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driving in Hokkaido

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Hi.
We are going to Japan in about 2 months and plan on spending a week in Hokkaido which will be a new place for us. Will probably use a JR Pass as the trip includes Tokyo and nearby areas.
We have never rented a car on any of our foreign trips. It seems like doing so in Hokkaido may be a good option given the size and scope of attractions (mostly nature stuff).
I am nervous about driving having never done so outside of Canada and the US. Oh, and we don't know how to drive a manual transmission.
Any thoughts, input, opinions would be appreciated. Perhaps Hokkaido can be enjoyed conveniently by bus and rail only?
Thanks.

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