Best Sight Seeings:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hokkaido "Japanese Island Of Nature"

Hokkaidō 北海道 literally "North Sea Circuit", formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is Japan's second largest island and the largest, northernmost of its 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaidō from Honshū, although the two islands are connected by the underwater Seikan Tunnel. The largest city on Hokkaidō is its capital, Sapporo, which is also its only ordinance-designated city.

Asahidake Onsen

Asahidake Onsen is a small hot spring resort at the foot of Hokkaido's highest mountain, Mount Asahidake (2290 meters), in Daisetsuzan National Park.
The small village consists of only about a dozen buildings, wooden lodges, a beautiful youth hostel and two or three large hotels. Shopping and dining opportunities are limited to the hotels and the ropeway station. For weather forecasts, maps and other tourist information, head to the visitor center.
The Asahidake Ropeway (1800 Yen; 2800 Yen from July to mid October) leads from Asahidake Onsen to within a two hour hike of Mount Asahidake's summit. Even though the ropeway's upper station is "only" 1,600 meters above sea level, it stands in a tree less alpine tundra landscape with beautiful flowers in summer.

Sightseeing Boats

By taking a boat cruise along the rugged western coast of the Shiretoko Peninsula, you can get a look at the more remote parts of the national park, which are otherwise only accessible on foot.
From May to October, two companies are offering sightseeing boat cruises on two different routes from Utoro: The shorter cruises go half way up the peninsula as far as the Kamuiwakka Falls, while the longer cruises go all the way to the tip of the peninsula.

Kamuiwakka Falls

A visit to Kamuiwakka Falls is one of Japan's ultimate hot spring experiences.
In order to reach the waterfall, bathers first have to hike up a warm mountain stream for about 20-30 minutes, wading through the water and climbing minor waterfalls. Once you reach the top, you can take a hot spring bath in the natural basin at the base of the waterfall. Unlike in most other Japanese hot springs, people use swimming suits.
Be aware that the climb up the stream is very steep and slippery in some places, and that you have little choice but to actually walk in the water (it is less slippery in the water than at the stream's edge). Therefore, it is highly recommended to bring appropriate footwear, such as special climbing socks (see picture above) or traditional straw sandals.
Due to its tremendous beauty, the Kamuiwakka Falls can become crowded during the high season in July and August. On the other hand, the falls are not accessible during the winter months.

Shiretoko National Park
Shiretoko National Park, located onthe Shiretoko Peninsula in eastern Hokkaido, is one of Japan's most beautiful and unspoiled national parks. No roads lead further than about three fourth up the peninsula, and the northern tip can only be viewed from boats or be reached on multi day trekking tours.
The peninsula is home to a variety of wildlife, including brown bears, dear and foxes. In winter, the peninsula's coast along the Sea of Okhotsk becomes one of the northern hemisphere's southernmost regions to see drift ice.
In July 2005, Shiretoko was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for the irreplaceable value of the peninsula's ecosystem and biodiversity.

Rishiri Island

Rishiri Island is a remote, small island about 20 kilometers off the northern tip of Hokkaido, with a circumference of about 60 kilometers and Mount Rishiri, a dormant volcano, at its center.
Together with neighboring Rebun Island, Rishiri belongs to the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park. Many of the island's 6000 inhabitants are making a living from tourism and fishing.
Rishiri Island offers various hiking and walking opportunities. The climb to the top of Mount Rishiri takes a full day and is quite challenging. There is also a cycling road along the island's northern coast.
A visit to Rishiri Island is most attractive during the summer months (June to August), when the island's alpine flora is in bloom. Not many tourists visit the island during the long and harsh winters.

Rebun Island

Rebun Island is a longish island, about 10 km north of Rishiri Island and 50 km off the northern tip of Hokkaido. Together with Rishiri Island, Rebun belongs to the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park.
Rebun Island is most famous for its rich flora, which features many alpine flowers, some of which cannot be found anywhere else on the world. The flowers are in bloom from around June to August, the best time to visit Rebun. Not many tourists come to the island during the long and harsh winters.
The alpine flora, the beautiful natural scenery of Rebun and views of nearby Rishiri can be enjoyed from a network of pleasant walking and hiking trails.

Showa Shinzan

Showa Shinzan is one ofJapan's youngest mountains.
Accompanied by earthquakes, the mountain suddenly rose from a flat wheat field to its current height of 290 meters between 1943 and 1945. The mountain was named "Showa New Mountain" according to the contemporary reign of Emperor Showa (1926-1989).
Still venting sulfurous fumes today, Showa Shinzan stands directly next to Mount Usu, which bears responsibility for the new mountain's birth. You can get good views of the young volcano by taking the Usuzan Ropeway.

