Hokkaido Travel Guide Winter

10 Useful Hokkaido Winter Travel Tips

Hokkaido’s harsh winter season is blessed with tremendous outdoor and indoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding, skating, snowmobiling, participating in the snow festivals and eating ramen in a local restaurant.

Naturally, everyone expect to have a great trip to Hokkaido, especially in the winter! Do you know why? Japan’s most popular snow festivals are held there.

Besides, skiing on the slopes of the mountains scattered throughout the region is a wonderful winter discovery that you simply cannot let go of your dream.

Sapporo Sow Festival – A giant snow sculpture! If you are visiting Hokkaido in winter then I hope you must read the following travel tips. Photo Credit: takako tominaga at Flickr.

The success of your winter holiday depends on many things such as the weather, itinerary, budget, food, mode of transportation, accommodation, right packing list and so on. However, depending on your budget, you can make your dream trip work.

Budget is the main priority, if you have enough money and you are willing to move from one places to other in Hokkaido by air (domestic flight) then there is nothing tell you. It would save you a lot of time!

Anyway, I hope you take these 10 useful winter travel tips seriously and read them carefully before you arrive in Hokkaido.

1) A Perfect Itinerary

Winter illumination in Odori Park, Sapporo. Photo Credit: MIKI Yoshihito at Flickr.

Don’t have a suggested itinerary for your trip to Hokkaido this winter? Check this itinerary out and hopefully you will get some awesome ideas and travel inspirations.

There I have included the best winter attractions including some guides on where to stay, how to access, and what and where to eat. Besides, I would highly recommend you to read this itinerary, it shares you how to spend a lovely day in Sapporo city.

You know what; a trip without having a perfect itinerary could ruin your whole trip. Seriously, keep one thing in mind that Hokkaido is vast, wild and an ideal destination for nature fanatics.

Not all the places in Hokkaido are worth visiting in the winter, so add those attractions and activities to your travel plan that can make your trip a great adventure and full of happy memories.

With a simple itinerary that I have recommended you a moment ago – all the worries of yours will be washed away.

2) Driving in the Dark during Winter

Hokkaido’s harsh winter – Driving a car in a condition like this is always dangerous. Photo Credit: MIKI Yoshihito at Flickr.

In winter, driving a car in the dark after the sunset could be dangerous. So anyone thinking of self driving in Hokkaido in the winter should reach to a particular destination before the daylight fades away.

When you drive in snow, you have to be aware that you accelerate slowly and break gradually and leave a lot of distance between cars.

If it is snowy out there, immediately cancel your journey. That would be best to stay warm and safe! Prepare yourself getting to that place in the following morning.

In Hokkaido, driving a car during the day lets you experience breathtaking winter scenery, no one should miss this!

A lot of visitors there in Hokkaido prefer to have a great self driving holiday experience. Why not? Its outstanding outdoor nature often makes passengers saying this “I wish if I could spend sometimes there.”

Seemingly it is impossible when you are in the public transport. But if you embark on a journey by a car then everything is possible. There is freedom, right? In addition, it is suggested to have your car examined well before you leave.

3) Japan Rail Pass/Hokkaido Rail Pass – Do I really need this?

Esashi station in Hokkaido during winter. Photo Credit: Konstantin Leonov at Flickr.

Do you think Japan Rail Pass could save you a lot of money when it comes to traveling around Hokkaido? There are many ways to cut your travel cost and that’s why it was introduced to foreign visitors to Japan.

My research on Japan Rail Pass guides me that visitors can use it when they decides to travel a long distance such as from Sapporo to Hakodate, Sapporo to Asahikawa, Sapporo to Kushiro, Asahikawa to Wakkanai, Asahikawa to Abashiri and etc.

Meanwhile, reaching remote areas (countryside) could be a daunting task as you need to take either taxi or buses.

Indeed, self-driving is one of the best ways to explore the remote attractions, where public transportation is not frequent. If you are a family of 4 or 5, instead of buying JR Pass/Hokkaido Rail Pass rent a car. Seriously, it would save you a good amount money and time.

In winter, if you want to take a day trip to somewhere else outside the city, instead of using public transport and rental car, you can achieve your goal by taking one of the day trip bus tours offered by some local bus companies.

4) Hokkaido Winter Travel Outfit & Packing List

They all look quite comfortable with their winter outfits. Photo Credit: David McKelvey at Flickr.

This is one of the most important things you should read about before traveling to Hokkaido in the winter. Your winter travel outfit comprises jackets/coats, stylish snow boots, ice grips, heating pads, fleece, gloves, hat, and so on.

Please read about what to wear in Hokkaido during winter. I would also suggest you to spend some time reading on how to pack for a trip to Hokkaido in winter. Seriously, you will find some very useful tips there.

Pack all the travel essentials along with packing the right clothing. Often people there don’t care of a stylish travel outfit in winter. I don’t know how you think of it. In fact, this should not be your main issue to have a great holiday.

You have to find the perfect ways from escaping the deadliest cold weather there, and thus how you can enjoy the outdoor nature pretty amazingly. So there is no time to be too stylish!

5) The Food Menu

You can try all these foods! Photo Credit: Tetsuji Sakakibara at Flickr.

Brutal winter weather in Hokkaido would make you very hungry not only because of satisfying your stomach but also to warm you body. Even though you have a nice comfy jacket to put on, you simply desire to drink some beer or sake.

In fact, beer is hugely popular here in Hokkaido than sake. The taste of Hokkaido Beer is superb! One little fact, Hokkaido is said to be a paradise for beer lovers.

What’s next? The food menu I have in my mind could be lengthy but I could sort it out. There is a wide variety of foods to have in Hokkaido; especially you can taste abundant of seafood.

