There is nothing quite like the feeling of wandering around and discovering something worthwhile during a holiday. Hokkaido in Japan is famous for its snow, skiing spots and seafood. But during the summer, the northernmost prefecture in Japan is the perfect getaway for scenic views.
And the best part? These spots are easily accessible via convenient trains rides and buses. All you have to do is plan your journey carefully and get ready to be amazed by the destination you’ve picked. Here are some notable ones.
Lavender fields of dreams in Furano
Purple power is evident in the town of Furano. When you arrive at the Furano JR station via a two-hour train journey from Hokkaido’s main city Sapporo, follow the painted purple trail on the road and make your way towards Tomita Farm. Entrance to the farm is free.
Once you’ve made it (if you don’t get lost easily like me, it should just be a 20-minute walk), there is a sprawling gorgeous lavender field waiting to be explored. Soak in the view and take your time to breath in the heavenly scent of lavender as well.
As the place will be filled with tourists during peak season (July to August), you have to get creative with photo-taking opportunities. Venture further into the farm and you’ll find parts of the field that is less crowded. There are also benches for you to relax and just be in the moment.
If you can’t enough of lavender, then get yourself a purple soft serve infused with the farm’s famous produce. Want folks at home to to get a feel of your lavender field trip? Then take home a small bouquet for just 400 yen (HKD28) or a divine lavender-scented sachet for 150 yen (HKD10) from the gift shop.
Hear the ocean at Cape Tachimachi
Now Hakodate - a city three hours away by train from Sapporo - is known for its fresh seafood offerings and nature-related activities. Most would end up exploring Mount Hakodate to get an aerial view of the city but on a foggy day, it seemed like a futile exercise.
A quick Google search later and I find myself on a 12-minute tram journey towards Yachigashira. From there, all I had to do walk following the signboards and 15 minutes later, I should be at Cape Tachimachi. If only I had known that it would take a lot of perseverance to get there in the recommended time. The uphill walk to Cape Tachimachi is no joke. Plus, you have to walk past a Japanese cemetery as you make your way there. During my many breaks while walking to Cape Tachimachi, I asked myself is this view worth it?
The sound of the ocean hitting the shore will compel you to keep walking and as it gets louder, you know that it’s close. When I finally arrive at Cape Tachimachi, I can say that the picturesque cliffside view with the great blue ocean staring back at you is priceless. You can also see the city of Hakodate in all its seaside glory.
Get yourself a quick snack and a drink from a nearby hut as a reward for making it to Cape Tachimachi. Normally, I would say take your time to enjoy the view but do remember that the journey back includes a not-so-brief walk past a cemetery. So maybe try to leave before it gets dark?
Marvel at the view in Mount Asahidake
Summer is one of the best times to take a leisurely hike at Mount Asahidake, the tallest mountain in Hokkaido. There’s plenty of natural wonders to see and of course, the travel guide had me at alpine flowers. There is an easy hiking trail to follow for visitors and along the way, look out for the pristine mountain ponds.
It actually takes four hours to get to the peak, 2290 meters above ground. But if you have the fitness level of a regular Netflix binge-water or just don’t have the time, then take the 10-minute ropeway ride and get to a base that is 1600 meters above ground. You get the chance to see a stunning aerial view of the mountain before reaching the base.
Then, it’s a two-hour hike to the peak. Needless to say, I did not make it to the peak because I’ve reached my goal of 10,000 steps for the day. End of story.
Before you go, do check out the official Asahidake Ropeway site (http://asahidake.hokkaido.jp/en/) for weather conditions.
Oh, and look out for bears. On the day I hiked Mount Asahidake, there is a warning sign that indicated bears have been spotted near the hiking ground.
Apparently, a way to scare off bears is to equip yourself with a device called bear bell. I didn’t have any as I believed that playing some Rick Astley music is enough to compel the bears to stay away from me. Well, it’s a good thing I didn’t run into any.
Take a romantic stroll down Otaru Canal
Or if you’re travelling solo, then a confident solitary walk should suffice. The best time to visit the Otaru Canal is at night. This is when historical port comes alive with lights illuminating the canal. Look out for the quaint gas lamps along the canal which makes the place feels like it’s frozen in time.
Then around the canal, there are plenty of shopping areas and dining spots to keep you from leaving town. In Otaru, there is something that will catch your eye in every corner.
Gaze at the sunflower field in Hokuryu
“And it was all yellow…”
I saved the best for last. The wonders of summer in Hokkaido is evident at the Hokuryu Sunflower Field (himawari no sato in Japanese). This part of town is covered in over 1.3 million sunflowers during July to August. Start you way from the ground then make your way on to the hill to stare at the sunflower field. While the place may be filled with visitors during peak season, there is plenty of space to get away from everyone else. Find yourself a secluded spot for a picnic. Bring along a pair of portable speakers to listen to some music while you enjoy a fairy tale view.
The Hokuryu Sunflower Field is also good spot for people watching. On the day I visited, some visitors brought their pet dogs along. There is also a dining hall and souvenir shop at the field. So if you have a craving for savoury sunflower seeds, don’t worry as this place got it covered. You can even get them for free when you make a small donation at the entrance.
Now how is that for a little ray of sunshine to take home?
Writer l JEM
Jem likes pina colada and getting caught in the rain. Not into yoga. 30 years old and still learning how to use a can opener.