Only Hokkaido’s summer and winter seasons offer plenty of things to do on this island. No, that’s not true, it is a lie! Have you forgotten the king of all season – spring? If you think that’s true and only summer and winter in Hokkaido offer you so many interesting things to do then I would definitely try my best to show the spring beauty of it. It is my today’s challenge. I will not back down. I would make you fall in love with Hokkaido’s spring beauty. If you really like traveling then before you die you have got to come here in Hokkaido, at least once. It is a unique destination, waiting you to blow your mind with its seasonal beauty and festival including its historical sites.
I admit that in spring, except Hokkaido region, rests of the regions of Japan receive a lot of foreign tourists. Think of Kyoto, Tokyo, Fukushima, Okinawa, Yokohama, Kakunodate, Kamakura and other top sightseeing spots especially recommended for viewing cherry blossom during spring. They are awfully popular and get crowded with visitors when Hanami arrives. Please note that, due to geographical location Hokkaido welcomes hanami a bit later than other parts of Japan. However, there is something spring hidden treasure than viewing delicate sakura. I hope you would enjoy experiencing all the spring treasure of Hokkaido, so let’s get started.
1) Mystic Cherry Blossoms Viewing in Hokkaido
Officially spring season in Hokkaido begins in early March and ends in late May. It is same like rest of the part of Japan. Though, best time to view sakura in Hokkaido is from early May to mid May. If you come here in April then, I have to say SORRY to you that no sakura would be seen. The month “May” is the proper time to explore Hokkaido’s hanami season. I would like to share two most popular spots for cherry blossom viewing, they are: 1) Fort Goryokaku and 2) Matsumae Castle Park. I can’t exactly tell you the best one between these, so you have to decide yourself visiting these Hokkaido’s top hanami spots.
It does not mean I have not visited them; it is just hard for me to compare. A local from Hakodate (where Fort Goryokaku is located) once told me this “My spring season is not charming without viewing sakura of Fort Goryokaku, I am proud of this and it is my best hanami spot in Hokkaido.” While on the other hand, a friend of mine, who has been living in Matsumae for more than 11 years so far shared his opinion this way “Drinking sake under sakura trees in Matsume park area during hanami season is unique.” I agree with him! According to my experience, it has more than 10 thousands of cherry trees around Matsumae Castle and its park.
The last Cherry Blossom Viewing of Japan occurs at Seiryu-ji temple in late May in Nemuro city. Learn more here. It is the easternmost of city of Japan is proud of featuring this yearly spring wonder. Those who say there is nothing to do during spring in Hokkaido, should visit these three hanami spots this year, yeah you still have got time!
2) Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park – A little Netherlands
Not so many foreign tourists of Japan are familiar with this beautiful tulip flower garden. We have a mini desert called Tottori Sand Dunes. In terms of size, it is really a tiny desert, so don’t need to compare it with Sahara Desert. In my eyes, Japan has everything so why not to have a tulip garden like Netherlands has! In fact, Nagasaki has a beautiful landmark which reflects a real looking Dutch town. It is called Huis Ten Bosch. I won’t share my experience with it here but later in future.
Kamiyubetsu tulip matsuri is a month-long (Early May to Early June) tulip festival held in Yubetsu town, Hokkaido. On a sunny day, the tulip park looks absolutely stunning with a million colorful tulips of different varieties. If you dream to be in Netherlands to see its traditional tulip field then you can comfortably say “Goodbye” to Netherlands (at least for a day) and enjoy Dutch tulip field atmosphere here. Take photographs of tulips along with the windmills you find there. If you bother walking in the park then get in an Electric car, it would amuse you a lot while you just sit on your seat and gaze at the rainbow tulip fields. I hope you would not miss this natural wonder when you travel to Hokkaido.
3) The Shibazakura Festival in Takinoue
You can experience a delightful day viewing tons of pink moss phloxes (Shibazakura) in Takinoue Park, Takinoue. Hillside of this park gets covered with countless pink moss phloxes in spring from early May to early June. This is one of the things for which Takinoue is well known for along with herbs and turkey. There are several walking paths to enjoy pink moss flower blossom. In my opinion, if you are a nature lover then this is a gift for you.
