From Europe to Sapporo – Japanese Culture and World Class Powder Snow
by HTIT team
Photo credits: Iwanai Resort and Chris Burkard
Now is time to check the trip to Japan and skiing vacation at the world’s top ski resort off your bucket list in one go; Hokkaido offers a fascinating combination of world-class powder snow ski resorts and authentic Japanese culture, warm and personal.
Starting from December 2019 European airline company Finnair has launched straight flights between Europe and Japan’s northernmost island Hokkaido. This non-stop route will be the only direct flight operated by a European airline to Hokkaido. Finnair has a connection to major European cities from Paris to Berlin. Finnair announced in November, that the route will be all-year one, available twice a week both winter and summer! Summer Hokkaido with its flower fields and wildlife is stunning, but for the starters let us guide you to the charms of Winter Hokkaido.
Japan’s northernmost island Hokkaido has many big drawcards, such as the best powder snow in the world, Sapporo Snow Festival and breathtaking nature including the unique drift ice phenomena (more on that later), but one of the less known charms of this northern island is definitely the local people and their warmth.
Sustainable Traveling that Respects and Supports the Local Businesses
While Tokyo and Kyoto have their charms, they have unfortunately started to face some of the problems of over-tourism, and though Japanese customer service is top class, the fact is that it can be challenging to form real personal connections with the local residents in the big touristic cities.
Still, isn’t getting to know the culture and chatting with the locals one of the highlights of any trip, and sometimes indeed the very reason why we travel? Hokkaido offers an excellent environment for off the beaten path journey to Japanese culture.
If you are interested in traveling sustainably and making sure it’s the person in front of you are supporting, Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel is worth considering.
We are very proud of our strong local connections and always look forward to adding some of the hidden treasures of Hokkaido, Japan to any journey that we are arranging.
Hokkaido is a place where one can still truly touch the real Japanese culture – including the everyday lives and charming personalities of the locals as well as the inspiring craftmanship of classical Japanese arts from tea ceremony to kimono making, but also the island nation’s true diversity, not least made visible by Ainu, the indigenous people of Northern Japan.
With this in mind, let us introduce you some of the most enthralling sides of Hokkaido.
Out of this World Ice Sculptures, Thrilling Snow Quality and Outstanding Nature at the End of the World
Hokkaido is famous for Sapporo Snow Festival and its giant ice sculptures in early February. The island has also gathered the whole skiing world’s attention for its excellent snow conditions that assure unbelievably high-quality powder snow every year. There is a word for the phenomena: “Japow” – Fantastic Japanese Powder Snow.
While nature might not be the first thing that comes to your mind, when thinking of a trip to Japan, Hokkaido has as many as six amazing National Parks (and five Quasi-National Parks) for the adventure lovers and photographers. Winter does not have to be all about skiing: There are incredible outdoor activities to be enjoyed from snowshoe trekking to winter canoeing and wildlife from brown bears and orca (“killer whales”) to red-headed Japanese cranes and giant Steller’s sea eagles.
The most famous one of Hokkaido’s national parks is probably Shiretoko National Park, that has been designed as UNESCO World Natural Heritage site for its invaluable marine and terrestrial ecosystems that can only be found in this peninsula. In Ainu language, Shiretoko means “The End of the World”. A name quite fitting for this peninsula at the edge of Asia’s farthest east.
Shiretoko is also the place for appreciating one captivating natural phenomenon: In February (depending on the conditions late January to early March) one can walk and swim among massive amounts of drift ice that has traveled for over 1000 kilometers (over 600 miles) from Russia before hitting the shores of Japan. There are only a few places in the world where this phenomenon can be appreciated, and Hokkaido happens to be the southernmost location for drift ice in this side of the planet.
True “Authentic Japan”
Compared to the classical Japanese city vacation destinations, Hokkaido really offers a chance for a traveler to get to know the local Japanese culture and feel true human connection.
Hokkaido has also a unique history and culture that is different from the rest of Japan. While the everyday life of the island follows the peculiarities of mainland Japanese society, this second largest island of Japan officially became part of the state as late as 1868. In fact, Hokkaido was the stage for the major historical events leading up to the Meiji Restoration and the end of Japan’s isolationist “Closed Country” foreign policy in 1868.
Before that, while there were some early immigrants from the mainland, it was mostly the indigenous people of Northern Japan and Russia, Ainu who lived in the area. For this reason, Hokkaido is actually an exceptional location for learning about the Japanese history and experiencing the “real Japanese culture” – including cultural diversity and the lived experiences of the minorities of Japan.
Another lovely Japanese twist to your travel: Among Japanese travelers Hokkaido is also well known for its multiple “onsen” hot springs and traditional Japanese “ryokan” inns. (Sometimes it feels it is hard to find an accommodation in Hokkaido that does not have an onsen!) In winter you can dip into an outdoors “rotenburo” natural hot spring while snow slowly falls all around you. If a public bath feels too exotic, there are also rooms with a private onsen attached.
If you are fascinated by the Japanese traditions, no need to worry: Despite its seemingly short history as part of the state, Hokkaido is in fact an excellent place for experiencing some of the most charming sides of classical Japanese culture.
There are “kimono” shops and green tea parlors that have been in business for centuries and here the craftsmen and craftswomen have the interest and motivation for telling you about their lives and the traditions.
For a tailormade private holiday to Hokkaido, Japan please send us an inquiry and we will start to create the winter vacation of your dreams!