38 Recommended Sightseeing Spots by Area in Hokkaido!

Hokkaido is vast, so it takes a long time to travel between its cities. When planning a trip there, it’s important to calculate distances and travel times carefully, or you might not see everything you want to. That’s why in this article, we’ve divided Hokkaido into 10 areas (Sapporo, Asahikawa, Furano, Hakodate, Kushiro, Mashu, Toyako, Noboribetsu, Abashiri Shiretoko, and Otaru). Each area has plenty to see, so we’ve selected recommended attractions that you can visit within a day or two in each area. We’ll also introduce the natural beauty of Hokkaido, which you can enjoy during the summer season from May to August.

Recommended Tourist Spots in Sapporo

In the region of Hokkaido known as “Do-ou,” lies Sapporo, the central city of Hokkaido. Sapporo is a well-known tourist destination in Hokkaido, and this time, we’ve selected tourist spots within the city with easy access for your convenience. All of these attractions are easily reachable from the center of Sapporo, so be sure to visit them when you get the chance.

Enjoy the Seasons at Oasis of Relaxation: Odori Park

Odori Park is not only a favorite spot for Sapporo locals but also an ideal destination for tourists, located in the heart of the city. One of the highlights, especially during the short summers of Hokkaido, is the Sapporo Odori Beer Garden held from late July to mid-August. The park stretches from 1st to 12th blocks, but during this event, the area from 5th to 11th blocks buzzes with activity. In September, don’t miss the Sapporo Autumn Fest, where specialties from all over Hokkaido gather. With a wide array of local delicacies, it’s a must-visit event for anyone touring the area.

From November to February, Hokkaido hosts unique events like the Munich Christmas Market and the Sapporo Snow Festival, making it a distinctive winter destination. During this season, visitors can also enjoy the beautiful snowy landscapes illuminated by White Illuminations. With events tailored to each season, Odori Park offers something special year-round. Planning your visit during these events is highly recommended for an unforgettable experience.

Odori Park

  • Address: 1st to 12th blocks, Odori Nishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • Right next to Odori Station on the Namboku, Tozai, and Toho subway lines
    • Close to Nishi 11-chome Station on the Tozai subway line
  • Phone number: 011-251-0438
  • Hours: Open daily
  • Closed: New Year’s holidays (Information Center & Official Shop)

Wrap Up Your Sapporo Sightseeing with Stunning Night Views at JR Tower Observatory T38

If you’re seeking a romantic experience during your sightseeing in Sapporo, consider visiting the JR Tower Observatory T38. It’s a must-visit spot in Sapporo during the day as well, offering breathtaking views. From the JR Tower Observatory, located at a height of 160 meters above ground, you can enjoy Sapporo’s night scenery, which is one of Japan’s top three night-view cities. With a panoramic view that encompasses 360 degrees, you’ll be able to take in the entire cityscape of Sapporo.

Additionally, the observatory is open until 10:00 PM (last entry at 9:30 PM). After enjoying sightseeing in Sapporo during the day and having a delightful dinner, it’s great to know that you can still fully enjoy the night views. The observatory also has a café, which operates until 10:00 PM (last order at 9:45 PM), offering a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy the night scenery while sipping on drinks. Moreover, the observatory’s restroom is recommended for men. With its open-air design providing a view of the night scenery, it’s worth visiting even if you don’t have an urgent need.

JR Tower Observatory T38

  • Address: JR Tower East, North 2 West 5, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: Approximately 5 minutes on foot from JR Sapporo Station (direct access)
  • Phone number: 011-209-5500
  • Closed: None
  • Hours: 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM (last entry at 9:30 PM)
  • Admission:
    • Same-day tickets: Adults 740 yen, Students (middle and high school) 520 yen, Children (elementary school) 320 yen
  • Note: Ticket counter for the tower entrance is located on the 6th floor of JR Tower East
  • Official Website: JR Tower Observatory T38

Experience Romantic Moments with Stunning Night Views at Mount Moiwa

You don’t have to visit only the JR Tower to enjoy the night view of Sapporo. Mount Moiwa, located to the west of JR Tower, is also a perfect spot to admire the scenery and night view of Sapporo. To reach Mount Moiwa, you can take a ropeway from the foot of the mountain to the middle, and then transfer to the “Moir’s Car” to reach the summit. If you’re traveling by car, you can drive up to the middle using the tourist road, but you’ll still need to take the Moir’s Car to reach the summit.

If you’re touring as a couple, ringing the “Bell of Happiness” while enjoying the night view is also recommended. Moreover, atop Mount Moiwa, besides the breathtaking night scenery, you’ll find “THE JEWELS,” a place where you can dine while admiring the night view, offering a romantic experience. When visiting Sapporo as a couple, be sure to make a stop at Mount Moiwa.

Mount Moiwa

  • Address: Moiwa, Chuo-ku, Sapporo
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Phone number: 011-561-8177
  • Access: 30 minutes by bus from Sapporo Station
  • Closed: November 21st to November 30th
  • Hours: 10:30 AM to 10:00 PM (winter: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM)
  • Admission:
    • Round-trip ropeway fare: Adults 1,800 yen, Children 900 yen
  • Official Website: Sapporo Moiwa Ropeway

Expect Even More Excitement at Maruyama Zoo

One of Sapporo’s most iconic attractions is the Maruyama Zoo. Dating back to 1950, Maruyama Zoo holds a significant place in Hokkaido’s history as the first zoo established in the region. You might wonder, “Do zoos in Hokkaido operate during the winter?” Well, Maruyama Zoo defies expectations by remaining open all year round. In fact, some even argue that it’s more enjoyable during the winter months. This is partly due to its rich history. Established in 1950 (officially in 1951), Maruyama Zoo welcomed its star attraction, Hanako the Asian elephant, in 1953. Hanako became a beloved figure at the zoo until her passing in January 2007 at the age of 60. Since then, the absence of an elephant has been notable at Maruyama Zoo.

In autumn around 2018, it was decided that four Asian elephants would join Maruyama Zoo, and in 2019, the elephant house was opened to the public. While polar bears are currently the symbol of Maruyama Zoo, the arrival of the beloved elephants could add even more excitement to the zoo. So, it’s worth checking out during your visit!

Maruyama Zoo, Sapporo

  • Address: 3-1 Miyanomori, Chuo-ku, Sapporo
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • Take the Tozai Subway Line to Maruyama Koen Station, transfer to the zoo-bound bus at Maruyama Station Bus Terminal, and get off at Dobutsuen-mae Station.
    • Or a 15-minute walk from Maruyama Station.
  • Closed:
    • Every 2nd and 4th Wednesday (or the following day if it falls on a public holiday, and in August only, every 1st and 4th Wednesday), December 29th to 31st
    • In April and November, closed from Monday to Friday of the second week, including the second Wednesday.
  • Hours:
    • March 1st to October 31st: 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM (last entry at 4:00 PM)
    • November 1st to February 28th: 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM (last entry at 3:30 PM)
  • Admission:
    • Adults: 800 yen
    • High school students: 400 yen
    • Junior high school students and younger: Free
  • Official Website: Maruyama Zoo, Sapporo

Exploring Maruyama Zoo: History, Attractions, Prices, and How to Get There

Recommended Tourist Spots in Asahikawa

In Hokkaido, Asahikawa belongs to the “Hokkaido North” area, known for its abundant nature and quintessential Hokkaido landscapes, making it a popular destination. Ideal for family trips, Asahikawa is perfect for leisurely sightseeing by car. In this post, we’ve compiled sightseeing spots in the Asahikawa area that families can enjoy together.

