Your Ultimate Guide to Hokkaido in Late Fall vol. 2
Hideaway Hot Spring a Short Hop Away in Sapporo
Hokkaido is well-known for onsen that are surrounded by wide open nature. But who might guess that right on the outskirts of the metropolitan city of Sapporo is an onsen paradise?
Head off to Jozankei Onsen in Southern Sapporo for an onsen hideaway. It’s just a quick one-hour bus ride away! Thanks to its easy access from downtown Sapporo the site is a veritable onsen mecca, drawing 1.2 million tourists annually. Travelers can experience a wide range of leisure activities like going for lovely nature walks, and taking historic tours. Or for the more adventurous among you check out the rafting or the skiing in winter. Those of you who just want to kick back and relax can try staying at an old-fashioned ryokan. The Jozankei area is blessed with bright reds and yellows in the fall and the winter brings with it silvery snow. But the most rejuvenating part of all must be taking a dip in one of the 56 different source springs of sodium chloride that make up the onsen. You’re certain to have a memorable soak in an onsen that still looks the same as it did when it first opened in 1866.
Better yet, from now until 20 October, 2019, see the “Jozankei Nature Luminarie, Secret Night Park” light up the night. Walk around wearing a traditional Japanese yukata and admire the illuminated valley and the Futami suspension bridge.
Address: Jozankei Onsen, Minami Ward, Sapporo City, Hokkaido
Access: about 60 minutes by Jotetsu Bus Kappa Liner from JR Sapporo Station
HTO guide: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/event/detail.php?id=645&lang=en
A Sip of Hokkaido Greek Yogurt
Hokkaido is a Japanese agricultural paradise and has so many mouthwatering options to choose from. So why not start with something a little new at “F YOGURT” in Fukagawa City?
The name kind of gives it away, but “F YOGURT” is the first Greek yogurt café in Hokkaido, newly opened in 2017. With an original menu revolving around the yogurt fermented at low temperatures, this unpretentious shop offer creative high-protein low-calorie recipes to dairy fans. Try their freshly made creamy, sweet and sour yogurt while overlooking the beautiful rice fields of the Sorachi Plains. Our main recommendation, though, is their luxurious apple pie and yogurt toast.
Address: 777 Otoe Aza, Otoe Town, Fukagawa City, Hokkaido
Open: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (open only on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays
Access: about 20 minutes by car from JR Fukagawa Station
Website: https://f-yogurt.com/ (Japanese only, so use your favorite translation tool)
The Soul-Soothing Mysterious Cobalt Hues of Aoi-ike
If you’re an Apple “Mac” user, you might just be familiar with the wallpaper of “Aoi-ike”, the blue pond shining brightly in Biei Town during the summer months.
But we recommend checking it out in the winter as well! Despite of the freezing weather, the wintertime-only illumination of Blue Pond has been running since 2014 and attracts over 200 thousand devoted visitors every year to experience its magical nighttime beauty. After the sun has set, the frozen lake surface is lit up by white and blue lights and a 10-minute illumination display is continuously looped.
Not too far just up-stream from the pond is another permanent night illumination at Shirahige Waterfall. If you’re up for discovering both of these illuminating night views, the Biei View Bus tour organized by Biei Tourism Association will be your ideal option (runs only on specific dates). Bus tour tickets can be reserved in advance via Biei tourism association website.
Blue Pond (Aoi-ike) Illumination
Address: Shirogane, Biei Town, Kamikawa County, Hokkaido
Period: 1 November 2019 – 30 April 2020
Event hours: varies with event period
Access: about 20 minutes by Dohoku Bus from JR Biei Station
Biei Tourism Association: https://www.biei-hokkaido.jp/en/
HTO guide: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/spot/detail.php?id=371&lang=en
Visitors can only view the illumination from designated areas.
Luck and Fortune Await at Kofuku Station
Find happiness at this must-visit place for couples in the city of Obihiro.
The Japanese word “kofuku” is made of the character for happiness “幸” and the character for fortune “福.” Kofuku Station has become a popular date spot that gets visited by more than 100 thousand people every year. A former station of National Railway Hiroo Line which abolished in 1987, it has been re-purposed into a train-themed park displaying two diesel train cars and a preserved platform.
Step through the entrance of the station building and you’ll spot its walls covered with train tickets that say “kofuku-yuki” (towards happiness).
Many believe ringing the kofuku-no-kane (Bell of Happiness) and purchasing the train ticket-shaped key-holder will bring extra good luck. To anyone lucky enough to visit the station before 30 November 2019, don’t miss out on the “Kofuku Station Happy Ceremony” and sign up to have a mock wedding experience right at the station!
Address: Higashi 1 Sen, Kofuku Town, Obihiro City, Hokkaido
Access: about 50 minutes by Tokachi Bus bound for Hiroo from JR Obihiro Station, followed by a 5-minute walk from Kofuku bus stop
Obihiro City Tourism: https://www.city.obihiro.hokkaido.jp/shoukoukankoubu/kankouka/KofukuStation/aikokukoufuku_eng.html
Kofuku Station Happy Ceremony: http://kofukueki-happy-ceremony.com/index.html (Japanese only, so use your favorite translation tool)
HTO guide: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/spot/detail.php?id=283&lang=en
Hot Sandwiches and a Hot View at Casanova
There are many cozy eateries around the Hakodate seaside. But there’s something special about Casanova.
Hit up this styled-up café space situated on Isaribi-dori Street for some unique ambience. Owned by an experienced backpacker couple, customers get to choose from chunky sandwiches packed with seasonal foods that are always on rotation, as well as aromatic coffee and a bevvy of alcoholic drinks. You can take in the ocean view of the Tsugaru Strait making it one of the best relaxation spots around. And after you’re done with your sandwich and your coffee, check out some of the adorable accessories and used clothing that the well-traveled shop owners picked themselves.
Address: 7-7 Ugaura Town, Hakodate City, Hokkaido
Open: 10:00 a.m. – midnight (Monday to Saturday), 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (Sunday)
Access: about 2 minutes on foot from Ugauracho bus stop
Sapporo Twinkles on Winter Nights
Come discover the beauty of Sapporo’s winter illumination events!
The 39th Sapporo White Illumination might just be the best way to spend a night in the cosmopolitan city. Started in 1981, it was Japan’s very first illumination event. Sapporo White Illumination boasts six main venues, including the touristy Sapporo TV Tower, Odori Park and JR Sapporo Station. Approximately 800 thousand LED lights brighten up the evening until almost midnight, turning the city into a land of romance. Food stalls, Christmas markets, and photo spots for you camera-happy visitors are everywhere, making the event a perfect destination for friends, families and couples.
Illumination hours are extended to midnight during the Christmas season. Just remember, Sapporo is freezing cold on winter nights (sub-zero temperatures), so remember to keep warm (we recommend researching some tips for those of you from warmer countries).
The 39th Sapporo White Illumination
Venue: Odori Park, Ekimae Dori, Minami Ichijodori, Sapporo Kita 3-jo Plaza (Akapla), JR Sapporo Station South Exit Plaza
Event Period: varies with venue
Website: https://white-illumination.jp/ (some English available)
HTO guide: https://en.visit-hokkaido.jp/event/detail.php?id=143&lang=en