Hiking in Hokkaido, Japan
There is more to Japan than just big cities and lots of people. Believe it or not, Japanese people don’t just work. A lot of my Japanese friends would give up a day’s work just to spend it in the mountains any day. I have been living and running guided Hiking trips on the big northern island of Hokkaido for over 10 years and I just love it.
Hokkaido is the northernmost and second largest of Japan’s islands, with only 5% of the Japanese population living in it. Hokkaido is a fantastic place and is very different from other parts of Japan. If you are looking for traditional Japanese culture and monuments then Hokkaido is not the place for you. However, if you are to discover the other side of Japanese life which many Japanese people enjoy like mountain trails, wilderness and the beauty of just being out in nature then Hokkaido is definitely the place for you.
Hokkaido has Japan’s biggest national park, Daisetsu-zan, with over 230,000 hectares of wilderness and trails, from anything from day hikes to week-long treks. Hokkaido is also the home of Japan’s first World Heritage Park, the Shiretoko National Park.
Hokkaido is full of beautiful lakes, rivers, forests and of course, mountains and many of them are volcanic. One of Hokkaido’s special attractions is its flora, with many of its mountain trails covered with spectacular alpine flowers from May to June.
Also, Hokkaido has some great mountain huts from just a roof and floor to iron stoves and running drinkable water and everything you need except food. A lot of the mountain huts have spaces to pitch your tent, some with toilets and some without.
December – March (winter) : Background, alpine winter knowledge and experience are needed to try anything in the mountains in Hokkaido. When heading into the backcountry, snowshoes, telemark skis and backcountry skis are necessary. The snow in Hokkaido is one of the best and deepest powder in the world and one of the best places for Skiing and Snowboarding is a place called Niseko which is getting very popular to the Aussies.
Note: The winter season at Daisetsu-Zan, Tokachi and Shiretoko is from October – May. June can be a problem if you don’t have the right gear as well as experience in cold alpine conditions.
April – May (spring) : There is some great spring Hiking to be done in Hokkaido, especially around the Sapporo area. There is still plenty of snow around, but at this time of year, it’s very hard and can be walked on. However, taking snowshoes can be a good idea. Make sure to purchase snowshoes of god quality.
Note: It’s still winter season at Daisetsu-Zan and Tokachi and Shiretoko.
June – August (summer) : It can get warm around this time of year (35˚C plus). The weather is usually good and most of the trails are free of snow.
Note: June is still spring and the summer season is only two months (from July – August) in Daisetsu-Zan, Tokachi and Shiretoko.
September – November (autumn) : In September, Daisetsu-Zan, Tokachi, and Shiretoko are the first places in Japan to get their autumn coat which offers one of the most spectacular sceneries. The autumn coat works way down the lower mountains and usually ends at Sapporo in November.
Winter starts around October in Daisetsu-Zan, Tokachi and Shiretoko. Usually the first snow comes in September or early October.
If you every get here and you need a guide, I will be more than happy to show you some of Hokkaido’s many secrets.