Hokkaido Travel Guide: Sapporo, Hakodate, Otaru, and Asahikawa

You know the biggest province in Japan called Hokkaido? In this article, we will walk through northern Japan on the second largest island in the archipelago and its numerous prominent cities such as Sapporo, Hakodate, Otaru and Asahikawa.

You will like the experience I had in Sapporo, in this section I will tell you all the details of my trip and the places I visited. The article is quite extensive, to facilitate your navigation we will leave a summary below:

Hokkaido - The Way of the Sea and the Snow

Hokkaido (北海道) means "sea path north". Its population is around 5 million inhabitants and it has an area of 83,452.47 km².

Hokkaido's largest city is its capital, Sapporo considered the fifth largest city in Japan. The second largest city in Hokkaido is Asahikawa, followed by Hakodate. Other interesting cities are Otaru, Obihiro, Nemuro, Kushiro and Abashiri.

Hokkaido Prefecture has a total of 180 municipalities, 35 of which are considered cities, 130 minor towns and 15 villages. Several of these cities have become famous for the quality of their local production or geographical features.

Hokkaido is an island that is slightly separated from the main island of Japan. The only tunnel that connects Hokkaido with the main island of Japan is called the Seikan Tunnel.

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru and asahikawa
Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, is Japan's fourth largest city with 2 million people. 

There are dozens of flights from Tokyo to Sapporo daily. It is an extremely competitive route that usually offers good prices. For nearly 20 years Tokyo to Sapporo was the busiest flight route in the world.

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru and asahikawa

Hokkaido is famous for its snow festival and countless other attractions in winter. Despite the heavy snow that hits Hokkaido, the prefecture is known for its farms and rural areas, as well as beautiful fields of flowers during the summer. Furano is one of the cities full of flowers in summer and also the coldest place in winter.

Hokkaido is the 21st largest island in the world. 
Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru and asahikawa

Hokkaido tourist attractions

Sapporo is a city full of tourist attractions, only in it we can find numerous places such as: museums, parks, historic villages, festivals and mountains full of snow. It is possible to create an article with 100 things for tourists to visit in Sapporo. Each city has numerous attractions, there are numerous parks and mountains to venture into.

There are many protected forests and 6 beautiful national parks that are:

  • Shiretoko National Park;
  • Akan National Park
  • Kushiro Shitsugen National Park
  • Taisetsuzan National Park (大雪山);
  • Shikotsu-Toya National Park;
  • Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park;
Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru and asahikawa

In addition to these parks, we find 5 other parks that are close to national parks, beautiful gardens, and 12 circuits of nature reserves. Hokkaido is an island of forests, rivers, rugged rocks and grasslands, whose highest point is Mount Asahi, a volcano that last erupted in the 18th century.

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru and asahikawa

We also have the Utoro village, where you can find a beautiful fishing port, great hot spring and Shiretoko Park. in the beautiful Shiretoko Park you can climb mountains, go into caves, take a boat ride, take long walks and enjoy the wild life and the beautiful waterfalls found on site.

There are thousands of tourist spots, each city has numerous attractions, festivals, temples, shrines, castles, parks, gardens, SKI tracks, caves, lakes, onsen and various beauties. Over the course of our website's life we will choose some of these sights to examine further, below is an image showing some of Hokkaido's sights.

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru and asahikawa

Sapporo - Capital of Hokkaido

Sapporo [札幌] is the fifth largest city in Japan, capital of Hokkaido Prefecture. The city has around two million inhabitants and is famous for its Snow festival and for creating the miso ramen. The biggest tourist destination for anyone visiting Hokkaido.

Sapporo is also known as the birthplace of Sapporo Beer, there is even a very fun free museum that allows you to drink beers for free. The city also has an amazing hybrid football/soccer and baseball stadium and the famous Maruyama Zoo.


The amusement and entertainment district of Susukino is among the largest and best-known in Japan. Susukino is one of Sapporo's most famous neighborhoods for its restaurants and nightclubs. It is much less censored than the rest of Japan.

Posters and posters, strip bars and waitresses in flashy clothes are scattered and in plain sight. We had the chance to visit an onsen in the area and also visit the famous Panasonic tower, close by in the city center.

Unlike Kabukichou or other nightlife and adult entertainment districts, Suzukino doesn't hide. The information centers are large and filled with revealing posters of nightclubs, escort bars and other suspicious things.

My Experience in Sapporo

On the 2018 trip I spent 5 days in Sapporo, it was a short time but many things happened. Now I want to share my experience in Sapporo and enjoy introducing sights and leaving some tips for those who want to visit Hokkaido.

