Rich in natural beauty, bursting with Japanese pride and welcoming of all people, Hokkaido offers more than just a getaway – it offers a slice of the authentic Japanese experience. If you’ve never thought of visiting this beautiful place, well it’s time to open your mind to new possibilities!
This northernmost island of Japan is not only blessed with breathtakingly beautiful, picturesque places but it’s home to some of the freshest seafood in the country. Anyone who’s been to Hokkaido will tell you it’s a fascinating place, especially during Winter and Spring. Here are 8 amazing things about this island that’ll make you want to book a flight ticket now!
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1. Indulge in yummy halal local food
Nijo Fish Market
Any seafood lover here? You should not miss out on visiting the seafood market in Hokkaido and enjoy amazing choices from snow crabs to salmon, herring and even sea urchin.
Credit: @pondmufc on Instagram
The seas of northern Japan are rich with fish and crustaceans that have been part of the food culture of Hokkaido for decades. The capital city Sapporo has a reputation for being a major foodie spot for seafood lovers! Kickstart your foodie adventure at the century-old Nijo Market, an authentic fish market that lets you enjoy delicious seafood while walking around.
Credit: @chattiwa_khem on Instagram
And when you’re at Nijo Market, the main dish that you should try is the Kaisen don or a seafood bowl which you can find everywhere in the market! To make the dish, the chef tops a generous amount of seafood like salmon sashimi and uni on a bed of hot rice with a little sauce on the side to give it a little extra savoury taste. You can also request for sesame leaves to mask the fishy taste from the seafood. It’s one of the places in Hokkaido where you can enjoy seafood fresh out of the sea!
Address: Higashi, 1 Chome Minami, 3 Johigashi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0053, Japan
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun: 7:00 am – 6:00 pm
Phone Number: +81 (0)11-222-5308
Ramen Horyu Souhounten
Credit: @adam_drp on Instagram
Hokkaido is known for their miso-based ramen broths, and the best place to find them is in Sapporo. The best part is: you can find a few Muslim-friendly eateries that serve delicious ramen, one of which is the famous Houryu Ramen! Although the restaurant is not Halal-certified, they do have a separate halal menu that offers three types of miso-based ramen.
With a mild climate like Hokkaido’s, what better way to enjoy it than with a bowl of warm soupy noodles. The Genghis Khan Ramen is a must-try! Not to be confused with the historical figure, this dish is topped with grilled lamb and topped with lots of vegetables and a special dipping sauce. Sounds tempting enough?
Address: Susukino Hontsu, Minami 6Jo Nishi 3 Chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 064-0806, Japan
Opening Hours: Mon, Wed-Sat, 10:30 am – 2:00am, Sun and Public Holidays, 10:30 am – 1:00am (Closes at 2:00am during consecutive holidays)
Phone Number: +81 (0) 11-511-0403
Credit: @kenmao.t on Instagram
Another Muslim-friendly gem that will surely blow you away with its mouth-watering ramen is Fukunoki Ramen! Unlike Houryu Ramen that specialises in miso-based broths, the ramen at Fukunoki is tomato-based (notice the bright colour). That’s because the chef feels that the nutrients in tomatoes help maximise the flavours, making it super delicious! Plus, there are no chemical flavourings so you can tell that the chef puts her customers’ health first before anything else. And every meat at Fukunoki is halal-certified!
Address: 1F Minami-Shijo Unihouse, Nishi 10-chome Minami 4 Jo, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0804, Japan
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun, 11:30am – 9:00pm. Closed on Mondays.
Phone Number: +81(0)11-511-3055
2. Get your adrenaline pumping with seasonal activities
Hokkaido’s scenery is incredible throughout all four seasons, but for a good balance of weather and activities, Spring and Winter on the island are the best! Here’s what visitors can enjoy during these two seasons:
Credit: <!– –> on Flickr
We’re not exaggerating when we say that Hokkaido has indeed the best snow in the world! The snow quality is incredibly consistent that the texture becomes so soft like powder. Trust us, you’d want to just lie down and make snow angels.
Credit: Robert Thomson on Flickr
A popular sport in Hokkaido during the cold season is skiing. Most ski resorts offer their winter activities, so you won’t need to worry about finding the packages yourself. Do note that you’d need a crash course before you can take part in any of the activities. The best ski resorts in Sapporo are Rusutsu Ski Resort, Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort, Niseko Village and Sahoro Ski Resort!
Ice-fishing and cook tempura on ice
Credit: Eiyaida on Facebook
Would you believe it if we say that underneath that thick layer of ice is a school of fish in a pond? Yes, that’s true and you can also go fishing! Ice-fishing is a popular winter activity in Hokkaido and the locals love it. There are several places that offer ice-fishing and it’s pretty easy to do.
