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Hokkaido Prefecture

HokkaidoMap of HokkaidoHokkaido is the northernmost island of Japan, and Hokkaido Prefecture is the whole area of this island.
It is the second largest island in Japan after Honshu Island, and it is about a quarter of the total land area of Japan.

The main part of the island is roughly a diamond shape, and is over 500 km both from north to south and from east to west.
And Oshima Peninsula like a tail of fish is attatched at the southwestern part of the island.

To the south of Oshima Peninsula, there is Honshu Island.
Both of them are connected by Seikan Tunnel which is an undersea tunnel for railroad and is about 53.85 km long.

To the north, there is Sakhalin Island.
To the east, there are Kurile Islands.
Now, both of them are under Russian rule.
But main four islands in the south part of Kurile Islands were occupied by Russia in the confusion around the end of the World War II in 1945.
So Japan has demanded the return of the islands, but Russia is still refusing.

Hokkaido is located in the subarctic zone.
So it is very cold in winter. But in summer, temperatures increse near ones in any cities in Honshu Island.

Originally, Ainu people had been lived in Hokkaido.
Around the 15th century, Japanese people came to Oshima peninsula from Honshu Island and settled down.
And it became Matsumae Domain, and the only castle in Hokkaido was built.

After the end of feudal Edo Period (1603-1868), modern Japanese government started the developement of Hokkaido from the 1870s.
Many pioneers came into Hokkaido, and Hokkaido developed. (Some say that it was the aggression to Ainu.)

Hokkaido is one of the Japan's major prefectures of rice production, but the more characteristic agriculture is large-scale farming and dairy.
Wheat, potato, sugar beet are the main products, and Hokkaido produce about a half of the Japaneses milk.
Such productions and the land where are produced evoke the image of European rural area.
So the exoticism of Hokkaido attracts many people in the other area of Japan.

From a historical standpoint, Hokkaido is a new land.
So there are few historic spots. Instead, we can see many grand natures.
Hokkaido is popular with the tourists from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea.
And many Australians visit some ski resorts in Hokkaido every year.

Sapporo Sapporo is the prefectural city of Hokkaido, and is located at the southwest position from the center of Hokkaido Island.
The population is about 1.9 million, and over one third of Hokkaido's population (About 5.5 million) concentrates in this city.
It has been political, economic and cultural center of Hokkaido, and it has some historic spots of pioneer days.

Sapporo city has subway, streetcar and route bus.
And several bus tours touring around main spots are set up.

To visit Hokkaido, it is common to fly by airplane.
The central airport is Shin-Chitose Airport, which is in Chitose city located about 50 km southeast of Sapporo.
It has the flights from many various city in Japan. Especially, from Haneda Airport (Tokyo), it has 3 to 5 flights per hour.
Additionally, this airport has the international flights from Seoul, Busan, Beijing, Dalian, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Guam, and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (Sakhalin Island, Russia).

From Shin-Chitose Airport to Sapporo, it takes about 35 minutes by rapid train of JR.
And many route buses to Sapporo are operated.

In Hokkaido, there are other airports.
Main airports are Hakodate, Asahikawa, Tokachi-Obihiro, Kushiro, Menanbetsu (near Abashiri) and Wakkanai.
These airports have the flights from Haneda.

From Sapporo, JR limited expresses are operated to main cities in Hokkaido.

Hokkaido Official Tourism Website
The Best from Hokkaido
Welcome to Sapporo
non non Tokachi

Shin-Chitose Airport official website
Hakodate Airport official website

JR Hokkaido Railway Company official website

The climate in Sapporo
Highest Temperature (deg C) -0.6 0.1 4.0 11.5 17.3 21.5 24.9 26.4 22.4 16.2 8.5 2.1
Lowest Temperature (deg C) -7.0 -6.6 -2.9 3.2 8.3 12.9 17.3 19.1 14.2 7.5 1.3 -4.1
Mean monthly rainfall (mm) 114 94 78 57 53 47 81 124 135 109 104 112

The climate in Hakodate
Highest Temperature (deg C) 0.7 1.5 5.3 11.8 16.5 19.9 23.4 25.8 22.7 16.8 9.7 3.3
Lowest Temperature (deg C) -6.2 -5.9 -2.6 2.6 7.5 12.1 16.6 18.7 14.1 7.4 1.4 -3.5
Mean monthly rainfall (mm) 77 59 59 70 84 73 130 154 153 100 108 85

The climate in Asahikawa
Highest Temperature (deg C) -3.5 -2.1 2.6 11.7 17.7 22.9 25.8 26.3 21.6 14.8 5.8 -0.8
Lowest Temperature (deg C) -12.3 -12.7 -6.3 0.0 5.4 11.6 15.9 16.8 11.2 3.9 -2.0 -7.9
Mean monthly rainfall (mm) 70 51 54 48 65 64 109 134 131 104 117 97

