takes advantage of the beautiful surrounding nature for a modern take on Japanese design.
Breakfast and Dinner Plan
from 28,000 JPY
Hotels in Furano & Biei
*Disclaimer: Prices shown are lowest available room rates per person per night based on double occupancy. Prices may vary from those listed above depending on room type, number of guests staying, schedule, and inventory.