Just make a hole in the ice and start fishing! All you need is a bit of patience 😉 Fishing rods are mostly provided so you don’t have to worry about that. Once you catch enough fish, get them cooked tempura-style!
#HHWT Tip: Cooking the fish would require extra cost but it would be a great experience to eat the fish that you caught yourself!
Travelling throughout the Hokkaido region in spring is a great adventure, especially when the chilly weather from winter still abound. As the snow melts quickly and the rivers rise, the cherry blossoms bloom and plenty of other trees follow suit, marking the start of a new season. If winter’s not really your thing, you can visit Hokkaido during spring but be sure to bring a light coat as it’ll still be windy. Among the top activities that you can be part of:
Chase the spring foliage
Credit: Scott Wang on Flickr
The locals in Sapporo love to head outdoors during spring as it appears here and there. The parks around the city are abuzz with people all the time, having picnics. Stroll around the famous Odori Park and feast your eyes on the unique flower beds and garden. Or for something a little different than the city, climb up the Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park and witness the beautiful hillside covered with tulips!
Credit: Hokkaido on Facebook
If you’re around Odori Park, you might even come across the Tokibi Wagon, a food wagon serving corn that’s a famous springtime (from end of April till early October) snack. For just 300yen, you’ll get a corncob that’s perfectly baked and sprinkled with spices. It’s the only place in the city where you can see these wagons in action!
Credit: tata_aka_T on Flickr
Enchanting as it is elegant, Farm Tomita is a splendid representation of a typical Hokkaido flower field. The colourful flowers like Oriental and Iceland poppies steal the spotlight during the spring season! Visitors often take photos and make a trip to the nearby houses. Look out for the shop selling various products including sweets and ice-cream!
Credit: Ansel.Ma on Flickr
Another famous flower field is nestled in the quiet town of Biei, just off the northeast corner of Sapporo. Similar to Tomita, the rolling hills of Shikisai is filled with various types of colourful flowers but visitors can explore the field on vehicles like a tractor, buggy or a cart. The locals say that on clear days, you’ll even see the view of Mt. Daisetsu from the field.
3. Meet penguins and friends in Hokkaido
Credit: Kagami on Flickr
During winter, the zoos in Hokkaido are unlike the ones in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia where you’ll find Arctic and Antarctic animals in a glass-fronted room surrounded by snow and sub-zero temperature. In Hokkaido’s largest Asahiyama Zoo, the animals can be seen in their natural environment.
Credit: Kagami on Flickr
From the friendly penguins to the cuddly red pandas and the majestic polar bears, a visit to Asahiyama Zoo will brighten up everyone’s day – you name it, kids AND adults!
Credit: Cookie M on Flickr
Families can enjoy the glass tunnel where they can observe the penguin pool from underneath and small glass domes in the middle of the polar bear and wolf enclosures that can get them up close and personal with the animals.
Address: Kuranuma, Higashiasahikawacho, Asahikawa, Hokkaido 078-8205, Japan
Opening Hours: 11 November 2018 – 7April 2019, 10:30am – 3:30pm (Last entrance 3pm)
Closed: 4 November – 10 November 2018, 30 December 2018 – 1 Jan 2019
Noboribetsu Bear Park
Did you know that the native animal to Hokkaido is the brown bear? Known as the sacred symbol of the native Ainu people, there are approximately 2,000 brown bears in Hokkaido and the best place to witness them is none other than the Noboribetsu Bear Park! Located atop “Bear Mountain”, the park can be found in the deep forest of the Lake Kuttara area.
Credit: Jason on Flickr
Once you’re there, make your way to the farm and meet the bears! The farm has two separate areas that house male and female bears respectively. Don’t miss out on interacting with the bears by feeding them some bear snacks that are sold at a booth nearby. For a closer look, walk over to the human cage or visit the Cubs Firm where you can meet cute and cuddly bear cubs!
Address: 224 Noboribetsuonsen-cho, Noboribetsu, Hokkaido 059-0551, Japan
Opening Hours: 1 October 2018 – 31 Jan 2019, 8:30am – 4:30pm (last entrance 3:50pm)
1 Feb 2019 – 31 March 2019, 8:30am – 4:00pm (last entrance 3:20pm)
Tel: +81(0) 143-84-2225
4. Watch the panoramic skyline view of Hokkaido
Anyone who’s up for a fantastic view of the Hokkaido skyline? You’d know by now that it’s beautiful in both winter and spring, but have you ever wondered what it’s like to witness the beauty from an observation deck?