The Clock Tower in Sapporo

In the center of Sapporo you can find the famous Panasonic Tower... This tower has a full view of the center of Sapporo and the beautiful street separated by a square / garden that extends along the four avenues that are around the tower.

Soon we went down the main avenue to meet a Japanese friend and walked along this avenue colored by the Autumn leaves called... Then we headed to Susukino, one of the largest nightlife districts in Japan and in the world.

We passed in front of a Bar Restaurant and you could see the waitresses in underwear and revealing to entertain the perverts on duty. The atmosphere was much more tense than the famous Kabukichou.

From my experience, I have found that Sapporo women are much more forward-looking than Tokyo and other parts of Japan. We went to Karaoke and then went to a cool Bar called ie.

In this bar the Bartenders put on an amazing show that I even posted on Youtube, you can see the video below. After having a few drinks and eating some potatoes, we went to the most important part of the night.

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru

Black Sapporo Ramen

During these 5 days I stayed at the house of a friend who is the school coach of the Borussia (BVB) team from Sapporo. He is Brazilian and has played in the Japan League and works on PES motion capture.

He recommended us one of the best ramens in Japan called Burakko Sapporo Ramen. A very hot black ramen that one of my friends wanted to put ice in the ramen (lol).

It was a very small place that only opened at 10 pm, there were lines for hours to eat this ramen and it only fits 6 people in this very traditional ramen house. That's how our first day in Sapporo ended.

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru
The Black Sapporo Ramen!

Yakiniku, shiroi koibito and onsen

On the second day we went for a roll with a friend, late we went to Yakiniku to try the famous mutton, then we went to the factory of one of the biggest chocolates in Hokkaido, the famous Shiroi Koibito.

Unfortunately, access to the factory was closed at the time, but we can buy the famous chocolate and take beautiful photos there. Then we went to a big onsen where there were different types of sauna (including a cold sauna) and a well with pink sakura water.

The article is still halfway through, but we recommend also reading:

Hakodate - The Beautiful Port City

The city of Hakodate (函館市) is located in southern Hokkaido, a large island in northern Japan. Hakodate maintains a temperature of around 10˚C all year round and between -2˚C and 3˚C in winter. The first snow falls around November and it snows until the end of March.

Hakodate has around 270,000 inhabitants and is the third largest city in Hokkaido, behind Sapporo and Asahikawa. A city very rich in tourism, a beautiful place where you can see the cherry blossoms in May and fall in love with the sunset views from Mount Hakodate. And taste fresh seafood.

Hakodate Sights

There are thousands of things that can be seen and done in this beautiful city, some of which are:

Hakodate and Asaichi Railway Station (Morning Market)

There is an information desk for tourists inside the Hakodate train station, where tourist brochures are available. Next to the station is the Asaichi morning market, where you can enjoy seasonal dishes, as well as shopping and dining out.

in the locality of Minamikayabe, located in the north of the city, traces of the Jomon period. The clay figure “dogu” unearthed in this locality is considered a national treasure and can be seen in the Minamikayabe museum.

Portuary zone and historic buildings

You can take a stroll through the area facing the port, contemplating the vast landscape. There are shopping malls such as Kanemori Akarenga-soko, or red brick warehouses, and Hakodate Meiji-kan, which are old brick buildings that have been restored.

In 1859, Hakodate became one of Japan's first international trading ports. From these times, religious institutions from various countries remain in the city, as well as public buildings, shops and private homes in a mixture of Japanese and Western styles.

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru and asahikawa
Hakodate City

Hakodate's Natural Beauties

Mount Hakodate, Mount Esan and Motomachi

on top of Mount Hakodate, you can see the unique topography of the city. You will be totally fascinated, particularly by the magnificent night view, which resembles a jeweled carpet.

There are Western-style churches and buildings in Motomachi, at the foot of Mount Hakodate. It is a popular area for walks. Many of the steep streets lead down to the harbor and the cityscape, with its mix of Japanese and Western styles.

The Mount Esan located in the east of the city, it is an active volcano. After a walk of about an hour, it is possible to see a dynamic landscape created by the lava. The hill is also famous for its azalea flowers and autumn leaves.

Onuma and Yunokawa

Onuma it is a leisure zone accessible in 20 minutes from Hakodate station by means of an express train. A place surrounded by mountains, lakes and forests, where you can enjoy sports and walks in the open air. In winter you can contemplate the landscape of snow and ice.

Yunokawa is an area famous for its spa and is close to Hakodate Airport. There are several inns and hotels where you can enjoy thermal baths and delicious food. You can see the sea dotted with bright fishing lights during squid fishing season.


In the 60's of the century. In the 19th century, which corresponds to the end of the samurai period, a western-style pentagonal fort was built, with the Hakodate magistrate's office inside.

