Hokkaido, the northernmost and second largest island of Japan, is famous for its ski and hot spring resorts as well as its flower fields. Our 7-day suggested itinerary is for first time travelers and for those who are planning to visit Hokkaido during Lavender Season in summer. Read on for suggestions on how to make the most of your time in Hokkaido.
Things to know before traveling to Hokkaido:
Language – Japanese (Nihongo) is the official language of Japan. For foreign visitors, the language barrier can be intense but this should not be a cause for concern. Every railway stations, bus stations and other transportation options have English signage. Even if you had any difficulty navigating, the Japanese people are very helpful to foreigners. There are also plenty of tourist information center, usually located in JR offices. It is, however, recommended to learn a few words and phrases because this can go a very long way in Japan, just like in any other countries.
Etiquette – The Japanese people are warm and very welcoming to foreign visitors but it’s important to remember some do’s and don’ts to enjoy a faux pas free journey. When entering temples or castles, it is almost always a must to take off your shoes. If there are rows of footwear by the door, it’s a clear sign to remove your shoes. If you are going to visit temples and shrines, remember to dress modestly. On trains and buses, it is considered rude to speak loudly or to speak on your phone.
Money and costs – Japanese Yen is the official currency of Japan. Cash remains king in the country. Even though Japan first popularized the use of “e-wallets”, majority of transactions are still through cash. But fret not, because exchanging money is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in Asia. You may transact with banks and post offices displaying “Currency Exchange” at New Chitose Airport and in Sapporo City. There are also plentiful of ATMs available throughout Sapporo City so you will surely have easy access to cash.
Getting around – If you plan to cover most of the famous attractions in Hokkaido, then you can purchase the Hokkaido Rail Pass. Valid for 3, 5, 7 consecutive days or Flexible 4 days, it provides unlimited rides on JR trains (excluding Hokkaido Shinkansen) as well as JR buses. This pass will pay off if you plan to travel long distances. Another great option when it comes to travelling is Hokkaido is by rental car. Because attractions are spread over and public transportation is rather limited, driving on your own will give you more freedom to explore at your own pace. For rental information, visit TOYOTA Rent a Car Sapporo Website.
Where to stay – Hokkaido boasts a wide range of accommodation options, with something for every level of comfort and budget. If you’re into cultural immersion, it is recommended to stay in a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese style hotel or inn. Ryokans serve Japanese breakfast and dinner and offer onsen (bath) privileges, which are often included in the rate that would normally range between JPY 10,000 – 15,000 per night per person. Japanese Guest Houses has a wide variety of Ryokans, from small family-run establishments to large ryokan-hotels.
Day by day itinerary: The flower fields of Hokkaido, Japan
Day 1: New Chitose Airport to Tomamu Resort
Take an international flight to New Chitose Airport, the gateway to Hokkaido. It is best to get an early morning arrival so you could fight off your jet lag before you go exploring in the afternoon. If you are coming from other parts of Japan, the airport is connected by direct flights to at least 30 cities. The Tokyo (Haneda) – Sapporo (New Chitose) route is the most popular, which takes approximately 2 hours, with one-way direct flight starting at 317 USD. To get to Tomamu from New Chitose Airport, take one of the JR trains to Minami Chitose Station, then change trains and get off at Tomamu Station. Travel time is approximately 1 hour.
Tomamu, a famous mountain resort in Hokkaido, has indoor wave pool, hot spring facilities, restaurants, spa and massage services. During winter, the resort attracts many guests for their multi-day ski packages. During summer, the resorts offers plenty of outdoor activities for fun-loving and adventure-seeking travelers such as trekking and rafting. Stay the night in Tomamu.
Where to stay in Tomamu:
Hoshino Resorts Tomamu The Tower (Nakatomamu, Yufutsu-gun, Shimukappu-mura 079-2204, Hokkaido)
Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Tomamu (Nakatomamu, Yufutsu-gun, Shimukappu-mura 079-2204, Hokkaido)
Day 2: Tomamu Resort to Furano
For one of the most memorable breakfasts you’ll ever have, take a gondola and visit the Unkai (Sea of Clouds) in the early morning. Enjoy breakfast at the cafe located there while viewing the majestic sea of clouds. After breakfast, make your way back to the resort and enjoy some mountain activities. In the afternoon, head for Furano, a town in Central Hokkaido known for its flower fields. Every summer, Furano’s flower fields attract a large number of tourists. From mid-July to early August, majority of lavender are at peak bloom, creating a picturesque sea of lavender.
After check in, soak in the atmosphere of Furano by heading to Farm Tomita, one of the best places to view the lavender. Aside from its lavender fields, the farm also has shops that sell different variety of lavender and lavender related products. Stay the night in Furano.
