Things You Must Do In Hokkaido
You may know of friends who travelled to Hokkaido, the most Northern part of Japan. A wonderland filled with beautiful Sakura, snow and strange Japanese inventions like self-opening toilet seats. Travelling to Hokkaido isn’t cheap, so you may have wondered if it was worth the trip. Wonder no more. In this article, we bring you the best of Hokkaido and its capital Sapporo city. And we’ll show you why this is one trip worth saving up for.
Hokkaido is the most popular province in Japan, even for locals. It is amazingly picturesque and your trip here will leave you with the most beautiful sights your eyes will see. Hokkaido is also one of those cities perfect for having a road trip on. The TSL team travelled around Hokkaido on a self-drive journey for a week. From visiting The Blue Pond, Lake Shikaribetsu and Moerenuma Park, we only managed to cover the tip of the very beautiful iceberg that is Hokkaido. Here’s the MUST-WATCH video of what we got up to. Even if you're in the MRT, it's still worth the open for the first 30 seconds.
So bundle your best pals in a car and head off on the adventure of a lifetime together. Here is our story and 35 reasons to visit Hokkaido at least once in your life.
- THINGS TO DO IN HOKKAIDO-
1. Literally step into the wallpaper of your computer
Yes, this very spot adorns the screens of millions of Mac desktops worldwide. And you’ll now have the chance to walk right into it.
The Blue Pond, located right outside the hot spring town of Shirogane Onsen, is named after the deep blue colour which it owes to natural minerals dissolved in the water. We swear that we stood there in admiration for awhile trying to process its beauty before capturing the moment.
It’s pretty cool how this place has not been promoted as a tourist spot until recent years - making it ultra exclusive to those who happen to know about it. In fact the only thing touristy about the area is a small carpark at the entrance of the park. Take a 5 minute stroll on a gravel path and find yourself in nirvana.
Address: Shirogane, Kamikawa-gun, Biei-cho 071-0235, Hokkaido
Tel: +81 9052211908
2. Take a photo with the lips of Hokkaido
Shikaribetsu Lake is located 810m above sea level with a circumference of 13.8km, surrounded by unspoilt nature. You can see the mountains known as the “Lips Mountains” as it appears like a full-lip when reflected on its surface. It is also a popular spot for outdoor activities – enjoy the nature centre, kayaking and more.
When we were here, we saw a bunch of folks rowing through the beautiful lake, taking in the scenery. Come winter, the lake transforms into something else entirely different.
Address: Lake Shikaribetsu, Kato District, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan
3. Go on the best road trip of your life
If you think that road trips are for the young and adventurous. You are right. And totally wrong at the same time. Road trips are the best way to bond with people and get to know them at a closer level. You’ll constantly be spending hours with them in a tiny space, and it’s where you’ll really get to know your travel companions.
Road trips also allow you to fully enjoy flexibility in your itinerary, with pit stops at your choosing, you will NEVER have a dull moment! You can even rent a luxury car for a change and travel in style like we did!
4. Find the ultimate spot for your wedding shots
Shikisai No Oka Garden is a gorgeous panoramic garden of seasonal blossoms from spring through fall, providing magnificent views across 15 whopping hectares of land. There are several dozens of varieties of flowers with a total of more than 20,000 plants. Now, that is one hell of a garden.
Note that the garden is open from 9:00AM to 5:00PM between April to October. The garden is seriously #weddingshootgoals *inserts heart emoticon*
Address: No.3 Aza Shinsei, Biei-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido
5. Live like Geishas in tatami style hotel rooms
A 25-minute drive from JR Kamikawa Station, Sounkyo Choyotei offers a range of accommodations that will impress. From full blown Japanese-styled rooms, Western rooms to hybrids.. you can pick a theme! We recommend staying in the Japanese-styled rooms for the full Japanese experience. Plus those tatami mattresses are helluva comfortable.
Most of the tatimi styled hotels also have hot springs in them which are very popular with hotel guests who get butt-naked and indulge in a welcome respite from the cold. All in the comfort of the hotel!
Address: Sounkyo Choyotei Hotel, Japan, 〒078-1701 北海道上川郡 上川町層雲峡温泉
Tel: +81 1658-5-3911
6. Head up the ski mountain
As you can see… the view only gets better the higher you go. It isn’t super fun coming here in autumn but come winter, everything changes.
Located only an hour from Sapporo at Jozankei, Kokusai Ski Resort offers 7 courses for beginners to advanced skiers with a 3.6km long course from the top of the mountain. And after this, it’s common for skiers to go to the nearby hot springs for some tender loving care with their feet.