Credit: Kanesue on Flickr
No tour to Hokkaido is complete without taking in the view of the Hakodate skyline from Mt. Hakodate. The view of the buildings gets even more beautiful during night time where you’ll be greeted with lights everywhere. You can reach the summit via cable car and do make sure to be there before sunset to see the colour of the sky and the surroundings change!
Credit: MIKO Yoshihito on Flickr
Another place of interest with a high vantage point is Goryokaku Tower. Located 30 minutes away from Mt Hakodate and overlooking an intricate star-shaped fort, this tower is also known as one of the best places to catch cherry blossom at the fort. During winter, you’ll be able to witness the star perimeter of the fort light up so beautifully.
Credit: redlegsfan21 on Flickr
Travel a little southwest of central Sapporo and you’ll end up at the forested mountain of Moiwa. Another popular sightseeing spot, the summit offers an observation deck where you can feast your eyes on the spectacular skyline of Sapporo. Take the Mount Moiwa Ropeway cable car and enjoy the scenery while you climb to the top. Stay until sunset and it’ll guarantee to make you fall in love with the beauty of Sapporo!
If you’re planning a trip to Hokkaido, consider flying with AirAsia X because you’ll enjoy fares as low as RM499 (all-in) for travels from now until 30 June 2019! Promo ends on 9 Dec 2018.
5. Shop till you drop at Hokkaido’s popular spots
100 Yen Stores
Credit: Ben Kubota on Flickr
On a shoestring budget for some souvenir shopping? Then the 100-yen stores in Hokkaido are your best bet! You’ll probably grasp this concept well if you’re familiar with Daiso (who isn’t?) which operates its biggest outlet in Sapporo. Make your way to Daiso Sapporo Central where you’ll walk into a 5-storey building that’s filled with millions of 100-yen items for you to purchase – you might need a bigger bag (don’t say we didn’t warn you :P)
#HHWT Tip: For more souvenir options, you can visit other 100-yen stores like Can*Do, Watts, Seria and 100 Yen Shop!
Credit: @aena.ja on Instagram
If your budget isn’t too tight, shop at the outlet malls! Sapporo currently has two shopping outlets namely Chitose Outlet Mall Rera and the Mitsui Outlet Park – both located near the New Chitose Airport. Mitsui Outlet Park has over 180 stores of all types offering a broad selection of popular brands from Adidas to Coach, Chanel and many more!
#HHWT Tip: There’s a prayer room located at the Clover Mall so you don’t have to worry about missing your prayers! Do bring your garment and sejadah, if needed.
Address: 3 Chome-7-6 Omagarisaiwaicho, Kitahiroshima, Hokkaido 061-1278, Japan
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun, 10:00am – 8:00pm.
Chitose Outlet Mall Rera
Credit: Hokkaido Chitose Outlet Mall Rera on Facebook
Although it’s slightly smaller than Mitsui Outlet Park – Chitose Outlet Mall Rera still packs a punch! With over 140 shops around, this is Hokkaido’s first outlet mall and it’s only 10 minutes away from the airport by the shuttle bus! Perfect for those who want to do some last-minute shopping, some of the major brands you can find are Coach, BEAMS, GAP outlet and Edwin.
#HHWT Tip: There’s a prayer room located next to the coach parking area (P1). While the room has an ablution tap, garments aren’t provided so do bring yours!
Address: 1 Chome-2-1 Kashiwadaiminami, Chitose, Hokkaido066-8765, Japan
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun, 10:00am – 7:00pm
Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade
Credit: @abetehaael on Instagram
Now if you’ve put aside some of your travelling allowances to spoil yourself silly, then Tanukikoji Shopping Street is the place for you. Less fancy shops and more affordable retailers, this 150-year-old shopping street is home to around 200 shops ranging from fashion stores to souvenir shops and other specialty stores.
For the locals, it’s their go-to shopping spot! Many items for sale here are said to be cheaper than in the 100-yen shops and you’ll find more options here. Besides shopping, you can also check out some live buskers around.
6. Stay in the heart of Hokkaido at Muslim-friendly accommodations
You’re most likely convinced that Hokkaido is actually a Muslim-friendly destination. Wait till you hear this part: you can find a few Muslim-friendly accommodations around the city of Sapporo!
Hotel Mystays Premier Sapporo Park
Credit: Hotel MyStays on Facebook
If you’d like to stay around the city, consider checking into Hotel Mystays Premier Sapporo Park which is 2 minutes away by foot from Nakajima Koen station (Exit 1) on the Nanboku line. Since it’s located in the heart of the city, access to public transportation is a breeze.
