Hokkaido’s top six scenic byways (drives) are getting through its golden era. Nowadays, many visitors of Hokkaido are more tend to have a leisurely trip. That means they start feeling sick of rushing or hurrying trips elsewhere Hokkaido. They just don’t wish to see popular destinations in a traditional way rather they want to discover them alongside beautiful Hokkaido’s historical landmarks, natural beauty and astonishing landscapes by roadways. Seeing your needs and wants, Hokkaido offers you a unique travel guide through which you can drive your own car/rental cars, and ride bicycle on designated routes. Time does not seem to be fact then. You take your time, drive a car at a leisurely speed and enjoy Hokkaido’s beautiful tourist spots.

Farm Tomita Lavender Garden, Furano. Photo Credit: tetsu OSUMI at Flickr.

Toyota has given a good opportunity to all Japan visitors to discover the designated scenic byways renting its cars. You can rent one of Toyota’s cars and start exploring Hokkaido’s top scenic byways right away. I think this sort of trip brings a lot of great moments to share with others. You form a group of members such as with friends or your own family members and then start unforgettable expedition by car. Though, make sure you are aware of traffic rules of Japan. Here, riding a car on the left side is considered to be the right side. There are eight appointable routes in Scenic Byways Hokkaido now and other scenic byways are being prepared to be launched. Well, let’s explore the only six best scenic byways of Hookaido.

Is Hokkaido the Best for Scenic Byway in Japan?

Patchwork Road of Biei, Hokkaido. Photo Credit: eungabi at Flickr.

As one of the Hokkaido’s explorers, I believe it is! I know, my country is incredible and one of the world’s top destinations that foreign tourists like to discover. Unlike, other parts of Japan, Hokkaido seems to me more attractive and a place for witnessing real wildlife. I know, it does not have famed shrine & temples like Kyoto has. Though, this Island could help you to meet with another part of beautiful Japan. Hokkaido’s National parks, lakes, marshland, mountains, souvenir shops, ski resorts, powder snow, sea ports, marine industry, flower gardens, winter festivals, Ainu museum, wild animals, hot springs resorts, farms, local delicacies all can be experienced by driving a car through designated scenic byways. Meet the locals, experience the things that you never have thought of before, and have mouthfuls of local dishes. All these things together make Hokkaido unique so take a byway tour as soon as possible on this mysterious island.

The Designated Routes of Hokkaido’s Scenic Byway

Roller Coaster Road, Furano. Photo Credit: tetsu OSUMI at Flickr.

There are five day designated routes to take, they are as follows:

1) Shikotsu-Toya-Niseko Park Route

Theme: Making you feel the real beauty of the lakes, mountains and smouldering volcanoes

2) Tisetsu-Furano Route

Theme: Taking you to the top flowering gardens of Hokkaido.

3) Higashi Okhotsk Scenic Byway

Theme: Experiencing visually attractive landscapes of Hokkaido’s northeastern most winter landmarks and coast of the Sea of Okhotsk.

4) Soya Scenic Byway

Theme: Discovering the northernmost area of Hokkaido.

5) Kushiro Shitsugen-Akan-Mashu Scenic Byway

Theme: Taking you to encounter real Hokkaido’s wildlife and mystic beauty of lakes

6) Hakodate-Onuma-Funkawan Scenic Byway

Theme: Experiencing the hospitality of locals with foods, events and festivals.

1) Shikotsu-Toya-Niseko Park Route

Lake Toya in Autumn, Hokkaido. Photo Credit: kuromatsunai.info at Flickr.

If you wish to discover the natural beauty of Central Hokkaido then are welcome to Shikotsu-Toya-Niseko Park Route. It runs through Shikotsu-Toya National Park and Niseko-Shakotan-Otaru Quasi-National Park. This route indicates you are going to go to see beautiful scenery of several beautiful mountains especially the majestic view of Mt. Yotei, two mystic lakes, fields, flower gardens, museum and local delicacies.

This route has three designated areas to explore. The first area is marked as “Welcome to Hokkaido”, second one is “Lake Toya area” and the final area in this route is called “Niseko-Yotei area”.

