Exploring Hokkaido: where to go with your JR Pass

Situated in northern Japan, Hokkaido is one of the main islands that make up the country and has the largest land area of all of them. 

An underrated area of Japan, it’s famous for its onsen (hot springs), fantastic seafood and rugged landscapes. If you’re planning to travel to Japan in the near future, you should consider exploring Hokkaido during your trip. And what’s better, you can travel across it with your JR Pass as it’s connected to the mainland by Shinkansen. 

It takes approximately 4 hours to get to Hokkaido from Tokyo via the Shinkansen. And the cost of the JR Pass on the route is sure to please in comparison to the 22,690 yen it would cost one way without it. With the JR pass, you can opt for either a 7, 14 or 21-day pass that not only includes the Shinkansen bullet trains and the Narita Express, but all of the national trains. 

Of course, you can fly from Tokyo to Hokada (Hokkaido’s airport), but by opting for the train, you’ll be able to sit back and relax and see the breathtaking scenery along the way.  

Top Attractions in Hokkaido 

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It’s probably no surprise that there are tons of fantastic attractions to visit when you’re travelling around Hokkaido. With something for all tastes and budgets, you’ll spend countless hours exploring all that this fantastic island has to offer.

Here are our top 3 attractions you should visit when you’re in Hokkaido:

Asahiyama Zoo

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This might not be the first thing you think to visit when in Hokkaido, but the Asahiyama Zoo is one of the most popular attractions on the island. Opened in 1967, this zoo is home to a variety of animals from penguins to polar bears. Located just outside Asahikawa, it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon and only costs just under £7 a person.

Farm Tomita

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Situated in Nakafurano in Hokkaido, Farm Tomita is one of the most stunning farms in Japan. Known for its giant fields of tulips, lavender and other colourful flowers, you’ll be in awe the moment you arrive at this attraction. Even though it’s just over a 2-hour drive from the centre of Hokkaido, it’s well worth the effort of travelling there – especially when the weather is warmer. You can also purchase products made on the farm when you’re there, including candles scented with lavender and lavender-flavoured ice cream.

Shirogane Blue Pond

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Located in Biei, Shirogane Blue Pond is a man-made pond with extraordinary colours. Throughout the different seasons you’ll be able to see a variety of colours surrounding the pond, from snow-capped trees in the winter to auburn and orange colours in the autumn. One of the top attractions in the area, alongside the hot spring resort of Shirogane Onsen, the Shirogane Blue Pond is a must-see when visiting Hokkaido.

Top Restaurants in Hokkaido 

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There’s plenty of options to choose from when it comes to Hokkaido restaurants. From larger, more commercial options to traditional Japanese eateries, the island has a wide variety of delicacies that you can indulge in no matter what the season. For example, if you love fresh seafood, you’re in for a treat as Hokkaido is renowned for its Uni (sea urchin) and crab dishes. Alternatively, Jingisukan, a Mongolian mutton that’s barbecued is also very popular there. 

Kumagera – indulge in beloved Japanese delicacies and specialities, including seafood and meat hot pots. Popular with locals, this cosy restaurant is worth adding to your list. 

Village 432 – take delight in delicious Japanese cuisine in this traditional restaurant.

Kame Tsuru – small and quaint, this traditional eatery serves a large selection of dishes that has something for all tastes. 

Top Places to Stay in Hokkaido

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Due to the size of Hokkaido, it’s probably no surprise that there’s plenty of accommodation options there too. From traditional onsen hotels to more contemporary options, you’ll find the perfect place to stay in Hokkaido for your taste and budget. To give you some inspiration, here are our top three options:

Meto Onsen Hotel – surrounded by beautiful forest, this traditional onsen hotel faces the Nukanan River and is within easy reach of Obihiro station. If you’re looking to ski throughout your trip to Hokkaido, the Nukabira Gensenkyo ski area is only 43km away. 

Yukoman-so – another more traditional hot spring hotel, this quaint option is located within beautiful surroundings. Only 1km from both the Asahidake Ropeway and Asahidake mountain, this is perfect for those looking for a relaxing place to stay.

Dormy Inn (La Vista Furano Hills) – if you’re looking for something a little more modern in the city centre of Furano, this hotel is just the ticket; it’s also within easy reach of the popular Furano Winery. 

Best Time of Year to visit Hokkaido

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So what is the best time of year to visit Hokkaido? Well you’ll be pleased to know that it’s a fantastic location to visit no matter what season you choose to visit it in. In spring, you can admire the beautiful flowers that are blooming throughout the rugged landscapes. 

In summer, there’s plenty to keep you busy such as rafting, canoeing and hiking through the surrounding nature. In autumn, you can expect awe-inspiring red and orange colours in the trees, festivals such as the Sapparo Autumn Festival. And finally in winter, you can spend your time in Hokkaido skiing in the numerous resorts or enjoying a relaxing onsen. 

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So what are you waiting for? Hokkaido is such an incredible place to visit, and the ultimate place to explore with your JR Pass. You’re guaranteed an unforgettable getaway in Hokkaido, whether you choose to go in spring, summer, autumn or winter. And with the flexibility that you get with your JR Pass, you can choose to only explore the island of Hokkaido or to venture to other islands in Japan. Regardless of what you choose to do, however, you’re in for a fantastic time.