Must-Visit Spot in Asahikawa: Asahiyama Zoo

If you’re visiting Asahikawa, one spot you shouldn’t miss is the Asahiyama Zoo. Not only is it the northernmost zoo in Japan, but it’s also nationally renowned. Asahiyama Zoo is famous for its “behavioral exhibits,” where the enclosures are designed based on the animals’ natural behaviors.

Among the attractions not to be missed at Asahiyama Zoo are the Polar Bear Pavilion, the Seal Pavilion where you can see seals gracefully swimming in the underwater tunnel, and the Penguin Pavilion. While these mentioned exhibits are particularly famous, other popular ones include the Orangutan Pavilion and the Chimpanzee Forest. Moreover, new exhibits are continuously being added, ensuring that every visit offers something enjoyable, no matter how many times you’ve been there.

Asahiyama Zoo in Asahikawa City

  • Address: Kurunuma, Higashi Asahikawa-cho, Asahikawa City, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 40 minutes by bus from JR Asahikawa Station
  • Phone Number: 0166-36-1104
  • Closed: Open daily during operating periods
  • Opening Hours:
    • [Summer] April 29th – October 15th: 9:30 AM – 5:15 PM (Last entry at 4:00 PM) October 16th – November 3rd: 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM (Last entry at 4:00 PM) [Winter] November 11th – April 8th: 10:30 AM – 3:30 PM (Last entry at 3:00 PM)
  • Admission Fee: Adults (High school students and above) 1,000 yen, Junior high school students and below free
  • Official Website: Asahiyama Zoo

Sacred Site of the Ainu People – “Kamui Kotan

This place, “Kamui Kotan,” is not only a “sacred site” for the Ainu people, the indigenous people of Hokkaido, but also a representative scenic spot in Hokkaido, designated as a natural monument, with a unique atmosphere created over more than 100 million years. Located along the national highway between Sapporo and Asahikawa, it’s easy to find. Once you park your car and cross the bridge, you’ll descend to the vicinity of the gorge where you’ll come across the “Kamui Kotan Station Site.” Here, you’ll find preserved railway tracks and a steam locomotive, making it an excellent spot for photography.

In addition to the gorge, Kamui Kotan area is also home to cultural heritage sites and designated cultural properties like the “Stone Circle” and “Kamui Kotan Cave Dwellings.” These remnants evoke the presence of the Ainu people who once lived in this vicinity.

Kamui Kotan

  • Address: Kamikawa-cho, Kamui Kotan, Asahikawa City, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • 40 minutes by car from JR Asahikawa Station
    • 50 minutes by car from Asahikawa Airport
  • Note: Due to repair work on the Kamui Bridge, the bridge section is closed to traffic from October 1, 2023, to March 31, 2024.

Ideal for Learning Hokkaido’s History: Asahikawa City Museum

In addition to the previously mentioned “Kamui Kotan,” Asahikawa has several other historical sites. Among them is the “Asahikawa City Museum,” which was built to commemorate the “100th anniversary of Asahikawa’s founding.” While there are numerous Ainu historical sites in Hokkaido, this museum offers an opportunity to learn about the lives and history of the Ainu people. Moreover, the museum displays Ainu tools and artifacts, providing visitors with valuable insights into history.

When visiting Hokkaido for tourism, exploring what Hokkaido used to be like and how people lived here in the past can offer a whole new perspective on enjoying Hokkaido. For those who have visited Hokkaido several times before, delving into the rich history of the Ainu people might inspire them to explore Hokkaido from a different angle. Whether you’re a first-time visitor to Hokkaido or have been here many times, this is a facility worth checking out.

Asahikawa City Museum

  • Address: Daisetsu Crystal Hall, 3-7 Kagura, Asahikawa, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 10 minutes walk from JR Asahikawa Station South Exit
  • Phone: 0166-69-2004
  • Closed: Every 2nd and 4th Monday from October to May (if it falls on a holiday, the following day), December 30th to January 4th
  • Opening Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (last entry at 16:30)
  • Admission Fee: Adults 350 yen, High School Students 230 yen, Junior High School Students and below free

Discover Japanese Sake at “Takasago Meiji Shuzo”

“Takasago Meiji Shuzo” is a sake brewery in Asahikawa City that has been producing sake since 1899 (Meiji 42). Famous for its sake brands like “Kokushimusou” and “Asahi Takasago,” this brewery has been open to public tours since 1997. Not only is Takasago Meiji Shuzo renowned for its sake production, but its historical building also offers factory tours and includes a shop where visitors can purchase sake products. The shop even offers complimentary sake tastings, making it an enjoyable experience for sake enthusiasts.

High-quality sake made by Takasago Shuzo, using locally grown Hokkaido rice. For those visiting Asahikawa, it’s recommended to bring back sake from Takasago Shuzo as a souvenir.

Takasago Meiji Sake Brewery

  • Address: 17-chome, Miyanoshita-dori, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • 15 minutes on foot or 5 minutes by car from JR Asahikawa Station
    • 30 minutes by car from Asahikawa Airport
  • Phone number: 0166-23-2251
  • Closed: Year-end and New Year holidays
  • Business hours:
    • [Direct Sales Store] 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM [Brewery Tour] 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM (by reservation only, up to 2 months in advance)
  • Price: Free
  • Note: Brewery tours require reservation at least 5 days in advance (reservations can be made up to 3 months in advance)
  • Official Website: Takasago Brewing Co., Ltd.

Recommended Tourist Spots in Furano

urano, located in the central to northern part of Hokkaido, often referred to as the “heart” of the region, offers breathtaking landscapes and picturesque flowers, famous even from television dramas. In this guide, we’ve curated family-friendly attractions in the Furano area for an enjoyable visit with children.

Exploring Furano’s Charm: Lavender Fields at Farm Tomita

It’s no exaggeration to say that when people think of Furano, they immediately picture the lavender fields at Farm Furuta in Nakafurano Town. These landscapes have become incredibly famous, just as you’ve mentioned. When visiting Farm Furuta, it’s essential to check the lavender’s blooming season. Surprisingly, lavender blooms for only about a month, starting from early July. If you’re visiting Farm Furuta primarily for the lavender, mid-July is the ideal time to go. However, even if you miss the lavender bloom, Farm Furuta hosts a wide variety of other plants. From mid-April to mid-October, you can enjoy a plethora of flowers throughout the season.

At Farm Tomita, you must try their Lavender Soft Serve Ice Cream. This soft serve, infused with lavender extract, offers a delightful blend of creamy sweetness and refreshing lavender aroma, making it a must-try. Moreover, they offer other Hokkaido-inspired treats, such as soft serve made with Hokkaido cream and melon soft serve with Hokkaido melon juice, both of which are delicious in their own right.

Farm Tomita

  • Address: Kisen Kita 15, Nakafurano-cho, Sorachi-gun, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • 7-minute walk from Lavender Field Station
    • 25-minute walk from Nakafurano Station
    • 45-minute drive from Asahikawa Airport
  • Phone number: 0167-39-3939
  • Business hours:
    • The flower fields and parking lot are open 24 hours. Operating hours for shops and facilities vary, so please check here for details.
  • Admission: Free
  • Note: While the flower fields and parking lot are open 24 hours, restrooms are not available outside of shop operating hours, so please be mindful.
  • Official website: Farm Tomita

Enjoy Handmade Experiences at Furano Cheese Factory

When you think of Hokkaido, you often imagine plenty of cows and delicious dairy products, right? One of the representative cheeses of Hokkaido that you often see as a souvenir is from the Furano Cheese Factory. Among them, the “Wine Cheddar” from the Furano Cheese Factory is particularly famous. It features Furano wine, which is also produced in Furano, just like the cheese itself.

