5 Must-See Winter Illuminations in Hokkaido – HOKKAIDO LOVE!

Sapporo White Illumination

The “Sapporo White Illumination ” is a major illumination event that is held in various areas around Sapporo city every year, the venues including Odori Park and Sapporo Station. First held in 1981, the ever popular Sapporo White Illumination has even been recognized as one of Japan’s three best illuminations. Held just as snow begins to settle around the city, this yearly event heralds the start of Sapporo’s winter season. 

The dreamy sight of Odori Park lit up by a vast assortment of small and large light-based installation pieces is a must-see! A variety of different spots around the city are lit up as well, with trees wrapped in twinkling fairy lights lining the roads around central Sapporo.

■Major venues: 

Odori Site, Ekimaedori Site, Minami Ichijodori Site, Sapporo Kita 3-Jo Plaza (Akapla) Site, JR Sapporo Station South Exit Plaza Site

Hakodate Illumination

Every winter, Hakodate’s Motomachi area is illuminated with 1.6 million lights. Hachimanzaka, Nijukkenzaka and Kaiko Street light up to create a rare, mystical sight, captivating both locals and visitors alike. From the highest point of Hachimanzaka, you have a full view of the port, with the street leading up to it which is adorned by colors and lights. Nijukkenzaka’s wide cobblestone road is also ideal for a winter night walk, as the warm lights of the illumination contrast the cold temperatures. Finally, Kaiko Street, located just outside the East exit of JR Hakodate Station, is a 1.5km street that leads to Hakodate’s red-brick warehouses. Along the way, you can see the various architectures such as the illuminated Hakodate Meijikan, beautifully decorated for the season.

From December 1 to February 2, from sunset to 10 pm. (Sunset around this time of year falls between 4 and 5 pm.)

Hachimanzaka: 1-min walk from Suehirocho Station
Nijukkenzaka: 5-min walk from Jujigai Station
Kaiko St.: 3-min walk from Jujigai Station

■Spot Introduction:

Illumination Tunnel at Lake Toya Onsen

The view of Toyako, or Lake Toya, is considered to be one of the three best sceneries of Hokkaido. An especially recommended area for those who visit between November and March is the Lake Toya Hot Spring area, where a beautiful illumination tunnel appears. About 400,000 light bulbs are used to make the tunnel, transforming the onsen area at nighttime. Also, don’t forget to take a photograph at the “TOYA” sign, a popular photo spot among those who visit the area.

■Venue: Toyako Onsen Nigiwai Hiroba

■Illumination Time: 18:00-22:00

■Access: About 2 hours from Hakodate to Toya by Muroran Line or Hakodate Line. About 2 hours from JR Sapporo Station to Toya by express train


The “Blue Canal” of Otaru

Otaru is one of the most mesmerizing places for travelers to be in Hokkaido, offering a photogenic townscape no matter where you look. A regular sightseeing tour of the city is a walk along the Otaru Canal, which lights up in the winter thanks to 10,000 blue LED lights. These lights, reflected on the white snow along the river banks, make for a beautiful landscape and a romantic atmosphere. Also part of the winter celebrations is the wine tower. Located in the canal plaza, it stands tall, built with 2000 wine glasses. There, you’ll also find a glass float tree, very reminiscent of the holiday season in the area.

Though Otaru makes a perfect day trip, why not stay a night to enjoy the evening illuminations along the canal?

■Location: Otaru Canal, between Asakusa and Chuo bridges

■Access: A 10-minute walk from JR Otaru Station

■Address: Minato-cho, Otaru, Hokkaido


Goryokaku Hoshi-no-Yume (“Dream of Stars”)

Goryokaku, one of the most recognizable attractions in Hakodate, is a star-shaped fort located at the heart of the city.  In winter, the fort and its surrounding area is illuminated by about 2,000 lights, a truly beautiful sight that is only available during this time. The event is called “Goryokakyu Hoshi no Yume” (or Goryokaku Stars of Dreams). In early winter, the lights will be reflected on the moats surrounding the fort, but when these freeze and snow accumulates, the park becomes a true winter wonderland. 

If you want to see the park’s 5-point star shape from above, climb up the nearby Goryokaku Tower for the best view. Visitors can enjoy the view from the Tower until 7pm during the illumination period, and there is even a small discount on the admission fees starting from 5pm.

■Address: Fort Goryokaku, Goryokaku Tower (Goryokaku Park), Goryokaku-cho, Hakodate

City tram: Get off at Goryokoku Koen-mae Station and walk for 15 minutes; Hakodate bus: From Hakodate Station, take the #25, #19 or #33 busses and get off at Goryokaku Koen Iriguchi. From there, walk 10 minutes.

■Spot Introduction: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/destinations/the-goryokaku-fortress-a-shining-northern-star

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Central Hokkaido/Sapporo /Southern Hokkaido / Hakodate