Destinations

HOKKAIDO: OF SNOW AND ICE

Enjoy the winter in Hokkaido, a land where snow and ice are creating beautiful scenery and offering exciting snow activities.

■Powder Snow

Silky and soft, Hokkaido’s top quality powder snow is waiting for you!

Niseko is a town located in the south-west part of Hokkaido, at the foot of Mt. Niseko-Annupuri and it consists of four ski resorts. The largest among them is NISEKO Mt. RESORT Grand HIRAFU offering 30 different ski courses while another option is the Niseko Village ski resort where you can enjoy nature by sliding through a primeval forest either by snowshoeing, snow-rafting or in a reindeer sleigh. The Village, an area created in 2014 but built in classic/folk “machiya” style architecture (sliding screens, wooden lattice façades etc.) offers an exciting variety of shopping and dining experiences. And if you need even more options, you can also try Annupuri International Ski Area and Hanazono Ski Resort in Niseko.

At Rusutsu Resort and Kiroro Resort, the snow experience becomes more diverse including snowmobiles, dogsleds and even snow Segways!

Furano is at the center of Hokkaido and has attained worldwide fame because of the race held there. Diamond dust (a ground-level cloud composed of tiny ice crystals), night wanderings (thanks to the shuttle bus service) and the Furano Kan-Kan Mura event (including Snow Dome, a bar made of ice) in the enormous grounds of the New Furano Prince Hotel are some of the things the town has to offer.

In the south of Furano there is Tomamu which boasts Hokkaido’s largest ski resort, the Hoshino Resorts Tomamu. Besides the snow and ski activities, it offers the fantastic Ice Village, an attraction unparalleled in the world.

■Snow Activities

Dynamic! Wild! Taste the thrill and exhilaration of sprinting in the snow on a snowmobile or in a snow raft; choose a way depending on your level and your schedule and explore Hokkaido.

For a different kind of exhilaration, beyond the one that comes from a machine, you can also try a dog-sled: the experience of a deep connection with the sled dogs offers a different level of achievement and unity.

■Nature

Feel the deep impact of the ice drift in the Sea of Okhotsk! You can take an ice drift cruise, hitch a ride on the Norokko-go train or even wear an insulated dry suit and actually walk on the ice.

Actual diamond dust is a rare phenomenon not visible unless special environmental conditions are met; the air is sparkling brilliantly as if tiny diamonds are floating in it and it occurs when water vapors existing in the atmosphere sublimate into ice crystals that dance in the air. In Kawayu Onsen’s “Diamond Dust in Kawayu” lighting show, you can have the chance to see an artificial recreation of this splendid phenomenon.

A similar phenomenon is that of “frost flowers” water vapors that turn into ice on the surface of bodies of water. How these silver flowers bloom on Lake Akan’s ice is indeed one of nature’s mysteries.

■Events

Sapporo Snow Festival (“Yuki Matsuri”), Sapporo City, February 5-18
With over 100 mascots, characters and other famous images created of snow and ice, light shows and stage events, Sapporo Snow Festival is Japan’s premier winter event.
http://www.snowfes.com/english/index.html

Otaru Snow Light Path, Otaru City, February 6-14
The snow and the streets of Otaru become illuminated by candle lamps; the retro cityscape gets engulfed into a warm light exuding a romantic ambience.
http://yukiakarinomichi.org/

Star Illumination of Goryokaku, Hakodate City, November 28-February 29
The moat of Hakodate’s star fort will be decorated with 2,000 light bulbs–an enormous star will come into life creating a magnificent sight, best seen from the Goryokaku Tower’s observation room (from 17:00 to 20:00).
http://www.hakobura.jp/stock/event/post-32.html (Japanese version only)

Shiretoko Fantasia, Shari County, February 5-March 12
Held in Utoro Onsen, a phantasmagoria of light, sound and laser reproducing the aurora phenomenon.
http://www.shiretoko.co.jp/plans/aurorafantasy/ (Japanese version only)

■In the Comfort of Winter: Onsen and Snow-viewing

Soak in the hot water, take in the magnificent snow-covered vistas and heal your body and mind.

Yawaraginosato Hoheikyo Onsen (Minami-ku, Sapporo City ☎ 011-598-2410)
Lake Shikotsu Marukoma Onsen (Horobinai, Chitose City ☎ 0123-25-2341)
Sounkyo Onsen (Kamikawa-cho, Kamikawa County ☎ 01658-5-3145)

★Onsen and Snow-viewing: More options★

It’s not just humans who appreciate the joys of snow and onsen...

★ Winter in Hokkaido: Be prepared!

To better enjoy the cold, make sure to dress really warm. For shoes, opt for something with a non-slip sole or, even better, snow boots that are cold and water resistant. (Non-slip soles can be bought at the airport or in the cities’ convenience stores.) Also recommended are down coats for the outer layer and tights or leggings for inside the trousers.

Because of the great difference in temperatures (very cold outside and warm on the inside), prefer to dress in layers (gloves, caps earmuffs etc.) This will allow for better temperature control.

For bags, pretty much any rucksack or shoulder bag allowing you to move your hands freely will do–vinyl bags with zippers that keep the snow out are, of course, most appropriate.

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