Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido is a blissful retreat from the pace of life down south, offering bewitching landscapes, local culture and wildlife.
Posted March 3,2018 in Places and Regions.
Hokkaido accounts for more than 20% of Japan’s landmass and less than 5% of its population, so it’s little surprise that much of this island prefecture is unblemished wilderness. Particularly during the spring and summer months, its cooler northern temperatures make it popular for hiking, cycling and swimming.
Daisetsuzan National Park is Japan’s largest, home to active volcanoes, dense forests and clear lakes – and replete with opportunities for scenic hiking. T e hypnotically blue Lake Mashū makes for great hiking scenery – the six-hour round-trip to the top of Mount Mashū (857m) takes you round its eastern side, where views of navy blue waters are gradually replaced by striking volcanic vistas. A stone’s throw from Hokkaido’s capital, Sapporo, Shikotsu-Tōya National Park also of ers Mount Yōtei (1,898m), whose 1,500m climb is an enticing challenge for experienced mountaineers. It’s often called Ezo Fuji due to its resemblance to its more famous southern cousin. Back on terra f rma, there are also two gleaming caldera lakes to admire in the park.
The remote Hokkaido island of Rishiri is ripe for two-wheeled discovery, with a 15-mile cycle path running through its woods and coastal plains. If you have time on your hands and fancy a challenge, you can also cycle the 37-mile circumference of the island. Furano is a leading ski resort in Hokkaido, and becomes an ideal cycling spot in the summer months, with its many mountain trails liberated from the snow. Meanwhile, more cycling adventures await near the Unesco-listed Shiretoko National Park; Koshimizu Gensei-kaen is a picturesque 12-mile stretch of coastline between the towns of Abashiri and Shari. T e trail, where you can take advantage of free bike hire, is adorned with more than 40 species of wild flowers in the early summer.
Intrinsic to Hokkaido tradition are the onsen (natural hot springs), and a good place to start is Noboribetsu in Shikotsu-Tōya National Park. You’ll smell the sulphur from miles away as you approach; it will be worth it when you’re luxuriating in one of the town’s mineral-rich springs. A relaxing onsen session can also make up part of a soothing stroll around Akan National Park, where you can spot herds of sika deer and be welcomed to a kotan – an ancient village built in the style of Hokkaido’s indigenous Ainu people.