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Natural wonders of Hokkaido

IF there's one place that you must go to at least once in a lifetime, it's Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Sea Of Japan and the Sea Of Okhotsk, it is truly an island of unique and diverse natural features that include mountain ranges, vast wetlands and natural lakes.

With prosperous dairy farming, agriculture and fishery, Hokkaido is blessed with superb seasonal delicacies and her agricultural produced is enjoyed throughout Japan.

Hokkaido is Japan's largest prefecture, accounting for almost a quarter of Japan's total land area. In fact 22 per cent of Japan's total forest area is found here. The island is mostly covered with virgin forests and over 10 per cent are protected natural parks.

Parks & Hot Springs

Hokkaido is sparsely populated, with just 68 people per sq km, so imagine the tranquillity and the personal space you'd enjoy.

Driving is the best way to travel on the large island and allows you to soak in the magnificence of nature to your heart's content. This includes Daisetsu-zan National Park, which forms the great roof of Hokkaido, the secluded Shiretoko-hanto Peninsula, idyllic Shiretoko National Park - a Unesco World Heritage site, Shikotsu-Toya National Park which is full of volcanoes and lakes, and the ever-changing Shakotan-kaigan Coast and Kushiro Marsh, home to precious fauna such as the Japanese cranes.

Of the 33 Ramsar registered sites in Japan, 12 are located in Hokkaido alone! (Ramsar refers to an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wetlands).

To soothe tired muscles after a long drive, stop by any of the numerous hot springs, like the Noboribetsu-onsen, Jozan-kei-onsen and Soun-kyo-onsen, and have a leisurely soak to refresh.

Festive Fun

Hokkaido mesmerises visitors with over 1,200 festivals and events held throughout the year. The Sapporo Snow Festival (a must see!) and Monbetsu Ice Floes Festival are held in winter with the Sapporo Lilac Festival and Yosakoi Soran Festival celebrated in mid-spring.

In summer, enjoy the Furano Lavender Festival, as well as port festivals in every coastal town held to pray for a good catch and safe fishing. Autumn is reserved for the annual chrysanthemum celebration. Through the festivals and your leisurely journey, you'll discover that Hokkaido is a land of magic, mystery and romance.

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Winter Events & Festivals

1. Sapporo Snow Festival: Early to mid February

2. Sapporo White Illumination: Late November to early January

3. Mt Showa-Shinzan International Yukigassen: Late February

4. Hakodate Christmas Fantasy: December

5. Lake Shikaribetsu Kotan: Mid January to late March

6. Shiretoko Fantasia: Early February to mid March

7. Sounkyo Hyobaku Festival: Late January to late March

8. Lake Akan Ice Festival - Fuyuhanabi: Late January to late March

9. Chitose & Lake Shikotsu Hyoto Festival: Late January to mid Feb

10. Asahikawa Winter Festival: Early February

11. Walking on Drift Ice: Late January to mid March

12. Drift Ice Diving: Late January to late March

13. Sightseeing Icebreaker: Mid January to late March

14. Clione: Late January to late March

Other Events

1. Sapporo Lilac Festival: Late May

2. Yosakoi Soran Festival: Early June

3. Hokkaido Shrine Festival: June 14-16

4. Pacific Music Festivals: Late July to early August

5. Sapporo Summer Festival: Mid July to mid August

6. Toyohira River Fireworks Festival: Late July to early August

7. Jozankei Hot Spring Yu-no-Nigiwai Fair: Early August

8. Susukino Festival: Early August

9. Sapporo Autumn Fest: Mid September to early October

10. Jozankei Maple Leaf Tea Ceremony: Mid October

11. Sapporo Chrysanthemum Festival: Late October

12. Sapporo White Illumination: Mid November to early February

13. German Christmas Market in Sapporo: Late November to mid December

14. Sapporo Snow Festival: Early February

Source: Nst-Travel Times
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