Jan 1, 2015
The rugged beauty of the Northern Hokkaido countryside is complemented by the chic and contemporary creature comforts of its capital city, Sapporo.
Here are some noteworthy places to visit.
The Biei countryside is one of unparalleled beauty and tranquility. A must-visit is the Blue Pond, which is located on the left bank of the River Bieigawa. As its name suggests, the pond is of a bright blue hue. However, the origins of its colour is still unclear – some speculate it could be due to the presence of aluminum hydroxide from the nearby Platinum hot springs. In any case, the tree stumps emerging from the surface of the water lend the entire place an enchanted, almost ethereal atmosphere.
Another must-visit during your time in Northern Hokkaido is Shikisai-no-Oka, which is a collection of flower plantations. The fields are awash with vivid, vibrant colours and the air is so fresh, you can’t help but feel incredibly joyful while there. To add to the enjoyment, there is a newly opened alpaca farm located within the premises. Home to sixteen alpacas, you’ll be delighted to no end by these placid, adorable animals.
As you make your way to Matsuyama Marshland, you’ll be treated to beautiful landscapes of undulating hills and rolling meadows. Before your trek, you’ll be given a bell to wear around your neck to keep any brown bears at bay. However, it probably won’t deter curious bushy-tailed red foxes; we spotted one right before our trek. It takes about 40 minutes to trek up to the marshland and along the way; you’ll get to see a variety of pine trees, as well as spectacular views of the countryside in between the trees.
Located 20 minutes drive from Matsuyama Marshland is Torocco Kingdom, which used to be part of the Japan Railway (JR) before it got shut down due to dwindling passenger numbers. After refurbishments, the tracks re-opened 15 years ago with gas-operated miniature trains to take tourists on scenic rides through the area.
Soya Misaki, also known as Cape Misaki, is the northernmost point of Hokkaido (and by extension, the northernmost point of Japan). When you arrive at the cape, you’ll be able to view The Monument of the Northernmost Point of Japan and the statue of Rinzo Mamiya, a Japanese explorer in the 18th century. However, the true northernmost point under Japanese control is actually a small island called Bentenjima, which is located 1km northwest from the cape. On a clear day, you should be able to catch a glimpse of the Russian-owned island, Sakhalin, located 43km away from where you’re standing on the cape. Soya Misaki is a quiet and peaceful spot, great if you’ll like to spend some time alone with your thoughts.
Just 20km outside of Sapporo City lies a hidden gem – Hakkenzan Winery. This 6.5-hectare winery was established four years ago, but now produces around 20,000 bottles of wine annually. The bestselling wine from Hakkenzan is the Niagara Sparkling Wine, which is a refreshing sparkling white wine that includes notes of the Niagara fruit. This appetising wine refreshes your palate and whets your appetite for a hearty meal ahead.
Sapporo is the fourth-largest city in Japan. While there are plenty to see, do, and try in the capital city of Hokkaido, we zoom in to three must-visit spots.
This restaurant is a bit of an anomaly in Japan as they serve both Japanese and Chinese cuisine … and they do both equally well. Which is probably why they are packed to the rafters every evening. Some of the must-order dishes include Hokkaido cold crab, oyster omelette, and of course, sashimi.
There are 26 outlets of Miyakoshiya Coffee in Sapporo City itself, but the one you definitely should visit is High Grown Cafe, located within the residential district of Chuo Ward. The ambience alone makes it worth it – with wall-to-wall glass windows, you’ll be afforded with breathtaking views of the city lights. While they serve wine and champagne, the highlight is still the coffee. Choose from three house blends – one from Tanzania and Kilimanjaro, another from Sumatra Mandheling, and a third that is a blend of the first two along with Colombian beans. Prepared using the traditional drip method, the coffee tastes very clean; there’s none of the pungent after-taste. Enjoy your coffee with a slice of homemade cheesecake or chocolate brownie. Mmm …