We had such amazing and varied experiences that it is almost hard to put into words.
Niseko, Sapporo & Beyond
The northernmost of Japan's islands, Hokkaido is a dramatic landscape of volcanoes, mountains, and forest. While it was first settled 20,000 years ago, for centuries, Hokkaido was home only to exiled criminals, masterless warriors, and the indigenous Ainu people, who are ethnically more closely related to Caucasians than the Japanese. Development commenced in earnest in the 1800s, when Hokkaido was developed as a bulwark against Russian, and later, Soviet, invasion. Now, however, Hokkaido is a flourishing tourist destination with a wide selection of activities, destinations, and wildlife.
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Our co-founder & CEO Catherine Heald loves Japan's beautiful gardens, especially when covered in winter snow. Her favourite? Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa.
With seven ski areas encompassing peaks in two mountain ranges, Niseko is Japan’s premier area for winter sports. The area is famed for its incredibly long season, which starts as early as the last week of November and can last until May of the following year. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, other winter sports include snowshoeing and ice climbing. Additionally, the area also features hot springs – a perfect cap to a long day spent outside in the winter cold.
Shiraoi Ainu Museum
Opened in 1965, the Shiraoi Ainu Museum details the history and lifestyle of the Ainu, the original inhabitants of Hokkaido. While they were once the most numerous population on the island, today, estimates range from 25,000-50,000 – most of whom have assimilated into Japanese society at large. At Shiraoi Museum, visitors will be able to learn more about Ainu culture, including village life, as well as their animist religion.
Although the Ainu have many traditional forms of dance and music, recently, younger Ainu have begun to inject modern influences. Ainu jaw harps and stringed instruments that produce haunting, warbling melodies feature alongside turntables and hip hop beats in Ainu performances in large cities throughout Japan.
Sapporo Art Park
Start your day with a stroll through Sapporo Art Park with a noted contemporary art expert. This serene park is home to a contemporary art museum, sculpture park and a variety of artists and artisanal studios.
Canals of Otaru
Just before sunset, stroll along Otaru's charming cobblestone walkways overlooking its canals, remnants of a bygone era when this city, near Sapporo, was a major port. Commercial barges made their way through here and unloaded their cargo in the many warehouses that once lined the canals. Today, these buildings have been converted into charming glassworks shops, coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques.
Akan National Park
Comprising three volcanic lakes spanning the wilds of eastern Hokkaido, Akan National Park is a land of mountains and lush, primeval forest. Of the lakes, perhaps the best known is the eponymous Lake Akan, famed throughout Japan for the strange organisms known as marimo, which often grow in spherical, ball-like shapes and form large groups on the lakebed.
In addition, there are two other calderas, among them the scenic Lake Mashu, sheathed in mist and hounded by winds; and the active Lake Kussharo, which is home to a number of hot springs, and a beach.
Located in Hakodate, the third-largest city in Hokkaido, Goryokaku is a French-inspired, Western-style fort built in the shape of a star. In the late 1860s, as modernization wracked Japan, Fort Goryokaku was the last stand of rebel samurai who resisted control of the central government, and sought to preserve their privileges and way of life. Today, Goryokaku is a pleasant, green park with several reconstructed buildings, including the traditional Magistrate’s Office – where the last shogun planned his war against the forces of modernity.
Sitting at the edge of the Sea of Okhotsk and the Russian border, Shiretoko National Park consists of a peninsula situated in northeastern Hokkaido. The park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the high biodiversity of the area, as well as the unique relationship that exists between its marine and land-based ecosystems. Because of its remote, northern location, Shiretoko is an unspoiled land of virgin pine and oak forests, mirror-smooth lakes, and jagged, snow-capped mountains.
A tiny island off the northwestern coast of Hokkaido, Rebun is a beautiful, green island of lush hills, capes, and meadows of alpine flowers. Much of the island can be done within a day, and there are two hiking trails: one that takes 4 hours, and the other that takes 8 hours. Many of the capes, promontories, and hills on the island offer wide, expansive views of the nearby sea and meadows.
