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2019.09.13

Your Ultimate Guide to Hokkaido in Late Fall vol. 1

Be Wowed by Vibrant Foliage in a Place Sacred to Hokkaido’s Indigenous People

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Kamui Kotan is a scenic spot listed as one of Japan’s “Top 100 Geological Features” and “Asahikawa Hakkei” (The Eight Views of Asahikawa) situated in Northern Hokkaido.

Known as “the village of God” in the Ainu language, the rough valley was believed by the Ainu (the indigenous inhabitants of Hokkaido) to be a “sacred place where gods live” because of its strong river currents. Now, the site has turned into a mecca for international tourists, where Kamui Kotan Pit Dwellings Ruins, steam locomotive trains, and former Kamui Kotan Station tell the history of Ainu culture as well as both the Meiji Era (1868 – 1912) and the Showa Era (1926 – 1989). Early to mid-October every year marks the best timing to see the autumn leaves turn red and orange and go for a trek through the vividly colored cycling and hiking routes.

Kamui Kotan
Where: Kamui Kotan, Kamui Town, Asahikawa City, Hokkaido
Access: about 30 minutes by Engan bus from JR Asahikawa Station to Kamui Kotan bus stop, then walk for about 10 minutes
Asahikawa Tourist & Convention Association: https://www.atca.jp/kankouspoy/%E7%A5%9E%E5%B1%85%E5%8F%A4%E6%BD%AD/
Travel guide: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/spot/detail.php?id=705&lang=en

Otaru City Turns Sapphire Blue on Winter Nights

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Since winter is just around the corner, Otaru City, the prominent Hokkaido sightseeing spot, is once again jazzing up its attractions with a sapphire charm.

Kicking off on 1 November, “Otaru Yuki Monogatari” (Otaru Snow Story) is a staple four-month long wintery event held by Otaru City. Approximately 10,000 blue LEDs shimmer around Otaru Canal and a series of events are held at Otaru Station and nearby restaurants. The picturesque collaboration of floodlighted brick warehouses and the beautifully illuminated “Blue Canal” are a treat of winter magic. And don’t forget to make a bit of time to head across to the neighboring town of Yoichi for their own “Yoichi Yuki Monogatari” and make the most of Hokkaido’s white fluffy scenery!

Otaru Yuki Monogatari
Where:  spots around Otaru City, Hokkaido
Date: 1 November 2019 – 16 February 2020
Access: about 30 minutes from JR Sapporo Station by Rapid Airport train
Website: https://www.snowstory.info/
Travel guide: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/spot/detail.php?id=344&lang=en

A Heart-Shaped Lake in Central Hokkaido!?

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From this perspective, you can imagine why Lake Toyoni in the town of Erimo is taking the social media world by storm.

Lovingly called “Heart Lake” by locals, Lake Toyoni is a mysterious and miraculous freshwater lake gifted by Mother Nature. From early to late October, its emerald green surface stands out from the brightly colored leaves in the surrounding virgin forests, offering a lovely autumn-exclusive contrast of gold, red, and blue that will have your heart going pitter-patter.

Sign up for the very limited-time helicopter tour to admire its aesthetic from up in the skies. The lake is famous for being featured in a commercial for Hokkaido’s all-time classic souvenir “Shiroi Koibito.” We hope your camera is ready!

Lake Toyoni
Where: 54 Meguro, Erimo Town, Horoizumi County, Hokkaido
Access: about 2 hours by car from JR Samani Station
Erimo Town Sightseeing Navi: https://www.town.erimo.lg.jp/kankou/index.html
Helicopter Cruising Experience: http://erimotoyoniko.jp/ (Japanese only, so use a translation tool!)

Note: The Heart shape can’t be viewed from either the lakeside or from a hill, so make sure to book your helicopter tour!

Spend Your Winter Holiday with Endangered Eagles

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If you happen to be exploring Central Hokkaido during the winter months, the eagle watching program held from early November to late January in the town of Urakawa is your chance to experience Hokkaido’s wild nature for yourself.

