03 Sep 2015

Travelling as far north as Hokkaido? An area that boasts a lot of mountains, stunning views of nature, and plenty of snow, Hokkaido is sure to impress. From strange trees to mystical ponds, we have compiled the top ten attractions to help you plan the perfect trip:

Philosophical Tree

10 of the best things to do in Hokkaido

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

The Philosophical Tree is one of the notable tourist spots in the town of Biei, Hokkaido Prefecture. It’s a poplar tree that suddenly juts out in the middle of the wide farmland. It’s located among the hills that go off everywhere but it is that opposite-facing slanting stance of the tree which has given it its name of the Philosophical Tree. It is that force of life that is striking during the warm season when the greenery is thriving. Also in the winter, the tree appears even deeper in thought as it patiently puts up with the severe Hokkaido cold. No matter the season you visit, it will reveal a different expression. However in recent years, there has been some harsh criticism concerning the manners of tourists so that currently photography of the tree is now prohibited.

The town of Biei is a popular tourist area where you can enjoy wonderful views to enrich your soul through contact with Mother Nature. In Biei, there are two prime tourist spots known as Patchwork Road and Panorama Road. Patchwork Road, a course in the northwest area of the town, oversees a patchwork of farmland growing a variety of produce and flowers. Meanwhile, Panorama Road is a tourist course in the southern area of Biei which has facilities for handicrafts and a photo gallery, and an observatory park. On this course, there are plenty of tourist spots such as a gallery by photographer Shinzo Maeda who put Biei on the map, an observatory park where you can have a grand view of the landscape, the Chiyoda Farm where you can pet animals, and a spruce tree which can truly be called a Christmas tree.

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Philosophical Tree
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Philosophical Tree
Tours of Philosophical Tree

Shikisai-no-Oka 

10 of the best things to do in Hokkaido

(image by photo.hokkaido-blog.com)

Biei in Hokkaido has rolling hills surrounded by a chain of mountains so that the area can be appreciated for its grand landscape. With its never-ending horizon and Mother Nature, it is a tourist area to calm body and soul. Shikisai-no-Oka consists of panoramic flower fields which makes use of the dynamic nature in Biei. Within its 15 hectares, it boasts a variety of blooms from spring to autumn. The scene of colorful flowers against the backdrop of the Daisetsuzan Mountain Range is incredible. It is a tourist area where you can experience the lush nature of Biei with all your senses while enveloped in the scent of flowers. During its green season between the end of April to the end of October, you can also leisurely ride through the fields via the Norokko tractor bus or even drive through the area by yourself with the available buggies and carts. Biei’s produce is on sale and there is also a restaurant where you can enjoy Hokkaido cuisine so you can spend a leisurely day there. 

At Shikisai-no-Oka, there is a farm where you can meet cute alpacas. The 10 alpacas from New Zealand with their soft wool and round eyes with long eyelashes will be happy to meet you. Feeding and petting them are possible so it is a very popular spot with the children.

Shikisai-no-Oka is overflowing with flowers from spring to autumn, but during the snow-filled winter season, it turns into a popular snow town to be traversed over the noble hills of Biei by snowmobile and banana boards. You will want to take full enjoyment of the area that is only possible in very snowy Hokkaido. It is a tourist vicinity where you can encounter all sorts of nature throughout the year.

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Shikisai-no-Oka 
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Shikisai-no-Oka 
Tours of Shikisai-no-Oka 

Rusutsu Resort

10 of the best things to do in Hokkaido

(image by en.rusutsu.co.jp)

Rusutsu Resort is the largest resort of its kind in Hokkaido located in the village of Rusutsu. With a total of 37 courses, it expands through 3 mountains: Mount Isola, East Mountain and West Mountain. In particular, a superb view of Lake Toya and Mt. Usu spreads out from Mt. Isola which you can ski down while seeing the façade of Mt. Yotei. To be able to see this incredible view as you go down the mountain is a true pleasure that can only be experienced in Hokkaido. From the continuous high-quality moguls for the advanced skiers and high-difficulty courses with slopes of 35 degrees to gentle slopes so that beginners can slide down without worry, every possible course is supplied. And at the kid-friendly Crayon Shin-chan Plaza, children can enjoy winter activities such as sledding and tubing. This is a ski resort where adults and children alike can refresh themselves in the middle of Mother Nature.

