This article first appeared in our old blog on September 22, 2013.
Hokkaido is the northernmost and the second largest island of Japan. It is considered the least developed part of Japan. Hokkaido island is surrounded by Russia, the Japanese Sea, the Othotsk Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Like other parts of Japan, Hokkaido experiences a lot of earthquakes and has many active volcanoes.
As of today, there are seven airports in Hokkaido but only one is available for international flights.
However, because our flight was chartered, we were permitted to land at Obihiro Airport, from where we started our tour of five days around Hokkaido, which ended with us leaving from Hakodate Airport.
What To See in Hokkaido?
Hokkaido is well known for its clean, fresh atmosphere, beautiful flowers, and great mountains. There are many undisturbed forests in Hokkaido. Many untouched natural areas were made into National Parks. There are six National Parks, five Quasi National Parks, and twelve Prefectural National Parks in Hokkaido.
High quality seafood as a result of optimum sea water temperature for sea life, is another attraction. The most well known delicacy is sea urchin. There are also lots of crabs, squids, salmon and scallop. Many are sold as dried or processed products if you want to bring some home.
Almost half the milk production in Japan comes from Hokkaido. About 60% for fresh consumption, the rest is processed into butter, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. We were served fresh warm milk at the airport while queuing at the immigration! That’s why one of Hokkaido’s best souvenirs is sandwich cookie with butter filling.
Hokkaido’s produce are also of great quality due to the fertile land, excellent atmosphere and the relatively low population. The most well known are potatoes, corn and melon. I tried all three and they were awesome!
Ramen (Japanese noddles) stands are everywhere in Hokkaido. Japan is well known for it’s ramen, but Hokkaido’s is the best! Depends on where you have it, there are different ramen flavors, such as miso ramen or soy sauce ramen.
Drinking is part of Japanese culture. They socialize and do business while drinking. Unlike other parts of the world, there are few incidences of drunkenness and violence when the Japanese drink in social or business gatherings. Alcoholic beverages can be purchased in any vending machine, so there is no age limitation there. 70% of the alcoholic beverages sold are beer. Beer is made of water, malt, and hops (act as preservative and is responsible for the bitter taste of beer). Hops contain a little lupulin, an anti-anxiety substance similar to marijuana. Hops are planted in abundance in Hokkaido. The first beer produced in Japan and the best beer is from Hokkaido. Two of the best are Sapporo and Asahi beer.
Another typical culture aspect of Japan are public baths. People take baths together, naked. There are more than 3,000 onsen (hot springs) across Japan. Almost all onsens are made into public baths. Onsens are now one of the main attractions of Japan tourism and the term onsen expands to all public baths. There are outdoor and indoor onsens.