A culture that is home to beautiful calligraphy, flower arranging and practices such as tea ceremonies are amongst a few of the very many traditional arts that make Japan famous. It’s also increasingly coming to be known as a fashion hub around the world. The country is also becoming quite the swanky state. And then of course, there are its natural wonders. While the word finds their jaws dropping as every year the cherry blossom season comes in Japan, today, we’re having a look at an island that can have just that effect on its visitors. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Hokkaido Island which sits the north-western part of the country. It is the second largest island and is home to a wealth of wonders such as ski regions and hilly tops, natural hot springs and volcanoes as well.
How to reach: While flying from Tokyo to Hokkaido is a quicker option, you can also alternatively opt to travel and reach by the bullet train.
Best time to visit: March to May, September to October
First things first, what one ought to know is that Hokkaido is simply huge. For instance, its is 37 times the size of Tokyo itself! So, a visit to Hokkaido requires the traveller to either be picky about what to cover or to well, have a long time in hand. And heh, ideally, we would all want to go for the latter, am I right? And its large size is why one can expect to see twinkling lights of the high-rise buildings late at night.
But away from the trademark neon lights and tech style of Japan, Hokkaido is where you can escape into an oasis of serenity in nature’s inviting arms. With coastal plains, dense forests, riversides and its breath-taking flowers when they come to bloom, this is a part of the Southeast Asian country that nature lovers find themselves falling for. Originally, this island was known as Ezochi, back when it was inhabited by the Ainu people until the Wajin, or folks from mainland Japan, started to move to this part of their norther regions. Thus, for long this region was actually belonging to the aboriginal Ainus and it was later that Hokkaido became a part of main Japan. By this point much of the Ainu culture got assimilated and only a handful remain to preserve their identity even till this day.
Head over to its Shiretoko Peninsula which is home to one of the largest ecosystems found here. The UNESCO recognized World Heritage Site is home to cliffs, inland lakes and an abundance of wildlife. To delight you further there’s the Daisetsuzan National Park. Its colloquial name stands for “great snowy mountains”, so, make sure to pack that winter wear and see some stunning peaks. With over a dozen mountains standing tall over here, the tallest one is that of Mount Asahidake with a height of approximately 7,510 feet. Blakiston’s fish owl, black woodpecker, ezo dear and brown bears all call the area in and around here to be their home. Daisetsuzan is covered in sheer white snow in the winter months while the spring season sees it come to life with the flowers that bloom in its stretches. Thu, making it quite a picturesque treat whenever you visit it.
Then there’s the Akan National Park which boasts of gorgeous caldera lakes. These lakes are a sight to behold in their crystal-clear form and with luck on some days you can sight the famous Lake Mashu up to a visibility of 130 feet! The ground here gets hot causing the bubbling of hot springs and even a popular hot waterfall. So, a visit to this national park should be planned with the thought of exploring pretty lakes to wonderous springs and more. Pack up a picnic, take a stroll and explore however you wish to.
And not to forget the national parks of Kushiro-Shitsugen and Shikotsu-Toya. The latter is known for the volcanic activity mentioned to occur at this huge island. Mount Usu is its most active volcano which last erupted at the turn of the calendar in the year 2000. And yet tourists continue to climb it for they are intrigued with the possibility of seeing its massive crater. Would you dare?
Rishiri and Rebun are also two islands slightly off of the coast which come together to make a delicious sight for the eyes. For the ones looking to immerse themselves with views of the islands in crystal-clear water this is a sure shot pick. The visit is all about just exploring the islands and nothing more.
All in all, Hokkaido is a place where one ought to head with a decent amount of time in hand. Not just because its large in size but because it is also rich in so many varied aspects of nature. From the ones seeking ought snow for winter port activities to the ones looking to walk into a riot of colours when the flowers here come into full bloom, from garden sides where you just want to lay to lakes that pop out in cosily meandering ways, from natural hot springs that you wish to dip in to the mysteriousness surrounding volcanic activity, from wetlands to the calderas with lakes; Hokkaido beyond the cities it houses is home to a realm of nature, one which looks like a scenery in so many shapes, sizes and forms. So, take your time to get an actual taste of it, to maybe walk into the tuft of clouds its images showcase. Me? Well, I’m just looking to explore it slowly, at a laidback pace with absolute ease because I’m sure you’d know by now that there’s something about slow travel that lets you witness a place as if it’s a person whom you’re befriending.
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