《What image do you have with Hokkaido?》
In a few decades, the number of visitors from abroad to Hokkaido has increased more and more. When you plan to travel or live in Hokkaido, many of you might think of Sapporo (the prefectural of Hokkaido), Hakodate (the third largest city in Hokkaido), Asahikawa (the second largest city in Hokkaido), or Otaru (famous for a beautiful canal.)
It is well known that it snows much and is very cold in winter in Hokkaido. However, temperature and amount of snowfall varies from area to area even in Hokkaido, and lives are very different among each area. Food also varies from area to area and from season to season. We call “Shun” in Japanese for the best time to have or to eat something. I would introduce more areas for your second visit in Hokkaido to explore deeper world.
One of the most enjoyable activities in winter should be starwatching in Hokkaido. As you know, stars can be seen more clearly and beautifully in colder and quieter places. Recommended places are the following.
#1: Bihoro Pass
Bihoro Pass is located in Okhotsk area (Northeast of Hokkaido) on the way from Kitami City to Kushiro City, and it has a “Michi-no-Eki” (roadside station) which is popular among people to have a short break. The scenery under eyes from Bihoro Pass during daytime is also high recommended, and the sky during nighttime will freeze your eyes especially in winter as it did my eyes!
(Reference: Gurutto Panorama Bihoro Pass http://www.hokkaido-michinoeki.jp/en/michi-no-eki/263/ )
#2: Tokachi-Dake (Mt. Tokachi-Dake) Bougaku-Dai (viewing platform)
Tokachi-Dake is a mountain located in the middle part of Hokkaido on the way from Asahikawa to Furano (famous for lavenders.) Some people are eager to climb the mountain, and you can just drop at the viewing platform by a car to put yourself in the starry heavens.
You can access there from Biei Town with dropping at Shirogane Onsenn (hot springs.)
You can access there also from Kamifurano Town with dropping at Tokachi-Dake Onsenn (hot springs.)
#3: Mashu-Ko (Lake Mashu)
Lake Mashu is located in eastern part of Hokkaido which is on the way from Kitami City to Kushiro City; Bihoro Pass leads to Lake Mashu and Kawayu Onsenn (the best hot springs in Hokkaido.) Lake Mashu is the most transparent lake in Japan (the second in the world) and well known as a mysterious lake which doesn’t show itself so often because of fog around it. Most visitors visit there during daytime, but you should not miss the starry heavens as well. Fortunately, you can participate in a starwatching activity which is held by tour agencies in Mashu –Ko (Lake Mashu.)
If you know about hot springs in Hokkaido, you might think of Noboribetsu, Jouzannkei, or Toya-Ko. According to a specialist about hot springs in Hokkaido, the followings are also ranked high that I also have bathed in.
#1: Kawayu Onsenn
If we call Noboribetsu Onsenn the king of the western Hokkaido, we should call Kawayu Onsenn the king of eastern Hokkaido. Some hotels are available, and it is recommended to bathe in the springs several times by staying overnight there.
#2: Shiobetsu Tsuru-Tsuru Onsenn
Shiobetsu Onsenn is located near Kitami City. If you drive from Asahikawa to Kitami City, it is recommended to drop in there to make your skin smooth as silk as Tsuru-Tsuru means smooth.
#3: Niseko Yumoto-Onsenn (Kouryu Sokushin Center Yuki-Chichi-Bu)
If you like skiing or snowboarding, you might have heard Niseko area before. Niseko is popular as well as for hot springs, and the water is ranked high. There are several hot springs in Niseko area, and the best recommended one is Yumoto-Onsenn (usually called Yuki-Chichi-Bu Onsenn.) Kouryu Sokushin means like community. The most unique point about Yuki-Chichi-Bu Onsenn is that it has a bath filled with mud; the mud is said to be good for your skin to be spread on. It is available only for women. Open-air bath is very relaxing for you to be surrounded by green during summer and by white during winter.
《Green or white?》
Hokkaido is worth visiting in all the seasons. If your first visit was in green season, try to visit here in white season for the next time. If you have experienced typical tour in Hokkaido, try to do the things introduced above. Your image about Hokkaido will be changed, and you will like Hokkaido more. I wish you will be the good guide for the tourists in Hokkaido.