Hokkaido: Gem of Northern Japan

Okhotsk Coast
Okhotsk coastline

Cyclists in Hokkaido
Cyclists from Tokyo escape
the heat in Hokkaido

Map of Japan
Map of Japan

Mt. Shari in Hokkaido
Fields of corn and Mt. Shari

Single car train in Hokkaido
Local train in Hokkaido

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See Photos from the Hokkaido Cycle Tour

*Your Bilingual Guide: Ruthy Kanagy, Bike Friday Travel Consultant, Author of Living Abroad in Japan


About Hokkaido

Hokkaido, the frontier island to the north, is strikingly similar to the U.S. Pacific Northwest in geography and climate, with cool summers, snowy winters, open spaces, and largely unspoiled nature. Hokkaido is the largest prefecture in Japan--about the size of Indiana--with just 5.7 million people (less than 5 percent of Japan's population) who live near mountain ranges, lakes, wetlands, and plains. The land is 70 percent forested, 16 percent agricultural, and only 1.8 percent used for residences. The three kanji characters comprising the name Hokkaido stand for North, Sea, and Circuit.

People in Hokkaido often say that the island’s open spaces create communities less bound to tradition, with more open attitudes. Based on my experience growing up in eastern Hokkaido, I would say this is true. You’re allowed to be an individual and move off the beaten track. If you have an idea for a business related to food, agriculture, nature, or outdoor sports, Hokkaido might have room for you. If you enjoy cosmopolitan city life, Sapporo (the island’s main city) has 1.5 million people and scores of foreign entrepreneurs, teachers, and house-builders.

By air, you can be in Tokyo in an hour; by train, it’s a scenic 12 to 15-hour journey to the capital; and by ferry, a leisurely 20 hours on the waves. That is, if you need to go south at all, once you’ve made your home in Hokkaido. (from "Living Abroad in Japan" by Ruthy Kanagy).