Things to do in Hokkaido

Things to do in  Hokkaido

Japan’s wild wonderland

Home to snow-capped peaks and the cavernous forests of Japan's wild north, the island of Hokkaido is a mecca for outdoor adventurers. Topped by the urban crown of Sapporo, the prefecture's neon-lit capital, Hokkaido combines metropolitan sparkle with exceptional skiing opportunities and the unspoiled beauty of three spectacular national parks. Before flocking to its natural wonders, join a Sapporo sightseeing tour to visit popular attractions including Hitsujigaoka Observatory Hill, the chocolate-themed Shiroi Koibito Park, and the Historic Village of Hokkaido. The city makes a convenient launchpad for day trips to Lake Shikotsu; the hot springs of Hoheikyo Onsen; the emerald Nopporo Forest Park; and Otaru, where you can take a rickshaw tour through this seaside town steeped in Japanese tradition. Winter-sport enthusiasts will be in heaven; ski on the world-class slopes of Niseko or experience smelt ice fishing in Kushiro before heading to the further-flung corners of Furano and Biei, famed for panoramic vistas and flower-filled fields. Meanwhile, the crystal-clear lakes, bubbling volcanoes, and steaming onsens of Daisetsuzan National Park beg to be explored by intrepid outdoor adventurers. If you're traveling to Hokkaido from Tokyo or Osaka, go by plane to shorten your journey time, as it can take up to 24-hours by car and will still require at least nine hours of travel time by bullet train.

Top 15 attractions in Hokkaido

Maruyama Park (Maruyama Koen)

Set at the base of Maruyama Mountain in the western suburbs of Sapporo, Maruyama Park (Maruyama Koen) comprises 15 acres (6 hectares) of virgin and secondary forest filled with oak, magnolia, maple and Japanese katsura trees. Some 1,700 Hokkaido wild cherry trees also grow within the park, making it a particularly popular destination come springtime.Predating the park itself is the Hokkaido Shrine, located at the north end of the park. Built in 1869, the shrine sees a steady stream of devotees, especially on New Year’s Day and the last day of winter, seeking the good graces of the four protective deities believed to be enshrined within.Visitors to Maruyama Park will also find Maruyama Zoo on the grounds. The zoo houses around 200 species of plants and animals and includes a tropical bird aviary and an insect house.More


Jozankei is a hot spring (onsen) resort town near Sapporo, on Japan’s northern Hokkaido island. It’s located within the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, built around cliffs on the Toyohira River. There are many traditional Japanese inns (ryokan) to stay at in Jozankei, as well as baths that can be visited for a day or half-day.More

Asahiyama Zoo

Located on the island of Hokkaido, Asahiyama Zoo is the northernmost zoo in Japan. Known for its innovative enclosures, which are designed to resemble natural habitats and to showcase natural animal behavior, Asahiyama Zoo is one of the most popular attractions in the Asahikawa region and draws millions of visitors a year.More

Shiroi Koibito Park

Shiroi Koibito is a popular Japanese cookie consisting of milk or white chocolate sandwiched between two ladyfinger biscuits. The sweet-themed Shiroi Koibito Park in Sapporo takes visitors behind the scenes to see how Hokkaido’s most famous confection is made.Entrance to the park includes a factory tour, Cookiecraft Studio where guests get to make their own Shiroi Koibito, toy exhibition, rose garden and a candy store selling a variety of sweet treats.Each hour, the Chocolate Carnival takes place in the courtyard and involves a parade of mechanical dolls. Modeled after the Benkei steam train, the Shiroi Koibito Railway is a hit with young visitors, as is the Gulliver House play area.More

Odori Park (Odori Koen)

Located in the heart of Sapporo and dividing the city into north and south, Odori Park (Odori Koen) offers a pleasant open and green space for relaxation and recreation. The city’s central park, which stretches for 13 blocks, is the main site for popular seasonal events and festivals.More

Sapporo TV Tower

East of Odori Park, and standing 483 feet (147 meters) tall, Sapporo TV Tower is an iconic landmark of the city. Head up to the observation deck, pull out your camera, and enjoy postcard-perfect views of Sapporo, nearby mountains, the Ishikari Plains, and the Sea of Japan.More

Mt. Moiwa (Moiwa-yama)

One of Sapporo’s most famous sightseeing attractions is Mt. Moiwa (Moiwa-yama), a forested mountain located southwest of Sapporo. Popular for its city views, especially at sunset, the mountain’s summit and observation deck are accessible by way of the Mt. Moiwa Ropeway, an aerial tramway system that climbs 1,200 feet (366 meters) in two segments.From the summit, the views extend past the city of Sapporo to the Ishikari Plain, Ishikari Bay and the Yubari Mountains in the distance. In the winter, the south side of Mt. Moiwa serves as one of Sapporo’s most popular ski resorts.During the summers, hikers can take advantage of five different mountain trails winding through the forests of Mt. Moiwa.More


Head to Susukino for shopping, dining, and nightlife in Sapporo. The biggest entertainment district north of Tokyo, the lively Susukino district is packed with thousands of establishments, ranging from shops and arcades to restaurants, bars, karaoke boxes, nightclubs, and pachinko parlors, as well as adult-entertainment options.More

Hoheikyo Onsen

One of Sapporo’s most popular hot springs, Hōheikyō Onsen has volcanic thermal waters in a beautiful forest setting. During winter, visitors soak surrounded by snowy peaks, while in summer, they raft and canoe on the nearby Toyohira River, pre or post-dip.More

Lake Shikotsu (Shikotsuko)

