travel

Hokkaido: The 'wild west' of Japan

31 Comments
By Jamie Rockers

With lots of wide, open spaces, farmland, and clear, cerulean blue skies, Hokkaido could certainly be called the “wild west” of Japan (ignore the fact that it’s in a far eastern country and is in the northernmost part of it). It’s even possible to see black and white spotted dairy cows contently grazing and noble-looking horses running freely in green fields here, a sight rarely seen in Honshu, the main island of Japan.

In fact, Hokkaido only holds 5% of Japan’s population, even though it covers one-fifth of Japan’s land area. Hokkaido is Japan’s largest food producer and is famous for potatoes, sweet corn, rice, and rich dairy products. And anyone who has tried Hokkaido soft cream knows that the quality is great.

The first stopping off point in Hokkaido for most people is Sapporo, the biggest city north of Tokyo. This is a city with wide, tree-lined streets and a relaxed atmosphere, without the hustle and bustle you seen in cities like Osaka or Tokyo. Most people can get a train seat, even if they are taking a train from Sapporo station, the “busiest” train station in Hokkaido. Although there are not a lot of sights to see in Sapporo, it is worth stopping by just to get a bite to eat and taking a stroll in Odori park to walk it all off. At the Sapporo Beer Garden, you can eat as much “Genghis-Khan mutton BBQ” and drink as much as you want for around 3,400 yen. Sapporo is also the place you can catch the Woman’s Sumo National Championship, if you are lucky enough to be in the city when it is being held.

Budget accommodations are a little difficult to find but not impossible. A good, reasonably priced business hotel near the famous entertainment district of Susukino is called Super Hotel Sapporo Susukino Minami. Offering a public bath and a nice buffet breakfast with fresh salmon, eggs, miso soup, fruit and rice, it’s a bargain at 6,000 yen per night.

From Sapporo, there are many sights to see, the top ones being Furano, Biei, Shikotsu-ko, Toya-ko, Shiraoi or the zoo in Asahikawa. Furano is famous for its bright, multi-colored fields of lavender in August and for its fiery sunsets over the mountains. Biei is famous for its rolling, dappled hills of endless farmland, a sight for sore eyes if you’ve been in the city for too long. Shikotsu-Toya National Park is not to be missed, for its two lakes, many mountains, and several smoking volcanoes. Usu-zan and Showa Shin-zan are the volcanoes and funnily enough, in 1943, Showa Shin-zan first popped up in someone’s vegetable field and continued to grow for two more years, reaching its current height of 402 meters.

Lake Toya and Lake Shikotsu are also great sights, surrounded by volcanoes. It’s often very windy, so the lakes have crashing waves, making them seem wilder than most of Japan’s public beaches. Shiraoi is in between the two lakes and is not to be missed for its reconstructed Ainu village, Poroto Kotan. It’s a great place to go to find out more about Ainu culture and Hokkaido’s indigenous people, the Ainu.

Last but not least, it’s worth it to stop off at Asahikawa’s zoo if you have time. This is probably the most famous zoo in Japan. It’s not that big but it’s fun to see the polar bears and drop by one of Asahikawa’s restaurants for a bowl of Hokkaido soba, which is truly delicious.

So, if you’re looking for a bit of nature, Hokkaido’s the place to go. And don’t forget to try the lavender ice cream while you’re there.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

31 Comments
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I've always heard that Hokkaido is beautiful .. now if only I could spare some cash

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Stay out of Hokkaido, it's all mine.

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I'm so thankful that I live here. Every weekend there is somewhere beautiful to explore.. and then winter comes and it's snowboarding every weekend. Going to be hard to leave this place one day..

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Going to be hard to leave this place one day.

Yup, especially when you get snowed in.

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The title got me thinking of showdowns at sundown.

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Have read that the good people of Hokkaido are the biggest TV watchers in the world. Women`s sumo looks interesting.

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I would LOVE to visit Hokkaido. I'm probably as close as I'll ever be to it, so I might get the chance to go sometime this winter. It sounds like a beautiful place.

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How's the nightlife up there?

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Chiba and Saitama is the Wild West in Japan because anything goes in those two places. Survival of the fittest and you need protection just to go out to the local bars.

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I wouldn't so far as to call it the "wild west" of Japan. It's closer to what Middle America is in terms of demeanor. Sans the drug use.

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@jason6

Sapporo has some of the best nightlife in Japan, summer and winter. The small towns are quite depressing places though if you like a good night out.

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ˆtook my car there 25 years ago by ferry. Beautiful pace, but some really big bees.

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Yelnats. If they were suzume-bachi, or Kumam-bachi, they were wasps or hornets, like flying fortresses.

Watch out for some of the local accents up there though. And be prepared to see signs in Russian, rather than in English.

Nightlife is good, but watch you don't get rolled in Sapporo... hahaha

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We want to move to someplace to Japan and I've always been interested in Hokkaido. Is it worth it? Good place for family with kids?

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The night life (In Sapporo) is great. Not like Tokyo, but plenty to do and the best dressed girls in Japan.

It is an amazing place, Hokkaido, with the most amazing Sky I`ve ever seen. And SApporo is a really livable city.

Wild West... more like little house on the prairie. But beautiful none the less!

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Yay, finally a story on Hokkaido! Make sure you take the train from Sapporo to my little town of Otaru. I promise you will like it very much.

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Doesn't "wild west" imply lawlessness, gunfights at the corral, things like that? I think a more appropriate comparison could have been made.

