Hokkaido is Japan’s second largest island and it is known for its winter activities such as snowboarding, skiing and even drift ice sightseeing. The island is also appropriate for summer activities such as animal-watching, hiking and even camping at one of Hokkaido’s numerous camping grounds.
Although Hokkaido and Honshu are separated by the Tsugaru Strait, the two islands are connected by the underwater railway Seikan Tunnel. The Seikan is the longest and deepest working undersea rail tunnel in the world, being about 54km long and 240m under the sea level.
There are a few different options for getting to Hokkaido, and one of them is the Shinkansen. It takes about 4.5 hours from Tokyo, and tickets can be booked in advance online. Another option is a ferry from Aomori to Hakodate, which takes 3 hours and 40 minutes.
In addition, Hokkaido has 12 domestic airports served by Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, AIR DO, Skymark Airlines, Fuji Dream Airlines, Peach Aviation, Jetstar Japan and Vanilla Air. And one international airport served by Korean, Chinese, Russian and even American airlines. Domestic flight tickets can range from 10,000 yen to 70,000 yen the round trip, so make sure to research and purchase them ahead of time.
Flights from Tokyo to Sapporo (New Chitose Airport)
|Tokyo => Sapporo||Jetstar||¥5,609 (US$53)||Details|
|Tokyo => Sapporo||Spring Airlines Japan||¥6,049 (US$57)||Details|
|Tokyo => Sapporo||SAM Columbia||¥10,501 (US$99)||Details|
|Tokyo => Sapporo||Air Do||¥15,635 (US$148)||Details|
Flights from Tokyo to Hakodate
|Tokyo => Hakodate||Air Do||¥16,996 (US$160)||Details|
|Tokyo => Hakodate||Spring Airlines Japan||¥19,998 (US$189)||Details|
Like in Tokyo, trains and buses are the basic transportation means in Hokkaido. Using public transportation in Hokkaido is as easy as it is in Tokyo. However, subway lines are only available in Sapporo; these lines being “Namboku Line,” “Tozai Line” and “Toho Line.” Renting a car is also possible, but because of the excellent public transportation, especially in big cities like Sapporo, it isn’t really necessary, nor cheapo! Also, roads get pretty slippery from November to March so it’s better to stick with the buses and trains. In addition, ferries are the major means of transportation when it comes to visiting isolated islands in Hokkaido.
Where to go and what to do
Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido Prefecture and the biggest city in the island, so definitely a must-visit. Sapporo is very famous for its winter festivals its sightseeing spots like Mount Moiwa at the center of the city. During summer however, Hokkaido is famous for its huge parks and its water sports.
At the northeastern tip of the island is located the Shiretoko National Park, in Kushiro, which is considered a UNESCO World Natural Heritage. Shiretoko is known for its dense forests, wild animals and waterfalls. The closest railway station to the park is the JR Shiretoko Shari Station in Shari Town, about 40 km southwest of the national park. The station is connected with the park by infrequent buses. The bus journey lasts for 50 minutes and costs 2800 yen. From Sapporo to the Shiretoko Shari station, via Abashiri line, takes about 6-7 hours and costs 11,000 yen. Because of such high expenses we recommend you to rent a car. Rental car outlets can be found in the Memambetsu Airport, in Abarashiri and Kushiro. The park is located about 7 hours away from Sapporo by car.
The Niseko Mountain Resort Grand Hirafu is located in the Abuta District and famous for its great quality powder snow, which attracts skiers and snowboarders from all over the world. Tickets in high season are from 3,800 yen for five hours up to 21,500 yen for 5 days. The resort also has both Western-styled and Japanese-styled restaurants and cafes as well as skiing and snowboarding rental shops.