Hokkaido is the second largest island in Japan. It is located in the northernmost part of the country. Even though it holds 22% of the nation’s land mass only about 5% of the population lives in the area. Hokkaido is the center for raising livestock, fishing, agriculture and forestry in Japan. The longest undersea tunnel in the world, which connects Honshu to Hokkaido, was completed in 1985 by the Hokkaido Railway Co. and began operations in 1988. During the winter there is heavy snowfall with temperatures reaching below zero and the seas around the area become frozen. However, in the summer time it does not get humid and hot like other parts of Japan. Since Hokkaido is not developed as much as other places in the country, it attracts more outdoor lovers because of its untampered nature. The colder seasons bring in the skiers and snowboarders, while the warmer seasons bring in hikers and campers.
The Ainu are the indigenous people of Hokkaido and it is said that they are descendants of the Emishi in Watarishima. Back in the day, during the Nara and Heian periods, the people of Hokkaido were referred to as Ezo since the name of the land used to be Ezochi. The name changed during the Meiji Restoration to Hokkaido (北海道), which can translate to North Sea Path. Since Hokkaido was close to Russia, the government feared an invasion and wanted to develop the area as quickly as possible as a defense. This is when the Meiji government encouraged the Japanese of Tohoku to migrate north and pioneer the land. The Hokkaido Development Commission, Kaitakushi, put Kuroda Kiyotaka in charge of recruiting people to help develop their agriculture. He first recruited Horace Capron; President Grant’s Commission of Agriculture, in 1871, but found it difficult to apply western agriculture and mining then left in 1875. William S. Clark replaced him and founded the agricultural college in Sapporo, which later became Hokkaido University. Even though he was there only for 8 months he left an impression on the students with his teachings in agriculture and Christianity. His parting words of “Boys, be ambitious!” can be found on the monument dedicated to him and on various public buildings.
Known for its snow festival, the city serves as the capital and executive center of Hokkaido.
Lake Shikotsu is Japan’s most northern lake that does not freeze over and is the second deepest.
Located in the southwestern part of Hokkaido, known for its various hot springs (onsen).
Lake Toya is located 60 km southwest of Sapporo in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park.
Onuma Park is a quasi-national park, which surrounds the volcano Mount Komagatake.
Rishiri and Rebun Islands
Small islands by the northern tip of Hokkaido, part of the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park.
Furano is famous for flower fields filled with lavender in the summer and ski resorts in the winter.
Located in northeast Hokkaido. In winter, drift ice comes down all the way from the Sea of Okhotsk.
In the northeastern part of Hokkaido; designated a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site.
Kushiro is located on the eastern part of Hokkaido and is known for being bordered by the Kushiro Wetland.