Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Tokyo to Hokkaido shinkansen bullet train. Getting around Hokkaido. Best places to visit in Japan winter. Best things to do in Japan winter. One week in Hokkaido. 14-day JR pass, 21-day JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

This is basically part 2 of my Japan winter itinerary. (Part 1 is winter in central Japan!)

I was in Hokkaido in March 2019, and there was plenty of snow to be seen in far northern Japan!

When you think of March, you may not think “winter” but overall, it was still a good time to get winter in Japan in Hokkaido. Although there was one activity in particular in which March was a little late. (A little more on that later.)

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Getting around Hokkaido by train. 1 week in Hokkaido. 14-day JR pass, 21-day JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Getting around Hokkaido by train. 1 week in Hokkaido. 14-day JR pass, 21-day JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

First, the quick list of the best places to visit for winter in Hokkaido.

Then, the quick list of the 7 day trip itinerary to go to these places in Japan.

Then, a little bit about getting around Hokkaido, including by using a JR Hokkaido pass or a regular JR pass.

And then, a bit more details about this Hokkaido trip plan… including photos!

 

 

5 best things to do in Hokkaido in winter

 

1. Asahiyama Zoo penguin walk

7 days in Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary. Asahikawa. Asahiyama zoo penguin walk. Best things to do in Hokkaido. Best places to visit in Hokkaido. One week in Hokkaido with JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

2. Abashiri drift ice cruise

7 days in Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary. Abashiri drift ice breaker cruise boat tour. Best things to do in Hokkaido. Best places to visit in Hokkaido. One week in Hokkaido with JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog
The activity that would have been better earlier in winter!

 

 

3. Lake Shikaribetsu ice village

7 days in Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary. Lake Shikaribetsu ice village, igloo village. Best things to do in Hokkaido. Best places to visit in Hokkaido. One week in Hokkaido with JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

4. Mount Moiwa winter hike with city views

7 days in Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary. Sapporo winter hikes and ski resorts. Best things to do in Hokkaido. Best places to visit in Hokkaido. One week in Hokkaido with JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

5. Noboribetsu Onsen hot springs town

7 days in Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary. Noboribetsu onsen hot springs. Best things to do in Hokkaido. Best places to visit in Hokkaido. One week in Hokkaido with JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

So how to make these things a part of your trip to Japan?!

Here is the quick list of the Hokkaido winter itinerary!

Hotel links below to partner website. Most hostels in Japan also have private rooms. They also tend to have nice common areas to chill in!

 

Day 1: Sapporo to Asahikawa / Asahikawa activity

 

Day 2: Asahikawa to Abashiri / Abashiri activity

 

Day 3: Kushiro to Obihiro / Obihiro activity

 

Day 4: Obihiro to Sapporo / Sapporo activity

  • Obihiro to Sapporo by train
  • Ramen alley
  • Overnight stay in Sapporo

 

Day 5: Sapporo activities

  • STAY PUT in Sapporo!
  • Mt Moiwa hike OR day trip to ski resort
  • Overnight stay in Sapporo

 

Day 6: Day trip to Noboribetsu Onsen

 

Day 7: Sapporo to Hakodate / Hakodate activity

 

 

There’s a bit more about each day of this Hokkaido itinerary, but first…

 

 

A little bit about using a JR pass for Hokkaido trains

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Getting around Hokkaido by train. 1 week in Hokkaido. 14-day JR pass, 21-day JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Getting around Hokkaido by train. 1 week in Hokkaido. 14-day JR pass, 21-day JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

JR Hokkaido pass

For the above 7-day Hokkaido plan, getting a 7-day JR Hokkaido pass will be the most efficient.

There are trains running between the routes listed, and they are comfortable. Many of them are limited express trains, which means they are the faster trains which is what can make them among the most efficient ways to get around Hokkaido when you’re limited on time.

For the longer distances between the major cities, I got around exclusively by train.

On most of these routes, there are reserved and non-reserved seats available. I’ve traveled in both reserved and non-reserved, although I don’t think it was necessary for most of the route to reserve seats at the time I was traveling. Sometimes it felt like the non-reserved cars were more empty, actually!

