The island of Hokkaido lies to the north of Japan, close to Russia, and is the second largest island of the country. The island is mountainous and has five volcanoes which are considered active. The largest city on Hokkaido is Sapporo and the island is the least developed of Japan, boasting many national parks and beautiful pristine forests.
Hokkaido was home to the Ainu, Nivkh, and Orok people long before Japanese and Russians arrived to the island. Wars were fought between the Japanese and Ainu people over the 13th to 17th century and during the 19th century, the interest turned protecting the island from Russian invasion. In the 20th century during World War II, there were air and sea attacks on the island resulting in wreckage sinking along the southern coast of Hokkaido.
Today, tourism is an important part of Hokkaido’s economy because of its beautiful parks with lakes, forests, mountains and cool climate. The island makes for a wonderful summer escape and is a draw for winter sports enthusiasts with places like Niseko and also great festivals like the Sapporo Snow Festival every year in February.
From April to October, go whale watching for dolphins, whales or to see sea birds. Winter time is perfect to visit Sapporo for the festival and also for snow sports in Niseko. Other than that, visit hot springs, taste Japan’s culinary delights and go sightseeing in the city or nature parks.
Use the train networks to get to Sapporo or take short internal flights from within Japan. There are also international flights directly to Sapporo from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, China and also Russia. From Sapporo, there are trains to get you to the Shiretoko Peninsula and driving is also an option.