Moreover, at the Furano Cheese Factory, there’s a “Handmade Experience Studio” held daily, where you can try your hand at making either butter, ice cream, or cheese. With prices ranging from 1,000 to 1,100 yen, it’s an affordable activity suitable for families. Additionally, the Furano Cheese Factory features a “Pizza Studio” where you can enjoy authentic Neapolitan pizza. Cooked in a wood-fired oven imported from Naples and topped with ingredients sourced from Furano, including Mozzarella cheese made at the Furano Cheese Factory, these pizzas are a must-try.

Furano Cheese Factory

  • Address: Chugoku, Furano, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: Approximately 10 minutes by car from JR Furano Station
  • Phone number: 0167-23-1156
  • Closed: Open year-round (except for New Year’s)
  • Hours:
    • [April 1st to October 31st] 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM [November 1st to March 31st] 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
  • Price: Free
  • Official website: Furano Cheese Factory

Furano Jam Garden and Anpanman Shop

If you’re visiting Furano for sightseeing, whether with kids or as a couple, why not check out Furano Jam Garden and the Anpanman Shop? At Furano Jam Garden, run by “Jam Auntie” instead of “Jam Uncle,” they’ve been selling 38 varieties of jam since they opened in 1986. You can sample different jams to find your favorite, making it a perfect spot to buy jam souvenirs.

Additionally, within the Furano Jam Garden premises, you’ll find the popular Anpanman Shop, which is a hit with kids. Opened in 2000, the Anpanman Shop boasts one of the largest collections of Anpanman goods in Japan, sure to delight fans of the beloved character. Not just for Anpanman enthusiasts, the shop’s charming interior and the abundance of adorable statues make it a perfect spot for photography. Choosing jam souvenirs at Furano Jam Garden and then relaxing at the Anpanman Shop is also a recommended itinerary for visitors of all ages.

Furano Jam Garden

  • Address: 3 Higashifumoto, Furano, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • 40 minutes on foot from the bus stop “Fumoto”
    • 1 hour and 50 minutes by car from the Doto Expressway Mikasa IC
  • Phone: 0167-29-2233
  • Closed: December 28th to January 1st
  • Hours: 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM
  • Admission: Free
  • Official Website: Furano Jam Garden

Anpanman Shop Furano

  • Address: 3 Higashifumoto, Furano, Hokkaido, located inside Furano Jam Garden
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: Approximately 30 minutes by car from JR Furano Station
  • Phone: 0167-29-2235 (Direct line to Anpanman Shop)
  • Closed: December 28th to January 1st
  • Hours: 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM
  • Official Website: Furano Jam Garden (Anpanman Shop)

Perfect Route for a Scenic Drive: “Roller Coaster Road”

If you’re exploring Furano by car, I highly recommend taking a drive through the “Roller Coaster Road.” This road is part of the “Eight Views of Kamifurano,” offering breathtaking views of the Kamifurano area. As the name suggests, it’s like riding a roller coaster, with steep ups and downs along the winding road, creating a thrilling experience over its 2.5-kilometer stretch.

Don’t underestimate the beauty of a road until you’ve actually driven on it. Once you experience it, you’ll be amazed by the stunning scenery it offers. Especially on clear days, you’ll be treated to the magnificent contrast between Furano’s stunning landscapes and the sky, making it a sight worth seeing. Interestingly, this location has also been featured in the TV drama “Gentle Time,” making it a recommended spot for fans of the show. For a perfect drive on a sunny day, this road is ideal, so why not take a ride and see for yourself while traveling by car?

Roller Coaster Road

  • Address: Nishi-11 Sen, Kamifurano-cho, Sorachi-gun, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: From JR Kamifurano Station, take National Route 237 for 9.7 kilometers, then look for a sign labeled “Nishi-11 Sen Nokimen Nodou” and turn left.
  • Phone Number: 0167-45-3150
  • Official Website: Roller Coaster Road

Recommended Sightseeing Spots in Hakodate

Hakodate is a must-visit destination in Hokkaido, Japan. Located in the southern part of Hokkaido, known as “Donan,” it’s renowned for its abundant seafood. Let’s explore some essential sightseeing spots in the Hakodate area.

Indulge in Fresh Seafood at Hakodate Jiyūichiba

If you’re in Hakodate, you definitely want to indulge in the seafood delicacies it has to offer. As a port city, Hakodate is renowned for its fresh seafood bounty. While the Hakodate Morning Market might be the obvious choice to savor such delights, there’s another hidden gem worth considering – the Hakodate Asaichi (Morning Market) or “Hakodate Jiyu Ichiba” in Japanese. Originally thriving as an underground market, the Hakodate Jiyu Ichiba has transformed into a vibrant local market where residents also frequent.

The standout feature of the Hakodate Jiyu Ichiba is undoubtedly the freshness of its seafood offerings, but what really surprises visitors is the affordability of the seafood. One highly recommended experience is the “Jiyu Kaisen-don” (Freedom Seafood Bowl), where you can choose your fish at the market and have it prepared into a delicious seafood bowl right before your eyes. While locals have long known about it, the Hakodate Jiyu Ichiba is gradually gaining attention from tourists as well. While the Hakodate Morning Market is a well-known tourist spot, the Hakodate Jiyu Ichiba is starting to gain recognition as a hidden gem, so its character may gradually evolve over time. It’s truly one of the must-visit attractions in Hakodate right now.

Hakodate Jiyu Ichiba

  • Address: 1-2 Shinkawa-cho, Hakodate-shi
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 1-minute walk from Shinkawa-cho tram stop
  • Phone number: 0138-27-2200
  • Closed on: Sundays
  • Opening hours: Around 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM (varies by store)
  • Admission: Free
  • Official website: Hakodate Jiyu Ichiba

A Must-Visit Spot in Hakodate – Mount Hakodate

When visiting Hakodate, you can’t miss out on one of its most iconic attractions: Mount Hakodate. From the observatory atop Mount Hakodate, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the cityscape, marveling at its unique geography. Whether you visit during the day or at night, Mount Hakodate offers an unforgettable sight. The night view from the mountain is particularly stunning and definitely worth experiencing. You can reach the summit of Mount Hakodate by either taking the ropeway or driving up during the summer months.

The road to the mountaintop includes a series of sharp curves, almost reaching 180 degrees, making it not recommended for novice drivers. However, as you ascend, you’ll gradually catch glimpses of the night view, heightening your anticipation for the view from the summit. From Mount Hakodate, you can not only enjoy the night view but also witness breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. If you’ve been to Mount Hakodate before, consider experiencing it in a different way next time. Check the Hakodate Ropeway’s website for the sunset and night view timings before heading out to make the most of your visit.

Mount Hakodate

  • Address: Mount Hakodate, Hakodate City, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: About 8 minutes by car from Hakodate Station
  • Phone Number: 0138-23-3105 (Hakodate Ropeway)
  • Opening Hours:
    • [April 25th – October 15th] 10:00 – (Last ascent 21:50, last descent 22:00)
    • [October 16th – April 24th] 10:00 – (Last ascent 20:50, last descent 21:00)
  • Fees:
    • [Ropeway round trip] Adults (junior high school students and above) 1,800 yen, Children 700 yen
    • [Ropeway one way] Adults (junior high school students and above) 1,200 yen, Children 600 yen
  • Official Website: Hakodate Ropeway

Discover the Historic Hot Spring Resort of “Yunokawa Onsen”

When it comes to Hakodate, “Yunokawa Onsen” springs to mind. Dating back to 1653, Yunokawa Onsen is renowned for its rich history as a therapeutic hot spring resort. Still popular today, it’s said that even the famous Shinsengumi leader, Isami Enomoto, frequented these baths. Situated right by the Tsugaru Strait, Yunokawa Onsen offers breathtaking ocean views. Some of the ryokans (traditional inns) provide rooms with ocean views, and soaking in the indoor open-air baths while gazing at the sea is highly recommended.

