Getting Oriented in Hokkaido

Hokkaido is 90 minutes north by air from Tokyo, with high (up to 7,500 feet) volcanic mountains and expansive plains in between. Winters are colder and snowier than almost anywhere else in Japan.

  • Hakodate. This bustling port has 19th-century clapboard buildings, rattling streetcars, and the region's best public fish market.
  • Sapporo. In Hokkaido's capital is Odori Park, and the Susukino nightlife area, a blaze of neon and noise.
  • Otaru and Niseko. A historic harbor town, Otaru is now known for its gentrified canal, cafés, shops, and restaurants. Niseko has the best powder snow from December to April.
  • Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Mountains and deep lakes offer an escape two hours from Sapporo.
  • Eastern Hokkaido. The tip of the Shiretoko Peninsula is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Central Hokkaido. At the Daisetsu Mountains, cable cars lift visitors to flower-filled plateaus; hiking trails promise panoramic views. To the far north are Rebun and Rishiri islands.

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