Address: 937 Jozankei Minami-Ku, Sapporo. Hokkaido
7. Soak your feet in hot spring water
Jozankei Hot Springs is the perfect spot for people at Jozankei as it is near to lots of attractions around the area. We really enjoyed this one, as it was really intimate (not in the full-on naked way) but because you can enjoy your own spot in the onsen. We like.
The entrance to this onsen was also stunningly beautiful.
Address: Jozankei Hot Springs, Kokoro No Sato Jozan
8. Experience -41 degrees temperatures
Here is your chance to experience the coldest temperature ever recorded in Japanese history, a whooping - 41 degrees. The inside of the Ice Pavilion is kept at a constant temperature of -20 degrees but the real attraction here is the -41 degree room. Upon pressing the button, a huge gush of blistering wind will hit you with the coldest temperature you’ll ever feel in your life.
Displayed inside the Ice Pavilion are numerous icicles, many of them that took over ten years to form. There’s also a slide ride and a warm room, for those who need some emergency respite from the cold. Christabel and I had such a good time on the ice slide that we went not once, but TWICE. If you’re freaking out already, warm overcoats are available for rent here - free of charge!
Address: Kamikawa Ice Pavilion
9. See the Galaxy and the Milky Way next to each other
Located near the Sounkyo Choyotei hotel, these two famous waterfalls, Ginga and Ryusei no Taki of Sounkyo cascade down a 100 meter Cliffside. An interested sight as these waterfalls are located right next to each other, just like an #overlyattached couple. Local signs refer to the pair as “husband and wife”. How adorable is that.
You might be delighted to find out that both waterfalls can be viewed from the large parking lot across the river - no need to hike for an hour. There is also a small observation deck that can be reached via a slightly steep walking trail in about 15 minutes from the parking lot. Pretty awesome for lazy tourists we say!
Address: Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan
10. Be inspired by an extraordinary story at a famous garden
It’s not everyday you find a garden constructed with so much love and passion that it is actually infectious. Those who are itching for a really romantic stroll with your loved ones, this shall be your hood.
We heard that the owner, Akiyo Shichiku is 83 years old and had a dream to turn Hokkaido into an island of flowers. After her husband passed away, she was left with a lot of land and with a lot of time. And so she decided to spend it creating this amazing garden.
With a massive number of 2500 or more kinds of blooming flowers greeting you at every angle, enjoy the view graciously spread over the pastoral Tokachi plain on the outskirts of Obihiro City. We wouldn’t mind waking up to this everyday.
Opening hours: 19th April-3th November, 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m
Address: 107, Nishi-4, Biei, Obihiro
11. Pat the cutest pony you’ll see.
Imagine this, getting warm and snuggly with the tiniest pony in Hokkaido, against the warm setting sun. I felt like a giant next to her.
We highly recommend going for horse riding at sunset, just before heading for dinner. Imagine riding on a majestic stallion along the town, as the light goes down. That’s where we want to be.
WILD MUSTANG’S (Jozankei Horse Riding)
Address: No. 114 Toyama, Minami-ku, Sapporo
12. See the most beautiful gardens in the world
Flower gardens in Hokkaido are like no other. We love how the colours are exaggerated at every corner, making every angle picturesque to the highest degree. We can totally imagine a wedding photoshoot happening right here, with the bride looking like a complete princess being led by her prince charming amongst the fresh blooming flowers.
Address: 16 Chome-186 Nagayamachō, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaidō 079-8431, Japan
Opening Hours: 10:00am - 5:00pm
13. Experience the freshest azuki beans right from the source
The Japanese pride themselves on their fresh local produce and Tokachi Hills is one of Japan’s leading bean producing areas. We were utterly thrilled to be introduced to new and interesting ways to use and eat beans.
The Tokachi Food Park offers various products and even has a cute restaurant that specializes in serving dishes using beans as their base ingredient. We got our hands on the Azuki soft serve ice cream, which tasted like a soft-serve version of our Potong ice-cream.
Other highlights include a kickass garden with edible flowers, grains, beans, fruits and other pesticide free vegetables. A great place to bring your parents we think! Your mum would go cray cray here.
Address: Tokachi Hills
14. Coolest vending machines you’ll see
The vending machines here come in so many cute colours and it will probably be the first thing you spot when you pull up at the parking lot. Yes, you will be able to spot at least a couple of these vending machines at every parking lot in Hokkaido. How we wish that these would pop up in parking lots in Singapore!