When traveling with a JR pass, you can go to the “green window” office to request a reserved seat which exists at most train stations. There’s no extra charge. Otherwise, you can just go for a non-reserved seat.

Some train routes were limited express trains, and others were local trains.

 

 

Train timings in Hokkaido

Hokkaido as a whole is a little more “rural” than other tourist cities in Japan like Tokyo and Kyoto. This means that train timings aren’t as frequent, in particular when you’re traveling across Hokkaido outside of Sapporo.

This means that it’s important to check train timings.

So the first thing you’ll want to do when you get to your first train station in Hokkaido is to pick up the latest copy of the JR Hokkaido timetable.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. JR Hokkaido train timetable. 1 week in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

I relied on this SO much when I was in Hokkaido, and it was GREAT! I would check google maps for route ideas, and then check the timetable booklet for timings.

You can probably ask for it at the JR office of all major train stations in Hokkaido. I got mine at the JR office at the Sapporo Chitose airport.

When looking for the JR office at any train station, you’ll look for signs for “midori no madoguchi” – the green window.

 

 

Regular JR pass vs JR Hokkaido pass

Depending on your travel in Japan before and after Hokkaido, you may also consider getting the regular JR pass.

As you can imagine, the JR Hokkaido pass is only good for travel on JR trains around Hokkaido. This means that a JR Hokkaido pass won’t be able to get you from Tokyo to Sapporo for example.

But if you have a regular JR pass, it can get you from Tokyo to Sapporo, and you will also be able to use it on the trains around Hokkaido too.

The JR pass is more expensive than the JR Hokkaido pass. It would make sense to get a 7-day regular JR pass over a JR Hokkaido pass is if you’re planning on arriving AND leaving Hokkaido by train to/from Tokyo, if you’ll be adapting this 7-day Hokkaido plan into a 5-day Hokkaido itinerary. It MIGHT make sense to buy it if you are only going one way to/from Tokyo, IF you do enough train travel around the main cities of Hokkaido within that 7 days. Here are tips to calculate whether it’ll be worth it.

Very generally speaking, a regular JR pass will be worth it if you do 2 long-distance shinkansen train rides, and Tokyo to Hokkaido or Hokkaido to Tokyo would each count as 1 ride. If you will be going from Kyoto to Tokyo by shinkansen bullet train, and then within 7 days go from Tokyo to Hokkaido by shinkansen, the JR pass will very likely be worth it. Likewise, if you’ll be going from Hokkaido to Tokyo by shinkansen, and then within 7 days go from Tokyo to Kyoto by shinkansen, it will also be worth it with these 2 train rides alone… likely! Again, this is how you can calculate it to be sure.

My JR Hokkaido pass cost me 24,000 yen (US$220). See the current price of the regular JR passes from an official JR pass vendor (partner website). There are also 14-day and 21-day regular JR passes.

If you don’t want to move around as much so quickly as is listed in this itinerary, then you may also look into buying individual train tickets or bus tickets and skip the pass.

 

 

Where to buy the JR Hokkaido pass

You can buy the JR Hokkaido pass at train station once you get to Hokkaido, including at the JR office at the airport and Sapporo Station.

As for the regular JR pass, it’s possible that you can buy it in Japan (you haven’t always been able to, and it’s been called an “experiment” or “trial”) but it will most likely be more expensive compared to buying it before you arrive in Japan. (I bought a regular JR pass in Japan and it cost US$30-40 more.)

So if you know you’ll be traveling with a JR pass in Japan, it can be best to buy it before you arrive. Again, here’s an official JR pass vendor.

 

 

Arriving to Hokkaido

There are 2 main ways you can arrive to Sapporo to start this Hokkaido itinerary:

  • Flight
  • Train

 

There’s an airport near Sapporo, and that’s the Sapporo Chitose airport.