The climate in Kushiro
Highest Temperature (deg C) -0.6 -0.4 2.7 7.7 12.0 15.2 18.6 21.2 19.7 14.8 8.7 2.5
Lowest Temperature (deg C) -10.4 -9.9 -4.9 0.3 5.0 9.0 12.8 15.5 12.3 5.5 -0.8 -7.1
Mean monthly rainfall (mm) 43 23 58 76 112 108 128 131 156 95 64 51

The climate in Wakkanai
Highest Temperature (deg C) -2.7 -2.5 1.2 7.2 12.0 15.7 19.7 22.3 19.7 13.7 6.1 0.1
Lowest Temperature (deg C) -6.8 -7.1 -3.5 1.8 6.0 10.1 14.5 17.3 14.0 8.1 1.0 -4.2
Mean monthly rainfall (mm) 84 61 50 49 68 53 91 116 124 134 121 113

Tourist spots in Hokkaido

Central Sapporo map

Central Sapporo

Former Hokkaido Government office building /1/
Hokkaido University Botanical Gardens /2/
Sapporo Clock Tower /3/
Odori Park /4/
Sapporo TV Tower /5/
Nijo Market /6/
Sapporo Factory /7/
Susukino /8/
Ramen Yokocho /9/
Nakajima Park /10/
Hokkaido University /11/
Sapporo Beer Museum /12/
Maruyama Park /13/
Hokkaido Shrine /14/
Mt.Okura Ski Jump Stadium /15/
Mount Moiwa /16/

Map of central Hokkaido

Central Hokkaido

Hitsujigaoka obsevetion hill /21/
Nopporo Forest Park /22/
Jozankei hot spring resort /23/
Otaru city /24/
Lake Shikotsu /25/
Lake Toya /26/
Mount Usu volcano /27/
Showa-shinzan volcano /28/
Noboribetsu hot spring resort /29/
Cape Chikyu /30/
Shakotan Peninsula /31/
Niseko ski resort /32/
Mount Yotei /33/

Map of southern Hokkaido

Southern Hokkaido

Hakodate city /41/
Onuma Quasi-National Park /42/
Matsumae town /43/

Map of eastern Hokkaido

Eastern Hokkaido

Abashiri city /51/
Shiretoko Peninsula /52/
Notsuke Peninsula /53/
Lake Mashu /54/
Lake Kussharo /55/
Lake Akan /56/
Kushiro city /57/
Kushiro marsh /58/
Akkeshi and Kiritappu /59/
Nemuro city /60/
Cape Nosappu /61/
Obihiro city /62/
Lake Shikaribetsu /63/
Cape Erimo /64/

Map of northern Hokkaido

Northern Hokkaido

Asahikawa city /71/
Biei town /72/
Furano city /73/
Daisetsuzan volcano group /74/
Sounkyo gorge /75/
Wakkanai city /76/
Cape Soya /77/
Sarobetsu Moor /78/
Rishiri Island /79/
Rebun Island /80/

Scenic or Nature / Park or Garden / Resort / City, Town or Village / Quarter or Street /
Temple or Shrine / Museum or Laboratory / Market or Commercial facility / Factory /
Other Building or Construction / Historic place / Remains / World Heritage Site

Main events in Hokkaido

Sapporo Snow FestivalSapporo Snow Festival (Early February)

It is the big festival of Hokkaido Prefecture in winter.
A total of more than 300 big snow statues are built. Most of them are modeled after famous buildings or popular characters.
It is held every year since 1950, and attracts 2 million visitors recently.
It is held for about 7 days at Odori Park, Susukino and Sapporo Satoland.

Sapporo Snow Fastival official site

Abashiri Okhotsk Ryuhyo FestivalAbashiri Okhotsk Ryuhyo Festival (Every early February)

Abashiri Okhotsk Ryuhyo Festival is one of popular winter festivals in eastern Hokkaido.
It is held for three or four days at the just time that ryuhyo (sea ice) covers the sea around Abashiri, and the main venue is around the Abashiri port.
Dozens of snow and ice sculptures are built, and they are lit up by the colorful lights in the evening.
On a stage near the sculptures, concerts, local traditional performances, TV characters show for children and other events are performed every day.

Yosakoi-Soran FestivalYosakoi-Soran Festival (Early June)

It is the popular festival that many teams consisting of tens of people dance to the folk music of Hokkaido "Soran-bushi".
A student living in Hokkaido watched the Yosakoi Festival at Kochi city, and he began the similar and lively team dance in 1992. Since then, it has explode in popularity of young people, so it has become one of big festivals in Hokkaido.
Like Yosakoi dance, all dancers dance with "naruko" like a castanet.

