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While known for incredible skiing conditions and the famous Sapporo Snow Festival, tour leader Robert Kodama discover that Hokkaido in summer might just be the country’s best kept secret.
Hokkaido in summer
With some of the best ski resorts in the country, Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is a winter holiday haven. In fact, winter and Hokkaido appear synonymous. However, Hokkaido also happens to be one of the best summer destinations in Japan too! With the rest of the country battling severe heat and humidity, this prefecture relishes in comfortable mid-twenties temperatures.
The best thing about summer in Hokkaido is the abundance of amazing views. The land is candy for the eyes with serene natural beauty everywhere you look. With the size of the prefecture, it could be its own country, but due to the somewhat difficult winter living conditions, most of the land is largely untouched by modernisation. With convenient public transport only in southern parts, such as Hakodate and Sapporo, it can be tricky to get around, but it also leaves a plethora of nature untouched.
People around the world are catching on to the fact that Hokkaido is beautiful place in summer, and the numbers of tourists have increased (along with the rest of the country) in the last few years. When I visited the famous blue pond in Biei this year, the surrounding areas had clearly been renovated with new roads and car parks alongside new shopping areas.
The closest car park had several large coaches bringing bewildered tourists in and out of the pond, so there’s never been a better time to get lost in the prefecture and find some hidden gems. Here are three of my favourites.
Shihorosen Railway tracks
Hiking along the old Shihorosen Railway tracks was one of the highlights of my visit. I wasn’t able to find the famous Taushubetsu Railway Bridge as it was submerged under the lake due to the opening of a dam nearby, however, the hike along the abandoned railway tracks was a beautiful treat with plenty of wildlife opportunities (I managed to spot a rare Hokkaido Red Squirrel!)
The rolling hills of Biei are not to be missed. They almost felt like a home away from home for me -without the rain that commonly accompanies the view in the UK! Very unlike a typical Japanese scene, the hills are full of striking patchwork colours, and with the sheer size of the fields, it is easy to be the only person enjoying the view.
A final highlight I will share (I can’t be sharing all my secrets!) is my favourite onsen in Japan: Kotan Onsen. Located on the shore of Lake Kussharo, this onsen is not for the shy, it is one of few mixed-gender onsen in Japan and is completely out in the open – any passer-by walking along the shore will be able to see anything and everything! This rock pool of natural hot spring water right beside the lake offers incredible views of the surrounding mountains and is said to be incredible during sunset.
With this and plenty more undiscovered summer treats, be sure to include Hokkaido on your summer trip to Japan. It’s easy to get to Hokkaido from the mainland with an internal flight to Shin-Chitose Airport in Sapporo, and renting a car is the best form of getting around due to the lack of convenient public transport links.