If you’re traveling with a 14-day or 21-day JR pass, then arriving to Hokkaido by train might also be an option to consider. There’s a shinkansen bullet train that will get you from Tokyo to Hakodate, which is just south of Sapporo. From Hakodate, you can then take a limited express train to Sapporo.

Or, if you want to adapt this 7-day plan into a 5-day Hokkaido itinerary, then you might consider getting a 7-day regular JR pass and then arriving and leaving by train. For Tokyo to Sapporo and Sapporo to Tokyo, it’s best to give yourself the full day to travel. (As in, don’t plan extra activities on these days, or be flexible.)

 

 

Leaving Hokkaido

If you’re traveling with a JR Hokkaido pass, you can’t use it to take a shinkansen to Tokyo, and Hakodate will be the furthest south to go. From Hakodate, you can activate a regular JR pass if you’ll be further exploring Japan.

If you’re traveling with a regular JR pass, you can take the shinkansen bullet train to Tokyo from Hakodate.

It’s reasonable to go from Sapporo to Tokyo by train in one day, although it will require a train transfer. You’ll first go from Sapporo to Hakodate by train (not the shinkansen), and then you’ll go from Hakodate to Tokyo by train.

If you’ll be staying overnight in Hakodate, the shinkansen doesn’t leave from the train station in town (that’s called Hakodate Station). Instead, you’ll need to get a train from Hakodate Station to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, and then get the shinkansen to Tokyo. If you will be going straight from Sapporo to Tokyo, you can get a train from Sapporo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station.

If this sounds complicated, consulting google maps will make it seem more simple!

If you’ll be flying out of Hokkaido, you might consider skipping Hakodate since the airport is near Sapporo.

 

 

Tokyo to Hokkaido shinkansen // Hokkaido to Tokyo shinkansen (Hayabusa)

This is one of the rare shinkansen bullet trains that DO require seat reservations. There’s the regular reserved seats, and also the green car reserved seats.There are no non-reserved cars. Most other shinkansen trains have a non-reserved compartments.

This train also has a beer cart that comes around.

If you won’t be getting a JR pass, you can buy individual shinkansen train tickets at any JR train ticket office, available at any JR train station.

This train passes through an underwater tunnel! There are reports that say this is the world’s longest underwater tunnel.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR pass. Tokyo to Hokkaido shinkansen bullet train. Hokkaido to Tokyo Hokkaido shinkansen bullet train. Tokyo to Sapporo. Tokyo to Hakodate. 1 week in Hokkaido. 14-day JR pass, 21-day JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR pass. Tokyo to Hokkaido shinkansen bullet train. Hokkaido to Tokyo Hokkaido shinkansen bullet train. Sapporo to Tokyo. Hakodate to Tokyo. 1 week in Hokkaido. 14-day JR pass, 21-day JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR pass. inside seats. Tokyo to Hokkaido shinkansen bullet train. Hokkaido to Tokyo Hokkaido shinkansen bullet train. Tokyo to Sapporo. Tokyo to Hakodate. 1 week in Hokkaido. 14-day JR pass, 21-day JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR pass. inside seats. Tokyo to Hokkaido shinkansen bullet train. Hokkaido to Tokyo Hokkaido shinkansen bullet train. Tokyo to Sapporo. Tokyo to Hakodate. 1 week in Hokkaido. 14-day JR pass, 21-day JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR pass. Tokyo to Hokkaido shinkansen bullet train. Hokkaido to Tokyo Hokkaido shinkansen bullet train. Tokyo to Sapporo. Tokyo to Hakodate. 1 week in Hokkaido. 14-day JR pass, 21-day JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

And now…

Here’s a bit more about getting around Hokkaido in winter!