To be more specific, I would like to feature the foods that are ideal to eat in winter. Miso Ramen, Soup Curry, Genghis Khan (Jingisukan), Boiled King Crab, and Ishikari nabe are the main dishes you must try. However, search for other delicious foods that are available in a cozy restaurant.

6) A Blizzard – What to do if you encounter it

Due to heavy snowfall it looks like this in Hokkaido. Photo Credit: David McKelvey at Flickr.

Can we really stop it or get rid of it? It is beyond our own ability. There is no way except being a helpless guy when natural calamity like blizzard hit us.

I am not a meteorologist, and can’t forecast you exactly whether or not it would pass by. When it occurs, no matter how cold it is, or how severe it could be, the life of ours must keep moving.

Though airlines and railways may shut down some of their operations, making our daily life hampered. Please note that due to heavy snowfall and deadly winter winds, it is really hard to take a short walk outside home let alone traveling around!

Just stay inside the hotel you check in, if you encounter a blizzard during the time you visit Hokkaido. There is no need to worry about as it will be gone sooner or later. Keep your eyes on the weather forecast and change or adjust your itinerary/travel plan.

If it continues for a longer period of time, prepare yourself to read a book, watch TV, or lie down on the comfy cozy bed and fall asleep. And please note that check the weather days before you travel.

7) Accommodation – Ryokan or Hotel?

Hot spring bath facility in HOTEL MYSTAYS PREMIER Sapporo Park.

The hotels and ryokans located in the major cities and nearby tourist attractions across Hokkaido relatively are expensive to stay at.

If you are on a tight budget then staying in a hotel would be the best option, as everyone knows how expensive it can be while staying in a ryokan (traditional inn).

I stayed in a hotel called HOTEL MYSTAYS PREMIER Sapporo Park, my experience with its hot spring bath was excellent. This hotel here also feature a natural hot spring bath, located next to Odori Park.

It does not mean you are not going to soak your body in a hot spring bath. Many hotels in Hokkaido provide hot spring bath facility to their guests.

So before you make a hotel reservation online, please consider making a reservation in a hotel that has it. You can learn how to take bath in a hot spring.

8) Watch your every Step

It is in Otaru! Walk very carefully in right outfit. Photo Credit: Haburashiko at Flickr.

How to walk safely in slippery conditions? You have to know the techniques if you have not walked on the snow and ice before. To make it simple, I suggest you to use a pair of waterproof snow boots that provide traction then walk slowly.

Watch your every step because the path you would be walking through could be slippery enough to make you fall on the grounds. I hope nothing bad happens! Be always careful!

Always avoid the shoes with heels. It is your common sense, how could you do that? It is impossible and dangerous!

Take short steps and please while walking out there don’t concentrate on other things, such as texting on phone or reading message.

9) Charge Your Devices Fully

Having a fully charged phone in hand means you are SAFE! Photo Credit: Michael Saechang at Flickr.

These days we are all very much dependent on our mobile phones. It is really a handy device that makes our life easier. If you don’t keep your devices fully charged the night before then something bad might happen.

In case you fail to do so, you are highly recommended to keep a car charger or extra charged battery. In fact, keeping extra charged battery is a wise decision.

A fully charged mobile phone does not only help you communicate with your family or friends but also you can check out the flight schedule, train schedule, and help booking room online, locate the place you want to head to on Google maps, and find a cozy restaurants. See how important it is to have a fully charged phone with you!

I also recommend you to use this pocket wifi device, it’s very handy and never lets you stay out of the internet.

In Hokkaido, there is nothing good, than stay connected with the internet. You need it to locate the places you want to visit or you can easily call a taxi using an app.

10) Make your trip Budget Friendly

Tokachi winter scenery! Photo Credit: satoshi sawada at Flickr.

Many expert travelers say visiting Japan in winter means there is less crowd and inexpensive accommodation. This is not true at all! Maybe it is true for some places, for example, In Okinawa, there is a lack of winter attractions.

What about Hokkaido? Good question, and I have to say that you have to pay much for the right accommodation you are searching for. If you don’t book your room in advance then something awful could happen! I mean it seriously.

If you want to have a great trip that is budget friendly, take everything seriously related to your trip. It includes, early hotel booking, flight booking, rental car reservation, buying Japan rail pass, packing useful travel accessories, eating foods, and buying souvenirs.

If you have no idea, don’t hesitate to ask me about how to make a trip budget friendly especially when you visit Hokkaido. I would show you the right path.

In conclusion, I would say that whether you go on a guided tour or independently, it is up to you.

Simply keep all these travel guides in mind that I have shared with you in this post. More or less I believe these would make your trip easy, safe and enjoyable.


  1. Hello. My family of 4 plans to visit at the end of November for 7 days. My children age of 7 and 8 are keen to experience snow. Where will there be snow at the end of Nov? We don’t drive. Should we hire a van and driver? Because i read that while there are buses, they are infrequent and it gets dark early. Thank you.

    • Hi Felicia,
      Thank you for reading this post.
      There are many places in Hokkaido to see snow in late Nov, you can even observe it in Sapporo!
      For more info, please read my email that I sent you. Thank you very much.

  2. Hi, I will traveling to Hokkaido in Feb 2020. Will reach Sapporo on 11 Feb 8 am , leaving on 19 Feb. 8 am. We intended to drive from Sapporo to Nororibetsu to Hakodate to Otaru then back to Sapporo. Wondering if it is feasible and any recommendation from you.

    • Hi,
      Thank you for visiting this page, and I appreciate your comments.
      I have sent you a message to your email address with some tips. I hope you will find that useful.
      Thank you.

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