The best time to visit Rebun is from June through August, when the flowers of the island are in full bloom, splashing the meadows with bursts of color.
Take an adventurous 7-day luxury journey through the center of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, the country’s outdoor playground. You’ll snowshoe to the summit of Mt Taisetsu, sink into a steaming hot spring bath, canoe the thrilling Kushiro river, and enjoy Hokkaido delicacies like chocolate and ramen.
Spend 8 days exploring Japan’s wild side as you travel in luxury from eastern Hokkaido to Sapporo. You’ll capture glimpses of wild cranes, partake in the magical ‘light festival,’ glide through ice aboard an icebreaker cruise, and visit the ultimate symbol of Winter in Hokkaido: the Abashiri Winter Ice Festival.
This contemporary hotel has a relaxed-yet-refined feel to it, with simple, sleek rooms, featuring their own panoramic baths that provide incredible views of the lush surroundings. Lavish extras like organic shampoos provide an additional touch of class. Guests will also enjoy the hotel’s Grand Bath, filled with the milky white waters of a hydrofluoric hot spring. Private dining suites are standard fare here, where guests can sample seasonal Hokkaido delicacies and contemporary kaiseki-ryori for dinner. Western and Japanese meals are served for breakfast. Bar and lounge areas are available for guests’ use, ideal for socializing, or curling up with a good book. Guests will find the hotel’s staff friendly and extremely hospitable. The hotel is an hour’s drive from Chitose Airport, and a 20-minute drive from JR Noboribetsu Station.
Bourou Noguchi Hakodate
Similar to its sister hotel in Noboribetsu, Bourou Noguchi, Hakodate, is a contemporary hotel, home to the highest open-air bath in Yunokawa hot springs. While enjoying a relaxing soak in the soaring bath, it’s possible to look down onto the bustling streets below, with Hakodate mountain and the Tsugaru Strait making for a stunning backdrop. Guests may choose from three different room types, all of which combine comfort and style, two of which provide a private onsen bath. Full-course meals are served in the traditional ryokan style, with a menu that changes seasonally. On-site facilities include a café, library, bar, gift shop, and billiard room. Children are not permitted to stay here, thus providing a more romantic, peaceful experience for couples.
One of Hokkaido’s most prestigious ryokans, Ginrinsou is known for its historic charm and warm, attentive service, as well as the breathtaking panoramas granted to guests who take a soak in the warm, healing waters of its open-air free-form hot springs. Sitting atop the small Cape Hiraiso, these elegantly-designed onsens combine natural surroundings with modern, luxurious architecture, and provide expansive views of Ishikari Bay. Guestrooms are spacious and luxurious, many with their own in-room hot spring bath, many of which also grant guests with picturesque views. The rooms are traditionally-decorated with a modern twist. A large, on-site meeting room can host big groups, set up in a traditional Japanese style, with Otaru-inspired design throughout. Hungry guests can head to Ginrinsou Grill, a sophisticated French restaurant and bar, which provides elegant dining and a social atmosphere to meet with friends for a drink or karaoke session.
Green Leaf Niseko Village
Hokkaido’s Green Leaf Niseko Village blends local artistry and world-class design creating redefined luxury in this picturesque skiing village. This stunning year-round mountain lodge is designed to meet the needs and expectations of a discerning clientele. The 200-room hotel has a ski-in/ski-out base, and the nearby slopes receive 12 to 16 metres of snow annually. The hotel’s design takes influence from traditional European mountain chic and contemporary Japanese style. This hotel provides the perfect place to unwind after a day’s skiing: guests can warm up and soak away tension in the therapeutic natural volcanic hot spring. In the evenings, the resort comes to life with Niseko’s first rooftop beer garden.
Hakodate Danshaku Club
Located in downtown Hakodate, this fine, modern hotel has everything a traveler needs to be comfortable and relaxed. Rooms range from the 135-square-feet standard, up to the Ocean View suite, measuring an expansive 295-square-feet. We recommend a room on the Executive Floor. Guests can expect a host of in-room facilities, from an LCD TV, to a bathtub with a view, to an in-room kitchen. A cafe with sunny terrace is a great place for guests to enjoy their morning latte. Also provided are computers, which are free for guests’ use, while an on-site shop sells everything a guest might need throughout their stay. The hotel conveniently-located near JR Hakodate Station, the Hakodate Morning Market, and Hakodate Port.