Even if you can’t ski or snowboard, there are plenty of other activities where you can take advantage of the snow while enjoying the grand nature of Rusutsu. Whether it’s dogsledding across the snow fields, riding snowmobiles that even novices can tackle, horseback riding or going on exploration nature tours through the woods while wearing snowshoes, there is also a lot of fun to be had that can only be experienced in snowy Hokkaido.

Rusutsu Resort is not a place that is just enjoyed during the winter only. It’s an all-year resort which not only has that ski area but also an amusement park with rides like roller coasters. And during the times without snow, you can use the gondola to get to Yotei Panorama Terrace, the viewpoint on Hokkaido’s prominent Mt. Yotei. Rusutsu has become a resort which has granted the wishes for the entire family with facilities such as an onsen, an indoor pool and a restaurant/shopping area.

Admission: Adult: ¥ 5,500 / Child: ¥ 2,750

Guidebook from Planetyze about Rusutsu Resort
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Rusutsu Resort
Tours of Rusutsu Resort

Niseko Village Ski Resort

10 of the best things to do in Hokkaido

(image by flickr.com)

Mt. Niseko Annupuri at Hokkaido’s Niseko. The lovely natural scene that spreads out there is especially full of winter sports, and during that season, many tourists visit so that they can enjoy skiing and snowboarding. Among the numerous ski resorts on Annupuri, the Niseko Village Ski Resort has a lot of slopes with a high degree of difficulty so that the advanced skiers can enjoy them to their hearts’ content. Furthermore, besides skiing and snowboarding, a variety of other winter sports can be tried out. There are winter activities that can only be found at Niseko Village such as snowmobiling, cross-country snow rafting and reindeer sleighing. For the advanced skiers, there is also the First Tracks Cat Skiing where you can ski down fresh and untouched powder snow. Have an absolutely great time with winter sports on the superior powder snow and the thrilling slopes.

The nature activities where you can get up close and personal with Mother Nature on Annupuri during the warm seasons are also recommended. Starting with the zip line tour using wires and pulleys in the middle of the forest at Pure Activity Center, there are plenty of activities you can try such as tree trekking and horseback riding. Also at Niseko Village Golf Course, you can play a round while getting that grand view.

Admission: Adult: ¥ 5,600 / Child: ¥ 3,100

Guidebook from Planetyze about Niseko Village Ski Resort
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Niseko Village Ski Resort
Tours of Niseko Village Ski Resort

Kami-no-Koike

10 of the best things to do in Hokkaido

(image by art40.photozou.jp)

Lake Mashū is called Kamuito (the Pond of God) in the Ainu language, and its water level doesn’t change at all since there are no rivers flowing in or out of the lake. It is said that the explanation lies in the waters of Lake Mashū flowing into the surrounding ponds as underground water. Kami-no-Koike is one of those ponds, and its name means “The Child Pond of God”. It is a small pond with a circumference of 220m and a depth of 5m, but it is a popular place visited by many tourists. The overriding reason for this is its mysterious blue color. The surface of Kami-no-Koikewhich turns a beautiful cobalt-blue due to the strong sunlight in spring and summer and a light indigo-blue in fall and winter has a loveliness which amazes visitors. Since the temperature of the pond stays at about a low 8 degrees Celsius throughout the year, anything that falls into the pond such as trees doesn’t tend to rot so that they seem to appear as sunken fossils in water so impressively clear that it doesn’t look like the water is 5m deep. Dolly Varden trout can even be seen swimming within its lovely blue waters. Due to the accumulation of snow in the winter, it will be necessary to move around in snowshoes, but to see the pond within an air of quiet deep in the mountains is also recommended. This is a mysterious place whose beauty remains unchanged throughout the year.