Moreover, Yunokawa Onsen is conveniently located near the Hakodate city tram line, making it easy to access both within Hakodate and from the station. The Hakodate City Tram passes through popular tourist spots like “Hakodate Dock-mae,” “Fish Market Street,” and “Goryokaku Koen-mae,” facilitating travel between Yunokawa and the city’s attractions. While soaking in the hot springs is a must, strolling around the Yunokawa area is also enjoyable. Nearby, you’ll find attractions like the famous Saruyama Onsen at the Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden and the Yukura Shrine, perfect for leisurely walks and exploration.

Yunokawa Onsen

  • Address: 2-7-6 Yukawacho, Hakodate, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • 5 minutes by car from Hakodate Airport
    • About 1 hour by bus from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station
  • Phone Number: 0138-57-8988 (Hakodate Yunokawa Onsen Ryokan Cooperative)
  • Official Website: Hakodate Yunokawa Onsen Ryokan Cooperative

Where to Get Souvenirs in Hakodate! “Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse”

The “Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse” in Hakodate is one of the most bustling tourist spots in the city. Built in 1909, the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse used to store imported goods and ship supplies. Today, it has been renovated into a shopping mall featuring fresh seafood and Hakodate souvenirs, along with restaurants and beer halls for dining and relaxation.

Additionally, the cityscape including the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse has been designated as a Hokkaido heritage site. Especially during winter, the streets are illuminated with lights reminiscent of Christmas decorations, creating a beautiful spectacle. Throughout the year, the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse hosts seasonal events, with Christmas season being particularly vibrant. One highlight is the “Santa Post” inside the warehouse, where visitors can drop off Christmas cards. These cards will then be delivered during Christmas time. It’s a delightful service that adds a touch of magic to your travel memories, especially if you post cards during spring or summer and receive them unexpectedly during the holiday season.

Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse

  • Address: 14-12 Suehirocho, Hakodate, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • 15 minutes on foot or 5 minutes by car from JR Hakodate Station
    • 5 minutes on foot from “Jujigai” tram stop
    • 25 minutes by car from Hakodate Airport
  • Phone Number: 0138-27-5530
  • Closed: None
  • Business Hours:
    • Shops: 9:30 AM to 7:00 PM
    • Hakodate Beer Hall: 11:30 AM to 9:30 PM (Last Order) ※ 11:00 AM to 9:30 PM on weekends and holidays
  • Admission: Free
  • Official Website: Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse

Enjoy the Scenic Beauty of Hachiman-zaka in Hakodate

“Hachiman-zaka” is one of the representative slopes in Hakodate, known for its picturesque views that have been featured in TV commercials and dramas. Hakodate is renowned for its hilly terrain, and besides Hachiman-zaka, there are several other named slopes in the city. Among them, Hachiman-zaka stands out with its cobblestone paths and exotic scenery, evoking a feeling of being transported to a different world.

Climbing all the way up Hachiman-zaka, situated at the foot of Mount Hakodate, requires quite a bit of stamina. However, the sidewalks are equipped with handrails, and there are various shops along the way, allowing you to take breaks while sightseeing. While Hakodate boasts beautiful night views, Hachiman-zaka offers particularly stunning vistas on clear days. From the slope, you can also catch a glimpse of the “Old Hakodate Magistrate’s Office, the Former Hakodate Post Office Building, and the Memorial Ship Mashu Maru.” Why not explore several slopes, including Hachiman-zaka, during the daytime?

Hachiman-zaka (Hakodate)

  • Address: 14-15 Hachiman-dori, Motomachi, Hakodate, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 1 minute walk from Suehirocho tram stop

Recommended Sightseeing Spots in Kushiro

Kushiro, located in the eastern part of Hokkaido, is renowned for its untouched natural beauty and the presence of wildlife living in close proximity to their natural habitats, often designated as natural monuments. This area offers an environment that is exceptionally close to nature. From the Kushiro region, we’ll introduce you to some of the best spots where you can truly appreciate the beauty of nature.

See the Red-Crowned Cranes at Kushiro City Tancho Nature Park

Once abundant across Japan, the red-crowned crane, designated as a national natural monument in 1935, has seen its habitat gradually decline over the years. The red-crowned crane, also known as the tancho, is one of Japan’s iconic birds, having been depicted on the old 1,000 yen banknote featuring the likeness of Natsume Soseki. Fortunately, in places like Kushiro, including the Kushiro Wetland, you can still catch glimpses of these majestic birds in their natural habitat. However, sightings depend on the timing and conditions, as they are wild creatures living in harmony with nature.

Since its opening in 1958, the Kushiro Tancho Nature Park has been dedicated to the protection and breeding of the red-crowned cranes. Once thought to be extinct, the population has rebounded significantly, with over 1,400 cranes recorded in the park as of 2002. At Kushiro Tancho Nature Park, visitors can observe these beautiful cranes, which are raised and protected in the park throughout the year. Depending on the season, visitors may even have the rare opportunity to witness the cranes nurturing their chicks, a sight exclusive to this park.

Kushiro Tancho Nature Park

  • Address: 112 Tsurugaoka, Kushiro, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: Approximately 10 minutes by car from Kushiro Airport
  • Phone: 0154-56-2219
  • Closed: Year-end and New Year holidays
  • Hours:
    • [April 10th to October 14th] 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM [October 15th to April 9th] 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
  • Admission Fee:
    • Adults (high school students and above) 480 yen,
    • Children (elementary and junior high school students) 110 yen,
    • Children under elementary school age are free
  • Official Website: Kushiro Tancho Nature Park

A Place Chosen as One of the World’s Top Three Sunset Spots: “Nusamai Bridge”

The symbol of Kushiro, known to few, is the Nusamai Bridge. Interestingly, the sunsets here are incredibly beautiful, so much so that they are designated as one of the “Top Three Sunsets in the World,” although this fact isn’t widely known. While summer sunsets are stunning, winter sunsets are particularly recommended. Depending on the weather and conditions, you might find some sunsets to be just ordinary. However, when all the elements align, the sunset is indeed a breathtaking sight, worthy of being called one of the world’s top three sunsets.

As someone who has seen it several times, I can say that the skies in eastern Hokkaido generally feel incredibly vast, and the clouds are often distinct and easy to observe. If you manage to catch a beautiful sunset from the Nusamai Bridge, it could be considered quite lucky. With its design inspired by European bridges, the Nusamai Bridge has a somewhat international vibe, making it a recommended spot for photos as well.

Nusamai Bridge

  • Address: Nusamaibashi, Kitadori 1-chome, Kushiro-shi, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: A 15-minute walk from Kushiro Station

Marvel at Unique Scenery of Mt. Meakan, an Active Volcano

For those confident in their physical abilities and fond of hiking, Mt. Meakan (Meakan-dake) is a recommended destination. Mt. Meakan, standing at 1,371 meters, is an active volcano composed of ten peaks formed by eruptions. To the south, you can catch sight of “Akan Fuji,” while the flora unique to Hokkaido, such as “Todomatsu,” “Akanezo Matsu,” “Meakan Fusan,” and “Meakan Kinbai,” can also be observed. To hike Mt. Meakan, there are three main routes: the Meakan Onsen Course (approximately 4 hours round trip), the Onneto Course (approximately 5 hours round trip), and the Akan Onsen Course (approximately 6 hours round trip). For those less experienced in hiking, it’s advisable to choose the Meakan Onsen Course, which takes about 2 hours one way and 4 hours round trip.