As you land at the Chitose Airport first, you can start your journey from there. The first area would let you discover its nearby fields & flower gardens, beautiful mountainous landscapes, restaurants, and Lake Shikotsu.  On the other hand, Lake Toya area awaits you to discover the real natural beauty of its surrounding areas and its crystal clear water. The third area is incredibly awesome with the Mt. Yotei, the Shiribetsu River and Niseko town. The Mt. Yotei is a special landmark of Niseko which changes its expression seasonally. View of this mountain could be picturesque as this also happens for summer, autumn and spring.

2) Taisetsu-Furano Route

Flower Land Kamifurano, Furano. Photo Credit: Ted Tsang at Flickr.

Taisetsu-Furano Route is one of the routes of Scenic Byway Hokkaido that I really love to ride my car through. It runs through the heart of the Taisetsu Mountains, and Tokachi Mountains. The entire route offers you to see rolling hill field with summer flower blossoms, patchwork fields on the hill, panoramic lavender gardens, rural landscapes, movie & drama locations, famous trees, hot springs, and farms. In fact, this route is famous for the flower gardens that are located in different places around Furano. You just can’t move your car away seeing Farm Tomita rather there are more things to explore except this one. You must take a visit to the most beautiful flower gardens in Biei, Kamifurano and Nakafurano areas. I want you to drive a little bit slowly as a result you could enjoy the picturesque landscapes of this designated route as far as your eyes sights could reach to. The area is rich in colors as it changes from season to season. I think this is the route which is seen to be the best photogenic spot than among Hokkaido’s Scenic Byways.

3) Higashi Okhotsk Scenic Byway

Abashiri Drift Ice, Hokkaido. Photo Credit: Agustin Rafael Reyes at Flickr.

At first I want to tell you that, this is not an ordinary scenic byway but a special one that runs through the two national parks – Shiretoko National Park, and Akan National Park. Every time I think of Okhotsk subprefecture or see this word elsewhere, the first thing appears on my mind is Drift Ice. Drift ice watching in Okhotsk is a must thing to do and it is seen to be an iconic landmark. An impressive view of drift ice is only possible here; no other parts of Japan could provide such beautiful scenery. As a tourist you have got the right to examine all the things that what actually this area has to offer you. The route will take you to experience: variety of sea foods, wild flower blossoms, Abashiri city, mountains, rural landscapes, forests, lakes, wild animals, farms, and unique souvenir shops. Winter is the best time of the year to explore this scenic byway and see the beautiful coasts of the Sea of Okhotsk.

4) Soya Scenic Byway

View of the Mt. Rishiri from Senhoushimisaki – the Most southern Cape of Rishiri Island. Photo Credit: rangaku1976 at Flickr.

The Soya Scenic Byway is located in Wakkanai city (the northernmost city of Japan), including two beautiful islands called Rebun Island and Rishiri Island. Usually, it runs through Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park. You would like the atmosphere of Wakkanai city and it does not matter whether you get there in Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter. I think, the city would make you feel how to deal with different weather conditions offering you some great sightseeing spots and events that take place there.

Rebun Island is a mysterious island where alpine flowers grow in spring and summer. It sounds pretty awkward to think that alpine flower blossoms can be found at sea level! You can enjoy viewing flowers here while trekking around the island. While on the other hand, Rishiri Island could show some of its hidden beauty showing you some great alpine floras. The Mount Rishiri’s cone shape resembles Mount Fuji and that’s why people also know this as Rishiri-Fuji. Summer season is the best time for climbing it for hikers. It is wonderful viewing sunset in evening time from the Coast of Rishiri Island. There is a nice cycling road which is about 20 Kilometers on this island. The road follows the northern coast of Rishiri from Hime Pond to Kutsugata. If you like cycling then why don’t you give it a try! In the end, enjoy this scenic byway having some fresh foods such as dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables and other local delicacies.

5) Kushiro Shitsugen-Akan-Mashu Scenic Byway

Vast Kushiro Marshland in Summer, Hokkaido. Photo Credit: Ippei & Janine Naoi at Flickr.