This quaint hotel serves Halal meals with careful preparation where the food is cooked separately using only halal-certified ingredients. Plus, their staff are properly trained to handle the different dietary restrictions of diners, so you can be assured that there would not be any cross-contamination in the kitchen.
#HHWT Tip: The hotel also provides praying mats and Qiblah indicators upon request.
Address: 2-10 Nishi 2-chome, Minami 9-jo, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido 064-0809 Japan
Rusutsu Resort Hotel & Convention
Credit: ルスツリゾート・オフィシャルページ on Facebook
In winter, the best way to experience Hokkaido is by staying at one of the ski resorts around and thankfully, there’s a Muslim-friendly ski resort that’s situated approximately 90 minutes away from Sapporo – Rusutsu Resort! The distance may put you off, but this resort boasts a total of four different accommodations from Deluxe Family Room to Japanese-Style Room, all located within the vicinity of the stunning Mt Yotei.
Credit: Rusutsu Resort (Official) on Facebook
You’ll be happy to know that the resort also offers Muslim-friendly meals! However, be sure to book your Halal meal at least 2 days in advance.
#HHWT Tip: Similar to Hotel Mystays, Rusutsu Resort Hotel & Convention also provides praying mats and Qiblah compass.
Address: Abuta-gun, Rusutsu-mura, Izumikawa, １３ Hokkaidō, 048-1711, Japan
Tel: +81 11-272-3111
7. Experience Hokkaido’s finest onsen
Credit: ruich_whx on Flickr
Hokkaido has some of the best hot springs (onsen) in the land of Japan and the locals believe that the pressure and warmth of the water improve blood circulation and soothe the fatigue of your journey. So why not let yourself be healed from the rigours of daily life by relaxing in the onsen?
Credit: @jozankeiview on Instagram
Sapporo houses plenty of onsens, but most of them don’t come with a view. If you venture out into the outskirts of Sapporo, you will be able to enjoy sightseeing as you bathe in the hot spring. While we cannot determine whether there are Muslim-friendly onsens in Hokkaido, there are some places that provide private rooms like Koganeyu Onsen, Yado Furu, and Jozankei.
8. Catch the annual festivals
We’re saving the best for last. The wilderness of Hokkaido provides various outdoor pursuits. Its cities that are tucked against the backdrop of majestic mountains and glistening lakes offer an abundance of festival delights.
Sapporo Snow Festival
Credit: David McKelvey on Flickr
Probably the grandest festival of all time in Japan, the Sapporo Snow Festival is a one-week festival that occurs in the first week of February.
Credit: Japanese Experts on Facebook
What started as a fun activity of high school students in the 50s who loved building snow statues at Odori Park has since developed into a large, significant event in Japan. The festival features incredible snow and ice sculptures ranging from cartoon characters to famous attractions around the world. Visitors can be part of the celebration at three different sites: Odori, Susukino and Tsu Dome.
Credit: David McKelvey on Flickr
While both Odori and Susukino are full of snow and ice sculptures, Tsu Dome offers fun activities for families like the snow slides, snow rafting and more sculptures.
Sapporo Lilac Festival
Celebrate the spring season at Sapporo Lilac Festival where every garden in Hokkaido gets decorated with cherries, plums, shibazakura (moss phlox), tulips and of course, lilac!
Credit: DrChow Steven on Facebook
During this time of the year, the grounds of Sapporo turn into a massive flower kingdom that is pleasant to look at. As with most other festivals in Sapporo, you can be part of this event at Odori Park.
Credit: Discovery Japan on Facebook
Just follow the walking paths where you can check out pretty lilacs and other flowers around. The locals say that the park houses almost 400 lilac trees every year! So, if you’re looking to chill and have a nice picnic with your family, you shouldn’t miss out on this big event.
Otaru Mosque (Masjid Al-Noor)
While you’re in Otaru, make some time to visit Masjid al-Noor, one of the most well-known mosques in Japan. Affectionately known as “Masjid Otaru” by the locals, this three-storey building stands out the most with its gold dome and minarets.
It’s the ideal place if you’d like to meet some local Japanese Muslims! There’s also halal food sold at the premise and the proceeds will go to charity.
Address: 5 Chome-4-27 Inaho, Otaru, Hokkaido 047-0032, Japan
Are you finally convinced to travel to Hokkaido now? We’re sure you are! Though Tokyo is still considered the best destination for Muslim travellers, it’s time to switch it up a notch and give Hokkaido a chance it very much deserves for it offers breath-taking nature with quaint towns, mouth-watering halal food and cool festivals to boot. Wait no more because Hokkaido is calling! Find out more information on JNTO’s website and Facebook page 😉
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