 

Day 1: Sapporo to Asahikawa / Asahikawa activity

 

I took a train from Sapporo to Asahikawa.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. sapporo to asahikawa train. day trip possible. 1 day in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. sapporo to asahikawa train. inside seats. day trip possible. 1 day in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. sapporo to asahikawa train winter snow. day trip possible. 1 day in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. sapporo to asahikawa train winter snow. day trip possible. 1 day in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

When I arrived at the Asahikawa train station, I put my luggage in a coin locker at the station. The tourist information center at the train station also offers luggage storage.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. asahikawa train station coin locker for luggage storage. 1 day in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

And then I got on a bus to the zoo. The bus stop is located right in front of the train station.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Asahikawa station bus to asahiyama zoo. 1 day in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

What makes the Asahiyama Zoo popular is the penguin walk.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. asahikawa. penguin walk at asahiyama zoo. 1 day in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. asahikawa. penguin walk at asahiyama zoo. 1 day in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. asahikawa. penguin walk at asahiyama zoo. 1 day in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. asahikawa. penguin walk at asahiyama zoo. 1 day in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

The zookeepers say that the penguins that come out do so at their will, so number of penguins coming out can vary but it seems every walk gets lots of penguins. (And lots of tourists!) Once at the Asahikawa train station, the bus stop is right in front of the train station. This is a local bus. When I went, the penguin walk timings were at 11am and 2:30pm. Many people do a trip to the Asahiyama Zoo as a day trip from Sapporo.

After the trip to the zoo, I returned to the train station to get my luggage, and then went to check in to my hostel.

I stayed at this Asahikawa hostel which was a 15 minute or so walk from the train station.

 

 

Day 2: Asahikawa to Abashiri / Abashiri activity

 

When I arrived at the Abashiri train station, once again I put my luggage in a coin locker at the station.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Abashiri station coin lockers for luggage storage. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

Then, I walked to the port for the drift ice cruise for a nice winter walk, in part along the river. It was about 30 minutes.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Walk from Abashiri station to abashiri drift ice cruise port walk along river. 2 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

If you don’t want to walk through the cold, there’s also a bus that’s a reasonable option. The bus stop is right in front of the train station. There’s a little tourist information booth at the train station, so stop there to pick up a map, and you can also ask about the bus too!

This is the Hokkaido winter activity I was a little late in the season for.

The thing to do in Abashiri is to take an ice breaker cruise so you can see drift ice… ice drifting around in the ocean! (Well, the sea. It’s the Sea of Okhotsk, with Russia on the other side.) It seems like you might even be able to see wildlife like seals on the ice too.

But by the time I got to Hokkaido, basically all the ice in the ocean had melted. So it turned into just a boat ride around the ocean.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Abashiri drift ice cruise port. 2 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Abashiri drift ice cruise port. 2 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Abashiri drift ice cruise. inside seat tickets. 2 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Abashiri drift ice cruise. boat ride. 2 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Abashiri drift ice cruise. boat ride. 2 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

I didn’t book ahead, but if you’ll be there when there actually will be drift ice, it could be good to book a cruise in advance since it’ll be more popular if there’s ice.

I took the bus from the port back to the train station.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Bus from Abashiri cruise port to Abashiri station. 2 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Bus from Abashiri cruise port to Abashiri station. 2 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

Then once I got back to the train station, I got my luggage to get on a train to the next destination. (No overnight in Abashiri.)

To get from Abashiri to Obihiro requires 2 trains, so Kushiro could be a good breakup point. If the timings work out, you may just try to get to Obihiro.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. hokkaido winter train ride. abashiri to kushiro. 2 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. hokkaido winter train ride. abashiri to kushiro. 2 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. hokkaido winter train ride. abashiri to kushiro. 2 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

On the Abashiri to Kushiro train, follow along on google maps with GPS to know when you’re getting close to Kayanuma Station. There’s a chance you might see wild Japanese cranes in front of this train station! It’s known as the “train station Japanese cranes come to“!

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. japanese red crane train station. abashiri to kushiro. 2 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. japanese red crane train station. abashiri to kushiro. 2 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. japanese red crane train station. abashiri to kushiro. 2 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

I stayed at this “business hotel” in Kushiro located a few minutes walk from the train station. Since this is just a transit point, this can be one of the most convenient places to stay. I also found it to be among the cheapest options. Plus it has free breakfast.

Abashiri is on the northern coast of Hokkaido. Further to the west and north is Wakkanai. It’s said that on a clear day you might be able to see Russia from Wakkanai.