In Kiyosato Town where Kami-no-Koike is located, there are other tourist spots that are recommended. Kiyosato’s Mt. Sharitake is one such spot that is a hit with mountain climbers. From its summit, the grand Sea of Okhotsk can be viewed. Also at Sakura-no-Taki Falls, you can see cherry salmon jumping up the falls so that they can spawn. Kiyosato Town is one of those tourist areas where you can experience this dynamism of Mother Nature.  

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Kami-no-Koike
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Kami-no-Koike
Tours of Kami-no-Koike

Patchwork Road

10 of the best things to do in Hokkaido

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

The hilly area that spreads everywhere is the attractive Biei of Hokkaido. One of the tourist areas where you can enjoy the grand scenery born in the midst of Mother Nature within the prefecture is Patchwork Road. To avoid any damage from continuous re-planting of the same or similar crops in the same area, a variety of flowers and produce is raised in this area. The scenery is just like a patchwork quilt and the path that goes through this hilly area to be able to view this scenery is Patchwork Road. Since different crops are grown every year, a different expression is shown to visitors each time. Also depending on the season, the atmosphere will completely change so any time is recommended. You can savor a landscape that is just like an illustration out of a picture book.

Patchwork Road, being one of the famous tourist sites, claimed overnight fame through a car commercial due to a poplar tree. That tree is affectionately known as the Ken-and-Mary Tree named after the two characters from that car ad and it soars into the sky in the hilly area that seems to expand everywhere with the range of mountains in the background. Also there is Mild Seven Hill with a larch forest that has become famous due to its use in a cigarette commercial. This spot has also become a popular tourist area for its beautiful and wide landscape. In spring and summer, flowers blossom everywhere and the entire area is surrounded in a vivid atmosphere. At twilight, a magical and shining scene is revealed as the hill is colored in gold. The wide and beautiful farmland of Biei is a place where you can get a sense of being overseas while in Japan.

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Patchwork Road
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Patchwork Road
Tours of Patchwork Road

Farm Tomita

10 of the best things to do in Hokkaido

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

Furano City in the center of Hokkaido is especially famous for its lavender and every year, numerous tourists come and visit for that wonderful scent and view. Farm Tomita is renowned for having the largest lavender field in the Furano area. Boasting a wide 15 hectares, the peak time is in July and so the journey to the farm is notable for its traffic jams. Also, the farm’s Traditional Lavender Field has the longest history of its type in Japan. Its grand landscape unfurls like a violet carpet and the scent of lavender floats over the area. From the slightly elevated field, you can get a panoramic view of the rural landscape of Furano along with the lavender field where you can appreciate the breathtaking beauty. There are also many other flowers besides lavender that are being cultivated in places like Irodori Field with its colorful poppies and baby’s-breath.

Hokkaido is overflowing with delicious foods. At Farm Tomita, you can enjoy different kinds of cuisine using locally-produced ingredients. The lavender-infused soft-serve ice cream is especially popular. It’s something that has to be tasted while viewing the beautiful lavender field. Farm Tomita sells many original products such as lavender by the stalk, potpourri, and lavender essential oil. Bringing back lavender-scented souvenirs as a memento of your trip would be wonderful. What is also popular is Japan’s greatest dried flower arrangements.

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Farm Tomita
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Farm Tomita
Tours of Farm Tomita

Blue Pond

10 of the best things to do in Hokkaido

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

The town of Biei in Hokkaido where the Blue Pond is located is a place where you can feel the great outdoors of the prefecture through its rolling hills. Along with the Furano district, Biei is a popular area that is a member of The Association of The Most Beautiful Villages in Japan. The town has many tourist spots such as magnificent Mt. Tokachi which have been blessed by nature and are very relaxing. The Blue Pond is one other such site.  It is a body of water that was created from a dam which was built to protect Biei from the effects of an eruption from Mt. Tokachi. It started out as a man-made pond but water naturally filled the area. The reasons still haven’t been made perfectly clear, but sunlight striking the colloidal particles in the water is apparently responsible for the short-wavelength blue color of the pond. This blue surface along with the withered trees in the area produce a mystical atmosphere. It has therefore garnered a good amount of popularity in Japan due to media coverage, but also from its image being used as the wallpaper for the Apple operating system, it has also become known for its beautiful scenery throughout the world.  

