Hokkaido’s winter brings a lot of highlights ranging from skiing to snow festival. If you are looking to visit a perfect winter destination in Japan then plan your trip to Hokkaido. Indeed the whole region is a great place to spend a week in winter.
One week is not enough to discover all the interesting sites and events though this suggested itinerary is crafted based on central part of Hokkaido, especially if you are planning to visit Hokkaido in December.
Central Hokkaido is s scenic area with a lot of beautiful landscapes of flower fields and mountain range. Have you ever thought of visiting the area in winter? How does it look like in winter?
To find these answers, you have to read this post. We hope that this itinerary will share some of the ideas you may want to add in your travel plan. Let’s explore!
Day 1 – Asahikawa to Biei
I assume you are flying from your home country to either Narita/Haneda International Airport in Tokyo or Kansai International Airport in Osaka.
You can fly to Hokkaido by a number of domestic flights from those airports located on the Japanese mainland. Instead of landing at New Chitose Airport, this time I would suggest you fly directly to Asahikawa Airport.
You can also get to Asahikawa Airport from Chubu Centrair International Airport, 35 km south of Nagoya in central Japan, located in Aichi Prefecture. Try to land at Asahikawa Airport before noon.
So Welcome to Hokkaido! Now you are at Asahikawa Airport. Let’s head towards Biei by JR limited express train. The one way ride will take about 35 minutes.
From Biei Station take a taxi to Yumoto Shirogane-Onsen Hotel, featuring Japanese style rooms, indoor and outdoor hot spring baths, Japanese cuisine and other facilities. In fact, this is a ryokan from where you can discover two most iconic sightseeing spots in the area.
The first one is Shirahige Waterfalls, a 3-minute walk from the hotel. This 30 meters tall waterfalls is located 600 meters above sea level in the Hot Spring town of Shirogane.
The waterfall is particularly stunning in the winter though it is impressive site to behold in the autumn too. From the observatory, you can view splendid scenery of Tokachi Mountain range in the distance.
This interesting natural landmark is illuminated at night during the winter season every year. Frost covered trees and the water springs coming from beneath the rocks look pretty amazing both at night and on daytime.
The second attraction in the area is Shirogane Blue Pond (Aoiike), an incredible site, attracting millions of people throughout a year. This is one of the best places to visit in Biei. Enjoying the scenery of deep blue color water is the main activity here.
In winter, you can get some beautiful photographs of the pond in the snow. Wear a good pair of winter boots when you visit the pond.
Get back to your hotel and enjoy the hot springs offered by the hotel.
Let’s call it day!
Day 2 – Asahidake Ropeway
Why don’t you spend a day in Higashikawa town? The area boats wonderful scenic views of Daisetsuzan National Park, which you can reach by Asahidake Ropeway.
The ropeway is the easiest way to get to the summit of Asahidake (Mount Asahi), the tallest mountain in Hokkaido. Although this ropeway will take you to only Sugatami Station from the base station, you can still hike up the mountain through the designated hiking trail.
Many people ascend the mountain in the summer and autumn. In winter, it is not possible due to extreme cold weather.
So what can you do there in winter? You can ride the ropeway to the mountain and enjoy spectacular views on the way to the ropeway’s upper station. Take picture of iconic Mt. Asahi from the observatory located at the upper station.
Moreover, if you are an advanced hiker/mountaineer you can enjoy the ski courses in winter. Please note with an abundance of powder snow here, you can enjoy backcountry skiing.
If you are going to visit Asahidake in January then you can enjoy snowshoeing there. Check out this page to see 1-day snowshoeing tour at the foothills of Mt Asahidake. It will take you on a journey to experience snowshoe hiking in the snow with experienced English speaking guides.
When your trip is over, go back to the hotel. Spend the night there and pack your things for the next expedition in Furano city.
Day 3 – Biei to Furano
Have your breakfast and then check out. Reach JR Biei Station by a taxi and wait for the train to Furano Station. The entire ride requires less than a 45-minute.
From JR Furano Station, take a taxi to Shin Furano Prince Hotel, this is arguably the best hotel in Furano. The hotel is a 15-minute drive from the station, and it is adjacent to Ningle Terrace and Furano Ski Resort.
Winter in Furano is all about skiing though there are other things to do including hand-on activity and try the local produced.
You can start your Furano ski trip as soon as you check in the hotel.
Along with magnificent views of snow capped mountains of the Daisetsuzan National Park, Furano Ski Resort is one of the best ski areas in Hokkaido. Compared to Niseko, it is less crowded and inexpensive.
The ski resort boasts over 950 vertical meters of ski slopes and it has hosted the Ski and Snowboard World Cup 12 times in total.
Snow rafting, hot air balloon and snowmobiling are also popular winter activities that you can try here alongside skiing.
Whether your intention here is to ski or not, make sure to experience a snowmobile ride! Book a snowmobile tour in Furano.
In the evening, visit Ningle Terrace for an exceptional shopping experience. These small cottages sell various kinds of handicraft goods, good to buy as souvenir for someone.