We bought so many snacks and soda drinks from these machines that we were NEVER hungry through those hours of driving. A good way to stock up while going to that restroom pit stop. Sidenote: The public restrooms in Hokkaido are squeaky clean with bidets! We like.
15. Beautiful flowers in gardens, on the road, everywhere.
We never knew that Autumn was so beautiful until we came to Hokkaido. Imagine many different shades of brown, mustard, maroon and green at every turn. Hokkaido is drop dead gorgeous in Autumn as you can see. Expect beautiful rural landscapes that leave your jaw hanging.
Even the weeds here are beautiful. Say what?????!!! Yes these are random weeds growing along the street.
16. Step straight into the scene of a TV drama
The beautiful rows of White Birches and ancient oak trees at Tokachi make it a leading sightseeing spot. 567 white birches are lined up over approximately 1.3 km among green grass. We weren’t surprised to find out that this location was often used for TV dramas and movies. We were hoping to be talent spotted by a producer who happened to be taking a stroll in the area but that didn’t happen. Maybe next time.
Address: Located at the entrance of the domestic animal improvement center Tokachi ranch in Otofuke town. North of Obihiro city.
17. Frolick in a mustard flower field that goes on forever
Couples ride through these roads to be swallowed by the magnificent beauty all around. Imagine a field of bright yellow mustard flowers that go on forever. We were completely mesmerized by the sight upon reaching. We spotted many couples taking ootds around the area and wished that our bae was with us.
Address: Patchwork Road, Biei, Hokkaido
18. Cycle through the most beautiful city park in Sapporo
Moerenuma Park (モエレ沼公園, Moerenuma Kōen) is a large park located in the outskirts of Sapporo. The park has a whooping circumference of about four kilometers (which is really huge by the way). The grounds are covered in minimalistic green space and there are massive, dramatic features that make the park very, very unique, like a mini version of the louvre. This is heaven for Instagrammers.
Address: Moerenuma Park
19. Visit a designer mountain built on top of a trash pile
Your next step of cycling here is the ascend the hill. The Moerenuma Park was constructed on what was once a waste treatment plant with 2.7 million tons worth of waste prior to its closing. After a complete revamp by Japanese designer Isamu Noguchi, it reopened to locals and tourists. We spent quite some time here admiring the architectural wonder of a once-dumpster.
Address: Higashi-ku, Sapporo, Japan
- THINGS TO EAT IN HOKKAIDO-
20. Visit a food festival in Sapporo 8 football fields long
Make your tummy happy at a food festival that stretches on forever. Well maybe not forever, but 8 football fields long sounds like our kind of heaven. Afterall, the Sapporo Autumn Fest features all the best food in Hokkaido - from popular dishes like ramen (hokkaido ramen is to-die-for), grilled seafood, fresh vegetables and other kinds of dishes made from local ingredients and the best of the best really. Sapporo is at the heart of Hokkaido, so you can only imagine how the top-grade ingredients all over in Hokkaido flowing into the city.
With the theme of “Delicious food in Sapporo, Hokkaido, and the World Over”, the Odori 11-chome Site offers exciting new culinary experiences. You have to come here for a chance to see the world through the eyes of top local chefs!
We were surprised to find out that not many Singaporeans knew about the existence of the holy grail of Hokkaido gastronomy. Who could miss 8 football fields of food made by the angels of Hokkaido? Even Japanese flock down from all over Japan to enjoy dishes prepared by the chefs of Sapporo’s most popular restaurants. It was held this year from 11th Sepember to 4th October.
We were really impressed to watch how there weren’t any cleaners at a massive food festival - due to the cleaning system that the Japanese adhere to. Love how they sort out their trash! So neat and painless.
Address: Odori Park
More Information: Visit their websitte!
21. Have the best Japanese street food in the heart of Sapporo (night festival food)
The Sapporo Autumn Fest never ends. Besides having a massive day festival with food fit for a king, the Japanese has extended the glorious food festival all the way till late. Leaving us with more excuses to pig out like we mean it.
The main venue for Sapporo Autumn Fest is Odori Park from 4-chome to 11-chome. And that basically means 8 stations of never-ending gastronomical goodness categories by themes like “province food” and “bar food”. Think over 100 dishes, perfected by the perfectionists themselves. This is probably why even the Japanese go cray cray here.
