Starting off your 2020 in Hokkaido vol. 2
A Festival of Music and Lights in an Eastern Hokkaido Heritage Sight
In the Tokachigawa Onsen area of Eastern Hokkaido is a rare kind of onsen known as a “Moor Onsen,” a hot spring that is derived from the plants that accumulate in the area. A hot spring source that’s unique to the region, even in a country known for its hot springs.
This January, the illumination event “Sairinka” will colour the onsen hotspot with a 5.4-meter-tall Symbol Tower and around 600 LED bulbs synchronized to music. This incredible sight gathers over 50,000 people each year for an otherworldly snowscape lit up with clusters of glowing triangular pyramids. Come indulge yourself in the magical ambience, staring out over the “Forest of Light” from the observation deck, taking dreamlike shots at the “Light Zoo” and “Light Tunnel”, or simply having a blast playing in the snow by trying out “Snow Rafting” or checking out the “Digital Park.” Be sure to take a detour to the Moor Spring footbath afterwards, where you can warm up your cold footsies.
Address：Tokachigaoka Park, Kita 14 Tokachigawa Onsen, Otofuke-cho, Kato-gun, Hokkaido
Period：25 January – 23 February 2020
Lighting hours：7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Held twice every 30 minutes, 15 minutes each session (7:00 p.m. / 7:30 p.m. / 8:00 p.m. / 8:30 p.m.)
Access：about 30 minutes by Tokachi Bus from JR Obihiro Station and get off at “Garden Spa Tokachigawa Onsen.” Then walk for about 10 minutes
All the Winter Activities You Want,Only a Short Ride from Sapporo!
With winter just around the corner–or already upon us for people in Hokkaido– there may be those of you who basing your travel plans around Sapporo for your winter vacation. So we wanted to offer you a great recommendation for a place nearby that you can indulge in all the winter activities your heart desires.
Less than an hour from Sapporo Station is the Takino Suzuran Hillside National Government Park, a ski landmark packed with activities for both young and old. Blessed with consistent snowfall, this 400-hectare snow park offers a variety of activities including tube sledding, a ski school with beginner-friendly and kid-friendly snowboarding lessons, and snowshoeing experiences. This snow world especially takes prides in its tube sledding slope, the longest in Japan! be sure to snow-tube down the slope and experience the thrills and the chills, but hopefully not the spills!
Best of all, skiwear/equipment rental service is available on-site. Just come empty-handed and kick-start your holiday with Takino Snow World!
Takino Snow World (Takino Suzuran Hillside National Government Park)
Address：247 Takino, Minami-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido
Access：about 30 minutes by Hokkaido Chuo Bus from Sapporo Municipal Subway Makomanai Station, then alight at “Suzuran Park East Exit”
Winter opening period：22 December 2019 – 31 March 2020
Winter opening hours：9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Sipping Hokkaido Wines in this 1912 Former Bank office
As its nickname the “Northern Wall Street” suggests, Otaru is a neighbourhood lined with old banks constructed during early Meiji Era (1868-1912) to Taisho Era (1912-26). Otaru Bine is a wine bar that re-purposed the former Hokkaido Bank Head Office, now transforms into a specialty shop offering over 100 brands of Hokkaido-produced wine.
Pick your favourite from the sizeable selection of barrel-aged white, red and rosé wines in this Designated Historic Landmark of Otaru City. The wine bar’s antique furniture and stone walls give it an atmosphere of sophistication. Wine connoisseurs will be happy to see domestic Japanese brands like “Otaru Wine” as well as wines sourced from Furano, Tokachi, and to all areas across Hokkaido. And then top off your Otaru getaway by checking out the Renaissance style bank building lit up at night, a sight that will leave quite the impression.
Address：1-8-6 Ironai, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido
Hours：11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (café) / 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (shop)
Access：about 7 minutes on foot from JR Otaru Station
Website：https://www.otarubine.chuo-bus.co.jp/ (Japanese only, please use a translation tool)
Something for the Bucket List: Drift Ice on the Sea of Okhotsk
Gliding across the vast ocean, smashing through drift ice is one of those special experiences you can only get in Hokkaido. In case you don’t know, “drift ice” refers to ice in the middle of the ocean that isn’t attached to any piece of land; it flows down from the Amur River in Russia and eventually makes its way to the coast of Shiretoko Peninsula in Eastern Hokkaido. The Sea of Okhotsk is the only place where drift ice can be seen in Japan. Get on one of the ice breaker cruises, (either Aurora from Abashiri port or Garinko from Monbetsu port) to experience the awe of these ice giants covering the sea.
The 1 hour long cruise adventure not only takes you smashing through this incredible natural phenomenon, but also gives you a rare chance to witness Eastern Hokkaido wildlife like seals and the majestic Stellar’s eagle in their natural habitat. Drift ice is around from late January to mid-March, but if you want to experience peak drift ice, we suggest visiting from mid-February to early March. Please visit the cruise companies’ websites for more details on schedules and reservations
Drift Ice Sightseeing Cruise
Abashiri Drift Ice Sightseeing & Icebreaking Ship Aurora
Port：Ryuhyo Highway Roadside station, Higashi 4-5-1 Minami 3-jo, Abashiri-shi, Hokkaido
Access：about 10 minutes by Abashiri Bus from JR Abashiri Station
Drift Ice Icebreaker Garinko II (reservation required)
Port：1 Kaiyoukouen, Monbetsu-shi, Hokkaido
Access：about 70 minutes by Kitami Bus from JR Engaru Station and get off at “Okhotsk Tower Entrance.” Then walk for about 15 minutes.
Hokkaido has Incredible Festivals at all Times of Year
Hokkaido might be best known for its winter events like the Sapporo Snow Festival or the Asahikawa Winter Festival, but there are still tons of incredible summer festivals worth discovering. Check out our new videos to get an idea of what the festivals in Hokkaido have in store, all year round!
Ashibetsu Kenka Festival
Period：generally the third Saturday and Sunday of each July (20th – 21st July in 2019)
Venue：Ekimae-dori in front of Ashibetsu Station and other downtown areas in Ashibetsu City, Hokkaido
Access：right across JR Ashibetsu Station
Period：generally early-October (8th – 10th October in 2019)
Venue：Lake Akan Onsen, Akan-cho, Kushiro-shi, Hokkaido
Access：about 60 minutes by Akan Bus from Kushiro Airport
Tokachi Draft Horse Festival
Period：generally early-October (5 – 6 October in 2019)
Venue：Obihiro Racecourse, Nishi-13-jo Minami-9-chome, Obihiro-shi, Hokkaido
Access：about 10 minutes by Tokachi Bus from JR Obihiro Station Bus Terminal and get off at “Keibajo (Racecourse)” bus stop