The locals of Takinoue celebrate the Shibazakura festival during the peak season of pink moss. I saw visitors were enjoying their lunch as I did the same with my friend. We bought foods from the foot stalls that took place there during the festival time. You can also enjoy various live stage performances which could entertain you the most. Finally, I believe the Shibazakura festival is one of the most popular photogenic spots in Hokkaido. Therefore, take as many as photographs you wish, in fact it is all up to you. You can read my own travel experience to this site in detail here.
4) Road Trip to Biei
Some hilly towns look awesome! This is my own opinion which suit to Biei perfectly. It is a hilly town with beautiful landscape around it. If you ever come to Hokkaido during spring then please encounter its picturesque landscapes. To experience an enjoyable road trip by a rental car you have to rent a car from Ashaikawa airport or Furano town. Drive your car through the Patchwork Road and Panorama Road. You are advised to drive slowly as a result you could pleasantly enjoy the rural and scenic beauty along the way.
Vast open green fields, flower gardens and trees with birds can be seen on the way to Furano town. Visit these places to see spring flowers: Zerubu Hill & Atom Hill, Hokusei Hill, Shikisai-no-Oka, Kanno Farm, and Flower Land Kamifurano. The lands you will be seeing in Biei are private property. So it is advisable to you that don’t interrupt farmers as well as their property. Just enjoy the view and take a lot photographs and please don’t cross the border though! Please buy this map.
5) Unkai Terrace (Sea of Clouds)
This is not a recommended place for those who can’t wake up early morning. I don’t want to interrupt your sweet morning sleep. As Unkai means sea of Clouds, you have got to wake very early morning to see clouds from a terrace. Though, afternoon is recommended for viewing beautiful landscape up from the terrace. It is located at the top of the Tomamu Mountains which can be reached by Gondolas. There are many clouds which even cover the summit of Hidaka Mountain. Viewing clouds is not the main highlight rather it offers you to have a Yoga class. Just imagine how effective and wonderful it would to exercise your mind and body in a lovely early morning!
There is a café called Tenbu Café, located next to Unkai terrace. From there, you can order a cup of coffee and enjoy the morning session while sipping it. Remember that, you are requested to pay cash, as there is no credit card payment option. Every year, Unkai terrace opening period starts in mid May and closes its operation late October. So, plan accordingly and I suggest you to book a hotel room near Tomamu Ski Resort. Learn more about this place here.
6) Spring Flowers at Farm Tomita
Farm Tomita is a great place to view summer flowers like lavender and poppies. And the farm itself is divided into some areas and one of the areas is known as “Spring Field”. Therefore, don’t just assume that Farm Tomita highlights only lavender. Though there is a little surprise left for you which is – I have seen lavender in the Greenhouse located inside Farm Tomita. Obviously, if you plan to visit Farm Tomita in spring season you can view splendid lavender there, not outside in the field but inside the greenhouse. After the end of harsh cold winter season, spring flower starts to bloom day after day till they reach to their peak season. Flowers like tulips, chives, poppies, perennials are typical spring flower at Farm Tomita. The blossoming season is from early May to late June. In fact, if you arrive here in mid-June you would see lavender flowers begin to show their glory.
7) Viewing Alpine Flowers on Rebun Island While Trekking
Rebun Island is a paradise for Alpine flowers. They start to bloom in early spring. If you are not familiar with it then read this book right away. I did not know that there were about 300 kinds of alpine plants on the island until I was informed by an official of Rebun Island Tourist Association. Though, it is incredible to experience alpine flower at sea level! They usually don’t grow up in such environment but they do on Rebun Island. That’s a miracle! On the island, there are six footpaths for visitors through which you can start trekking and explore variety colors of alpine flowers. To get to this island, first you have to arrive in Wakkanai city then take a ferry (Heartland Ferry) to Rebun Island. Check out the time table here.