Moss ball FestivalMarimo Festival (Every early October)

Marimo Festival is the biggest event of Lake Akan, and has been held every year since 1950.
Marimo is spherical moss, and it is the symbol of religious belief for Ainu people around Lake Akan.
By rapid increasing of tourist, marimo in Lake Akan was in danger of extinction. This festival started as part of protection activity of marimo.
The festival has three days.
The first day is the eve, so Ainu people performs their traditional songs and dances.
In the next day, a boat with marimo comes from the lake. The marimo is placed in the Ainu-kotan, then a ritual ceremony are done.
In the last day, the marimo is returned into the lake by boat.

Hakodate morning marketHakodate morning market (Every day)

Hakodate morning market is one of famous ones in Japan.
It is located close to the JR Hakodate station, and there are over 100 shops.
Most shops sell fish or marine product, and the other shops sell vegitables, meat and so on.
The opening time is five in the morning (six in winter) every day, and most shops close at twelve noon.
The tourists to Hakodate surely visit here.

Local foods and products in Hokkaido

Sapporo ramenSapporo ramen

"Sapporo ramen" is regarded as one of Japanese 3 big ramen (Chinese noodle developed in Japan). (Other 2 ramen are "Kitagata" and "Hakata")
The noodle is deep yellow and thick. Commonly fried bean sprout are topped, and sometimes butter and corn are added.
Sapporo ramen was born and developed in Sapporo, but it is currently one of the main type of ramen in Japan, so we can find many restaurants of "Sapporo ramen" all over Japan.
Of course, there are a lot of restaurants in Sapporo. Especially there are some famous restaurans along the Sapporo ramen yokocho.

Asahikawa ramenAsahikawa ramen

Asahikawa is the city with many ramen shops along with Sapporo in Hokkaido.
The soup of Asahikawa ramen is made from pork bones and fish, but we feel little smell of fish. Lard is added to the soup, then it slowly gets cold.
Usually the varieties of flavors for ramen are the "shoyu" (soy sauce), "salt" and "miso", and the basic taste of Asahikawa ramen is "shoyu".
Of course, we can taste the ramen of "salt" or "miso" flavor.

Soup currySoup-Curry in Sapporo

It is the curry-flavored soup, and is similar to the curry of southern India or Southerneast Asia.
Originally it began to serve at a curry restaurant in Sapporo in the 1970s, then started a boom among young ladies in the 1990s, because some smart restaurants began to serve it.
So it is one of the popular foods in Sapporo now.
Japanese people love curry, but we can find curry-soup almost at only Sapporo.
In 2008, "Soup curry yokocho" which has some soup-curry restaurans has opened near Nijo market.


"Jingisukan" is a barbecue on hemispherical iron plate. Commonly mutton or lamb and vegitables are cooked.
You can eat not only in Sapporo but also in whole Hokkaido.
"Jingisukan" is the Japanese name of the medieval Mongolian hero "Genghis Khan", but there is no connection to the hero.
Meats are cooked on the part of hemispherical part. And vegitables are cooked at the foot of the hemispherical part.
During the cooking, the tasty juice of the meat flows down and vegitables are seasoned automatically.

Buta-donButa-don in Obihiro

Buta-don is a bowl of rice topped with sliced pork, so it is a similar dish to "gyudon" topped with sliced beef.
Recently most gyudon chain stores across Japan serve the "buta-don" instead of "gyudon" due to BSE scandals. But they only replace beef with pork.
Buta-don in Obihiro is different.
Pork is sliced a little thicker. Then it is grilled, not stewed like gyudon. Basically onion is not used.
Grilled pork is combined with salty-sweet sauce of shoyu (soy sauce) and sugar, and they are topped on hot rice in a bowl.
There are many buta-don restaurants in Obihiro city.

Sashimi of ikaSashimi of ika (squid) in Hakodate

Hakodate is a base fishing port in southern Hokkaido, then a lot of fish are landed. Therefore we can eat many fresh fish here.
Especially ika (squid) provides the greatest share of fish catches, then many Japanese say "Eat squid at Hakodate, when you travel there".
It is servered by chopped the body of a raw squid into thin strings, which is milky white and semi-transparent. Additionally the sashimi chopped particularly thin is called "ika-somen" (Somen is a kind of Japanese thin noodle).
Generally sashimi is dipped in shoyu (soy sauce) with wasabi in Japan, but this is dipped in light shoyu and grated ginger in Hakodate.

Hanasaki crabHanasaki crab in Nemuro

Hanasaki crabs make their habitat to the east of Hokkaido.
Because they are caught landing on Hanasaki port in Nemuro city, they are called "hanasaki crabs".
Hanasaki crab is not a kind of "crab" but "hermit crab", because it has eight arms. It becomes bright red after cooking in boiling water.
It has many pointed prickles and hard shell, so when you eat boiled one, you should concern about avoiding injury.

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