Hokkaido is the second largest island in Japan after Honshu, but yet it is the least populated. Because it is the northernmost point, in the winter it delights with the snowy landscape, while in the spring it is full of greenery. Hakkaido is not the most popular tourist area of Japan, but everything possible is done to attract as many visitors as possible. Hence, many remarkable initiatives and ideas are developed.

Snow festival on Hokkaido Island

Japan particularly likes festivals. There is a saying that there are more of them there than days of the year. A special kind is Yuki Matsuri (雪まつり), a snow festival. The most famous takes place in the capital of Hokkaido, Sapporo, at the beginning of February. The festival has been held for almost 70 years. During the event we can see exhibitions and competitions of snow and ice sculptures. The snow-ice monuments can be even up to 15 meters high and several dozen metres wide. Their themes vary and often refer to important political or cultural events, and even to scenes from anime films popular in Japan. At night, incredible illumination with special effects is presented on sculptures.

A Swedish village in Japan

Japanese people particularly care about their native culture, but you can fly to Japan and visit a Swedish town on the occasion. On Hokkaido Island, near Tobetsu, there are the so-called Swedish Hills (スウェーデンヒルズ – Suwēden Hiruzu). It is a small town, inhabited by over 500 people. It perfectly reflects the Scandinavian architecture. All this thanks to characteristic wooden, red and white houses, gable roofs and evenly trimmed lawns. The local inhabitants produce traditional Swedish crafts, specialise in Scandinavian cuisine, learn Swedish in school and celebrate Swedish holidays – they just lead a Swedish way of life. The village is based on the authentic town of Leksand in Dalarna County in Sweden.

Seikan Tunnel Museum – the longest undersea railway tunnel

The Seikan Tunnel (青函トンネル) is 53 km long and connects the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido. It reaches even 140 meters below the sea surface. When visiting the tunnel museum, you can see how a large world-class enterprise was established. This is possible thanks to innovative exhibitions that comprehensively show the history of the tunnel construction. Interactive displays help to understand the advanced technologies used in creating such a huge undertaking. In addition to the exhibition hall, you can also watch a screening in the tunnel theatre. The museum also offers a ride on the shortest railway line in the world – Seikan Tunnel Tappi (青函トンネル竜飛), which was previously used by local workers.

The largest national park on the island – Daisetsuzan

There are as many as 6 national parks in Hokkaido, which makes it a huge nature reserve. One of the most beautiful, but also the largest national park is Daisetsuzan (大雪山). It is 10 times larger than the Polish Tatra National Park. A range of 3 volcanic mountain groups with 16 peaks makes it an ideal base for climbers, mountaineers and winter sports fans. The cable car makes it easier to admiring the snowy landscapes. The park is also a natural home for brown bears and Ezo red foxes.

Shikaribetsu Kohan – an igloo ice village

Lake Shikaribetsu (然別) is located at an altitude of 800 m above sea level. Every year, an igloo village is arranged on the frozen reservoir. In this way, it was decided to transform the sad and harsh landscape into a fun and vivid ice town. Various concerts and performances take place in a snow theatre was built there. Exhibitions of ice sculptures are also arranged, and when it is cold, you can drink something warm in the igloo bar. However, when spring comes, the frozen settlement melts. Tourists also should not miss this spectacle, which is why they come to see how everything they walked on is melting away.

A floral bath in the Tokachigawa Onsen

There are over 3,000 thermal baths in Japan; however, the water in the Tokachigawa Onsen (十勝川) in Otofuke has special properties. The local springs draw from native plants, including reeds. Thanks to this, it stands out against other Japanese baths. Tokachigawa is described as a hot source of beauty. High content of organic matter gives similar effects to a mud bath. Sodium chloride in the springs is particularly beneficial. Taking baths in the local baths is recommended for neuralgia, problems with joints or paralysis. In addition, it perfectly moisturises and smoothes the skin.

Goryōkaku – the Japanese pentagon

Goryōkaku (五棱郭 – pentagon) in the city of Hakodate is the oldest Japanese fort in the western style. In fact, its shape is very similar to the US Department of Defence, the so-called Pentagon. The citadel previously had important military functions and was used for the city defence. In 1910, it lost its military significance and was turned into a public park. For this reason, thousands of cherry trees were planted along the moat. The beginning of May is the best time to go to the Goryōkaku fortifications and admire one of the most beautiful cherry blossom locations in Hakkaido. The best observation point is the Goryōkaku Tower (107 m), from which you can enjoy a captivating view.

A winter paradise on Hokkaido Island

Hokkaido is the coldest region in Japan. Because of this, summer is cooler here than in other parts of the country. The average temperature then is around 20°C. Such a climate favours mountain hiking and attracts many Japanese people. Especially when they want to avoid hot temperatures. Winter lasts here about 4-5 months and is very severe. There are significant snowfalls, which in the mountains can reach up to 11 metres. The temperature drops even below -10°C. Such harsh atmospheric conditions have made Hokkaido the main base for winter sports in Japan. The cold climate of the island attracts many fans of skiing, snowboarding or ice skating. Furthermore, the World Cup ski jumping competition is held here every year at the famous Ōkurayama Stadium (大倉山シャンツェ) in Sapporo.

Despite the difficult weather conditions, the region manages to use its freezing nature in a positive way. It takes advantage of snow, ice and low temperature to provide a specific recreation base for tourists. With its creativity and extraordinary, snowy landscape, Hokkaido is eagerly visited, especially in winter.

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