With a population of between 1,500 and 2,000 in Hokkaido, Steller’s sea eagles are  an endangered eagle species that are designated as a Japanese special natural treasures. The Stellere’s sea eagle, and its cousin the white-tailed eagle, come to Hokkaido every winter to find nesting spots. For all the birders out there, this offers an opportunity to not only spot these massive eagles with a spotting scope, but also snapping photographs of clusters of eagles out in full force. When the numbers peak during a short period from late November to December, the  rate of encountering the eagles is said to be almost 100%. Talk about a high encounter rate!

This program even comes with an English-speaking guide, so why not join the other “early birds” this winter and get your bird-on!

Eagle Watching Program
Where: Urakawa Town, Urakawa County, Hokkaido
Date: from early November to late January
Hours: 6:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. (lasts about 2 hours in the morning)
Access to Urakawa: about 3 hours 45 minutes by bus from JR Sapporo Station
Urakawa Tourism Association: https://www.urakawa-tabi.com/eagle-watching-tour/
Meeting place: Urakawa Tourism Association (2-27 Odori, Urakawa Town, Urakawa County, Hokkaido)

Feel free to contact Urakawa Tourism Association if you need free pick-up service to the meeting place
Visitors staying at “Hotel Urakawa Inn” or “Urakawa Yushun Village AERU” may also contact Urakawa Tourism Association via booking@urakawa-tabi.com

An Unforgettably Shocking Dancing Squid Donburi

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Try not to get too grossed out by it; this championship-winning dish called “Katsu Ika Odori-don” (dancing squid rice bowl) by restaurant “Ikkatei Tabiji” blew the competition away on the 150th Anniversary of the Opening of Hakodate Port.

Find this seafood expert in Hakodate Morning Market and you’ll partake in one of the most peculiar rice bowl dishes not only in the area, but anywhere in Japan. Bring your appetite when you visit. The squids are fished out of nearby Hakodate waters in the morning and served fresh-to-order, arranged on a bed of rice. Pour a bit of soy sauce on it and.. it starts dancing! So prepare your camera before you prepare your chopsticks. The squid’s muscles react to the sodium-rich seasoning and make the arms twitch and dance. The shocking (and somewhat freaky) scene has attracted media attention from across the world. It’s really no wonder this blew up all over social media.

Ikkatei Tabiji
Where: Donburi Yokocho, 9-15 Wakamatsu Town, Hakodate City, Hokkaido
Hours: 6:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. 
Access: about 2 minutes walk from JR Hakodate Station
Website: http://hakodate-asaichi.net/ (Japanese only, so use a translation tool!)

One of Japan’s Best Night Views: a Must-See in your Lifetime

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Designated as one of the “New Three Major Night Views of Japan” in 2015, the night view of Sapporo City is not to be missed during your Hokkaido journey. There are plenty of viewing spots throughout the city, but since you’re in such a world-class, glittering cosmopolitan center, why not scale the mountain and snag an aerial VIP seat?

Take the 10-minute ropeway and mini cable car ride to the Moiwa mountaintop observation deck. At an altitude of 531m, you’ll see the vast Ishikari plain and Ishikari Bay spanning across the horizon behind the Sapporo downtown, while the cityscape is lit up with countless sparkling lights below. We recommend taking a date to this romantic spot and ringing the “Fortune Bell,” beloved by couples for bringing their relationship good luck, and then sit down for a meal at an atmospheric diner overlooking this stellar skyline from the highest point in the city.

Mount Moiwa
Where: Fushimi 5-chome 3-7, Chuo Ward, Sapporo City, Hokkaido
Access: Take a free shuttle bus from Sapporo Streetcar Ropeway Iriguchi Tram Stop, then head for mountaintop by a 10-minute ropeway and mini cable car ride from Moiwayama Sanroku Station
Ropeway operating hours: 10 : 30 a.m. – 10 : 00 p.m. (from April to January), 11 : 00 a.m. – 10 : 00 p.m. (from December to March)
Mt. Moiwa Ropeway: http://moiwa.sapporo-dc.co.jp/
Travel guide: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/spot/detail.php?id=904&lang=en

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