As you approach the summit, you’ll be treated to stunning vistas, such as the picturesque Onneto Lake and the azure ponds at the bottom of the crater, making it highly recommended. However, as Mt. Meakan is an active volcano, there may be occasional restrictions on access. When visiting Mt. Meakan for sightseeing, it’s advisable to check the Japan Meteorological Agency’s website or other reliable sources beforehand.

Mt. Meakan

  • Address: Meakan, Moashoro, Ashoro-cho, Ashoro-gun, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: About 130 minutes by bus from Kushiro Station

Recommended Sightseeing Spots in Otaru

Otaru, a retro port town, has flourished as the “Northern Trading Hub” since the Meiji era. Its unique exotic atmosphere continues to captivate people, unchanged over time. Here, we’ll introduce must-visit popular sightseeing spots in Otaru.

Charming Retro Spot – Otaru Canal

The Otaru Canal is a representative tourist spot in the port town of Otaru. Otaru Port was the gateway to Hokkaido’s development, and the canal was originally built to transport cargo from large ships. Although just observing the canal may not immediately evoke the image of a port town, it was indeed constructed along the harbor. Completed in 1923, during the Taisho era, the canal lost its function after the war due to the development of port docks. However, its charming scenery continues to captivate many visitors.

The canal stretches for 1,140 meters and is approximately 20 meters wide. Interestingly, the current canal is only half as wide as it used to be. You can enjoy the scenery along the canal at a leisurely pace on foot or opt for a 40-minute Otaru Canal Cruise. After sunset, the warehouses along the canal are illuminated, creating a magical atmosphere that makes nighttime sightseeing highly recommended.

Otaru Canal

  • Address: Minatomachi, Otaru, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: An 8-minute walk from JR Otaru Station

Exploring Otaru’s Hidden Gem, the “Blue Cave,” with an 80-Minute Cruise

If you’re heading to Otaru, be sure to visit the Blue Cave. While the Blue Cave is often associated with Okinawa, did you know there’s one in Hokkaido too? Located within the only marine park in Hokkaido, the Niseko Shakotan Otaru Quasi-National Park, accessing this coastal cave on your own might be challenging, but it offers stunning views only visible from the sea.

In Otaru Port, several companies offer boat cruises, so be sure to join one. The cruise lasts about 80 minutes. Ryugu Cruise operates up to 6 trips a day, and you can even book in advance to match your schedule. The prices are ¥6,000 for adults (¥5,500 for those under 23 years old) and ¥4,000 for children aged 3 to elementary school students.

Blue Cave (Ryugu Cruise)

  • Address: 4-5 Minatomachi, Otaru, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 5 minutes by car from JR Otaru Station
  • Phone number: 0134-32-3911
  • Opening hours: 9:00 AM – 6:30 PM *Cancelled in case of bad weather
  • Cruise fare: Adults ¥5,000, Children ¥3,000 (Ages 3 to elementary school students)
  • Official Website: Ryugu Cruise (Hokuhoku Sangyo)

Otaru Tengu-yama Ropeway – One of Hokkaido’s Iconic Night View Spots

At an elevation of approximately 532 meters, Mt. Tengu is a symbolic presence in Otaru. While Hakodate is renowned for night views in Hokkaido, Otaru is also counted among the “Three Great Night Views of Hokkaido.” Mt. Tengu is about a 15-minute drive from the city center. You can also easily reach it by bus from Otaru Station, even if you don’t have a car.

From the foot of the mountain to the summit, you can reach it in just over 4 minutes via a 30-person ropeway. Offering spectacular views, on clear days you can see not only Otaru Port and Ishikari Bay but also the beautiful vistas of the Shakotan Peninsula and the Ishikari Mountains. In winter, the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival is held, featuring charming attractions like snow hearts and snow terraces, making it a delightful spot for couples on a date.

Mt. Tengu Observatory

  • Address: Mt. Tengu, Otaru, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • 15 minutes from Otaru IC by car
    • 20 minutes by bus from JR Otaru Station
  • Phone Number: 0134-33-7381
  • Closed: Maintenance closures in late March to late April, and early to late November
  • Hours:
    • Ropeway: 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM (Last ascent at 8:48 PM)
    • Summit Cafe & Shop: 9:30 AM to 8:45 PM (Food service from 11:00 AM) *Hours may vary depending on the season
  • Fees:
    • Round-trip Ropeway: Adults (Junior high school students and above) 1,600 yen, Children 800 yen, Pets 300 yen
    • One-way Ropeway: Adults (Junior high school students and above) 960 yen, Children 480 yen, Pets 200 yen
  • Official Website: Otaru Tenguyama Ropeway

Recommended Sightseeing Spots in Lake Akan and Lake Mashu

About 80 kilometers north of Kushiro city lies the Akan-Mashu National Park, a haven of natural wonders boasting Japan’s largest caldera formations. Rich in lakes, hot springs, and Ainu culture, this area offers an abundance of attractions. The main highlights are Lake Akan and Lake Mashu, both located about 60 kilometers apart. To explore these sights, renting a car is essential due to the distance between them. The dynamic landscapes here, evoking the breath of the Earth, are truly worth experiencing firsthand.

Famous for Marimo! Enjoyable Activities All Year Round at Lake Akan

Lake Akan, created around 150,000 years ago by the eruption of Mount Oakan (elevation 1,370m), is a renowned freshwater lake and the fifth largest in Hokkaido. It’s entirely within the Akan Mashu National Park. What surprised me when I visited was the vastness of this national park, which is roughly one and a half times the size of Tokyo’s 23 wards. With hot spring resorts lining its shores, staying in hotels or ryokans here offers a chance to leisurely explore the surrounding attractions. You can even walk to the Ainu Kotan village we introduced earlier or use it as a convenient base for climbing Mount Oakan.

The lake is home to various species, including the marimo, designated as a special natural monument, as well as red salmon, rainbow trout, and smelt. In addition to hiking, visitors can enjoy a variety of activities such as cycling, cruising, and fishing, so it’s a good idea to check in advance before your visit. Surprisingly, even in winter, there are plenty of activities like smelt fishing, snowmobiling, and snowshoe trekking. The Akan region, where temperatures can drop to -20 degrees Celsius, offers enchanting winter landscapes that can only be seen during the coldest months. You can find information on seasonal activities on the official website of the New Akan Hotel, so be sure to check it out if you’re interested.

Lake Akan

  • Address: Lake Akan Onsen, Akancho, Kushiro, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • About 80 minutes by car from JR Kushiro Station
    • About 60 minutes by car from Kushiro Airport
  • Phone number: 0154-67-3200 (Akan Tourism Association Town Development Promotion Organization)

Explore the Hot Springs and the Large Ainu Settlement at Lake Akan Ainu Kotan

Just a few minutes away from Lake Akan is the “Lake Akan Ainu Kotan.” This is a settlement where the Ainu people, the indigenous people of Hokkaido, live. It’s the largest Ainu settlement within Hokkaido. At Lake Akan Ainu Kotan, visitors can experience Ainu crafts and cuisine firsthand, offering insight into the traditional culture of the Ainu people.

At the place called “Ikor” in Lake Akan Ainu Kotan, visitors can witness the traditional “Ainu ancient dance,” which has been designated as an important intangible folk cultural asset by the government. Moreover, from April to the end of November, you can enjoy “Rosutokamui,” so it’s worth planning your trip accordingly. In addition to these experiences, at Lake Akan Ainu Kotan, you can also try Ainu embroidery and wood carving. If you’re visiting Lake Akan, don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in the mystical and traditional culture of the Ainu people.