Lake Toya

Lake Toya (Toyako) is part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. In addition to the lake itself, the Toyako region features hot springs and an active volcano, Mount Usu, which last erupted in the year 2000. The area also offers many fishing, hiking, and camping opportunities.
The picturesque lake was chosen as the location of the the G8 summit which Japan hosted from July 7 to 9, 2008. The leaders of the world's eight major industrialized democracies met at the Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa.

Odori Park

Odori Park is the broad median of Odori ("large street") in the center of Sapporo, separating the city into North and South. The park stretches over twelve blocks and offers pleasant green space during the warmer months, while staging the annual Sapporo Snow Festival in February.
At the eastern end of Odori Park stands the TV Tower with an observation deck that offers nice views of Odori Park and the city of Sapporo.

The Sapporo Snow Festival

The Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo Yuki Matsuri) is held during one week every February in Hokkaido's capital Sapporo. In 2010, the Snow Festival will be held from February 5 through February 11, 2010.
The Sapporo Snow Festival was started in 1950, when high school students built a few snow statues in Odori Park. It has since developed into a large, commercialized event, featuring spectacular snow and ice sculptures and attracting more than two million visitors from Japan and across the world.
Besides about a dozen large snow sculptures, the Odori Site exhibits more than one hundred smaller snow and ice statues and hosts several concerts and events, many of which use the sculptures as their stage.
The Susukino Site, located in and named after Sapporo's largest entertainment district, exhibits about one hundred ice sculptures. Susukino is located only one subway stop south of Odori Park. The ice sculptures are lit up daily until midnight (until 22:00 on the festival's final day).

The Historic Village of Hokkaido

The Historic Village of Hokkaido (kaitaku no mura) is an open air museum in the suburbs of Sapporo. It exhibits about 60 typical buildings from all over Hokkaido, dating from the Meiji and Taisho Periods (1868 to 1926), the era when Hokkaido's development was carried out on a large scale.
The open air museum is divided into a town, fishing village, farm village and mountain village section. The Historical Museum of Hokkaido (kaitaku kinenkan), which documents the history of Hokkaido's development, can be found nearby.

Mount Hakodate

Mount Hakodate (Hakodateyama) is a 334 meter high, wooded mountain at the southern end of the peninsula on which much of central Hakodate is located. On clear days and nights, the view of Hakodate from the mountain is spectacular.
Facilities at the summit include observation platforms (free of charge), souvenir shops, a cafe and a cafeteria style restaurant.

Hakodate is Hokkaido's third largest city, located at the island's southern tip. Hakodate is best known for the spectacular views to be enjoyed from Mount Hakodate (see picture above) and its delicious, fresh seafood.
As one of the first Japanese harbor cities to be opened to international trade after the country's era of isolation, Hakodate has experienced notable influence from overseas, and the foreign population's former residential district and a Western style fort are among its main tourist attractions.
Onuma Park, a quasi national park with beautiful, island dotted lakes, is located only half an hour north of Hakodate and is a worthwhile side trip from the city or a nice stop on the journey between Hakodate and Sapporo.

Onuma Park

Designated as a "quasi national park" and located only twenty kilometers north of Hakodate, Onuma Park (Onuma Koen) is known for its picturesque, island dotted lakes and majestic dormant volcano, Mount Komagatake.
Onuma Park can be easily visited in either a day trip from Hakodate or on a stop over on a journey between Hakodate and Sapporo, since most limited express trains between the two cities stop at Onuma Koen Station, the central railway station.
The park's most attractive area is located between the two lakes Onuma (large lake) and Konuma (small lake) and can be explored entirely on foot. Attractive walking courses let you explore the lakes' peninsulas and islands, several of which are connected with each other by small bridges, in easy 15-60 minute walks.
It is also possible to rent bicycles (500 yen/hour, 1000 yen/day). A cycling course leads around Lake Onuma (about 10 km), but follows the main road rather than the lakeshore for most of the distance. It is a nice way to explore the area, nevertheless.
Furthermore, there are sightseeing boat tours offered once per hour, lasting about 30 minutes (830 yen per person). Other activities to be enjoyed in Onuma Park include canoeing, tennis, golf, fishing and camping.

Hokkaidō's only land link to the rest of Japan is the Seikan Tunnel. Most travelers to the island arrive by air: the main airport is New Chitose Airport at Chitose, just south of Sapporo. Tokyo-Chitose is in the top 10 of the world's busiest air routes, handling 45 widebody round trips on four airlines each day. One of the airlines, Air Do was named after Hokkaidō. Hokkaidō can also be reached by ferry from Sendai, Niigata and some other cities, with the ferries from Tokyo dealing only in cargo .
Within Hokkaidō, there is a fairly well-developed railway network (see Hokkaidō Railway Company), but many cities can only be accessed by road.
Hokkaidō is home to one of Japan's three Melody Roads, which is made from grooves cut into the ground, which when driven over causes a tactile vibration and audible rumbling transmitted through the wheels into the car body.

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