Hokkaido Guide - Sapporo, Hakodate, Otaru and Asahikawa

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

You will enjoy 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 Sea and Snow Path

Hokkaido (北海道) means “Sea path to the north”. Its population is about 5 million inhabitants and has an area of 83,452.47 km². 

The biggest city in Hokkaido 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 province has a total of 180 municipalities, 35 of which are considered cities, 130 smaller cities and 15 villages. Several of these cities have become famous for the quality of their local production or geographical characteristics. 

Hokkaido is an island that is somewhat 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 almost 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 numerous other winter attractions. Despite the heavy snow that hits Hokkaido, the province is known for its farms and rural areas, as well as having 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

Sights of Hokkaido

Sapporo is a city full of tourist attractions, only in it we find countless places like: 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 out.

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

  • Shiretoko National Park (知床);
  • Akan national park (阿寒);
  • Kushiro Swamps National Park (釧路湿原);
  • Taisetsuzan National Park (大雪山);
  • Shikotsu-Toya National Park (支笏洞爺);
  • Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park (利尻礼文サロベツ);
Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru and asahikawa

In addition to these parks we find another 5 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 pastures, the highest point of which is Mount Asahi, a volcano whose last eruption was in the 18th century.

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru and asahikawa

We also have the Village of Utoro, where you find a beautiful fishing port, great onsen and the Shiretoko park. In the beautiful Shiretoko Park you can climb the mountains, go into caves, take a boat trip, take long walks and enjoy the wild life and the beautiful waterfalls found on the site.

There are thousands of tourist spots, each city has numerous attractions, festivals, temples, sanctuaries, castles, parks, gardens, SKI tracks, caves, lakes, onsen and several beauties. Throughout the life of our site, we will choose some of these sights to examine further, below see an image showing some of the sights of Hokkaido.

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 province. The city has about 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 home of the Sapporo Beer, there is even a free fun museum that allows you to drink free beers. The city also has an incredible hybrid stadium between football and baseball and the famous Maruyama Zoo.

Susukino

Susukino's amusement and entertainment district is among the largest and best known in Japan. Susukino is one of Sapporo's most famous neighborhoods for its restaurants and night bars. He is far less censored than the rest of Japan.

Posters and billboards, strip bars and flashy waitresses are spread out and in plain sight. We had the chance to visit an Onsen in the region and also visit the famous Panasonic tower, close to the city center.

Unlike Kabukichou or other nightlife and adult entertainment districts, Suzukino does not hide. The information centers are large and full of posters revealing 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 presenting sights and leaving some tips for those who plan to visit Hokkaido. 

The Clock Tower in Sapporo

In the center of Sapporo you will find the famous Panasonic Tower… This tower has a total view of the center of Sapporo and the beautiful street separated by a square / garden that extends through the four avenues around the tower. 

Then we went down the main avenue to meet a Japanese friend and continued walking along this avenue colored by the autumn leaves called… Then we went to Suzukino, one of the biggest night districts in Japan and the World.  

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

From my experience, I discovered that the women of Sapporo are much more forward than those of Tokyo and other regions of Japan. We went to a Karaoke and then went to a cool bar called Ies

In this bar the Bartenders do 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 of the night. 

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru

Black Sapporo Ramen 

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

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 on the ramen (lol). 

It was a very small place that only opened at 10 o'clock at night, there were queues of 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 role with a friend, already 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 pictures on the spot. Then we went to a large onsen where there were different types of sauna (including a cold sauna) and a well with pink sakura water.

Hakodate - The Beautiful Port City

The city of Hakodate (函館市) is located in the south of Hokkaido, a large island in northern Japan. Hakodate maintains a temperature of around 10˚C throughout the year 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 about 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 trees bloom in May and fall in love with the sunset views from Mount Hakodate. And enjoy fresh seafood.

Sights of Hakodate

There are thousands of things that can be seen and done in this beautiful city, among them 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 you can find the morning market in Asaichi, where you can enjoy seasonal dishes and also shop and dine 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 location 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 centers, 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 trade ports. From that time religious institutions from various countries remain, as well as public buildings, shops and private houses in a mix of Japanese and Western styles.

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

Natural Beauties of Hakodate

Mount Hakodate, Monte Esan and Motomachi

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

There are Western-style churches and buildings in Motomachiat the foot of Mount Hakodate. It is a popular area for walks. Many of the steep streets extend down to the port and the city landscape, with its mix of Japanese and Western styles.

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

Onuma and Yunokawa

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

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

Goryokaku

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

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

Hokkaido guide - sapporo, hakodate and otaru and asahikawa goryokaku
Goryokaku

Otaru - The Historic City of Hokkaido

Otaru [小樽] is a city and port in the Shiribeshi sub-prefecture in Hokkaido, northwest of Sapporo. The city faces Ishikari Bay and has long been the main port 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 former home of the Ainu tribe.

The name “Otaru” is recognized as being of Ainu origin, possibly meaning “River running along the beach”. The small remaining part of the Temiya cave contains sculptures from the Zoku-Jōmon period of Ainu's history, around 400 AD.

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 the famous rainbow ice cream.

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

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 magnate in the herring fishing industry.

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

Another notable building is the Sakaushi residence, built by Yoshiya Tanoue, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. The Catholic church of Tomioka is also a popular place. Many of the buildings have been designated as reference architecture.

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

Asahikawa

Asahikawa [旭川] is a city in the Kamikawa Subprefecture in Hokkaido. It is the capital of the sub-prefecture and the second largest city in Hokkaido, after Sapporo. Currently, the city is known for the Asahiyama Zoo and the Asahikawa ramen.

The Ainu they called the Asahi river Chiu Pet, which means “Rio das Ondas”, but it was misinterpreted as Chup Pet, which means “river of the Sun”, and so it came to be called the Asahi river in Japanese which means “morning sun” .

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

Asahibashi, a bridge over the Ishikari River, has been one of Asahikawa's symbols 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.

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

Furano - Lavender Fields

Furano (富良野) is a beautiful city 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) takes place 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
Furano City

The main tourist spot in the city is Furano-Ashibetsu Nature Park, where we find one of the largest and most beautiful lavender fields. The best time to see lavender flowers is from mid-July to the end of July. We have the Kitanomine area where ski resorts and pensions are located. The most popular is the 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 production process. The city 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 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 venues have become a highlight thanks to the drama. The city has a museum called on the drama, located near Furano Station.

Videos of Hokkaido, Sapporo, Hakodate and Others

This is not even 10% than what the cities of Hokkaido has 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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