Lake Akan Ainu Kotan

  • Address: 4 Chome 7-19, Akanko Onsen, Akancho, Kushiro City, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • By car/bus from JR Kushiro Station: 1 hour 30-45 minutes
    • By car/bus from Kushiro Airport: 1 hour
  • Phone Number: 0154-67-2727
  • Closed: None
  • Hours: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM
  • Admission: Free (Performances at Ikorō may have admission fees, which vary)
  • Official Website: Lake Akan Ainu Kotan

Experience Unreal Views at “Mashu Lake Kamui Terrace”

Lake Mashu, known as “Kamuito” in the Ainu language, meaning “Lake of the Gods,” has been revered as a sacred place since ancient times. Formed by a volcanic eruption about 7,000 years ago, it is a caldera lake spanning approximately 20 kilometers in circumference. With Hokkaido’s lakes being so vast, it’s easy to feel a sense of awe. The true allure of this lake lies in its breathtaking scenery. The combination of its 150 to 350-meter-high cliffs encircling the lake and its deep blue surface boasts an unparalleled beauty that seems almost otherworldly.

Around the lake, there are three observation decks: “Mashu First Observatory,” “Mashu Third Observatory,” and “Back Mashu Observatory.” The Mashu Lake Kamui Terrace is situated at the Mashu First Observatory. While visits are generally free, during the summer, there’s a parking fee of ¥500 per car (¥200 for motorcycles) required. The parking ticket you receive is also valid for Sulphur Mountain, so consider visiting both. The Mashu Lake Kamui Terrace features spacious souvenir shops and snack counters, making it an ideal stop for tourists.

The author ordered “Imodango” for 350 yen. It’s a hearty delicacy featuring chewy dough coated with sweet and savory soy sauce glaze. A classic favorite among locals, it’s a must-try snack whenever you’re feeling peckish.

Lake Mashu Kamui Terrace

  • Address: Lake Mashu First Observation Deck, Teshikaga-cho, Kawakami-gun, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 25 minutes by bus from Mashu Station
  • Phone: 015-482-1530
  • Closed: Varies by store
  • Hours: 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM *Hours may vary by store, so please confirm
  • Official Website: Mashu Lake Kamui Terrace

Experience the Mystical Aura of “Child of the Gods Pond” in the Hidden Side of Lake Mashu

From the Mashu First Observatory, across the lake lies an area known as “Uramashu” or the “Hidden Side of Mashu.” Formerly known as the “Lake of the Gods,” Lake Mashu holds a mystical pool fed by its underground waters. It’s called the “Child of the Gods Pond.” While it seems close on the map, there’s only one road for access, making it about an hour’s drive one way. Lake Mashu is shrouded in mist for about 100 days a year, so whether you’ll see clear views depends on luck. Though a bit of a trek, if fog obscures your view from the Mashu First Observatory, consider a trip to the Child of the Gods Pond and the Uramashu Observatory for another chance at breathtaking scenery.

However, since the round trip alone takes about 2 hours, it’s advisable to set out as early as possible. The mid-morning to early afternoon, when the sun shines directly above the pond, is the most beautiful time, so it’s good to plan your schedule accordingly, taking into account the timing. When visiting Lake Mashu and the Pond of the God’s Child, timing is crucial, so be sure to check the weather forecast carefully before your visit.

Pond of the God’s Child

  • Address: Kamikoike, Kiyosato, Shari District, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 20 minutes by car from Kiyosato-Midori Station
  • Opening Period: Early May to Late October
  • Note: The road to the Pond of the God’s Child is closed to medium and large vehicles.

The Treasure Trove of Open-Air Baths: Lake Kussharo

Lake Kussharo is another gem within the Akan-Mashu National Park. With a circumference of 57 kilometers, it boasts the largest caldera lake in Japan. Given its volcanic origins, hot springs dot the lakeside, offering unparalleled views, particularly from the renowned Kawayu Onsen nearby. Among them, the open-air baths on the southern Wakoto Peninsula are a favorite among hot spring enthusiasts. Though these baths are mixed-gender, swimsuits are allowed, making it accessible for all visitors.

On the eastern side of the lake lies Sunayu, or “sand hot spring.” Initially mistaken for a sand bath, it’s actually a spot where hot springs well up from the sandy shores of the lake. When you touch the ground, you’ll feel a gentle warmth, confirming its hot spring nature. Though it may take a bit of effort, digging into the sand reveals the hot spring water, making it an ideal spot for foot bathing if you have some spare time. Experiencing a hot spring you’ve dug yourself is quite unique and enjoyable for both adults and children alike. Nearby, there’s also the RECAMP Sunayu campsite, which is definitely worth a visit.

Lake Kussharo

  • Address: Lake Kussharo, Teshikaga, Kawakami District, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 40 minutes by car from the Kawayu Onsen Station

Recommended Sightseeing Spots in Lake Shikotsu and Lake Toya

Hokkaido’s renowned scenic spot is Lake Toya. The Shikotsu-Toya area isn’t too far from Sapporo, making New Chitose Airport a convenient base for sightseeing. With a variety of attractions scattered around, it’s ideal to stay at least one night to explore fully. Here, we’ll introduce some recommended day-trip sightseeing spots from Sapporo.

Conveniently Accessible Natural Spot Near Sapporo – Lake Shikotsu

Lake Shikotsu, located within an hour’s drive from New Chitose Airport, is a caldera lake. With a maximum depth of about 360 meters, it ranks as the second deepest lake in Japan after Lake Tazawa in Akita Prefecture. Due to Hokkaido’s harsh winter cold, lakes naturally freeze over, but Lake Shikotsu has an interesting feature—it never completely freezes. Surrounded by numerous volcanoes, the area is designated as the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. The park’s accessibility from Sapporo makes it a popular destination for tourists from both Japan and abroad throughout the year.

The area around Lake Shikotsu offers easy-to-climb mountains like Mount Monbetsu (866 meters) and Mount Tarumae (1,041 meters), perfect for beginners who enjoy hiking. For those with some extra time, it’s recommended to stop by the Shikotsu Lake Visitor Center for information before heading out. Located on the lakeshore, Shikotsu Lake Onsen features thick, mineral-rich hot springs. After activities like trekking or kayaking, soaking in the hot springs is a great way to relax and rejuvenate. Every year from January to February, don’t miss the Chitose-Shikotsu Lake Ice Festival, one of Hokkaido’s most renowned events. It’s definitely worth visiting during the winter season.

Lake Shikotsu

  • Address: Lake Shikotsu, Chitose City, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • 40 minutes by car from New Chitose Airport
    • 70 minutes by car from Sapporo Station
  • Official Website: Lake Shikotsu

Enjoy Fireworks Every Night from April to October at Lake Toya Onsen

Among the many hot springs in Hokkaido, Lake Toya Onsen is the one I highly recommend. Since it takes an additional two hours by car from Lake Shikotsu, staying overnight is ideal if you plan to visit. Lake Toya is the third largest caldera lake in Japan, boasting stunning views surrounded by Mount Usu and Mount Showa-Shinzan. It’s a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful landscapes. While some visitors come for a day trip, there’s plenty to see and do around Lake Toya. The hot springs here, known as “Bihada-no-yu,” have been cherished since they emerged after the eruption of Mount Usu in 1910, valued for their skin-beautifying properties.

The author stayed at the Lake Toya View Hotel, located right by the lakeside. Apart from its stunning lakeside location, what makes it popular is the opportunity to enjoy fireworks right from the guest rooms. At Lake Toya Onsen, from late April to October every year, the Lake Toya Long-Run Fireworks Festival is held nightly.

The prime time to catch the fireworks is from 8:45 PM to 9:05 PM, which is a bit late, so staying at a hotel or ryokan nearby is the best option. There are also sightseeing boats available for fireworks viewing, so if you’ve booked accommodation a bit away from the lakeside, be sure to check those out.
*Note: The Lake Toya Long-Run Fireworks Festival proceeds in rainy weather, but may be canceled if wind direction or speed is unstable.

