Explore Japan's Northernmost Prefecture
Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands, is known for its volcanoes, natural hot springs (onsen) and ski areas. It’s also commonly referred to as the “Bread Basket of Japan” because its produces so much of the nation’s food supply. The ramen (noodles) that come from Hokkaido are said to be the best in the world.
The island is also a place of breathtaking beauty and one of the best places to witness that is rugged Daisetsuzan National Park, home to steaming, volcanic Mount Asahi. Neighbouring Shikotsu-Toya National Park contains caldera lakes, geothermal springs and a Mount Fuji look-alike, Mount Yotei.
Popular ski resorts include Rusutsu, Furano and Niseko. And for those who are skeptical about Hokkaido’s ski conditions, consider this: ski resorts in Hokkaido, because of the frigid weather systems that bring Arctic air across the Sea of Japan from Siberia, gets plenty of snow. In fact, some Hokkaido ski resorts receive between 14-18 metres of snow annually. Compare that to Whistler’s average snowfall of 11.7m, Aspen’s 4.5m, Val d’Azure’s 7.82m and St. Moritz’s 4.3m.
Hokkaido also offers many things to do throughout the year. The mild weather in summer is great for exploring the green hills and national parks. Visit the lakes, rivers and mountains for hiking, mountain biking, canoeing and rafting. See animals and birds in their natural habitats and bathe in volcanic waters with picturesque backdrops.
The city of Sapporo, the first city in Hokkaido, was designed for urban living and dates back to the Meiji Period.
In the coastal towns such as Hakodate, Otaru, Kushiro, Abashiri and Shiretoko, you’ll find plenty of fresh seafood that’s is plucked out of the surrounding waters daily.
As you can see, there’s lots to do and see in Hokkaido.
9 DAYS / 8 NIGHTS
Explore Japan from her modern bustle in the city streets of Tokyo to the traditional alleys and ancient traditions of Takayama, Kanazawa, Kyoto, and more.
7 DAYS / 6 NIGHTS
Experience Japan from the modernity of Tokyo to the traditional elegance of old towns, Mt. Fuji, temples, shrines, and Kyoto’s mix of old and new.
9 DAYS / 8 NIGHTS
Take in the Best of Japan as you discover Tokyo, Nikko, Mt. Fuji, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, and much more on this 9 day journey of the highlights.
6 DAYS / 5 NIGHTS
Marvelat Japan's modern wonders, natural scenery, and historic traditions on thishighlights journey through Tokyo, Mt.Fuji, Kyoto and Nara
14 DAYS / 13 NIGHTS
Experience a comprehensive look at Japan as you cover her sprawling modernity mixed with traditional serenity.
Natural Spas Are Hot In Japan
It appeared a gang of headhunters had arrived in this ancient Japanese city before we did. Heads were strewn all over the public beach - not a body in sight. We gasped at first sight of the heads and gingerly approached one wrapped in a towel. Then, as the eyes on the head opened, and a smile crept across the face, we jumped back. The villagers standing out of sight broke into laughter.
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When Japan Blooms, the World Comes to Visit
Though sakura, or cherry blossoms, bloom just a brief two to three weeks every spring, these delicate pink flowers are one of Japan’s defining hallmarks, and for good reason. Every year, from the end of March to mid April, the country is transformed by bursts of pale pink petals shivering against blue spring skies, and the whole country gears up for another festive sakura season.
Japan Grows Up At Colourful Ceremony
Each year, on the Saturday closest to November 15, children aged 3, 5 and 7 all across Japan dress up in traditional garments — kimonos for the girls and hakamas for the boys — and are taken by their parents and grandparents to shrines to participate in an ancient ceremony called Shichigosan. On a recent stopover in Tokyo, I got to see the colourful event up close while visiting this city’s incredible Meiji Shrine.
Stepping Back in Time at Hoshinoya Karuizawa
Excitement builds in Car 8 as the Shinkansen (bullet train) rumbles out of Tokyo Station. The usually reserved elderly Japanese are in a festive mood; lively chatter and laughter fills the car as the high-speed train whizzes past the lush rice fields that dominate the countryside just outside the capital. Anticipation hits a fever pitch when, about an hour later, the conductor announces we’re approaching Karuizawa.
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Kyoto is Japan, and a walk through the historic Gion district is what you are looking for. Traditional teahouses and townhouses lining the streets, lanterns swaying over wooden doors, and the place most likely to spot Geiko (Geisha), Gion is a great place for a walk. Go in the early morning and have it to yourself.
Japan’s icon, Mt. Fuji, seen either on guided tours or from your train window is on almost all travelers’ itineraries, and for good reason. Take a hike, or just visit the 5th station, Mt. Fuji is deserving of its praise.
The Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto is among the most beautiful temples the world over. The grounds are maintained by what looks like a fine tooth comb, the sun light bounces off the golden hues of the temple in a myriad of ways, and the serene surroundings (although seen through the crowds) are a spectacular site to see.
Tokyo is a collection of neon lights, skyscrapers, colorful neighbourhoods, fashion, temples, tea houses, and almost everything in between. She’s a lively city, and only a few train stops feels like a world of difference. Stay for a few nights, see the sites, and then get lost trying to see more. Getting found is just as enjoyable.
You’ve seen the images, and Japan is where they can be seen. Japanese macaques can often be found steaming in an outdoor bath in the Jiokudani Valley. Go in the winter for some great photos.
BEST TIME TO VISIT:
Japan has four seasons: Spring is when cherry blossoms fall and is one of the best times for a visit, although it can be quite busy from the first days of March till the last days of May, Japan's weather during this season is ideal. Summer arrives in Japan in June with the arrival of a typically 3-week long rainy season. Summer begins somewhat cool with the rainy season, but by late June much of Japan is characterized by hot, humid days. Autumn is characterized by cool, crisp days from October to December. Winter in Japan is cold and snow can be expected in certain areas of the country. Except for the extreme north, it is not very severe and is usually tempered by warm sunshine and blue skies. Winter runs from December to March.