Home > Around Japan > Rainy Season 2010: Places You Must Visit Top 5 – No.3

Rainy Season 2010: Places You Must Visit Top 5 – No.3

This article was written by me for BiOS Blog on May 21, 2010.

Today we will introduce the no.3 in the Top 5 list of places to visit during the rainy season in Japan.

Hokkaido

Hokkaido is by far Japan’s largest prefecture, consisting of Japan’s entire northern island and its surrounding islets. Hokkaido is cooler than the rest of Japan, and the merciful lack of Japan’s muggy summers and rainy season makes it a very popular domestic destination between May and August. Some of Hokkaido’s inland areas have a continental climate, with large daily and yearly temperature variation.

The name “Hokkaido” means “Way to the North Sea”, and was given to the island after the Meiji restoration. Before that, it was called Ezo, and was mostly populated by the indigenous Ainu.

Hokkaidō has a special status in Japan, both politically (it is not an ordinary prefecture), and in the heart of the Japanese. It is seen as a place a vast wilderness, where winter are bitterer than anywhere else in the country (often dropping below -20°C). Because it only officially became part of Japan in 1868, has little history, place names unheard of anywhere else (often adaptations from Ainu names), Japanese sometimes feel that Hokkaidō is not really Japan, although it belongs to it. Even food is different. Here, people eat lamb (a popular dish is called “Genghis Khan”), which most other Japanese never do.

Hokkaidō has however become indispensable to the Japanese economy and even culture. Most of Japan’s milk and dairy products come from Hokkaido. Japan’s first beer brewery (Sapporo) is also from Hokkaido, and is still one of the country’s most popular.

How to get there:
• Air – Shin Chitose Airport has direct flights with Kansai, Nagoya and Tokyo airports as well as most major cities in Japan. It is also possible to fly in directly from some overseas locations. If you are flying from Europe or North America, it may be cheaper to use Hong Kong or Seoul as a hub. There are buses (70 minutes) and trains (36 minutes) connecting the airport with Sapporo station.

• Train – It is easy but expensive to go to Sapporo by train via the Seikan Tunnel. At this stage there is no shinkansen (the current Tohoku line terminates at Morioka in Iwate prefecture). There is an overnight service from Ueno (Tokyo) to Sapporo via Hakodate – 15 hours 32 minutes at 28,250 yen. Travelling from northern areas of Honshu is a little cheaper. If you have time, ferry is usually the better option.

• Ferry – There are ferries from Niigata, Tsuruga and Maizuru to Otaru (30 minutes to Sapporo by train), and from most of the cities (Nagoya, Tokyo, Sendai etc) to Tomakomai and Muroran. The fare depends on which company you use, but is cheaper than the train and a relaxing way to travel.

• Bus – If comfort and sleep are not a priority, Sapporo has good long-distance highway buses connecting with cities such as Osaka and Tokyo.

For more information about Hokkaido visit:
http://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/

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Alex Kawano.
Official HE Blog Author

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