Hokkaido is blessed with a vast natural landscape that is its major attraction, although there are plenty of natural and cultural attractions to keep visitors entertained no matter the season.
Depending on the season, what you see in Hokkaido varies greatly. In winter, the snowscape brings numerous festivals where ice carvings and romantic light-ups take place in various towns around the island. The Sapporo Snow Festival is the largest celebration with ostentatious ice carvings, while in Otaru, the Snow Light Path Festival is a more small-scale affair featuring candles along the canal.
From May to August, the landscape transforms into a carpet of color, when myriad flowers of all color spectrums compete for dominance throughout the countryside. The most popular are fields of purple lavender in Furano and lilacs in Sapporo, although shibazakura (moss phloxes), lilies, sunflowers, and cosmos can also be found throughout the countryside.
In winter, powder hounds flock to Hokkaido for its quality powder snow. Whether you’re a beginner or expert skier, traveling as a family or with friends, numerous ski resorts around the island can cater to your needs. Ski lessons and rentals are available, and English is widely spoken.
You can also learn more about the indigenous Ainu, Hokkaido’s original inhabitants, at Shiraoi Ainu Museum in Noboribetsu. This replica village (or Porotokotan in Ainu language) consists of thatched houses along the shore of Lake Poroto where you can watch a traditional folk dance. You can also experience Ainu culture at Lake Akan’s Ainu Kotan.
No matter what the season, many visitors – foreign and Japanese – flock here for its sumptuous food. In winter, seafood – especially crabs – dominate, while in summer, it’s sea urchin season. No matter when you visit, you should try some of Hokkaido’s specialties including Sapporo Ramen (which is miso based, and ‘butter corn’ ramen is a unique treat), soup curry (a runny version of curry), and Genghis Khan, a mutton barbecue dish. The latter is best sampled at the beer hall at Sapporo Beer Museum, housed in a 19th century brewery with tours and tastings available.
Nothing reminds you of Hokkaido more than its delicious souvenirs. The most popular is undoubtedly Shiroi Koibito, a white chocolate biscuit sandwich. At Shiroi Koibito Park, you even can customize your own namesake souvenir.
As Hokkaido is popular for its dairy products, other milk-based confectioneries you can get include cheesecakes, custards, and chocolates (from companies like Royce or LeTAO). Caramel candies are locally-made specialties which come in small boxes, with Hokkaido-themed flavors like Genghis Khan or even Soup Curry.
Whisky fans can head to the Nikka Whisky Distillery in Yoichi where you can sample a variety of whiskies for free and bring back some award-winning bottles, like Nikka From The Barrel.
If you’re in Otaru, head to Kitaichi Glass for some quality glassware, ranging from dinnerware to accessories. It’s the pioneer of Otaru glass with a history of over 100 years; you can also make your own glass souvenir at their workshop.
Another souvenir from Hokkaido is horse oil, which is popular as an effective moisturizing agent and available as soaps and creams. It’s most popular for use in winter from the region’s cold, dry air.
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