JR Tower Hotel
The JR Tower Hotel Nikko Sapporo provides sleek style and convenience in Hokkaido, Japan. Conveniently located above JR Sapporo Station with a direct link from Chitose International Airport by JR line, it is the perfect stop during a business trip for some rest, relaxation, and a dash of luxury. Guests can dine on French cuisine at MIKUNI Sapporo, seasonal western dishes at Sky J, traditional Japanese at Tancho, and casual European fare at Serena. Then, they can enjoy an indulgent treatment at the Sky Resort Spa and relax in the natural hot springs, air bubble baths and saunas. At the end of the day, guests can take in spectacular views from their room or suite, all located on floors 23 to 34 for the perfect sweeping panorama.
Kasetsu Condo is a sublime fusion of Eastern and Western architecture, which pushes the boundaries of Japanese luxury accommodation. The three-story house can accommodate up to 17 people. The condo is well-lit with natural light and feels spacious and airy with impressive nine-meter high ceilings. There are four bedrooms and three bathrooms. The top floor is divided into a large open living area with kitchen, dining and lounge areas. There is a fully-equipped kitchen, complete with modern gas cooker, top-of-the-line appliances, and a huge island counter top. The expansive living room features a contemporary gas fireplace with ribbon flame on a bed of polished black stones. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer magnificent views of Mt. Yotei, which give out onto an equally-sizeable balcony, the perfect venue for entertaining or for a quiet relaxing moment. If you are looking for the ultimate in private luxury accommodation in Hokkaido, this state-of-the-art condo is almost certain to surpass all expectations.
Mizu-no-uta Tsuruga Resort & Spa
Situated on the beach, Tsuruga Resort offers luxurious accommodation and hot spring baths by Lake Shikotsu. Shikotsu-Toya National Park is the main attraction in the area. The resort features a spa, spa tub, a fitness facility, a steam room, hot springs, an indoor pool, a restaurant and a bar/lounge. The comfortable rooms include a private bathroom, coffee/tea makers, hair dryers, flat-panel televisions with VCRs and a comfy seating area. Rooms are decorated in a contemporary Japanese style, with warm woodwork and tatami. Some suites come with a private open-air hot spring bath. The lake is only a five-minute walk away. Bicycle rental is available. The onsite Amam Restaurant offers all-day buffet dining, and Amano Uta Restaurant serves exquisite Japanese fare. Bar Ape serves up a selection of alcoholic drinks, and sweet treats are on offer at Patisserie Labo.
New Akan Hotel
Welcome to the New Akan Hotel, located on the shores of Lake Akan in Akan National Park in Kushiro, Hokkaidō, Japan. Enjoy a visit to this beautiful natural landscape with a stay at this hotel, which consists of 370 rooms designed in both Japanese and western styles. The hotel features two restaurants: buffet restaurant Felice, and Kamon, which serves traditional Japanese cuisine, as well as Blue Night, an on-site night lounge. During the day, guests can enjoy a natural spring soak in the hotel’s Grand Public Bath, or a swim in the rooftop pool and hot tub, overlooking Lake Akan and the surrounding hills. They can also explore the surrounding natural areas by taking a cruise across the lake, exploring the traditional Ainu Kotan Village, the largest Ainu community in Japan, or visiting “Bokke”, a natural site of muddy craters where carbon dioxide gases from underground bubble through the mud. With so much to explore, guests will be thrilled to have such a comfortable place to rest their head at the end of the day.
