Hokkaido, is this really the part of Japan that flows with milk and honey…? „The best food in Japan can be found on Hokkaido!“ „The best vacation I ever had, was in Hokkaido …“ This is what I have often heard from friends and colleagues, so my expectations were quite high when we travelled to the northernmost prefecture of Japan in September for a 5-day holiday (thanks to 夏季 休 暇 – 3 days of summer vacation. We actually went there in the travel off-season between summer (flowers!) and fall (autumn leaves!), which made the trip a little cheaper, but nevertheless was as expensive as if we had gone to Malaysia or Indonesia, my original plans for our summer vacation. Travelling within Japan is indeed not cheap..
That being sad, we did stay here, which is also not quite the cheapest accommodation with a huge buffet breakfast and an onsen bath inside of the hotel. We spent our days mostly driving to the different sightseeing attractions in Biei (美瑛) and Furano (富良野) (- along with dozens of others, mainly Chinese tourists, by the way): The so-called Patchwork Road, Farm Tomita or the Blue Pond, with its fascinating milky blue color, and to lots of flower fields. My personal highlight was our visit to Japan’s largest national park, Daisetzu-san (大雪山), where we ascended 1600m to Mt. Asahi (旭 岳) by ropeway, walked along the volcanic landscape, became acquainted with a cheeky squirrel and even saw some early fall foliage. The only thing I regret a little bit is that we had to give up on our plans to properly go hiking because there was a high wind and storm warning, while we were there… All that driving around and sightseeing of course also made us hungry, and in fact, all meals that we had tasted fresh, healthy and really tasty! In particular, I can totally recommend the Cafe Goryo that does not only have a very cozy atmosphere, as it is in an old renewed farmhouse, but also offers really delicious vegetarian dishes made from homegrown vegetables 🙂
But what, then, is so fascinating about Hokkaido, you might ask after reading about my travel experiences, which sound like an ordinary holiday in the mountains … Well, somehow you just feel good in Hokkaido, whether this is because to the delicious food, the fresh air or the landscape. Hokkaido, or at least the part where we were, is a place to live healthy, feel at home and to just feel comfortable. And if you do not just want to travel but actually live there, that is possible too, as the region actively promotes its rural life. We have probably even met more people who moved there from the Tokyo area, than people, who were actually born in Hokkaido. They open cafes or hostels or start an agricultural business, a reverse trend from other regions in Japan, where young people tend to move to the big cities, and small towns are getting smaller and smaller.
As I am not very fond of Tokyo’s crowds of people, this would even interest me as well (although winter in Hokkaido is probably long and hard …). And where else can you meet foxes, squirrels and even wild bears regularly or see the most spectacular evening skies?