Top Things to do in Hokkaido in Winter
Hokkaido is Japan's second largest and northernmost island. It is one of the coldest regions of Japan and is known for having long, snowy winters. Because of its unique climate, there are a lot of famous Hokkaido winter attractions! If you’re planning to visit Hokkaido in the winter, make sure to check out some of these activities, sights, and meals!
Skiing and Snowboarding
Hokkaido is known for its abundance of snow, so naturally, it hosts many ski resorts. For skiers and snowboarders, Hokkaido is the ultimate winter destination. There are over 100 ski resorts in Hokkaido, and it is famed for having the perfect powdery snow for skiing. Some of Hokkaido's resorts are open from November to as late as May, which is a much longer season than most resorts offer. The fact that it snows so often also means that visitors have a better chance of experiencing fresh, untouched slopes at Hokkaido than in other areas, making it the perfect spot for skiing and snowboarding!
While Hokkaido is known for its cold weather and snow, it is also well known for being home to many natural hot springs! These hot springs are known as onsen in Japan, and Noboribetsu is one of the most popular onsen towns in Japan. Noboribetsu has seven different types of hot springs, each one known for having different beneficial properties. Visiting a hot spring town in Hokkaido is the perfect winter activity. What better way to warm up than in a beautiful, natural hot spring while enjoying the scenic views!
Sapporo Snow Festival
The Sapporo Snow Festival is one of the best things to do in Hokkaido! The festival began in 1950 and was intended to be a small event, but over 50 thousand people attended and it became an annual event and one of Sapporo's largest attractions. The festival takes place during one week in February, and it features incredible snow and ice sculptures along with fun winter activities like ice skating and ice bars, and of course, delicious festival foods. There is something for everyone to enjoy at this festival!
Otaru Snow Light Path Festival
The Snow Light Path Festival is an annual winter festival held in the port city Otaru. Similar to the Sapporo Snow Festival, Otaru is decorated with snow sculptures around town and the festival also runs in February, making it easy to visit both festivals during your trip to Hokkaido. What makes this festival special is the amount of lights and lanterns spread throughout the city. Especially during the nighttime, these lights reflect on the snow and water and transform Otaru into a stunning winter wonderland!
Crab and Sake
There are plenty of great sights in Hokkaido during the winter, but there are also some special foods and drinks to enjoy during the season as well! Hokkaido is known for having delicious seafood, and crab is in season during the winter. King crab, snow crab, and hairy crab are the three varieties you can find in Hokkaido, and you can enjoy them in many different dishes! Another specialty of Hokkaido is sake, which was traditionally brewed in naturally cold temperatures making this the perfect climate for it. There are several sake breweries that you can tour in Hokkaido to see the process in action, and of course, you can also try some samples!
Icebreaker Ship Cruise
Among all the things to do in Hokkaido in the winter, setting sail on an icebreaker ship is one of the most adventurous by far! Visitors can board a ship cutting through the drift ice which is a breathtaking experience on its own, but there are also some fantastic sight-seeing opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts aboard icebreaker ships. Many varieties of wild birds can be spotted, as well as animals like seals, ezo red foxes, and yezo deer.
Some of the most unique Hokkaido winter attractions are the ice villages you can visit! There are two major ice villages that appear each winter in Hokkaido, and they are exactly what they sound like—villages made entirely of ice! One of these ice villages is located on Lake Shikaribetsu, and features an ice concert hall, an ice chapel, and an ice bar. The other ice village is located in the Hoshino Resort in Tomamu, and it features an ice café, ice bar, ice slide, and an ice skating rink! Everything from the tables, chairs, and decorations are made of ice, and these villages are beautiful works of art!