Each shop is lit up gorgeously with fairy lights at night, creating beautiful scenery that is worth capturing by your Smartphone or camera.
For authentic Japanese cuisine dine at Restaurant Karamatsu, located on the top of New Furano Prince Hotel.
Day 4 – Half a day in Furano, then move to Sapporo by train
Winter is the best time for hot air ballooning in Hokkaido. Enjoy panoramic view of Furano city, snow-covered countryside, and Tokachi Mountain Range from the sky.
For hot air balloon ride in Furano, click here.
When it is done, be prepared to check out from the hotel and head towards JR Furano Station. Hop on a train to Sapporo. Enjoy beautiful countryside from the train window along the way to Sapporo Station.
In Sapporo, you will stay at Sapporo Grand Hotel, located close to Sapporo TV Tower in Odori Park.
This evening you can enjoy a leisurely walk around Susukino, and Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade, this 1km shopping street runs directly between Odori and Susukino subway station.
Find out some of the most popular areas to enjoy shopping in Sapporo City.
There you will find restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, Don Quijote, ATM, street dinning and so on.
Day 5 – A Day trip to Otaru
Good morning! Today you will be visiting one of the most popular tourist attractions, which you can explore on a day trip from Sapporo. It is Otaru, a historic port city of Hokkaido with many old warehouses.
A 35-minute train ride along the JR Hakodate Main Line will take you to Otaru from Sapporo Station. Check out the best activities you can do in Otaru.
Upon arrival in Otaru, the first thing you can do is to take a leisurely walk along the Otaru Canal. It is a 10-minute walk from Otaru station. When there is a lot of snow on the ground, the canal looks very picturesque.
Then head to the Sakaimachi Street, which runs for around 800 meters from north to south. Museums, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, cafes are there to make your trip memorable.
Spend your time at Kitaichi Glass Sangokan. It is one of those old building of Otaru that houses wonderful glass artifacts such as lamps, glassware, vases, tableware, cute figurines and so on.
In the area you must pay a visit to the Music Box Museum. Here you will find a huge collection of music boxes! Buy some as souvenir.
You can dine at one of the sushi restaurants found along the Otaru Sushi Street. Don’t forget that Otaru is a famous place to eat fresh sushi in Hokkaido.
There is no better way to enjoy the evening in Otaru than being at the observation deck of Mount Tengu/Tenguyama.
If the weather condition is good, you can see the beautiful sunset from its observation deck. Besides you can also see panoramic views of Otaru city and Ishikari Bay.
To reach the summit of Tenguyama ride you have to ride on the Tenguyama Ropeway. You can reach the ropeway by local bus from Otaru Station.
Let’s finish your day trip there and get on a train to Sapporo.
Day 6 – Historical Village of Hokkaido & Shopping Experiences
On your sixth day in Hokkaido you are going to head a little to the east of Sapporo city.
Located in the Nopporo Forest Park, the Historical Village of Hokkaido is an open-air museum featuring old buildings, divided into four sections. Those relocated and resorted buildings represent the history of Hokkaido from 1886 to the 1920s.
Indeed it is a great place to learn about the history of Hokkaido, Ainu Culture, and Wildlife. So if you happen to travel around Sapporo and have a passion to explore museum, then this is a must-see place.
You can reach the site from JR Shin Sapporo Station by bus (15 minutes). Get off at “Kaitaku-no-mura”.
The area of the museum is huge, so take your time to explore all the buildings.
If shopping is what you prefer while traveling abroad, then why don’t you think of visiting one of these shopping areas in the city? Have fun!
Day 7 – Sapporo to Jozankei Onsen
Part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park, Jozankei is a hot spring resort town in Sapporo. It is located along the banks of the Toyohira River. I recommend you spend a night here as a result you can enjoy the hot springs, food, and most importantly the stunning winter scenery.
Visiting an onsen town in Japan is a great experience, especially during wintertime. This onsen town is one of the popular hot spring resorts in Hokkaido. If you are not planning to visit Noboribetsu, this is the best alternative.
The hot springs of Jozankei were discovered in 1866 by an ascetic monk Miizumi Jozan, who opened a healing spa at the time.
In Jozankei, you must stay one night at Jozankei Daichi Hotel Suizantei, offering traditional Japanese-style rooms, hot spring baths, and a free shuttle from Sapporo downtown area. Reservations are required.
In search of wonderful snowy landscapes, I suggest you walk around Jozankei town. I guarantee you will discover some very amazing views, for example the view of Futami Tsuribashi Suspension Bridge in winter is absolutely impressive. The bridge also becomes a popular autumn leaves viewing spot in Jozankei in autumn.
For those wanting to ski in the area may visit Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort, a 30-minute drive from Jozankei Onsen, offers expansive slopes that everyone can hit from beginners to advanced skiers.
Jozankei surprises all types of travelers throughout the year. Come here before you leave Hokkaido and get some memorable travel experiences.