Lake Toya Onsen

  • Address: 142 Toyako Onsen, Toyako-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 10 minutes by car from Toya Station, 20 minutes by bus
  • Phone number: 0142-75-2446 (Toyako Onsen Tourist Association)
  • Official website: Toyako Onsen Tourist Association

“Sairo Observation Deck” offers breathtaking views that will leave you in awe.

Lake Toya is a representative scenic spot in Japan, chosen as one of Japan’s top 100 scenic views. When the author wished to visit an observation spot overlooking the lake, they stumbled upon this gem. Searching for the Sairo Observation Deck on Google Maps oddly displays its opening hours, which actually belong to the nearby store. Arriving just before sunset, the author was treated to stunning views like the one you see here. Lake Toya, personally deemed as beautiful as Lake Mashu, is a must-visit destination for everyone.

The grassland stretching behind the observation deck offered stunning views, as you can see. On the way to Lake Toya Onsen, such landscapes continue for about 2 kilometers. Across the grassland stands Mount Yotei (1,898 meters above sea level). This mountain, often likened to “Ezo Fuji,” was truly a sight to behold during the golden hour. Around Lake Toya, you can also enjoy various leisure activities such as horseback riding, canoeing, and cycling, so feel free to customize your trip according to your preferences. For more information, please visit the Lake Toya Onsen Tourism Association’s website.

Sairo Observation Deck

  • Address: 3-5 Seika, Toyako-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • 15 minutes by car from the Abuta-Toyako IC
    • 15 minutes by car from Toyako Onsen area
  • Phone Number: 0142-87-2221
  • Closed: Irregular holidays
  • Hours: 8:30 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Fee: Admission is free ※Some activities and tours are available for a fee
  • Official Website: Sairo Observatory

Recommended Sightseeing Spots in Noboribetsu

Noboribetsu is located on the southern side of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park area, along the Pacific coast. Known as one of Japan’s top hot spring resorts, it’s affectionately called the “hot spring department store” due to its nine different types of spring waters. Since it’s a must-visit stop when traveling by car between Sapporo and Hakodate, be sure to drop by. It’s also relatively accessible by public transportation, which is why you’ll often spot foreign tourists around these days.

Discover the Majestic Nature at Noboribetsu Jigokudani

If you’re visiting Noboribetsu, make sure not to miss out on Jigokudani, also known as “Hell Valley.” Formed around 15,000 years ago by the eruption of Mount Yotei, Jigokudani is a massive explosion crater measuring approximately 450 meters in diameter, bearing witness to the intensity of the ancient volcanic activity. The hot springs that gush forth here amount to an astonishing 10,000 tons per day, boasting diverse mineral compositions and supplying the hot water used in the nearby hotels and ryokans. You can explore the area via well-maintained walking paths, allowing you to marvel at the natural spectacle of the hot spring hell while taking a leisurely stroll.

Plan for about 30 minutes if you’re just visiting Jigokudani, but if you want to take a leisurely stroll, aim for around 90 minutes. While the paths are generally stable, there are some slopes, so wearing comfortable shoes is advisable. There’s a paid parking lot nearby (500 yen per car) if you’re driving, which is convenient. The parking ticket is also valid for Oyunuma, making it especially handy for those with mobility issues. Being able to drive straight to the entrance instead of walking for 20 to 25 minutes one way is definitely a plus.

Noboribetsu Jigokudani

  • Address: Unnumbered, Noboribetsu Onsen-cho, Noboribetsu City, Hokkaido, Japan
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: A 10-minute walk from Noboribetsu Onsen Bus Terminal
  • Phone: +81-143-84-3311 (Noboribetsu International Tourism Convention Association)

Natural Footbath by the Untouched Oyunuma River

Just a 7 to 8-minute walk from the Oyunuma parking lot lies a serene footbath nestled in nature. Situated along the river fed by the Oyunuma hot spring, this spot offers a tranquil retreat. While some parts of Oyunuma reach scalding temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Celsius, the footbath area offers a comfortably warm soak. Depending on the season, temperatures can vary; during the early June visit by the author, it was around 40 degrees Celsius. Wooden platforms line the riverbank, providing a perfect spot to relax and rejuvenate. Don’t miss this tranquil oasis during your visit!

While it’s possible to walk from Hell Valley, as mentioned earlier, it’s about a 20-minute walk each way. For those preferring nearby parking, driving from Noboribetsu Hell Valley to Oyunuma River Natural Footbath is a smoother option. Just a heads-up, there’s one point where pedestrians cross the road along the way. Some might not notice the gap in the walking trail, so drivers need to be cautious. If you’re walking from the Oyunuma parking lot, simply follow the wooden sign on your right-hand side as you return along the same path. It will lead you to the “Natural Footbath.”

Oyunuma River Natural Footbath

  • Address: Oyunuma River Natural Footbath, Noboribetsu Onsencho, Noboribetsu-shi, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access:
    • 8 minutes on foot from the Oyunuma Parking Lot
    • 20 minutes on foot from the Noboribetsu Park Service Center
  • Phone Number: 0143-84-3311 (Noboribetsu International Tourism Convention Association)
  • Opening Hours: Open 24 hours
  • Fee: Free

Relax in Nature at Lake Kuttara

Noboribetsu has more to offer than just hot springs. Lake Kuttara, located to the east of Noboribetsu Onsen town, is one such gem. A short 10-minute drive from the Oyunuma parking lot, it’s a perfect stop on your sightseeing journey. While the view from the Kuttara Lake Fan-shaped Observation Deck is partially obscured by trees, the lake itself boasts stunning beauty. With its circumference of about 8 kilometers, it’s an ideal spot for aerial photography with drones, resembling the circular caldera lakes depicted in the movie “Kimi No Na Ha.” The lake’s exceptionally clear waters make it worth a visit, offering a serene escape into nature.

Lake Kuttara

  • Address: Lake Kuttara, Torasamu, Shiraoi, Shiraoi District, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 40 minutes by car from Shiraoi Station

Recommended Sightseeing Spots in Abashiri and Shiretoko

Located in the northeastern part of Hokkaido, the Abashiri and Shiretoko area is easily accessible from the Memanbetsu Airport. Major airlines like JAL and ANA operate here, along with low-cost carriers (LCCs). Using Peach Aviation, you can reach this region from Kansai International Airport (Osaka) for as low as 6,000 yen one way, which adds to its appeal. In this guide, we’ll introduce some recommended sightseeing spots based in Abashiri.

Notoro Lake: A Rare Spot for Autumn Leaves Viewin

Around Abashiri, you’ll find several lakes like Lake Saroma, Lake Abashiri, and Lake Mokoto scattered about. Among them, Notoro Lake in the west stands out as a renowned tourist spot, known for having Japan’s largest colony of Sphagnum moss. While the term “Sphagnum moss” might not ring a bell for many, it’s a type of plant that inhabits wetlands. Normally, it blankets the wetlands in vibrant green hues, resembling a carpet of grass, as you can see. It almost seems like you could step off the boardwalk and walk on top of the moss, doesn’t it?

The scenery covered in lush greenery is stunning, but the best time to visit is during the autumn foliage season. From late August to late September every year, the Sphagnum moss turns a vibrant red, transforming the landscape into a stunning crimson carpet. This breathtaking sight is a hot topic on social media, so if you’re visiting Abashiri during this season, be sure to check it out.

