9 Unique Attractions in Hokkaido You Cannot Miss on Your Next Trip

9 Unique Attractions in Hokkaido You Cannot Miss on Your Next Trip

Sweets factories, whiskey distilleries, farms, and so much more!

Since easing its travel restrictions, Japan has witnessed many travellers rushing to book their flight ticket to the Land of the Rising Sun. Among the many trendy regions of the country, Hokkaido stands out with its rich culture and endless things to do.

Something important to note: Although many mistake Hokkaido for a city (like Tokyo and Osaka), it’s actually a whole region! Here on Japan’s northernmost island, you’ll find fresh seafood and fine powdered snow in the winter. The region also places emphasis on Sustainable Development Goals, with each city in Hokkaido supporting sustainable tourism.

Also, even though many have already visited the region, there are a number of hidden gems in Hokkaido you might not have heard of.

TripZilla recently had the pleasure of joining a six-day media familiarisation trip to Hokkaido sponsored by the Hokkaido District Transport Bureau and Hokkaido Airports. After visiting both popular tourist attractions and underrated landmarks around Tokachi, Furano, Otaru, and Sapporo, we’ve put together a list of unique attractions in Hokkaido you must absolutely visit!

Travel to Hokkaido

Attractions in Obihiro

1. Ryugetsu Sweetpia Garden

hokkaido hidden gem

(L-R): Ryugetsu Sweetpia Garden in July; Ryugetsu Sweetpia Garden in January | Image credit: @ryugetsu_sanpouroku

Besides being known as a winter wonderland, Hokkaido is also famous for being a foodie paradise! For sugar junkies, you’ll want to check out Ryugetsu Sweetpia Garden. Located near Obihiro City, this Hokkaido hidden gem is the head office and factory of the popular dessert brand, Ryugetsu.

From the outside, Ryugetsu Sweetpia Garden looks more like a fancy hotel than a factory. In fact, the plethora of sweets and treats in the factory matched the splendour and beauty of a hotel. Packed in aesthetic boxes of all colours and designs, these delicious treats make for a great souvenir.

After browsing the store, we took a tour of the factory. It was fascinating observing the production of these tantalising sweets, especially sanpouroku, a firewood-shaped baumkuchen (a ring-shaped layered cake) generously coated in chocolate.

Before heading to our next destination, we treated ourselves to a delicious cone of soft-serve ice cream accompanied by a slice of cake! The sweet tooth in me was generously satisfied.

2. Obihiro Racecourse

hokkaido hidden gem

Image credit: Banei Tokachi

Located a short drive away from the city’s urban district, Obihiro Racecourse is home to Banei Horse Racing, the only horse race of its kind in the world! 

Compared to normal horse racing, where the emphasis is placed on speed, Banei Horse Racing features large draft horses pulling heavy sledges. As such, the 200-metre race is a test of strength and endurance.

If you’re feeling lucky, you can purchase betting tickets for only ¥100 (~S$1.01) and pick your favourite stallion. Although the instructions are in Japanese, fear not. At the Beginner’s Section, you’ll be guided on how to place your bets, so even first-timers can feel at ease. If you’re still struggling to fill up the betting ticket, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from friendly staff.

After placing our bets, we headed to the racecourse to catch the action. One of my fellow tour members even managed to win!

Attractions in Tokachi

3. Tokachi’s local farm

hokkaido hidden gem

Due to the need for sustainable sources of food, Hokkaido takes the lead in agricultural production in Japan. In particular, the Tokachi area is famous for its agricultural land. Located near the southeastern part of Hokkaido, the region is home to many farms that produce potatoes, sugar beets, wheat, and more. 

On our media familiarisation trip, we took a tour of one such local farm hosted by Itadakimasu Company. Borne out of the desire to educate people about agriculture, the tour conveys the importance of sustainability and locally produced food. By using compost heaps and repurposing stalks from wheat, the farm minimises wastage.

As it was winter, we didn’t have the opportunity to harvest the seasonal crops and have a picnic in the fields. Instead, we managed to try some delicious fried potatoes accompanied by a cup of soothing hot drip coffee. 

Fun fact: When in season, these potatoes are used to make the famous Calbee potato chips! 

4. Roadside Station Garden Spa Tokachigawa

attractions in hokkaido

Standing on a former hotel site, Roadside Station Garden Spa Tokachigawa was built in December 2016. The Roadside Station’s stunning architecture has a vintage aesthetic that gave me a warm, cosy feeling as I stepped in. 

The complex facility is home to many Hokkaido attractions, from a spa that can be enjoyed in a swimsuit to a restaurant where visitors can try authentic Tokachi products. We even tried some delicious raclette cheese processed using moor water (water from the onsen). The marché even sells many unique products if you want to purchase some souvenirs!