Where to stay in Furano:
Furano Natulux Hotel (1-35 Asahicho, Furano 076-0026, Hokkaido)
Hotel Naturwald Furano (14-46 Kitanomine-cho, Furano 076-0034, Hokkaido)
New Furano Prince Hotel (Nakagoryo, Furano 076-8511, Hokkaido)
Edel Warme (9-20 Kitanomine-cho, Furano 076-0034, Hokkaido)
Hotel Sunfuraton (1-1 Wakamatsu-cho, Furano 076-0032, Hokkaido)
Day 3: Furano to Asahikawa
On day 3, make your way to Flower Land Kamifurano and Hinode Park Lavender Garden. These flower gardens are some of the best farms in Kamifurano. In the afternoon, check out from the resort and head to your next destination, Asahikawa. Known as the second largest city after Sapporo, Asahikawa boasts some of the best attractions in Hokkaido like the Asahiyama Zoo. The city is also famous for Asahikawa Ramen, noodle with shoyu (soy) based broths.
After check in at your preferred accommodation, go for the ultimate Ramen Adventure by heading to Asahikawa Ramen Village. Eight of the most popular ramen restaurants from Asahikawa have small branch stores in this complex. The village is open daily from 11 in the morning until 9 in the evening. Stay the night in Asahikawa.
Where to stay in Asahikawa:
JR Inn Asahikawa (7-2-5 Miyahsitadori, Asahikawa 070-0030, Hokkaido)
Asahikawa Grand Hotel (9, 6-Jodori, Asahikawa 070-0036, Hokkaido)
Hotel Dormy Inn Asahikawa (6-964-1 Gojo-dori, Asahikawa 070-0035, Hokkaido)
Hotel Rasso Grande Asahikawa (10-3-3 Miyashitadori, Asahikawa 070-0030, Hokkaido)
ART HOTEL Asahikawa (6-7-jo Dori, Asahikawa 070-0037, Hokkaido)
Day 4: Asahikawa to Sapporo City
On day 4, visit the Asahiyama Zoo, a beautiful zoological garden where animals can be observed from various angles. Asahiyama Zoo provides some unique enclosures like the underwater glass tunnels and glass domes. To get to the zoo from Asahikawa Station, take bus number 41, 42 or 47. Travel time is approximately 40 minutes and one way fare is 440 JPY (3.80 USD). In the afternoon, check out from the hotel and make your way to Sapporo City, where you will be staying for the rest of your trip.
Where to stay in Sapporo City:
JR Tower Hotel Nikko Sapporo (2-5 Kita 5 Jo Nishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 060-0005, Hokkaido)
Vessel Inn Sapporo Nakajima Park (1-2 Minami 9-jo Nishi 4, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064-0809, Hokkaido)
Ibis Styles Sapporo (3-10-10 Nishi, Minami8jo, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064-0808, Hokkaido)
Cross Hotel Sapporo (2-23 Kita 2 Jo Nishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 060-0002, Hokkaido)
Dormy Inn PREMIUM Sapporo (6-4-1 Minami2_onishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 060-0062, Hokkaido)
Day 5 – 6: Sapporo City
After a filling breakfast in your hotel, start day 5 by exploring Hokkaido University Sapporo Campus and The Hokkaido University Museum. Founded by William Smith Clark, the extensive main campus grounds are a pleasant place to walk. The university’s gardens, ponds and beautiful old buildings are not to be missed. Also, the Ginkgo tree lane is famous because it symbolizes longevity and endurance.
After lunch, head to Sapporo Underground Pedestrian Space, the underground street which connects major underground shopping centers – Aurora Town and Pole Town. This underground street is a great place to shop and eat. Also not to be missed is the Odori Park, located above Aurora Town. It’s a great place to unwind and people watch. End the day with eye-popping views from the observation deck of Sapporo Television Tower.
The next day, visit the other attractions in Sapporo City that you missed on day 5. Do not miss the Sapporo Beer Museum, Sapporo Paseo JR Tower, Tanukikoji Shopping Street, Ganso Sapporo Ramen Street and Miyoshi Shrine. If you still have energy, be ready for a big city nightlife hit in Susukino, Sapporo’s nightlife district.
Day 7: Sapporo City
Taking into consideration that you most likely stayed out rather late the other night, you can start your last day in Sapporo City at around 10 to 11 in the morning. After having a filling breakfast, your final day in Hokkaido can be spent on last-minute shopping and seeing those attractions that you haven’t yet had time for. Head to the airport in time to check in for your international flight home, or you may opt to continue traveling independently, or extend your stay in Hokkaido. The decision is yours!
This is the end of our 7-day suggested itinerary. Remember, this is just a guide for planning and is in no way, shape or form the only way to travel Hokkaido. There are several alternative routes of travel within the island and it will depend on your intended length of stay. Enjoy Hokkaido!
Have you been to Hokkaido and its flower fields or anywhere else in Japan? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.