Lake Notoro

  • Address: Lake Notoro, Ubarauchi, Abashiri, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 5-minute walk from “Sphagnum Moss Entrance” bus stop
  • Phone Number: 0152-47-2301 (Ubarauchi Tourist Association)

Explore the Precious Natural Environment of Shiretoko Goko, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site

If you’re seeking the grandeur of nature in Hokkaido, Shiretoko is a must-visit. Among the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites in Japan are Shiretoko, Shirakami-Sanchi, Yakushima, Ogasawara Islands, and the northern part of Amami and Okinawa Islands, which are actually considered one area due to their multiple islands, making it only five sites in total. While there are countless World Cultural Heritage Sites, the number of natural heritage sites is surprisingly low. Despite Hokkaido’s abundant natural beauty, it’s astonishing that Shiretoko is the only natural World Heritage Site in the region.

Representing Shiretoko is the Shiretoko Goko. As the name suggests, it’s a wetland area with five connected lakes where you can observe wildlife and abundant vegetation. There are two walking routes: one follows a raised wooden walkway to one lake and back (open for strolling throughout the year), and the other route involves walking along a promenade to visit all five lakes. Even if you choose the route that takes you through all five lakes, it typically takes around one hour or so to complete.

Basically, you’re free to stroll around, but from early May to July during bear activity season, you must have a guide accompany you. The author joined a guided tour in early June 2023, and bear sightings were reported both the day before and the day after the tour. If there’s a bear sighting along the walking trails, unfortunately, the tour will be interrupted, so please understand. It’s important to maintain a humble attitude, recognizing that we’re just visitors in the forest where wild animals live.

Shiretoko Goko

  • Address: Enbetsu Village, Shari Town, Shari District, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: About 60 minutes by bus from JR Shiretoko Shari Station
  • Phone number: 0152-24-3323 (Shiretoko Goko Field House)

Oshinkoshin Falls – A Designated Beauty among Japan’s Top 100 Waterfalls

Oshinkoshin Falls is one of the “Shiretoko Eight Views,” a collection of scenic spots. With a height of about 50 meters and a width of 30 meters, it is the foremost waterfall in Shiretoko and has been designated as one of Japan’s Top 100 Waterfalls. Its distinctive name originates from the Ainu language, “Oshunku ushi,” meaning “a place where Ezo spruces grow in clusters.” Hokkaido boasts many such places and spots with names derived from the Ainu language.

Although the waterfall is quite grand, many people tend to overlook it as it’s located along National Route 334. So, if you’re visiting by car, be sure to pay attention to avoid missing it. Once you climb the stairs, you’ll be amazed by the waterfall up close. The sheer power of it is quite astonishing. Moreover, with the sea right in front of you, it’s an ideal spot to catch the sunset, so I highly recommend visiting before dusk.

Oshinkoshin Falls

  • Address: Oshinkoshin Falls, Utro Nishi, Shari, Shari District, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 40 minutes by bus from Shiretoko Shari Station

Local Eatery Offering Fresh Seafood – “Utoro Fishing Cooperative Women’s Association”

If you’re visiting Shiretoko, you can’t miss out on delicious seafood. Utoro Fishing Cooperative Women’s Association is a small eatery run by local fishermen’s wives at the harbor in the western part of the Shiretoko Peninsula. Despite its unassuming appearance, it’s a hugely popular spot, even featured in tourist guidebooks. When I visited, the place was packed to capacity.

The menu offers a variety of dishes from classic curry rice and soy sauce ramen to seafood bowls. However, the most popular choices seem to be the three kinds of seafood bowl and the salmon roe bowl, as everyone seemed to be ordering the same dishes. Even if it’s a bit pricier, nothing beats delicious food, right? As for the taste, it lives up to expectations and eating it feels like a luxurious treat. While stylish cafes and restaurants are great, sometimes there’s nothing like the charm of a simple eatery. They’re open from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM, so it’s best to go early if you can.

Utoro Fisheries Women’s Association

  • Address: 117 Utoro Higashi, Shari-cho, Shari-gun, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: About 50 minutes by car from Shiretoko Shari Station on the Kushiro Main Line
  • Phone Number: 01522-4-3191
  • Closed: From November to mid-April
  • Business Hours: 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM (Last Order: 2:30 PM)
  • Budget: ¥2,000 to ¥3,000
  • Cashless Payment: Not available

Natural Flower Garden Spread Across Sand Dunes: “Koshimizu genseikaen primeval flower garden”

The Koshimizu genseikaen primeval flower garden is located on the way from Abashiri to Shiretoko. This natural flower garden sprawls over the sand dunes, stretching for 8 kilometers between the Otsu Sea and the Lake Tofutsu. As the JR Abashiri Main Line runs along the coast, it’s easy to visit even without a car. In Hokkaido, where travel by car is the norm, having a spot accessible by train is quite special.

During the tourist season from late April to September, approximately 200 different types of plants bloom. When the author visited in early June, Ezo scirpus and black lilies were in bloom. Other famous flowers include Ezo daylilies, beach roses, Siberian irises, and Japanese irises. During its peak, the landscape resembles a painting, delighting the eyes of many travelers.

Koshimizu genseikaen primeval flower garden

  • Address: 2 Hamakoshimizu, Koshimizu-cho, Shari-gun, Hokkaido
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 1-minute walk from Gensei Hanaen Station
  • Phone number: 0152-63-4187
  • Closed: Closed from November to mid-April (open during the opening period)
  • Opening hours: 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM (Information Center)
  • Fee: Free

Enjoying Summer and Winter in Hokkaido

Hokkaido’s nature offers different charms in each season, from spring to winter. Since Hokkaido is vast, it’s best to narrow down your sightseeing areas, but choosing the right season is also crucial. While images of lavender fields in Furano and skiing in Niseko are common for many people, here we’ll focus on what else you can do in each season.

Enjoy Classic Summer Activities

If you’re planning to visit Hokkaido, the best time is from June to September. The ideal season may vary depending on your criteria, but during this period, the weather is relatively mild, and the days are long, allowing for more enjoyable sightseeing. Hokkaido’s summer is renowned for its flower fields in Furano and Rebun Island. However, why not take the opportunity to enjoy the lush green landscapes unique to summer?

You can tailor your activities to your hobbies, such as hiking, camping, or driving, or you can try something more adventurous for a change. For instance, you could gallop across grasslands on horseback, paddle a kayak on a lake, cruise through a blue cave, or raft down a river’s rapids. There are various ways to have fun! These activities are typically designed to be enjoyed in half a day rather than a full day, so consider adding them to your sightseeing itinerary for some quick and enjoyable experiences.

Winter is the perfect time to seek extraordinary experiences

In winter, Hokkaido comes alive with exciting events like the Sapporo Snow Festival, the Chitose-Shikotsu Lake Ice Festival, and the Sounkyo Ice Waterfall Festival. From December to February, it’s prime skiing season, attracting outdoor enthusiasts from around the globe seeking the world’s finest snow conditions. Every year from early December to mid-March, Tomamu hosts the limited-time Ice Village, a marvel of ice architecture featuring an Ice Hotel and an Ice Chapel, creating a buzz on social media.

Every night at 7:30 PM, fireworks light up the sky, so staying overnight and leisurely exploring is highly recommended. Combining this season with winter-only activities like dog sledding, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing guarantees an even more fulfilling experience. From early February to March, you can witness drift ice in the Sea of Okhotsk in Abashiri. Enjoying a drift ice cruise on an icebreaker ship or trying unique experiences like sea kayaking among the floating ice or taking a drift ice walk with specialized suits are popular options during this time. If you want to make the most out of your trip and enjoy various activities, February is the best time to visit.

Hokkaido is vast, and without proper planning, it’s challenging to explore it fully. With the suggested area divisions, even with just a one-night, two-day trip, you can enjoy sightseeing. So, when planning your Hokkaido trip, be sure to consider these recommendations.


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