Years of planning went into the design and construction of this relatively young ryokan. The rooms are spacious, modern, and comfortable, each uniquely-decorated to reflect the style and feel of that particular room. Two-bedroom suites and maisonettes are available. Washrooms innovatively stream hot spring water for a private onsen-like experience, topped off by Bvlgari amenities to make for the ultimate indulgent experience. A charming garden and courtyard surround the hotel, adding to its serene atmosphere. The on-site bar and cafe serves up quality spirits and cold Japanese beer - and guests can enjoy the experience of not having to reach for their wallet or sign a bill, since everything is included in the room rate. The hotel, located outside of downtown Otaru, is an hour’s drive from Chitose Airport, and 40 minutes from the nearest train station.
Sapporo Grand Hotel
The Sapporo Grand Hotel is a mature hotel with decades of experience delighting its guests, having been the first European-style hotel to enter the Hokkaido market. Guest rooms combine a traditional Japanese feel with modern, high-tech touches. We recommend the Premium Floor, Grand in Grand, which provide guests with luxurious comforts in a homely atmosphere. Guests may choose from seven bars and restaurants, serving Western, Japanese (including local Hokkaido speciality cuisine), and Chinese favorites. Guests may also make use of the hotel’s chapel, shopping arcade, business center and library, and Healing Court spa, where all kinds of aesthetic treatments are available. The hotel is conveniently-located a mere eight-minute walk from JR Sapporo Station, and around 40 minutes by high-speed rail from Chitose Airport.
Sounkyo Onsen Hotel
Enjoy a stay at Sounkyo Onsen Hotel in Kushiro, Hokkaidō, Japan. Nestled between mountains and beside the Ishikari River, this resort is a perfect natural retreat for those who like to be in nature, while also enjoying high-quality service and luxury accommodation. Year-round, guests can relax in the on-site hot springs baths and enjoy forest views from the relaxing sauna. For dining options, choices range from traditional Japanese, Chinese and western cuisine - all made with fresh, seasonal ingredients – as well as a buffet restaurant, and peaceful in-suite dining, decorated in traditional Japanese design, western design, or a fusion of the two. A natural oasis awaits at Sounkyo Onsen Hotel.
Takinoya onsenryokan is easily one of Hokkaido’s best hotels, and it never fails to impress visitors. Sitting atop 11 kinds of Hokkaido’s highest quality hot springs, this 150-year-old ryokan effortlessly melds Japanese traditional hospitality with high international resort standards. Guests can look forward to local Noboribetsu vegetables and freshly-caught seafood to add to the healthy onsen experience, and an easy sleep with the soothing sound of waterfalls in the background. An on-site bar stays open until midnight. The hotel is located an hour’s drive away from Chitose Airport, and 15 minutes from the JR Muroran Honsen Line. Check in time is nice and early, at 2pm, and guests can choose from the hotel’s 30 rooms. An on-site sauna is available for guests’ use in addition to the outdoor onsen baths.
Wakamatsu is a traditional ryokan that offers a guests a room-style choice of Japanese, Japanese-Western, and Maisonette. Each of the hotel’s rooms provides a panoramic ocean view of the Tsugaru Channel. Attentive staff are assigned to each room, providing constant, personalized service and warm, traditional Japanese hospitality. Large, shared onsen baths are available for guests’ use until 1am, and open-air baths are also available many of which also provide lovely oceanscapes. Exquisite food is included for all guests, served in the traditional Japanese style. For entertainment, guests may make use of the karaoke facilities on-site, as well as the tennis courts for exercise. The hotel is located in the Yunokawa Onsen resort area, a 10-minute’s drive from Hakodate Airport.
The Japanese countryside is home to some astounding luxury hotels, and the Windsor Hotel is among them. This Hokkaido hotel is situated in a spectacular location on a mountain between Lake Toya and the Pacific Ocean. It boasts some of the most breathtaking views to be found on Japan’s northernmost island. There are both western rooms and a number of tatami-style rooms and suites. Rooms are spacious and fitted with all modern conveniences of any high-end hotel. The facilities are similarly first-rate and include a pool, spa and fitness center. There are 13 restaurants and lounges including Japanese, Vietnamese, an Italian brick-oven pizzeria and a French restaurant by Tablet favorite Michel Bras. Within the hotel grounds, guests can enjoy skiing, golf, tennis and the hot springs.