15 Ways to Enjoy Winter in Hokkaido

Here are places to enjoy Hokkaido in winter! There are many sightseeing spots where you can enjoy spending time different than that during the other seasons. Please refer to this article because there is a lot to do that only wintertime can offer

Hokkaido

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1. SAPPORO SNOW FESTIVAL

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Sapporo's Snow Festival

Photo by SteFou! on flickr

This is a big winter event in Sapporo that brings in approximately just over 2 million visitors, both Japanese and foreign alike. There are various snow sculptures lined up for about 1.5km in Odori Koen (Park). All sculptures are illuminated from sunset until 10 PM and you are able to enjoy the mysterious difference in the atmosphere between day and night. Teams from all over the country participate in the International Snow Sculpture Contest so you can appreciate the intensity of the snow sculptures which have even been called works of art. This is a winter event in Hokkaido that should not be missed.

HP: www.snowfes.com/english/index.html

HP: www.snowfes.com/t/index.html (中文)

HP: www.snowfes.com/ (Japanese Only)

Address: 4-Chome Odorinishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido (Google Map)

2. Mount Hakodate

Jackie.lck/Flickr

かがみ~/Flickr

This is the view from the summit of Mount Hakodate which is considered to be one of the top 3 mountains in the world renown for its night view. The winter night view is a result of the reflection in the snow from both street and neon lights which seems to make the effect even more brilliant than normal. Your breath will be taken away by the magnitude of its beauty. Another aspect of the stunning scenery can be enjoyed when you take the tram to the top of the mountain, that is why we highly recommend going to Mount Hakodate in the winter. Obviously it is extremely cold, so be well prepared by wearing thick, heavy layers of clothing. This will be one of the most gorgeous views you will ever see in your life.

Address: 19-7 Motomachi, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido (Google Map)

3. Asahiyama Zoo

hayami/flickr

You can see many animals that become more active in winter at this zoo. It prides itself on the fact that it gets the most visitors in Japan. The best attraction at Asahiyama Zoo in the wintertime is the approximately 500m march of the penguins that last for about 30 minutes which visitors can experience up close and personal. You can also see many other animals like polar bears and seals. This is a popular spot for everyone from little children to adults because you can see the animals during the wintertime, when they become the most active. Why not try going to the zoo during the winter?

HP: www.city.asahikawa.hokkaido.jp/asahiyamazoo/ (Japanese Only: Automatic translations available in English and Chinese)

Address: Kuranuma, Higashi Asahikawa-cho, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido (Google Map)

4. Blue Pond

hendrikMINTARNO/Flickr

Yusuke Miyahara/Flickr

Blue Pond is also known as "Biei Blue" which comes from the name of the district where it is located. This man-made pond is a popular sightseeing spot for its striking cobalt blue water. During the winter evenings, the pond is illuminated so you can really enjoy the mysterious atmosphere which does not appear during the day. Even though only the center of the pond has a spotlight in it, the light gets cast across the entire surface revealing its stunning frozen beauty.

HP: www.biei-hokkaido.jp/en/

HP: www.biei-hokkaido.jp/tw/ (中文)

HP: www.biei-hokkaido.jp/search/sightseeing/viewspot/000035.html (Japanese Only)

Address: Shirogane, Biei-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido (Google Map)

5. "Skovla" in Asahidake at Mount Daisetsuzan

The meaning of skovla is a phenomenon that can be seen in the surface of snow on a high mountain ridge that creates various wavy shaped patterns on the surface hardened by strong winds and low temperatures. At Asahidake, Mount Daisetsuzan the seasonal winds that blow in from the northwest result in creating massive skovlas, sometimes creating walls of snow that are several meters high. This natural scenery is mysterious and there is nothing more beautiful than these patterns. When you want to see a skovla yourself, you must be aware that it is extremely dangerous and could be life threatening, so it is better to have a local guide bring you to the summit.

HP: www.wakasaresort.com/asahidakeropeway/winter/ (Japanese Only)

Address: Higashikawa-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido (Google Map)

6. Pack Ice in Abashiri

Ann Lee/flickr

This is a major sightseeing spot in winter in Hokkaido where the Sea of Okhotsk is filled with pack ice that has traveled as far as 1,000km from the Amur River in Siberia. You can enjoy looking at this scenery from the ice sightseeing/breaker ships called "Aurora" or "Garinko," which have been popular for ages. You can also walk directly on top of the pack ice, but you have to wear a dry suit and you can also go into the unfrozen ocean between the ice packs. This is definitely a unique experience that can only be enjoyed in the wintertime in Hokkaido.

