Hokkaido is one of Japan’s most celebrated areas, with many locals and international visitors alike making the trip up North to explore the dramatic mountains, natural parks and tasty Hokkaido seafood cuisine. The best way to see Hokkaido is undoubtedly to hire a car, making sure to allow plenty of time to stop in small towns and hot springs along the way. Here’s your quick guide to road tripping in Hokkaido.
Start in Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido
Most travellers arriving in Hokkaido will arrive in the capital Sapporo by air from Tokyo or Osaka. Sapporo is the fifth-largest city in Japan and it’s worth spending some time to enjoy this lushly green town with its urban life, beer and food festivals, winter illumination and annual snow festival. Your journey to Hokkaido should thus commence with a few days in Sapporo.
WE LOVE TRAINS, so we took Cassiopeia overnight train to go through the Seikan Tunnel connecting Hokkaido and the main island of Japan. The Seikan Tunnel is one of the longest tunnels in the world and is constructed passing under the seabed. Cassiopeia overnight train is out-of-use already, but you can now take a Shinkansen Bullet Train to go through the Seikan Tunnel.
Lavender Farms in Furano
After a few days in Sapporo it is time to drive over to Furano. The journey will take around 2 hours in total without stops. In Furano, the fields of purple lavender come to life from June to September each year. During the blooming season, the entire landscape explodes with streams of purple. You can enjoy the scenery from riding on tractor pulled carts or taking the Furano-Biei Norokko train, operating on weekends from early June through late September and daily from late June through mid August. In Hokkaido, lavender was one of major agricultural products when it was first cultivated in the 1940’s. However, after imports of lavender increased, local lavender farms successfully shifted their focus to attracting tourists and Furano has become one of the most popular travel destinations in Hokkaido.
Patchwork Road Biei
Another one of Hokkaido’s best known and visited field locations is the Patchwork Road Biei, a 30-minute drive from Furano. Around the countryside in Biei, there are many farms, open fields and small country roads that seem to endlessly wind their way in every direction. This hillside location is a popular spot for the picturesque landscape of gently rolling hills with various kinds of flowers and plants.
When to go
Although beautiful to visit any time of year, there is no denying that the best season to visit Hokkaido is through the summer season.
How long to stay
This is a debatable questions, however if you wish to really immerse yourself into Hokkaido nature and get to know several parts of Hokkaido beyond a surface level of pretty pictures, I’d recommend staying one week. This will give you enough time to see all of the highlights putting travel time aside.