While Japan’s metropolitan cities may be iconic, Hokkaido offers much respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. The northern island in Japan is home to some of the purest hot springs, most pristine lakes and nicest ski resorts – so the next time you visit Japan, change things up with a nature retreat in the beautiful island of Hokkaido.
45 Kawanishi, Abuta-gun, Kyogoku-cho 044-0131 , Hokkaido
Hokkaido has no shortage of natural springs, but Fukidashi Park has some of the purest spring water in the whole of Japan – so pure, in fact, that you can drink straight from the spring. The mineral water flows from the inactive stratovolcano Mount Yōtei, so many people flock to the spring to drink its refreshing (and free) water. You can also bring bottles to fill with the spring water, which can be used for cooking or beauty purposes.
Pure spring water aside though, Fukidashi Park itself is amazingly beautiful. I mean, can we just take a moment to appreciate how picturesque the grounds look?
If the colourful and lush foliage don’t make for an OOTD-worthy background, then I don’t know what else will. Seriously guys, lug your camera (and Instahusband) here, because this park is the stuff OOTD picture dreams are made of.
Noboribetsu Onsencho, Noboribetsu 059-0551, Hokkaido
While we are on the topic of springs, the Oyunuma River Natural Footbath is worth a visit if you like hot springs (or onsen, as the Japanese call it). The natural onsen has mineral-rich water which flows from Lake Oyunuma, and is said to relieve aching feet or conditions like athlete’s foot. Visitors are invited to dip their feet into the warm water, which feels especially enjoyable on a cold day.
To get to the footbath area, you will need to trek through a short pathway then climb down a somewhat rocky slope – but boy is it worth all that effort. Remember to bring a mat and towel though, so you will have something to sit on and wipe your feet after you are done soaking.
635 Yamada-cho, Yoichi-cho 046-0012, Hokkaido
Besides its amazing parks and nature reserves, Hokkaido is also famous for its fresh produce, dairy products and seafood. There are plenty of good restaurants there – from wineries to sushi bars – so it can be somewhat overwhelming to pick a place to eat. Let’s just say you probably won’t go hungry in Hokkaido.
Occi Gabi Winery is a quaint winery and restaurant located in Yoichi, about an hour’s drive from Sapporo. The winery is run by a Japanese couple that is passionate about both food and wine, so you can expect to tuck into a good meal at their restaurant on-site. The lunch menu is a set one that changes based on the produce that is in season, but the food is still good and reasonably-priced nonetheless.
If you are interested in the wine-making process, the owner will be more than happy to take you on a tour of the basement cellar, where you can see how the grapes are processed and stored. Not a bad way to spend a relaxing afternoon away from the city.
355 Takinomachi, Usu-gun, Sobetsu-cho 052-0101, Hokkaido
If hot springs and wineries aren’t your thing, how about some good ol’ fruit-picking instead? Sobetsu Fruit Village is a farm where you can hand-pick fruit like apples, grapes or strawberries when they are in season. The expansive orchards are neatly lined with fruit trees, so you can wander around and pick a couple to bring home with you.
While summer is often the best season for fruit-picking (strawberries, grapes and cherries), early autumn is the start of the apple harvest. Now I don’t usually like apples, but these were just too juicy and sweet to resist. I imagine the apple Snow White bit into was probably from Hokkaido, because who could resist such a perfect, blood-red apple?
The apples last for about two weeks when refrigerated, so you can also bring some home if you have the space.
5. Missu House
2-2-20 Fushimi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064-0942, Hokkaido
What’s a trip to Hokkaido without some honest-to-goodness Hokkaido milk ice cream eh? You won’t be hard-pressed to find good soft serve in Hokkaido, but Missu House is definitely worth a visit if you are in Sapporo. The popular dessert cafe has a tempting selection of hand-made Hokkaido ice cream, from Matcha Parfaits to the most amazing Earl Grey ice cream. They also have limited edition parfaits, based on whatever flavours are in season during the month.
Hokkaido is famous for its dairy products, so it is really no surprise that the ice cream at Missu House is fresh, creamy and downright delicious. Seriously guys, if there’s one thing you should bust your daily calorie budget on, it’s a parfait from Missu House. #noragrats
The dessert cafe also has a selection of Japanese-style desserts, such as zenzai (red bean soup) with soft cream. The dessert is an interesting blend of flavours and textures, with the warm red bean soup complementing the milky ice cream and soft mochi. Definitely a good option for those who prefer their desserts a little less sweet.