 

 

Day 3: Kushiro to Obihiro / Obihiro activity

 

The Obihiro bus station is where you’d get a bus to Lake Shikaribetsu.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Bus to Lake Shikaribetsu ice village. 3 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Bus to Lake Shikaribetsu ice village. 3 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

Lake Shikaribetsu is where you’ll find a frozen lake. And it’s ON this lake that a temporary ice village or igloo village is built every winter season. There’s an ice bar and cafe, there’s a hot springs footbath that you can soak your feet in (bring a towel to wipe your feet!), and you can just go for a nice long walk across the snow-packed lake to maybe find people ice fishing too. You can also go snowmobiling across the lake.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Lake Shikaribetsu ice village, igloo village. 3 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Lake Shikaribetsu ice village, igloo village. 3 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Lake Shikaribetsu ice village. ice bar. 3 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Lake Shikaribetsu ice village. ice cafe. 3 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Lake Shikaribetsu ice village on frozen lake. winter hike. 3 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Lake Shikaribetsu ice village. ice fishing. 3 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Lake Shikaribetsu ice village, igloo village. 3 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

There are coin lockers at Obihiro station if you want to check in to your hotel after you get back from the igloo village.

If the timings work out, you may just try to get to Sapporo instead of staying the night in Obihiro. Or you might consider just staying at the lakefront hotel that overlooks the ice village!

Another igloo village/ice village in Hokkaido I went to another time was the Tomamu ice village. This is an evening activity, and Sapporo to Tomamu is around 2 hours.

 

 

Day 4: Obihiro to Sapporo / Sapporo activity

  • Obihiro to Sapporo by train
  • Ramen alley
  • Overnight stay in Sapporo

 

After so much travel in the previous days, you can make this an easy day!

Take your time in the morning, and then go from Obihiro to Sapporo by train!

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. obihiro to sapporo train. 5 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. obihiro to sapporo train. 5 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

Japanese ramen noodles can be found all over Japan, and there’s a specialty “Sapporo ramen” you can try in the “ramen alley” of Sapporo for an intro to Sapporo! There is a whole row of ramen shops in the alley.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. sapporo ramen alley. ramen shops, restaurants. 5 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. sapporo ramen alley. ramen shops, restaurants. 5 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. sapporo ramen with butter and corn in ramen alley. ramen shops, restaurants. 5 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

Sapporo beer is also one of the famous beers across Japan. Have a Sapporo beer in Sapporo! Or buy one at a convenience store before you board the train, and then drink one one your way TO Sapporo! (Drinks on these trains no problem.)

There were 2 hostels I stayed at in Sapporo – this one and this one.

 

 

Day 5: Sapporo activities

  • STAY PUT in Sapporo!
  • Mt Moiwa hike
  • Overnight stay in Sapporo

There are different things to do in Sapporo based on your interest, but we’ll keep a winter theme here, so a winter hike in the snow sounds perfect!

This is a pretty easy hike in the snow, and it’ll take you to the Mt Moiwa observatory that’ll get you sweeping views of the city.

If you don’t want to hike, there’s also the Mt Moiwa ropeway, and you can get a ride up to the top.

Near the start of the Mt Moiwa hiking trail are the Sapporo fushimi inari torii gates.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. sapporo fushimi inari shrine red orange torii gates in winter. 5 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. sapporo fushimi inari shrine red orange torii gates in winter. 5 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. sapporo fushimi inari shrine red orange torii gates in winter. 5 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. sapporo winter hike. mount moiwa hiking trail in winter. 5 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. sapporo winter hike. mount moiwa hiking trail in winter. 5 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. sapporo winter hike. mount moiwa hiking trail to ropeway observation deck in winter. 5 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. sapporo mount moiwa ropeway observation deck in winter with sapporo city views. 5 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

For more city views from above, you can make a visit to the JR Tower observatory and the Sapporo TV tower.