Biei where the Blue Pond is located has a lot of nature spreading out. In the area surrounding theBlue Pond, there are also numerous tourist spots to view landscapes such as Shirohige-no-Taki (Whitebeard Falls) which flows into the Biei (Blue) River and Shikisai-no-Oka where you can enjoy flowers in every season. As well, the hot spring town of Shirogane Onsen is nearby where you can take part in high-quality onsen and enjoy the wonderful view of Mt. Tokachi and the Biei Hills. You can be sure that body and soul will be refreshed through the grand landscape of Biei. This is a tourist area which you can enjoy until you are satisfied through the power of magnificent Mother Nature.

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Blue Pond
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Blue Pond
Tours of Blue Pond

Shiretoko Five Lakes

10 of the best things to do in Hokkaido

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

Shiretoko Five Lakes is surrounded by a primeval forest and the Shiretoko Mountains. Within this region of lush flora and fauna, you can experience the grandness of nature here. There are 2 ways to navigate through Shiretoko Five Lakes. First, there is the wooden boardwalk course which has a total length of 800m and goes as far as the shores of one of the lakes. The boardwalk ranges from 2 to 5 meters in height and there is an electric fence with 7000 volts of current running around it so in the unlikely event of any brown bear encounters, people can still walk securely. Also, there are 2 observation points on the boardwalk from where you can see the Okhotsk Sea in the distance and the wonderful view of the lake and the reflection of the Shiretoko Mountains. You can also encounter wild animals such as deer in the area. The other course involves the nature trails. You can take a walk once you get a lecture at the Shiretoko Five Lakes Field House. At the carefully protected primeval forest in Shiretoko, you can come upon a myriad of plants and animals. However, during the peak season of brown bear activity, the trails can only be traversed with a limited number of people following a licensed guide. Please follow the rules to ensure that this untouched nature is continued to be protected.

During winter, the boardwalk is closed, but there are opportunities to go to the wetlands which aren’t usually accessible in the summer. Shiretoko in the harsh winter provides a valuable experience to see the animals that can withstand the cold and the quiet forest. At this time, there are also tours which you can enjoy Shiretoko in winter. From being able to walk on top of the lakes to viewing the icebergs floating on top of the Okhotsk Sea, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance (reservations/fee required).

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Shiretoko Five Lakes
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Shiretoko Five Lakes
Tours of Shiretoko Five Lakes

Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area

10 of the best things to do in Hokkaido

(image by annupuri.info)

Hokkaido’s Niseko is a hit for winter sports due to the superior powder snow which falls during winter. In recent years, along with Japanese tourists, the resort has also attracted an increasing number of overseas tourists who want to enjoy the skiing and snowboarding. Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area is a resort located on the active volcano of Annupuri, and with its characteristic gentle slopes, it is especially recommended for those novices at winter sports and people who want to take that relaxing slide down in the midst of nature. Along with that great feeling of skiing down in the middle of nature, you can also appreciate the calm landscape of Annupuri while on the lift. There are also plenty of areas for the children to enjoy things such as sledding and other snow activities so this is the perfect place for families. During its winter operation while the snow is on the ground, there are a lot of other events held as well. The lift areas are lit up with candles during night operations, and in the New Year, there are activities outside of skiing to get the excitement up such as a countdown fireworks performance. Also around the Annupuri area, there is Niseko Onsen along with many other onsen hotels. How about warming up in a hot spring to rid yourself of those chills at the ski resort?

Even if winter operations come to an end, the Annupuri resort is also great for fun that can only be had in the summer. The 1000m plateau observation point at Annupuri provides a grand view. The observation point can be easily reached by gondola so you can enjoy that walk in the sky. There are also many outdoor activities such as nature tours and trekking so the resort is great for full enjoyment during summer with its grand scenery of Hokkaido.

Admission: Adult: ¥ 6,400 / Child: ¥ 3,500

Guidebook from Planetyze about Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area
Tours of Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area

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