Southern Hokkaido History Tour
by HTIT team
We’d like to share and introduce a few interesting characteristics of Hokkaido! As you probably know, Hokkaido is quite popular for its breathtaking nature, such as Taisetsu National Park. It’s the largest National Park in Japan, which includes the Shiretoko World Heritage Site, famous for its abundance of wildlife. However, please keep in mind that Hokkaido also has a unique history and culture that is very different to other parts of Japan!
Today we’d like to introduce our Southern Hokkaido Itinerary, which is quite fitting for first-time visitors looking for an unforgettable adventure in Hokkaido. Of course, it’s fun to visit places like bustling fish markets, famous landmarks and stunning night views of the city accessible by ropeways. However, the itinerary we have carefully crafted is an experience of Hokkaido from a slightly different point of view.
Around 15,000 years ago, the ice age ended and the temperatures in Hokkaido began to increase. The island gradually acquired four seasons and became more inhabitable. In recent times, ancient artifacts and remains have been discovered from the Jomon Era including clay figures called, “Doguu,” which have been declared as a national treasure of Minami Kayabe. In the city of Date, you can also find the ancient shell mounds called, “Kaizuka.” Enjoy exploring the interesting artifacts and remains, and learn how the local people used to live, hunt and eat. You’ll be amazed at how the locals of the past adapted to their natural surroundings and the harsh changes in climate.
We cannot leave out the Ainu Culture when talking about the history of Hokkaido. Ainu people used to live near the ocean and rivers where they had a fresh flow of salmon. Not only did they eat the salmon, they also made sophisticated clothes and winter shoes out of the salmon skins. Come and experience making hand crafted shoes and taste a fresh salmon lunch prepared in the Ainu way of the past.
Hokkaido was able to flourish thanks to a boom in herring fishing. 120 years ago, loads of herring fish were caught off the coast of the Sea of Japan. At that time, the town of Esashi served as a port where lots of herring fish were prepared for shipping to Edo and Osaka. The people of Hokkaido sent herring fish and kelp in return for various goods, including salt and sake. There is a street in Esashi called, “Inishie Kaido,” where many nostalgic historical buildings still remain. The buildings where built for the herring businesses, which include old warehouses, townhouses and merchant houses. Here you can enjoy taking a stroll with a local guide and even try herring soba noodles! The “kombu” (kelp) was fished in the nearby town of Shikabe. Have fun visiting a fishing spot on a local fisherman’s boat followed by a fun cooking experience where you’ll get to cook kombu with the friendly local fishermen’s wives. They know the best way to cook the kelp!
Towards the end of the Edo era, Hakodate was opened as a large trading port. It was around this time that many foreigners started living near Mt. Hakodate. These days, Mt. Hakodate has become a very popular night view spot, and quite a unique area with its Japanese and western style buildings existing together in spectacular contrast. In an area known as “Motomachi,” you can see various churches and temples that were built right next to each other! The open-minded people in Hakodate learned the skills and techniques of western architecture, and even built houses with the first floor Japanese and the second floor in western style.
Enjoy this wonderful tour where you’ll learn about the unique history of Hokkaido and its multicultural surprises!