Hokkaido is Japan’s second largest island at northern extremity, surrounded by sea in all directions. Hokkaido is climatically different from Honshu (The largest island of Japan) and imbued with Ainu culture which promotes co-existence with nature, making the lifestyle of Hokkaido spiritually sound. Hokkaido’s summer is cool with low humidity, and has no rainy season. In winter, the region facing the Sea of Japan experiences heavy snowfall, but in the region facing the Pacific, clear skies prevail for relatively long periods. The island is gaining popularity as a tourist destination throughout the four seasons.
Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido and functions efficiently as the hub of the island in the fields of politics, culture and economy. Located in the scenic central part of Hokkaido, the nation’s 5th largest city also boasts an abundance of tourist attractions, enticing millions of visitors all year round. Its full-scale development, along with that of the vast island itself, began in 1869 when the Japanese government established the Hokkaido Colonization Office. Unlike any other city in Japan, it forms a vast green land of many parks. The streets are laid out in checkerboard fashion and are also named and numbered consecutively. Sapporo is the air gateway to Hokkaido, a starting point for a tour of the island. With its two airports – New Chitose and Okadama – the capital city is conveniently connected to Honshu, the main island, as well as to the main cities of Hokkaido. The city is also linked with Hakodate, a major gateway to Hokkaido, by limited express trains.
Hakodate is the third largest city in Hokkaido, spreads out, like a fan from the foot of Mt. Hakodate on the southwest to the sandbar on the northeast of the Hakodate Peninsula. Streetcars, unchanged since olden times, can be seen running leisurely on the streets. Hakodate is a flourishing port as well as a gateway to Hokkaido, conveniently linked with Honshu mainland by underwater tunnel train, ferry boat and plane. The city of Hakodate is strongly influenced by the exchange of cultures between Western countries and itself. It is one of the port cities, like Yokohama and Kobe, that was opened to foreign trade in 1859.
Otaru, an exotic city with a long history and an atmosphere of romanticism, was loved by luminaries such as Takuboku Ishikawa and Takiji Kobayashi. Take a stroll through the city and enjoy the same breeze they would have felt in those days.
Otaru is also a treasure of great food. Visitors shouldn’t pass up the chance to try its fresh, delicious shushi and other seafood dishes. Eat your fill of local seafood and try a variety of seasonal delicacies.