Located in southwest Hokkaido, close to Sapporo, Lake Shikotsu (Shikotsuko) is the second-deepest lake and second-largest caldera lake in Japan. Surrounded by volcanoes on all sides, the lake is a popular recreation area for locals and visitors looking to enjoy the outdoors, wildlife, hot springs, and beautiful scenery.More

Asahiyama Memorial Park (Asahiyama Kinen Koen)

Opened in 1970 to commemorate Sapporo’s centennial celebration, Asahiyama Memorial Park (Asahiyama Kinen Koen) sits on a hilltop on the western edge of the city, offering panoramic views of both Sapporo and the Ishikari Plain beyond it. On a clear day, it’s possible to see all the way to the Sea of Japan.Surrounding the park’s lookout, located 451 feet (137.5 meters) above sea level, are a series of lawns and manicured gardens with a fountain, Chinese arbor, a couple of bridges and a children’s play area. A series of hiking trails run through the forested area at the rear of the park, and when the weather is nice, food and drink vendors set up shop, making it a popular spot for picnicking. In July, Asahiyama Memorial Park serves as the venue for the Sapporo Asahiyama Music Festival.More

Nopporo Forest Park (Nopporo Shinrin Koen)

Explore the natural beauty and history of Hokkaido at Nopporo Forest Park (Nopporo Shinrin Koen). Covering an area of over 4,942 acres (2,000 hectares), Nopporo Forest Park is a flatland forest, wildlife sanctuary, and home to the Hokkaido Centennial Memorial Tower, the Historical Museum of Hokkaido, and the Historical Village of Hokkaido.More

Noboribetsu Date Historic Village (Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura)

Located in Hokkaido, Noboribetsu Date Historic Village (Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura) is a history-themed park that transports visitors back to the Edo period. Here, you can enjoy traditional games and activities, dress up in period costumes, and stroll through replica Edo-era buildings and streets.More

Mt. Tarumae (Tarumae-zan)

Get up close to an active stratovolcano with an unstable lava dome at Mt. Tarumae (Tarumae-zan), located on the shores of Lake Shikotsu inside Shikotsu-Toya National Park. The trail up Mt. Tarumae is one of the most spectacular and accessible hikes on Hokkaido and offers dramatic, otherworldly scenery and stunning panoramic views.More


Savor fresh seafood and get close to nature at Tomakomai, an industrial port city located on the south-central coast of Hokkaido. Famed for its surf clam, Tomakomai also offers close proximity to natural attractions like Lake Shikotsu, Mt. Tarumae, Tarumae Garo Gorge, Ikoro-no-Mori, and Lake Utonai Wildlife Reserve.More

Top activities in Hokkaido

Sapporo Bar Hopping Food Tour

Sapporo Bar Hopping Food Tour

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All about Hokkaido

When to visit

The best time to visit Hokkaido varies depending on what you want to do. Many visitors come to the island in the summer, when blooming fields of sunflowers, lavender, poppies, and other flowers paint the countryside and events like the Yosakoi Soran Festival (which features traditional dance competitions) provide entertainment. Winter is also popular, thanks to the island’s ski slopes and the Sapporo Snow Festival, which is typically held in early February.

Getting around

Japan boasts clean, efficient public transportation, and Hokkaido is no exception. You can get to all major places of interest by public train or bus, though you may want to hop a short flight if you’re traveling a long distance across the island. There is also a bus specifically designed for tourists, the Eastern Hokkaido Sightseeing Bus, which offers two different routes and makes stops at many attractions, such as Lake Akan and the Asahiyama Zoo.

Traveler tips

Hokkaido is the homeland of the Ainu, one of Japan’s two Indigenous peoples. You can learn about Ainu culture and history in a number of places, including the new National Ainu Museum and Park, which is located in the Shiraoi District. In Sapporo, you can also see Ainu handicrafts at the Ainu Culture Promotion Center or enjoy Ainu cuisine at Umizora no Haru, a restaurant that adds a modern twist, or at Kerapirka, which also hosts live music.

Local Currency
Japanese Yen (¥)
Time Zone
JST (UTC +9)
Country Code

People Also Ask

What is Hokkaido famous for?

The northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido is famous for skiing and snowboarding on its plentiful powder snow. It’s also known for its natural beauty and scenery (mountains, lakes, volcanoes, hot springs, and flower fields), as well as some of the best food in Japan, including fresh seafood and dairy products.

How many days do you need in Hokkaido?

You will need at least one week in Hokkaido, the second-largest island of Japan, to do it justice. Plan to spend a day or two in Sapporo, and the rest of the time enjoying the island’s countless ski resorts, national parks, lavender fields, and onsens (natural hot springs).

What is there to do in Hokkaido?

With more than 100 ski resorts, skiing and snowboarding are top draws. Other activities include exploring the six national parks, seeing the lavender fields, soaking in the hundreds of onsens, learning about indigenous Ainu culture, and trying the island’s seafood, ramen, and dairy products.

How is Hokkaido different from Japan?

Hokkaido has traditionally been inhabited by the indigenous Ainu people. Japan didn’t start settling in the area until the late 19th century. As a result, the culture and even architecture are different from that of the rest of Japan. Hokkaido’s weather is also different, with longer and colder winters and milder summers with less humidity.

Which is the best month to visit Hokkaido?

It depends on your interests. For winter activities like skiing and snowboarding, and snow and ice festivals like the Sapporo Snow Festival, February is the best month. For the best chances of seeing cherry blossoms, visit in May. To see the lavender fields and enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities, visit in July.

Does the bullet train go to Hokkaido?

Yes. Even though Hokkaido is an island, you can take the bullet train there through the Seikan Tunnel, one of the longest underwater tunnels in the world, which connects the main island of Honshu with Hokkaido. The bullet train ride between Tokyo and Hakodate takes just over four hours.

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