Attractions in Furano

5. Farm Tomita

attractions in hokkaido

The next item on our list is one of the most beautiful, and my favourite of all the attractions we visited in Hokkaido! Located in the Furano area, Farm Tomita dazzles tourists with its colourful array of lavenders and other colourful flowers. 

As we visited the farm in winter, these flowers were covered by mounds of snow. Although we did not manage to see the blooming flowers, gazing across the boundless fields covered in a thick layer of snow was a magical sight in itself. It definitely made for some spectacular photos! 

Since the flowers bloom from June to August, we recommend visiting in July to catch the lavenders at the peak of their bloom. When you’re here, be sure to take many pictures of the Instagrammable and colourful Irodori Field. 

After draining my camera’s storage with countless photos, we went to one of the stores on the farm. Here, we learnt about the history of lavenders and its importance to Japanese culture. There was even a room decorated with various plants grown on the farm! 

We capped off our visit with a cone of lavender ice cream.

6. Tokachi Sahoro Resort

hokkaido ski resorts

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one ski resort on our list of Hokkaido attractions. Tokachi Sahoro Resort is a ski resort that provides all the amenities needed for a fuss-free ski holiday. The ski area lies on the east of Mount Sahoro and features ski lifts, gondolas, and vast ski slopes. 

The resort is perfect for families and beginners looking for their first ski experience. This Hokkaido attraction features group skiing and snowboarding lessons in English for children and adults alike. 

Tokachi Sahoro Resort offers excellent accommodation as well! From luxurious rooms to restaurants, Sahoro Resort Hotel has everything you’ll need for your stay. Not to mention its close proximity to the ski area. It’s the perfect place to hurl snowballs at your friends!

Visit Hokkaido’s ski resorts

Attractions in Otaru

7. Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery

attractions in hokkaido

There’s no better way to keep your body warm in winter than with a glass of whisky! Thankfully for us, Nikka Whisky, one of the most popular whiskies in Japan, has its main distillery in Yoichi, one of the neighbouring towns of Otaru. Built in 1934, Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery is home to whisky created by incorporating techniques from Scotland. 

Upon entering the premises, we were greeted by many vintage stone buildings. Blanketed by snow, these structures make for great pictures! 

Then, we joined a tour to learn about the distillation process. Seeing the use of copper distillation tanks and fire fueled by coal breathed life into this long-standing tradition. 

The tour ended at a tasting room where we got to sample various types of whisky. They were all delicious, with each having a unique flavour. If I didn’t have a whole day ahead of me, I’d definitely have tried more!

8. Otaru Kihinkan

attractions in hokkaido

The quiet Otaru Kihinkan is definitely a must-visit among the many hidden gems in Hokkaido. Also known as Old Aoyama Villa, the villa represents Japanese architecture from the early 1920s. Its construction lasted over a span of about six and a half years by a wealthy fishing family, with no expense spared. 

As the original owner, Masakichi Aoyoma desired a house that would showcase the best of traditional Japanese architecture, resulting in a stunning villa that stands at the pinnacle of Japanese craftsmanship. 

The villa contained restored pieces of furniture from hand-painted sliding doors to detailed lacquer work. The use of various kinds of wood with traditional crafting techniques gives it a textured look full of intricate details and patterns. The many paintings of flowers and works of Japanese calligraphy on the sliding doors and walls were eye-catching as well! 

Unfortunately, to preserve the integrity of the structures, we were not allowed to take pictures of most of the architecture. You’ll have to use your imagination, or plan a visit to this unique attraction in Hokkaido. 

Attractions in Sapporo

9. Shiroi Koibito Park

attractions in hokkaido

Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido, is perhaps the hottest tourist spot in the region. Naturally, it is home to some of the most popular attractions in Hokkaido. For one, Shiroi Koibito Park doubles as a sweets factory and an entertainment park! It’s where the famous Japanese sweet, Shiroi Koibito, is produced.

Fascinated by the beauty of England, Isao Ishimizu, the park’s founder, aimed to fuse British and Japanese cultures. As such, the park contains many elements of British culture from its architecture to an English-style rose garden. 

On the tour, we had the opportunity to catch the Shiroi Koibito production line in action. The factory can produce up to 300,000 of these delicious sweets in a single day! There were also cute interactive displays and a projection mapping show to keep us engaged. 

Despite only spending six days in Hokkaido, this trip was a great introduction to the many attractions — both popular and underrated — in Hokkaido. If you’re planning a trip to Hokkaido, I recommend spending a few days in each city for the full Hokkaido experience. 

Even with the potential language barrier, Hokkaido is sure to reward you with its many spectacular offerings! You’ll just need to take that leap of faith. 

Looking for more information to plan your next trip to Hokkaido? Hokkaido Airports’ travel assistant, Gate to Hokkaido, is here to help. For travel safety, head to Hokkaido Travel Safety Information, a multilingual guide operated by Hokkaido District Transport Bureau. 

Travel to Hokkaido

Brought to you by Hokkaido District Transport Bureau and Hokkaido Airports

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