8) Asahiyama Zoo in Asahikawa
I always recommend this place to the one who asks me about “What are the best things to do in Hokkaido?” To be honest, I don’t know why, maybe it is because – everyone in Japan believes it is the best Zoo in our country. When traveling to Hokkaido, you should not miss this spot. It does not only feature animals that we typically find in our wildlife but also endangered species of animals such as polar bears, red pandas, cranes, big cats and etc. According to Asahiyama Zoo, it has more than 800 animals of 150 species. Does not it sound great to you? My favorite animals of this zoo are penguin and seals. They are really cute! I think it is better if you visit this place first and then rent a car to have drive to Biei and Furano area.
9) Visit Splendid Sapporo in Spring
Spring Sapporo looks splendid! Do you know why? It is because the weather sounds good, there is no snowfall, and everything looks pretty wonderful. You won’t have wear attire like you are supposed to wear during winter season. As it is the capital city of Hokkaido, I believe everybody should pay a big attention to this city. It does not matter whether it is winter, spring, summer, or autumn. It is a city which can be traveled all year round. Though, winter atmosphere in Sapporo is unforgettable with Sapporo Yuki Matsuri. You can have a stroll Odori Park in spring (May) to see cherry blossoms, lilac, tulips and other variety of beautiful flowers there. The park has about 400 lilac trees and they look awfully beautiful with their green leaves and light purple blossoms. Every year, the city hosts a marvelous lilac festival during spring, taking place in two separate locations: Odori Park and Kawashimo. You can be part of the festival which begins in mid May. Please learn more about the Sapporo Lilac Festival.
While on the other hand, you can observe the city up from the Sapporo TV Tower. The similar kind of experience can be done from the summit of the Mt. Moiwa. This is where many visitors like to experience when they travel Sapporo. Amazing night view of the entire Sapporo city can be observed from the observation deck, situated on the summit of the mountain. Mt. Moiwa Ropeway would take you there, so no worries at all! Nothing bad is going to be happened, just open your eyes and enjoy the scenery. Sapporo has the world’s top class restaurants. Most of them serve delicious Hokkaido’s local delicacies for visitors. Eat Hokkaido’s freshest sushi, ramen, yakitori, soup curry and jingisukan. I don’t shop a lot, though if you like it then Sapporo’s shopping malls offer brand new style of summer clothes. You can buy them at a cheap price. Honestly, I have skipped so many things here; these words are not enough to explain whole Sapporo city and its wonders that can be enjoyed in spring season.
10) Porotokotan – What is it?
It is a museum, ranked in higher position when it comes to talking about the best museum of Japan. The Shiraoi Ainu Museum is known as Porotokotan to the locals of Shiraoi town. This is a unique style of museum representing the Ainu (Indigenous people of Japan) and their traditions. It is impressive looking at their houses. I was actually stunned standing in front of the giant statue of Ainu Chief (Kotankorkur). At that moment I felt like I am nowhere but in the kingdom of Ainu people. You can feel the same just looking at the statue. In two words to express my feeling, it is “mind blowing”.
There is a house that hosts several stage performances such as traditional Ainu folk dances, playing Ainu instrument, and songs. The museum preserves the culture of Ainu people which a worth a visit, no doubt about that. Near the Ainu Chief statue, I have seen a dog breed called Hokkaido dog in the cage; they seemed to me quite friendly and loyal. It is said that, the Ainu used them to hunt giant bears and deer. If you want to bring some Ainu souvenirs to your home country then buy some from the shops located outside the gate of the museum. There are other things to inside Porotokotan, I don’t want to reveal them here with you now, better plan to have trip to this great museum.
In conclusion, it is clear that spring season in Hokkaido brings us so many things to experience and discover. During the hanami season a lot of visitors visit Japan, I want one of you must visit Hokkaido in spring. Are not you interested in exploring all of these attractions? I don’t know what your thought is about this article but I have explained everything I could and wanted to feature most of the enjoyable things one could do and see in spring. However, time will tell whether you would come here or not. Thanks for reading.
Copyright 2016 @ takkhis