Hokkaido: The Next Bucket List Adventure Travel Destination
by HTIT team
A view from the top of stratovolcano Mt. Meakan
Japan’s northernmost island offers a unique setting for exceptional outdoor activities and an inspirational cultural journey that meets the intellectual and emotional needs of a traveler who is not content with the mainstream.
Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost and at the same time the second largest island of this East Asian island state. While Hokkaido is already renowned among ski enthusiasts for its high-quality powder snow, other charms of Hokkaido outdoors are still surprisingly unknown for overseas visitors.
One of Hokkaido’s assets is that there is a large variety of different kinds of natural environments concentrated on a single island. Hokkaido has as many as six stunning national parks. You can access the shimmering ocean, steaming volcanoes, clear caldera lakes, mysterious forests, deep marshlands and brilliant flower fields on a same trip.
The fact that Hokkaido’s summer is pleasantly warm compared to the hot and humid summer of mainland Japan is also definitely another point that makes the island a great location for enjoying the outdoors. Yet another strength of Hokkaido is its unique culture and history. How is this related to outdoor activities? Let us have a look at Hokkaido through the concept of “adventure travel”.
What is adventure travel?
Mountain trail covered in green algae in Akan-Mashu National Park.
Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) defines adventure travel as a form of travel that has at least two of the following three elements: physical activity, cultural exchange or interaction and engagement with nature.
It is not so much that individual travelers consider themselves as “adventure travelers”, but rather this is a term of classification that makes it easier to discuss a new trend of deep travel: more and more people are looking for unique experiences that fulfill their needs on a deeper level – not only physical but both intellectual and emotional, while also taking into consideration sustainability of travel.
We strongly argue that Hokkaido is a truly unique travel destination for those who want to know the true Japanese culture in all its diversity, as well as enjoy the vast outdoors of the far East Asia. Hokkaido is an excellent choice for the visionary travelers who want to be forerunners and take their cultural vacation to the next level. Let us introduce the charms of this island of adventures.
Deep travel: The exquisite history and culture of Hokkaido
The one-of-a-kind history and culture of Hokkaido make possible meaningful nature adventures that really cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world.
The island of Hokkaido was for a long time culturally isolated from mainland Japan. Actually, it was not until Meiji restauration in 1868 that Hokkaido became officially part of the state of Japan. Even nowadays you can still feel that until some 150 years ago, this northern island was still walking a path of its own. Before the first Japanese immigrants started to live on the island, it was mostly Ainu, the indigenous people of Northern Japan and Russia, who lived in Hokkaido.
Hiking or canoeing in areas that have cultural importance for the Ainu people and learning about the history and present day of this island are just some examples of how to get a deeper look at the local history. The history is present wherever in the island you go: Many local place names are delivered from the Ainu language, making them hard to read even for mainland Japanese nationals.
Summer ocean at the edge of Kiritappu Marshland in East Hokkaido. “Ki-ta-p” refers to a place for gathering thatch in the Ainu language.
Blakiston’s Line: wildlife unique from the rest of Japan
Though Japanese culture has spread to Hokkaido during the past 150 years, the fact that the island is still geographically isolated from Japan’s main island Honshu remains. “Blakiston’s Line” refers to a zoogeographical border line marked by the Tsugaru Strait between Hokkaido and mainland Japan.
The flora and fauna on these two islands remain different to this day. The hypothesis is that Hokkaido was once connected to North Asia by land, leading to plant and animal species different from Honshu to spread to the island. There are for instance wildlife such as Ezo brown bear, Northern Pika and Yezo sika deer that can be found in Hokkaido, but not in Honshu.
Yezo sika deer is one of the indigenous Hokkaido species.
Especially East Hokkaido is famed for its wildlife. Bear or whale spotting and birdwatching are some high demand East Hokkaido nature activities. Shiretoko peninsula has the highest density of brown bears in the whole world. There is a population of red-crowned crane, one of the rarest crane species in the world, that lives permanently in East Hokkaido. In early summer it is especially good time to spot some orca, also known as “killer whale,” at the eastern coasts.
Unlimited outdoor possibilities from volcano hiking to scenic canoeing.
One of the strong points of Hokkaido nature is its diversity, which makes possible to experience a great variety of recreational outdoor activities. When traveling with us you do not have to worry about the language barrier. We will always arrange you an English-speaking expert guide, so that you can just focus on what truly matters.
Hokkaido nature is often described as gentle and approachable, making it a great place to enjoy outdoors even if you or your travel company do not have that much prior experience with getting into the wild. Here are some pickups for our favorite outdoor adventures that can be enjoyed in Hokkaido.
Hiking and mountaineering
Hiking is probably the most popular outdoor activity among Japan travelers. Approximately 70 % of the nation is mountainous area. Hokkaido is not an exception: the island has hundreds of mountains to be conquered. The most famous one is Hokkaido’s highest peak Mount Asahidake. Being the tallest mountain of Japan’s northernmost island, Mount Asahidake is often the first place in the country where you can spot autumn leaves and the last place to have snow.
There are also plenty of sleeping volcanoes where it is possible to go hiking with a local nature guide. Thanks to the island’s volcanic activity, Hokkaido is also famous for its “onsen” hot springs. Taking a dip in the natural hot springs feels amazing after a day of adventure.
Among Japanese, Hokkaido is also legendary for its horse ranches. For instance, the Hidaka area of Hokkaido is well-known for its racehorses. Horse trekking around a beautiful caldera lake or riding on a beach by the ocean are also a great way to experience the Hokkaido outdoors. There is even a native Japanese horse breed called “Dosanko” or “Hokkaido Pony”. Even if riding is not your thing, there are cool ways to enjoy the local horse culture: In the Tokachi area famous for its agriculture, you can see special draft horse competitions every weekend.
Fishing and exploring local harbors
As an island surrounded by sea and the ocean from four directions, Hokkaido is a mecca of fresh seafood. Some of the most high-quality scallops in the world come from Hokkaido and Aomori. In Hokkaido, you can enjoy fishing at the open sea or the rivers. With us, you can head to the sea on a small boat and experience first-hand the lifestyle of local fishermen.
Or, we can arrange a private guided tour to the local harbors. If you are lucky, you may witness an early morning fish auction. Another example of our most loved activities is having a cooking session with the locals, using fish that has been caught the very same day!
Skydiving or whitewater rafting
If you are looking for some adrenaline rush, you might enjoy motor paraglider or skydiving. After the snow in Hokkaido melts around March to April, it is the perfect timing for some white-water rafting at the islands numerous rivers. If you wish to try something new, there are also more novel activities, such as an inflatable kayak called “ducky” or canyoning – also known as canyoneering – an activity where you make your way up and down canyons wearing a dry suit.
If you are interested in excitement of a different kind, you can try out some traditional martial arts. For families with children, learning some ninja skills at a local temple can be a memory or a lifetime!
Leave everything to us
We at Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel understand that modern travelers are looking for authentic experiences that inspire, make them understand themselves and the people around them, something to take them to the next level and open their eyes to the unknown.
With us you do not have to worry about the language barrier or means of transportation. We will arrange everything for you. The invincible combination of nature and culture is now more accessible than ever.
For a tailormade adventure in Hokkaido, Japan please send us an inquiry and we will start to plan your dream vacation!