With its numerous regions Japans naturally offers a variety of cuisine even though some dishes such as ramen are found everywhere but served with different ingredients. Nevertheless, Hokkaido probably offers the best when it comes to high quality ingredients. Do not get me wrong, the whole country has great Japanese food, however, nothing can top the taste of fresh fish, vegetables and local meat. Indeed, thanks to its frigid water the island serves excellent seafood all year long. Due to its landscapes, you can see cattle and various animals and that is why beef, as well as lamb, are a delicacy. One thing to experience is the famous gingiskhan which consists of barbecued lamb. The locals have named it that way as supposedly the famous leader of the same name (Genghis Khan) was a big fan of that dish. The small city of Otaru also specialises in seafood donburi (rice with seafood topping) with the highest quality of sea urchin and salmon roe among other ingredients of your choice. You will also find local dishes you will never find anywhere else such as soup curry which unlike other Japanese meals contains tons of vegetables. Hokkaido is lucky enough to have a lot of flat lands, hence the existence of big agribusinesses. Therefore, it is a high producer of dairy products: milk, butter, cream, but also very delicious ice-cream. The best melon ice-cream I have ever had was probably in Sapporo at the popular spot Hitsujigaoka observation hill.
Hokkaido also offers stunning scenery. Although I am a big mountain lover, it was very refreshing to get away from the usual Japanese mountainous landscape. As opposed to other Japanese islands, Hokkaido also counts vast plains that enable you to truly admire the view across several kilometres. Furthermore, places like the famous flower field in Furano is a very popular sightseeing spot in the summer as you can find lavender in July and sunflowers in August. If you make it all the way out there, the famous blue pond is also worth a quick visit if the weather allows it as the blue colour would not look so impressive if it is cloudy. And what comes with nature is of course wildlife. Hokkaido is obviously famous for its bears so if you get a chance to travel around the island and get away from the main cities, you will most likely encounter tours for tourists looking to go bear watching. In case you cannot get that far, visiting a zoo can be an alternative. However, as if like me you do not particularly enjoy watching animals in a cage, a couple of hours from Sapporo you will find the best zoo in Japan where penguins live in semi-freedom.
With its powdery snow Hokkaido offers probably some of the best ski resorts in Japan. For instance, resorts like Niseko are very prestigious therefore to be avoided if you are on a budget.
The Snow Festival
Every year, people from all around Japan and the world head to Sapporo in February to attend the famous and even copied Snow Festival. Numerous artists gather to create breathtaking sculptures which you can enjoy despite the intense winter cold. Due to the popularity of the event, hotels tend to book very quickly so make sure you reserve everything way ahead of the event.
The Sapporo Hitsujigaoka observation hill with its statue of William S. Clark and his well-known quote “Boys, Be Ambitious!” is naturally one of the most famous sightseeing spots around the capital of Hokkaido. However, even more impressive is the Historical Village of Hokkaido (Kaitaku no Mura) which is basically an open-air museum with old houses, shops, etc and which will enable you to experience what life was like in the past. The different buildings are very impressive and the signs give great explanations. It was definitely the highlight of my visit in the Sapporo region.
On an other cultural note, it is important to know about the Ainu who are the tribe originally from Hokkaido. They have their own culture, traditional clothing, food, musical instruments, etc and I highly recommend looking into any museum or exhibition that explains their history and customs.