Address: Odori Park, Sapporo, Hokkaido
22. Have super legit authentic buckwheat soba in a 80 year old restaurant
First things first. We love soba. And we always thought that the ones we have in Singapore were not bad, until we came to Hokkaido. This soba restaurant that we went to has handmade buckwheat soba noodles with over 80 years of history. We were sold the moment we sank our teeth into the handmade soba noodles.
We tried googling more reviews on Ko Yo Tei and found literally nothing. Ko Yo Tei, I guess we’re taking your google virginity. A must visit in Hokkaido!
Address: Buckwheat Soba Noodle “Ko Yo Tei”
23. Have the BEST soft serves you will ever eat
Not all soft serves are created equal. And Hokkaido soft serves are proof of that. You can taste the richness of the milk with every bite and we loved it so much to the tune of over 20 soft serves in the matter of days. They were so good that we couldn’t resist! #dontjudgeagain
24. Eat 20 different kinds of fresh farm vegetables on a single plate
Bring any vegetable hater to this restaurant and we swear that they would be a convert at the snap of your fingers. Asperges only serves food prepared using the most suitable methods to bring out the delicious flavours of crops freshly harvested from the Biei fields. So fresh that you could taste the natural sweetness in them.
We never tasted sweeter greens, au naturel and freshly plucked from a local vegetable field nearby to ensure that the ingredients are of the highest quality. Thee Japanese DO NOT mess with quality!
Address: Asperges, 2-6 Omachi, Biei, Kamikawa District, Hokkaido Prefecture 071-0204, Japan
25. Eat the best Wagyu Beef in Hokkaido
The restaurant Bibi by the river is a quaint little lodge restaurant that serve some of the best Wagyu Beef in Hokkaido. This is a MUST VISIT for anyone visiting Hokkaido. We are not joking when we say that the Japanese do not mess with quality. The Wagyu Beef blew us away with its freshness, we had it raw (for the first time). I don’t think we can ever look at Wagyu Beef the same way ever after this.
The only thing that was running through my mind after the hearty meal was how are we ever going back to regular Wagyu Beef again? Thanks for ruining it for all the beef back in Singapore.
Address: Wagyu Beef Lodge Restaurant ‘Bibi’
26. Hold the biggest crab in your life with your bare hands.
We always heard that Hokkaido crabs were THE BEST and how every local would think of Kani Honke when it comes to savouring the best of Hokkaido’s crabs. It’s been serving crabs since 1967 and guys, the rumours are true. Imagine having juicy crab meat stuffed into every dish possible.
From good ol’ Hokkaido crabs on its own, crab Coleslaw, crab and potato pudding to crab miso soup. You name it, they probably got it on the menu. Not forgetting how kickass their service is. We used a stopwatch to record the amount of time it took for the service staff to reach our room (including kneeling and opening the shōji 障子 - traditional Japanese paper door). You wouldn’t believe it that the service arrived in approximately 10 seconds, every single time.
Be sure to ask the staff for a picture with one of their giant crabs in the pond at the entrance of the restaurant. They’ll happily oblige.
Address: 1-18 2-chome Kitasanjyo-Nishi Chuouku, Sapporo, Hokkaido Postcode: 060-0003
Directions: 5 minutes walk from the south exit of JR "Sapporo Station" via exit 13.
27. Dine with the best night view in Sapporo
You’ll have to take a cable car up to Mount Moiwa to reach Jewel. Here, you’ll get to see the beautiful Sapporo city light as you indulge in fine dining. The people we spotted here looked like they were on very serious dates. Alternatively, you can just choose to go up a level for a panoramic view of the city. It’s super chilly so do remember to layer up with your winter clothes.
For Singapore, we have MBS, but for Hokkaido, there’s Mount Moiwa!
Address: The Jewel, Mount Moiwa
28. Wine and cheese like you’ve never had before
Imagine enjoying a world class meal at a fraction of the price, all while in full view of the autumn leaves in Hokkaido. The restaurant featured here sits on a hill overlooking Furano’s fields and the Daisetsuzan mountains. Our kind of view definitely.
Address: Furano Wine House - Shimizuyama, Furano-shi, Hokkaido. Approx 5 minutes by car from JR Furano Station
29. Fresh water trout that grow in crystal clear spring-fed ponds
We learnt that the local trout served by the traditional Japanese restaurant has been grown in crystal clear water that came from the mountains. Now, how does that sound? Your fish can’t get any fresher than this.