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Sapporo having some of the best nightlife is kinda stretching it unless you are referring to 'that' nightlife..in which case it wins hands down.But I do love Sapporo and it has great restaurants and a couple of decent 'gaijin bars' including the one actually called 'gaijin bar'.Ha! My friend and I ferried it to Hokkaido from Kansai in winter and did a local train round trip (sorry..we missed Wakkanai) from Tomakomai-Sapporo-Kushiro-Otoro-Abashiri-Asashikawa-Otaru-Hakodate-Aomori. The trains take forever,the scenery is fabulous,the food delectable and in particular I recommend the Prince Hotel in Otoro for amazing seafood and scenery..Otaru is great too but avoid Kushiro..Kushiro is a dump and has PA announcement s on the street warning against suspicious foreigners..very welcoming indeed. PS..the corn and mint shochu is great for the train ride.Viva Hokkaido!

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We want to move to someplace to Japan and I've always been interested in Hokkaido. Is it worth it? Good place for family with kids?

Yes. Lived there 5 years growing organics and enjoyed it. We home schooled the kids and they worked in the field in the afternoon. Small town life wasn't always easy and the winter is harsh, but I would do it again.

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The town of Asahi-kawa was giving away free land in Hokkaido ( not sure if there's any left) if you build a home there, live there and, pay your taxes. No ban on international permanent-resident-status types taking them up on the offer. Longing to homestead? Off you go! It's a bit Saskatchewanesque, brass-monkey-ish, if you get my drift.

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"With lots of wide, open spaces, farmland, and clear, cerulean blue skies, Hokkaido could certainly be called the “wild west” of Japan (ignore the fact that it’s in a far eastern country and is in the northernmost part of it)."

Jamie Rockers: please do some research on the Wild West (aside from maybe the one John Wayne movie you may have seen).

Wow.

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Really great food, especially seafood and dairy products. Some of the best cheese in the world outside Europe.

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I would love to go there one day...

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Libertas> That is interesting! Asahikawa is quite a nice place,but you would have to enjoy the snow and the cold,as you say.Two things that really stuck with me was the sheer number and variety of seabirds at Mori near hakodate, and the Shiretoko Peninsular..what an amazing place.

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Ok, I gotta say that saying Sapporo has some of the best nightlife in Japan, is more than a stretch, its just not true. In no way can it compete within the same universe as Tokyo / Osaka (No1) / Nagoya. If you like drinking then possibly heaven. Clubs, not really happening there either. The "other" nightlife, gaijin dont get in. The food, seafood is undoubtedly fresh, the rest apart from Ramen / Soup Curry, its a culinary wasteland, really not a lot of things to do there. Forget the whales, take a trip to the zoo in Maruyama, ecology at its finest. If you are looking to raise a family maybe Hokkaido would be a safe place to do that. Outside of Sapporo, not much there.

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2hotspur: why gaijin dont get into the " other" nightlife? imho it is just a question of right connections and knowning right people;)

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2 Maruska,

Because Sapporo is no Tokyo and or Osaka. Going to Suskino has only just about gotten a little bit more accessible, as with most of the skanky soap lands struggling a little, they are starting to recognise the gaijin dollar. Before Mr man on the street was strictly no G Boys allowed and if you were allowed believe me the state the the lamb cutlets was enough to turn anyone vegan. Compare that to Osaka where by overall they dont give a stuff as long as you got the cash. As for connections run a poll here and see how many on here really have a true J friend or two. That is bloody difficult. I have been to the "sights" with the boys and to tell you the truth, packet of Jaffa cakes, JR Hokkaido free tissue and broadband access won every time. Sapporo is good, Sapporo's outskirts are scenic, but the city itself, in the longterm, can be as boring as hardening puke on a summers day. Culturally stimulating the city is not. I beg you to differ.

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2Hotspur> wau, didnt know, very interesting:) from all cities the best i know is osaka:) and there i have really very goods friends. as for hokkaido:i am going to hokkaido in two weeks, so looking forward to see this place:)

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My first day in Susukino and one of the touts gave me the 'look' (it must have been a slow day) but I spent quite a few nights roving around there and never got that again..Akita was quite a different story. If you go to Sapporo then Gaijin Bar is not bad I suppose,but the little bars around it were better.I like the Hokkaido style of having bars that fit a maximum of 7 people..very cosy and easy to make friends. Asahikawa was good fun too..other than that, Hokkaido is pretty quiet.Fortunately there is still lots to see around the place.If you are near Hakodate check out Mori and all the seabirds there...magnificent.

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Osakadaz

Bit harsh on Kushiro earlier, mate. We quite enjoyed it, when we were there they had barbecue and bar tents set up along the wharfs at night and the people were pretty friendly. Sure, a bit grimey and we saw plenty of the military music blaring black vans with slogans for the return of the Russian islands, but ,that aside, i`ve seen worse dumps.

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Well, I live in Sapporo really Enjoy the night life. Compared to New York, Philly, New Orleans it`s not that great but there is plenty to do and tons of options if you spend time here and look around. It might not be as broad as Tokyo, but I would be really disappointed if Sapporo had all that went along with Tokyo, just for the bump in night life.

As far as food... itS the best in Japan. Ive only had a hand full of meals out that we not great or delicious. There aren`t a lot of options when it comes to AUTHENTIC international fare, but I just assumed that was a Japanese thing.. not Sapporo.

Its a beautiful city, with the cutest and best dressed girls (particularly in winter) and with the Skiing and snowboarding in winter and the AMAZING weather in SUmmer, its one of the best places to be in the world, I think.

And the foreign community here is amazing. REally great people. Not like I`ve met anywhere else...

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