HOKKAIDO

Hokkaido continues to represent the untamed wilderness with many great national parks. For many visitors the scenery resembles northern Europe, with rice paddies and concrete warrens replacing rolling fields and faux-German cottages. However, the ubquitous hotspring resorts in much of the island serve as a reminder that you are still in Japan.

One of Japan’s newest and nicest cities, Sapporo’s population has grown from seven in 1857 to nearly 2 million today. Being a new city, especially by Japanese standards, means it has little in the way of traditional architecture and the like of cities such as Kyoto. But what it lacks in “Japanese-ness” it makes up for with its lovely open, tree-filled boulevards to enjoy in summer and excellent snow (and facilities to cope with said snow) in the long winter.
…WikiTravel



Clock Tower (時計台 Tokeidai), (Close to Odori Station.). This rather diminutive building has become a symbol of Sapporo, mostly by being the oldest building still standing. It was constructed in 1878 for the Sapporo Agricultural College (now the Hokkaido University) and would not look out of place in “Smalltown U.S.A.” The inside has a small retrospective of its history. Visitor beware, as this is for some reason a mecca for Japanese tourists coming to Sapporo who feel that no trip to Sapporo would be complete without a photo in front of the Tokeidai, but was actually recently rated as Japan’s third “most disappointing” tourist attraction! ¥200.


Ishiya Chocolate Factory. The chocolate factory has an incredibly corny, but fun, tour building up to a view of the actual chocolate making floor, and ending with a random toy museum. Also there are two restaurants, a souvenir store, and an hourly robot show complete with annoying music. Famous for its white chocolate, which is sold under the brand “White Lovers” (白い恋人 shiroi koibito), and is only available in Hokkaido. There is also a cake buffet available at the restaurant on the top floor for “¥1,500” but reservations must be made 3 days in advance. ¥600.


Odori Park. Sapporo’s most famous park. It is in the center of town and is considered to be a symbol of Sapporo. Although quite narrow (one might argue that it is a nice boulevard), the park is quite long, stretching over fifteen blocks across downtown Sapporo. Filled with numerous flowers, trees, and fountains during the summer, Odori Park provides a welcome respite from the maddening crowds of the surrounding city.


Sapporo Snow Festival (雪祭り Yuki Matsuri). First week of Feb. This is Sapporo’s largest event. The festival is best known for the ice sculpture competition attracting artists from around the world, competing to create the largest and most elaborate artworks from ice and snow. The festival is focused on Odori Koen, in the centre of Sapporo. It consists of a combination of large-scale replicas and artistic sculptures; children-aimed attractions; and a separate section for world-wide competitors (where you can see a wide range of smaller artistic sculptures). The festival should be enjoyed both in the day — but particularly at night when the sculptures (especially the larger ones) are lit up. When the weather is warmer and there’s a bit of melting, the smaller sculptures are literally remade every night to ensure that they are in perfect condition the next day. Book accommodation early, because Sapporo gets booked out during the festival. …WikiTravel

HOKKAIDO NEWS

21 Aug

20 million foreigners have visited Japan so far this year. It’s the earliest in any year this milestone has been reached.
(NHK)

18 Aug

The first of 2 new government planes has been delivered to Japan ahead of their debut next year.
(NHK)

10 Aug

Hokkaido Prefectural Police on Tuesday arrested an officer for exposing himself to women in Sapporo earlier this year, reports Jiji Press (tokyoreporter.com)

7 Aug

Imported bluefin tuna are flooding in Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, amid sluggish domestic supplies, including of renowned tuna from Oma, Aomori Prefecture, due to tighter fishing controls. (Jiji)

6 Aug

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko attended on Sunday a ceremony to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Japan’s northernmost main island being named Hokkaido. (Jiji)

4 Aug

Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko started their three-day tour of Hokkaido on Friday, which will probably be their last visit to the northernmost Japan prefecture before the Emperor’s abdication in late April next year. (Jiji)

31 Jul

Japan’s Defense Ministry has finished withdrawing missile interceptor units deployed around the country.
(NHK)

18 Jul

Many retailers and consumers in Japan are welcoming the free trade pact with the European Union. They are expecting it to lower prices for a range of gourmet products and provide a boost to the economy.
(NHK)

15 Jul

On Rishiri Island in the northern Japan prefecture of Hokkaido, people are on alert after a brown bear has recently been spotted for the first time in 106 years, ahead of the summer tourism season. (Jiji)

13 Jul

Law enforcement has accused a married couple of cultivating marijuana and possessing a special form of the same banned drug at their residence in the town of Tobetsu, reports the Hokkaido Shimbun. (tokyoreporter.com)

12 Jul

Japan’s population has fallen for 9 years in a row, while the capital, Tokyo, keeps growing.
(NHK)

5 Jul

Some 130 people who had been stranded at a hot spring resort in Hokkaido were rescued Wednesday after torrential rains triggered landslides in the area the previous day. (Japan Times)

30 Jun

The launch of what would have been Japan’s first privately developed rocket to reach outer space failed Saturday after it burst into flames seconds after liftoff, the Hokkaido-based developer said.
(Japan Times)

28 Jun

Japan’s Lawson will do away with the delivery of fresh food to online shoppers at the end of August, as rising costs and slow demand have rendered the service unsustainable. (Nikkei)

27 Jun

The possibility of a powerful earthquake of lower 6 or above on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 occurring in the next 30 years has sharply increased in the eastern part of Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, a government report showed Tuesday. (Jiji)

25 Jun

Japan Railway companies plan to begin offering free Wi-Fi on all Shinkansen lines during the current fiscal year that ends in March.
(NHK)

22 Jun

The number of people who got lost in mountains in Japan stood at 3,111 last year, its highest level on record, police data showed Thursday. (Jiji)

21 Jun

A dinosaur fossil that may be part of a tyrannosaurus has been found in Ashibetsu, Hokkaido, northern Japan, two Hokkaido museums said Wednesday. (Jiji)

15 Jun

The number of applications to conduct “minpaku” lodging business under a new Japanese law totaled 2,707 as of a week before the minpaku law goes into effect on Friday, according to Japan Tourism Agency officials. (Jiji)

4 Jun

Hundreds of runners have carried small bells to scare away bears during a marathon on a small island in northern Japan.
(NHK)

28 May

A pair of famous Yubari brand melons sold for an all-time high of 3.2 million yen in this season’s first auction at the wholesale market in Sapporo, Hokkaido, on Saturday. (Jiji)

25 May

Chinese money is pouring into Hokkaido at a much greater scale than imagined. In his recent visit to the island prefecture, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attended a forum of Japanese prefectural and Chinese provincial governors in Sapporo on May 11, but a Chinese diplomatic source said he was just using the meeting as an excuse for touring the island. (Japan Times)

20 May

Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands, is latitudinally different enough from the rest of the country that its seasons change later. So while the Tokyo area is getting ready for the early-summer rainy season to start, spring is finally getting into full swing in Hokkaido. (Japan Today)

17 May

A Japanese court gave three Taiwanese women suspended sentences Wednesday after finding them guilty of attempting to smuggle gold worth 50 million yen into the country by hiding it in their bras. (Japan Today)

14 May

Women are banned from entering the ring in professional sumo, but the rule doesn’t apply to a town in northern Japan that holds a women-only sumo event. (NHK)