Address: Shikaoi Yamabe En, 27-7 Higashiurimaku Nishi 16 Sen, Shikaoi, Kato District, Hokkaido Prefecture 081-0346, Japan
30. BEST mushroom soup you will ever taste
A 25-minute drive from JR Kamikawa Station, Sounkyo Choyotei has an in-house restaurant that will blow your mind. We were hesitant on trying this soup at the start, due to the fact that it arrived after our 123456789th dish that evening. Boy, we thank our lucky stars for creating multiple hidden tummies because it was mind-blowingly good.
Imagine 10 different kinds of mushrooms boiling in a pot, creating a heavenly broth that was simply unforgettable. You have to try this when you visit Hokkaido! We beg you.
Address: Sounkyo Choyotei Hotel, Japan, 〒078-1701 北海道上川郡 上川町層雲峡温泉
Tel: +81 1658-5-3911
31. Enjoy local produce only found in Hokkaido
Local produce is EVERYWHERE in Hokkaido. From local vegetables and beans like yams, corn, purple sweet potatoes, regular potatoes that were obviously not that regular, white beans, kidney beans, six different types of pumpkins and Azuki paste. Thank the dedicated farmers who grow them because they are helluva good. We tried eating some Hokkaido grown potato chips and it was the best thing ever.
Another standout was the raw local corn, that was white instead of the usual yellow.
We didn’t believe it when the store owner told us that we could eat raw corn just like that. Not until we tried it ourselves that is. It is basically everything you want in a boyfriend. Tall, sturdy, fresh and sweet. You HAVE to try raw corn when you visit Hokkaido!
- THINGS TO BUY IN HOKKAIDO -
32. Watch leather products being handmade by Japanese craftsmen
We learnt that Somes Saddle is the pride of Hokkaido, famous for being a local harness maker that evolved into selling leather goods around the world. Over here, you’ll get a glimpse at how professional leather craftsmen manufacture the products meticulously by hand.
Address: Somes Saddle, 237-6 Hokko, Sunagawa, Hokkaido Prefecture 073-0108, Japan (ソメスサドル)
33. Shop at convenience stores that will make you fat
Convenience stores are hard to miss in Hokkaido as they are so brightly coloured and attractive. We were squealing like schoolgirls the moment we stepped into one of these, and wanted to buy everything. And we mean... everything.
We ended up buying way too many snacks for a 2 hour car ride.
Seicomart is a convenience store unique only to Hokkaido, and some items there are limited only to Hokkaido, so be sure to check out what’s buzzing!
There’s also whole lot of Japanese beer you can try here. But in Sapporo, drink Sapporo.
34. Try the most legit Cup Noodles with real dumplings inside
We got real hungry at midnight eve after like 6 meals throughout the day (#dontjudge) and decided to buy cup noodles from the nearby convenience store. Yes, even random cup noodles have dumplings inside! Japan… you rock.
35. Shop from Japanese brands at a Japanese Factory Outlet
A mega-scale outlet mall with a total of 137 shops for you to go cray cray in. Go ahead and stock up on the best Japanese snacks for your friends like it’s the apocalypse.
Ranging from beauty products like collagen, skincare supplements, whitening products to sinful snacks like 532 flavours of Kit Kats that would blow your mind. Forget about Matcha flavoured Kit Kats, what about Azuki Bean and Cheesecake?! Expect to exit the facility with a hole in your pocket.
Address: Mitsui Outlet Park Sapporo, Kitahiroshima
A trip to Hokkaido will remind you how beautiful this earth is, leaving you with vivid images stuck in your head that will last a lifetime. Everywhere is so postcard perfect and you'll realise all you know of Japan from animes and Japanese dramas are all true. And they were probably shot in Hokkaido.
Hokkaido is over 100 times the size of Singapore, so it’s a great opportunity for you to rent a car and go on a road trip. Yes, travelling here is not cheap. I'll estimate the cost per person to be at least 3k-4k for a 7 day trip. But you cannot put a price on an experience like this so start saving up! We recommended spending 4 days driving around Hokkaido and 3 days in Sapporo city. We went in Autumn so the weather was chilly and the sights were breathtaking. Our agency has kindly allowed us to share the full itinerary and maps we used for our trip, so check it out for more details. It will come in super helpful if you're planning to do a self-drive tour too.
You'll be driving around a fair bit if you want to see all the attractions, so it'll be a different kind of holiday experience. It'll be the road trip of a lifetime.
Find out more about Hokkaido from their official tourism website and start planning your trip now!
This post was brought to you by the City of Sapporo.