Address: 4-5-1 Minami Sanjo Higashi, Abashiri-shi, Hokkaido (Google Map)

7. Lake Shikaribetsu, A Kotan (Village) on the Ice 

T.CSH/Flickr

Yu-Shin Chen/Flickr

Every winter a kotan appears on top of the frozen natural lake of Tokachi. The village is complete, once igloo buildings, which are made out of ice and snow by the Inuit tribe, are all lined up on the lake. They also have a bar, an open-air natural hot spring, an ice lodge and a church and other structures, all made out of ice and only exist during the winter, and a dream-like world is created. You can have a mysterious and fantastic experience here, therefore, this spot is highly recommended in wintertime.

HP: www.nature-center.jp/kotan/ (Japanese Only)

8.  Sounkyo Hyobaku Festival

This festival is held in the Sounkyo valley on the Ishikari River banks that cover more than 10,000 square meters of land. You can see the lined up ice sculptures that make a good use of nature, and there are also ice pillars, ice tunnels and ice domes on exhibit, which are all illuminated at nighttime. The observatory offers a superb view of the scenery, and they also shoot off fireworks. This is an exquisite sightseeing spot that can only be enjoyed during the winter.

HP: www.sounkyo.net/event/detail.php?id=3 (Japanese Only)

9. Shirahige Waterfall

joel./Flickr

This waterfall is located in Shirogane Onsen in the hot spring town of Biei. During the wintertime it is illuminated and you can enjoy the marvelous world within the waterfall. The powerful and beautiful natural scenery, that can be seen right in front of your eyes, combines the white waterfall, hoarfrost, and the blue waters from the Biei River.

Address: Shirogane, Biei-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido (Google Map)

10. Tancho Cranes of Tsurui Village

These Tancho cranes mainly live in the Kushiro Marsh in eastern Hokkaido. During the wintertime, many cranes gather in this area for feeding, therefore, you can easily observe them. The Tsurui-Ito Tancho Sanctuary is located close to the center of the village and is a popular observing spot. These birds have been designated as a special natural treasure in Japan and mesmerize visitors by their beautiful presence. Looking at pictures or watching videos of these birds is fine, but the best way is just to go and see them in their natural habitat.

Address: Tsurui-mura, Akan-gun, Hokkaido (Google Map)

11. Kajikasawa Waterfall

The Kajikasawa Waterfall in Shiraoi-cho freezes in the winter and becomes an icefall. The impact of the waterfall is overpowering when you see it. You can look at it closely and see blue hues and its sheer and illusion-like beauty which could never be achieved by man. It is better to visit the waterfall as part of a guided tour group, rather than going individually.

Address: Shiraoi-cho, Shiraoi-gun, Hokkaido (Google Map)

12. Lake Onneto

This is a mysterious lake and its been said that the change in its 5 color palette is dependent upon where you are viewing the lake from, as well as the weather. In wintertime, because the surface is frozen it turns an illusion-like gorgeous emerald green. The contrast against the surrounding trees is also spectacular, and this spot is highly recommended for sightseeing in Hokkaido during the winter.

HP: www.tabirai.net/sightseeing/tatsujin/0000119.aspx (Japanese Only)

Address: Tobu Akan-Kokuritsukoen (National Park) -nai, Ashoro-cho, Ashoro-gun, Hokkaido (Google Map)

13. Lake Kussharo

This is a gigantic cobalt blue lake inside Japan's biggest Kussharo caldera and is touted as the 6th largest lake in Japan. During the winter, you can enjoy looking out at Omiwatari (a natural phenomena that creates ice patterns on the surface of the lake). This lake is also famous as the place where swans migrate to in wintertime, therefore, you can see many beautiful and magnificent swans.

Address: Teshikaga-cho, Hokkaido Tobu (Google Map)

14. Otaru Canal 

ansel.ma/Flickr

Ronny Peng/Flickr

This famous sightseeing canal was constructed in 1923. During the winter, a beautiful scene appears in the form of its adjacent snow-covered brick buildings. The street lights cast an illusion-like beauty at nighttime that is totally different from that of the daytime. This is a must see spot when you visit Hokkaido in the winter.

Address: Minato-machi, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido (Google Map)

15. Hoshi no Yume (Dream of a Star)

There are 2,000 light bulbs covering approximately 1.8km and outlining the moat of Goryokaku Fortress, which has been designated as a special historical sight, and makes a beautiful star shape called "Hoshi no Yume." The illusion-like scenery consisting of snow and light is a famous event where many people visit during the Hakodate winter. From the adjacent tower you can enjoy looking down upon a magnificent view.

HP: hakodate.to/hoshinoyume/ (Japanese Only)

Address: 44-2 Goryokaku-cho, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido (Google Map)

◆Warning of How to Safely Spend Your Winter in Hokkaido◆

Wintertime in Hokkaido offers many sightseeing spots with amazing scenery and views, but the temperatures are low and it is dangerous to go as an individual to places like mountains, lakes and waterfalls. Make sure you wear many layers to keep you warm enough against the cold and please always have a tour guide lead you to your destination and assist you.

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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