I love Hokkaido. That’s the plain, unvarnished truth. I love living here, and hopefully, I will be able to grow old here. I want to see how Sapporo will change in the next 40 or maybe even 50 years.
Hokkaido is in the northernmost part of Japan, a separate island off Honshu. It is a very popular travel destination among Japanese and foreign tourists alike. The number one reason it appeals to me is the weather and the climate. I hate hot weather. I’ve often wondered how people could ever love being sweaty while melting under the summer sun. No, thank you! Give me cool weather any time. I’d be happy if the temperature doesn’t rise above 20 degrees Celsius.
I love summers here precisely because the season is short and dry and not as humid as that of the southern islands. Don’t get me wrong, it will get hot, but it will cool down in the evening and early mornings. This year, I went to Honshu for the first time in a long time. It was definitely a different experience. There is no relief from the unrelenting humidity and heat, very unlike Hokkaido.
A contributing factor to the humidity in Honshu is what is known as tsuyu, or the rainy season. Traditionally, the months of June and July is when Honshu and other parts of Japan experience constant heavy rainstorms. Hokkaido has no rainy season so the summer is enjoyable. Many people go camping, hiking, and generally spend lots of time outdoors.
In Hokkaido, it gets cool in late September and won’t warm up until later in the following May. Fall is short but beautiful, with the riot of autumn colors assaulting your senses everywhere you go. It has a very long winter season, which is a paradise for winter sports enthusiasts. Skiing and snowboarding is unparalleled, with fresh powder available almost every day.
And against the backdrop of the four seasons, the scenery is amazing. You’re surrounded by nature everywhere you go. So much so, that every time I’m walking in a wooded part of a park, I always worry about the grizzly bears popping up to attack me. It is an unfounded fear, but it’s one of my biggest hangups. Even though Sapporo is the fourth largest city in Japan, nature has a way of reminding people that it always wins.
And any conversation about Hokkaido has to include something about the FOOD. For a self-proclaimed foodie, this is paradise. Hokkaido is known as the food basket of Japan because its agriculture and dairy industries supplies most of the food for the nation. Since a lot of the vegetables and staple crops are grown here, there’s no need to transport the food long distances–so everything remains fresh and tasty.
The dairy products are amazing. And of course, the milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter are also used to produce some really awesome sweets.
But, the seafood is the main attraction of why people come here. The waters off the island is teeming with abundant nutrients that nourish the fish and shellfish in the area. They in turn provide THE most delicious seafood in the world. As you can tell, I’m very biased, but I think Hokkaido seafood is beyond compare. If you go to the port towns, you get to eat everything fresh from the ocean, like this kaisen-don or seafood bowl in Otaru.
This is why I am a such sushi snob. Yes, you definitely have to try sushi in its birth country. It will be an amazing experience because it will be better than anywhere else in the world. However, I don’t eat sushi anywhere else in Japan but Hokkaido. I always compare and I’m always disappointed by the quality of these non-Hokkaido restaurants. It’s just not the same.
Yeah. It. is. that. good.