Kushiro Shitsugen-Akan-Mashu Scenic Byway encourages you to discover Hokkaido’s wildlife and meeting with some endangered animals. Red-crowned crane (Japanese crane), eagles, owls, red foxes, brown beers, swans, and other species are the main inhabitants alongside human in this region. It is a heaven for them where they could roam around without having any fear of being shot down by hunters. The route runs through two prominent national parks of Hokkaido, Akan National Park and Kushiro Shitsigen National Park, including other top sightseeing spots and lakes. When you start your journey, the first destination would be Kushiro marshland and its nearby sightseeing spots where red-crowned crane’s dances could be observed from various observatory decks. As you proceed, you would be exploring the three mystic lakes: Lake Akan, Lake Mashu and Lake Kushiro and their picturesque landscapes. The entire route from Kushiro Airport to Nakashibetsu Airport makes you believe yourself that you could be wild while driving your car.

6) Hakodate-Onuma-Funkawan Scenic Byway

Hokadate City Night View from Mount Hokodate. Photo Credit: Jaylie Wong at Flickr.

Fort Goryokaku, Onuma Park, Hakodate Morning Market, Motomachi, Kosetsuen Park, The Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden, Ruins of Jomon, Funkawan Fishing Village, Mt. Esan and Hakodate Minato Matsuri are seen to be the wonders of Hakodate. Many visitors come there to experience different atmospheres of different seasons. All these things could be enjoyed through the Hakodate-Onuma-Funkawan Scenic Byway Program. You can observe the beautiful night view of Hakodate city from the Mount Hakodate. While on the other hand, Onuma Park sparkle your eyes with its scenic landscapes, fishing zone, summer camping and canoeing outdoor activity. The region is divided into 5 distinct zones, they are:

  • Street with a lot of exotic atmosphere surrounding Mt. Haodate
  • Akamatsu Street marking track of development
  • Komagatake, Onuma and a Pastoral Scene
  • Scene of Fishing Village on the coast of Funkawan and Ruins of Jomon
  • The Tsugaru Chaneel with Beautiful Fire for Luring Fish at Night

Please, forget your past, roam around the region, have a lot of fun meeting with locals, have traditional dishes, buy unique souvenirs and enjoy the colorful spectacular scenery you find there. Seriously, just don’t forget to gas in your car before you run out of it.

Things to know before you Set Off a Journey

Beautiful Flower Garden in Furano, Hokkaido. Photo Credit: tetsu OSUMI at Flickr.
  • It is recommended you to stop at “Scenic Byway Information Base” before you set off a journey to one of its routes. You will be provided brochure, a pamphlet of the region and other useful information. In fact, they will provide a lot of useful information so that you don’t face any trouble on your way.
  • The authority of every region where Scenic byway program is possible, they have a special feature to offer you. That is called Scenic Café. Here, you can have some rest and have local delicacies.
  • There are recommended Scenic decks from where you can see wonderful display of colorful landscapes.
  • As you go through a designated scenic byway you would be exploring some Scenic spots on the way. You can get this sort of information from the Scenic Byway Information Base.
  • If you choose to take this unforgettable experience in winter season, make sure you always keep your eyes open and have latest weather forecast.
  • Always drive your car and walk on the left side. I guess this information will be provided by the rental service company.
  • People of Hokkaido don’t speak English much than other parts of Japan like Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama. So, learn some useful Japanese phrases and words from this book.
  • Please see the maps of byways here.

About Scenic Byway Hokkaido Program

Panorama road, Biei, Hokkaido
Biei Panorama Road, Hokkaido. Photo Credit: Joon-Ho Lee at Flickr.

The Scenic Byway Hokkaido program started its journey in 2005. It is a well organized tour program that the management committee could proud of. I have a friend of mine who is part of this program. One of the main purposes of this program is to attract more tourists in Hokkaido regions from all over the world. Hokkaido is resourceful, it has so many things to discover and through the scenic byway program one can enjoy Hokkaido’s sightseeing spots in a different way. That’s what actually most of the visitors want to go with than relying on tour operators. It gives you more freedom, exciting moment and there is no need to get rushed! The program is being reputed day by day and it has been possible only because of strong administration and local’s co-operation which includes restaurants, hotels, owner of gardens, and local people. They all aim to show their regions beautiful landscapes and the tradition they are belong to. All these together make this program unique and enchanting.

I hope this post helps you a lot to decide whether you want to take this lifetime experience or not. Every route is diverse, distinctive and delightful to be part of. So, are you coming to take this challenge? Let me know how you feel of this program. It would be very nice to hear from you. By the way, wishing you best of luck and enjoy your time in Hokkaido.

Copyright 2015 @ takkhis