Take a trip to explore the gorgeous sights and rich flavours of Japan’s northernmost island.
begin to bud. Japan’s largest prefecture, Hokkaido offers a brisk escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, boasting the spectacular natural beauty of rolling hills, sprawling parks and deep, still lakes. Travellers from around the world come here to go hiking, horseback riding and even river rafting. After a day full of activities, visitors unwind by soaking in the waters of one of the many famous hot springs, or enjoying seasonal dishes and finely crafted sake in the comfort of a ryokan, or traditional Japanese-style inn.
The crisp air and ocean currents bring a bounty of seafood, including sea urchin, squid, salmon roe and crab. There are four kinds of crab to be found, each with a distinct flavour: hanasaki, hairy, snow and king. The king crab is especially famous in Hokkaido. Visitors come from near and far to savour its sweet, ample meat, fresh from the icy waters.
Travellers in search of a more down-home culinary experience can enjoy a big, steaming bowl of Sapporo ramen, often in an unassuming restaurant tucked into a narrow alleyway. But despite the humble setting, what you’ll be of- fered is nothing like your typical North American “top ramen.” Named after Hokkaido’s capital city, Sapporo ramen is a rich, red miso–based soup full of handmade noodles, thick pork slices, vegetables such as corn and bean sprouts, and a dollop of butter to warm the belly.
Photo left : Miso ramen ©Hokkaido Tourism Organization/© JNTO
Another signature dish is the Genghis Khan. This mutton dish is grilled on a convex skillet made to look like a helmet, upon which—according to legend—ancient Mongolian warriors cooked their meat. A giant bowl pairs perfectly with an ice-cold pint of Sapporo Beer. The first batch of the world-famous beer was brewed in 1876, when Sapporo was still a frontier town. Visitors can now enjoy both the Genghis Khan and a pint of lager right after a visit to the Sapporo Beer Museum, located just 20 minutes from the JR Sapporo Station.
Hokkaido has several famous festivals, but one of the most stunning is the Sapporo Lilac Festival, an event that originally began in 1959 as a music festival. Held in late May, the festival still features live music, but it is now focused on the celebration and enjoyment of 400 lilac trees that bloom in Ōdori Park, and lilac seeds are given out on the first day of events. Visitors can admire the brilliant purple blossoms while snacking on an international array of foods from nearby food stands. The festival also features craft workshops, outdoor tea cer- emonies and a locally sourced wine garden.
Travellers arriving by plane usually fly into Sap- poro’s New Chitose Airport, though international travellers should note that it’s limited to flights from select Asian cities. Luckily, Chitose is just a 90-minute flight from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, and two hours from Osaka’s Kansai International Airport. Adventurous travellers with time on their hands can catch a 16-hour overnight train from Tokyo to Sapporo through the Seikan Tunnel, one of the world’s longest undersea rail tunnels. Choose from one of two trains: the original Hokutosei limited express or the newer Cassiopeia, a luxury line with all-private sleeping berths.
© City of Sapporo
© City of Sapporo
Hokkaido’s eats and treats
©Hokkaido Tourism Organization/© JNTO
Hot pot on a cold day
Soup Curry: Rich, silky, and spiced to order
Sapporo is also the home of soup curry, a rich, silky dish that is spiced to order. Curry is one of Japan’s most popular dishes—according to some estimates, the average Japanese citizen enjoys curry 84 times a year!—and people flock to Sapporo every year to savour the city’s unique take on the curry craze. One popular stop is Garaku, a Sapporo-based soup curry restaurant with three locations. Cold-weary connoisseurs pop in after a day of shopping to enjoy one of the many tasty options, including the baked cheese and bacon soup curry, or the brilliantly coloured and freshly picked 15-veggie soup curry.
Thanks to Hokkaido’s thriving dairy industry, travellers can enjoy delicious, carefully made milk, cheeses and desserts. Dairy-based souvenirs are the perfect gift to take home to family members, including shiroi koibito, the “White Lovers” cookie, a tiny, French-style treat baked around white chocolate. There’s also a famous array of Royce’ chocolates—creamy, pure milk chocolate squares that come in a variety of flavours.
Because Hokkaido is also famous for the pricey Yubari melon, melon-flavoured cakes, corn sticks and Kit Kats are popular gift items. They can be found anywhere from the local convenience store to duty-free shops.
Shiroi Koibito Park in Hokkaido is home to a delicious sweets factory! The trademark treat features their original-recipe white chocolate sandwiched by cookies so light and crisp they’ll melt in your mouth.
Hokkaido’s cool climate helps produce some of the world’s finest chocolate! While in Sapporo, why not stop in at the Royce’ company shops to buy a souvenir for chocolate lovers back home?