 

Or… don’t stay put in Sapporo! 😉

 

Day trip to ski resorts from Sapporo

If you are into skiing or snowboarding, you may consider making day trips from Sapporo to Niseko, Rusutsu, or Furano.  (Or spend a night or 2! I stayed at this hostel in Niseko.) These are among the popular ski resorts in Hokkaido. Beginner lessons are also available. If you want to start your trip out with skiing, there’s a bus from the airport to Niseko, as well as to the other ski resorts.

 

 

Day 6: Day trip to Noboribetsu Onsen

 

Noboribetsu Onsen is a hot springs town and this is a popular day trip from Sapporo.

You can take a train from Sapporo, and once at the Noboribetsu train station, you’ll take a bus from right in front of the train station to get to the Noboribetsu town area.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. bus to Noboribetsu onsen. 6 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. bus to Noboribetsu onsen. 6 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

This is the “hell valley” of Hokkaido, and you’ll see “demon” statues all over town.

You can also visit the volcanic crater area to see steam vents and sulfur banks. In town, there’s a “geyser park” where you might be able to see natural steam coming out in the small area.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Noboribetsu onsen. jigokudani hell valley japan. 6 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Noboribetsu onsen. jigokudani hell valley japan. 6 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Noboribetsu onsen. geyser park hot springs, steam. 6 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

There’s a natural hot springs river foot bath you can soak your feet in. (Again, bring a towel to dry your feet!) Even in winter, the water is warm.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Noboribetsu onsen. oyunyma brook river natural hot springs footbath. 6 days in Hokkaido. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

If you want an even greater hot springs experience, you can find them all over town. You might even consider spending a night or 2 here! There are many accommodation options, including with hot spring room options, or a public bath.

Stop by the Noboribetsu Onsen bus station so you can get a map of the town area.

 

 

Day 7: Sapporo to Hakodate / Hakodate activity

 

There’s the Hakodate tram that goes through the city that makes it convenient to get around the tourist areas of the city.

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. hakodate tram streetcar. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

While you can find things to do in Hakodate, this can also be more of a transit point on your way to Tokyo if you’ll be going by train. You can also skip Hakodate and then spend an extra night in Sapporo, then go straight from Sapporo to Tokyo. (Or Sapporo to the airport to fly out of Hokkaido.)

I stayed at this hostel on a cobblestone road that’s a tram ride away from Hakodate Station. See my photos from the hostel.

 

 

And there are some ideas for one week in Japan in winter!

 

 

HAPPY 7 DAYS OF WINTER IN HOKKAIDO JAPAN!

 

Hokkaido Japan winter itinerary with 7-day JR Hokkaido pass. Tokyo to Hokkaido shinkansen bullet train. Getting around Hokkaido. Best places to visit in Japan winter. Best things to do in Japan winter. One week in Hokkaido. 14-day JR pass, 21-day JR pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 



How to spend winter in Japan

Backpacking Japan travel blog: Japan winter itinerary. Japan itinerary travel planning tips. Backpacking Japan travel blog: Hokkaido winter itinerary. Japan itinerary travel planning tips.

More quick tips for planning your trip to Japan

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Among the top 3 things people get specific for a trip to Japan


Food in Japan
If you are in Japan for FOOD, then be sure to see where to try different types of Japanese food! (Sometimes for cheaper!)

And also have a look at some of these cooking classes in Japan too.

If you're looking for a route for winter in Japan, here are some ideas!
Hokkaido winter itinerary (train to get around - there are JR Hokkaido passes available, and you can use a regular JR pass too)


When the JR pass is worth it
In general, 2 long-distance shinkansen train trips will likely end up making it so the JR pass will be worth it. But here's how to calculate it to be sure. See the current price of a JR pass from an official vendor.

Natural disasters in Japan
Unfortunately, Japan can be prone to natural disasters which means risk for travel delays. So be sure to look at travel insurance for natural disasters.

My travel insurance took care of my accommodation and food costs when I was forced to stay extra days in Japan because of a typhoon. There have been a few typhoons that have hit Japan in the past couple of years and they can cause real travel disruptions!

See how much insurance costs for your trip.

More for your Japan itinerary
 
That's it for now!
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