The Obihiro/Tokachi area is known for its boundless swaths of flat land along the Tokachi Plains. At spots like the Tokachi Millennium Forest, you can begin to appreciate the unbelievably vast scale of nature in this region. Furthermore, these days you don’t even have to worry about the weather. At the recently opened Naitai Terrace, you can take in the view from the comforts of the interior café regardless of how cold it happens to be outside. Naturally, if the weather does cooperate, the region offers a range of activities to experience nature. From peering along the endless plains on a hot air balloon to enjoying a relaxing canoe experience on a quaint lake, if you are looking for nature you won’t be disappointed here.
Tokachi Millennium Forest
The Tokachi Millennium Forest is a truly fascinating project: as its name alludes to, it aims to be a completely sustainable forest for future generations over 1000 years. Inside the massive space, you will find four gardens, “Earth Garden”, “Meadow Garden”, “Forest Garden” and “Farm Garden”. With regards to the former two, while the first one aims to stimulate your curiosity through designed landforms, the second is composed of over 35,000 perennials as well as ornamental shrubbery to create a rustic but intimate atmosphere. Especially, the environmental considerations that became the base of the garden design have gathered attention from around the world: it won the SGD Award 2012 in the UK. It is a place to visit which offers a wide range of activities such as horse trekking, cheese making, or Segway guided tours.
S10 Haobi, Shimizu, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido
Tokachi Nature Center
At the Tokachi Nature Center, there is an activity to enjoy for every season. From hot air balloon boarding and canoeing in the summer to snowshoeing and snowmobile rides in the winter, the park can be enjoyed all year round. If the weather is right, one highlight is definitely the hot air balloon experience. These are scheduled early in the morning, so you can enjoy the beautiful scenery in perfect lighting. The picturesque scene includes the nearby Tokachi River, the wildly colorful fields which almost resemble a plaid shirt, as well as the Hidaka Mountain Range in the background. The hot air balloon ride can be enjoyed from age 2 onwards, making it fun for the entire family.
12-1-12 Tokachigawaonsenminami, Otofuke, Kato-gun, Hokkaido
If you make it to Tokachigaoka Park, be sure to check out the nearby viewing platform, accessible via a short hike up the adjacent hill. From here, another spectacular view awaits, featuring the Tokachi River and nearby hot spring facilities and, on a good day, the Hidaka Mountains in the background. This spot is famous for two reasons: the magnificent sunsets and the low fog engulfing the river, which can be seen in the dead of winter. The latter phenomenon is known as “Kearashi” in Japanese and occurs when the temperatures drop far below zero.
6 Tokachigawaonsen, Otofuke, Kato-gun, Hokkaido
Rikubetsu Space Earth Science Museum
The small town of Rikubetsu is known as the coldest place in Japan. The extreme temperatures in this area make the winter air clean and crisp, the perfect environment for astronomical observation. The Ministry of Environment went as far as to pronounce it the “town of starry skies”. The Rikubetsu Space Earth Science Museum features the largest reflecting telescope in Japan at 115cm, in addition to several smaller glass telescopes and helioscopes. Observation is open to the public, so be sure to enjoy a truly breathtaking stargazing experience if you are in the area.
Enbetsu, Rikubetsu-cho, Ashoro-gun, Hokkaido
Lake Shikaribetsu Nature Center
Lake Shikaribetsu is the only natural lake in the Daisetsuzan National Park. Situated at 810 meters above sea level, it is also the highest lake in Hokkaido. In winter, when the lake freezes over, the Shikaribetsu Igloo Village is opened, which features popular outdoor hot baths in the perfect winter environment. At the Lake Shikaribetsu Nature Center, offerings include tour guides for canoeing the lake as well as hiking nearby trails. The mountains reflected in the crystal-clear water make for a scene that is not to be missed!
Shikaribetsu Kohan, Kitaurimaku, Shikaoi-cho, Kato-gun, Hokkaido
The vast plains of the Tokachi area combined with the pleasant summer temperatures make the region perfect for cycling. Indeed, road bike enthusiasts visit from all over Japan, with experienced riders adding the nearby mountain passes to their route for an added challenge. Throughout the area, you will encounter bike-friendly accommodations, and the easily accessible parks and other tourist hot spots make Tokachi ideal for a prolonged bike tour.
The Naitai Kogen Farm in the town of Kamishihoro is the largest public ranch in Japan at 1700 hectares. Over 2000 cows roam the land freely, lending a unique touch to yet another location with an incredible landscape view. In 2019, the Naitai Terrace opened on the ranch, featuring an indoor area with huge glass windows allowing visitors to enjoy the view even when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Furthermore, the Terrace also features a café, where you can grab a hamburger for lunch or enjoy an ice cream made from locally sourced milk.
128-5 Kamiotofuke, Kamishihoro, Kato-gun, Hokkaido