It is possible to see the shape of the fort in its entirety from the Goryokaku Tower. Goryokaku Park is also famous for cherry blossoms. As the photo below shows, it is one of the most beautiful places in the city of Hakodate!

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru and asahikawa goryokaku

Otaru - The Historic City of Hokkaido

Otaru [小樽] is a city and port in Shiribeshi Subprefecture in Hokkaido, northwest of Sapporo. The town faces Ishikari Bay and has long been the main harbor on the bay. With its many historic buildings, Otaru is a popular tourist destination.

Being a 25-minute drive from Sapporo, it has recently grown into a dorm community. The city has about 115,000 inhabitants, the city has a long history, being recognized as the ancient dwelling of the Ainu tribe.

The name "Otaru" is recognized to be of Ainu origin, possibly meaning "River running along the beach". The small remaining part of Temiya Cave contains carvings from the Zoku-Jōmon period of Ainu history, around 400 CE.

A canal decorated with Victorian-style street lamps runs through Otaru. The city attracts a large number of Japanese and Russian tourists. Otaru is known for its beer, fresh sushi and famous rainbow ice cream.

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru and asahikawa
city of Otaru

Herring Mansion and Other Locations

A popular attraction on the west side of the city is Nishin Goten (Herring Mansion). This large wooden building was built in 1897 and was once the home of Fukumatsu Tanaka, a herring fishing industry magnate.

It was originally built in the nearby village of Tomari and moved from there in 1958. Visitors can clearly see the difference between the squalid conditions of the 120 workers' first-floor dormitories and the luxury of the tycoon's ground-floor rooms.

Another notable building is the Sakaushi residence, built by Yoshiya Tanoue, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. Tomioka Catholic Church is also a popular spot. Many of the buildings have been designated as architectural landmarks.

The city also has substantial shopping arcades and bazaars, but less so than nearby Sapporo. Otaru's prominent industries are arts and crafts such as glass and music boxes. There is the Otaru Music Box Museum.


Asahikawa [旭川] is a town in Kamikawa Subprefecture in Hokkaido. It is the capital of the subprefecture and the second largest city in Hokkaido after Sapporo. Today, the city is known for the Asahiyama Zoo and Asahikawa ramen.

You Ainu called the Asahi River Chiu Pet, which means "River of Waves", but it was misinterpreted as Chup Pet, which means "river of the Sun", and thus came to be called the Asahi River in Japanese, meaning "morning sun". .

With its approximately 350,000 inhabitants, Asahikawa has influenced industry and commerce. There are around 130 rivers and streams, including the Ishikari River and Chūbetsu River, and over 740 bridges in the city.

Asahibashi, a bridge over the Ishikari River, has been one of the symbols of Asahikawa since its completion in 1932, and was also registered as one of Hokkaido's heritage sites on October 22, 2001. Every winter, a Festival is held on the bank of the river. river.

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru and asahikawa
Cityscape of Asahikawa in Hokkaido

Furano - Lavender Fields

Furano (富良野) is a beautiful town located in Kamikawa in the center of Hokkaido with approximately 25 thousand inhabitants. The city is famous for its mountainous and rural landscape, its lavender fields and its ski resorts.

The city of Furano has a unique nickname – “the navel city.” Every summer, a navel festival (Heso Matsuri) is held where around 3,000 participants draw funny faces on their bellies and dance and parade in the streets.

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate, otaru and asahikawa and furan
city of furano

The main tourist spot in the city is the Furano-Ashibetsu Nature Park, where we find one of the largest and most beautiful lavender fields. The best time to see lavender blooms is from mid-July to late July. We have the Kitanomine area where the ski resorts and pensions are located. The most popular is Furano Ski Resort which attracts people from all over the world.

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate, otaru and asahikawa and furan
Ski in Furano

Furano attractions

Furano is known for its agricultural products, the main products in this area are onions, carrots and melons. It also has a famous cheese factory that allows visitors to observe the cheese-making process. The town also has a winery located on the hill that is open to the public and includes wine tasting.

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate, otaru and asahikawa and furan
Furano attractions

The city has many other attractions and places to explore. For the Japanese, the city of Furano is famous for being the location of the popular TV drama “Kita no Kuni kara” broadcast from 1983-2002, in addition to the museum, some houses and places have become a highlight thanks to the drama. The city has a museum called about the drama, located near Furano Station.

Videos from Hokkaido, Sapporo, Hakodate and Others

That's not even 10% of what Hokkaido cities have to offer. To get to know this beautiful and giant island of the Japanese archipelago better, we leave some videos below. I hope you enjoyed the Guide, if you liked it, share it!

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