Beyond its ski resorts, japow (Japanese powdery snow) and onsen (natural hot spring in Japan), Hokkaido remains a captivating holiday stop even when the last of winter snow has disappeared already. Indeed, Mother Nature has gifted Hokkaido, the largest Japanese prefecture, with an abundance of natural wonders that its allure certainly extends past the winter season.
The summer, in fact, affords the opportunity to discover what Hokkaido has to offer and to learn that apart from of skiing, a visit to the northernmost island of Japan poses nearly unlimited possibilities. In the absence of the magnificent snow that blankets the province from November through March, the other side of Hokkaido is revealed and it certainly radiates of a glorious and unspoiled natural beauty.
A prime example of such wonder is Shiretoko that lies in the northeast of Hokkaido and known generally to the world as Japan’s final frontier – that’s because the region is widely regarded as untouched and still holds loads of things to surprise. Tourists who’d been to Shiretoko are certain to recommend a visit to the Five Lake that is shrouded by a virgin forest or a bath on the basin where the Kamuiwakka Falls ends. These two breath-taking attractions, unsurprisingly, allowed Shiretoko to make the cut and become part of the elite World Natural Heritage Site.
In Japan’s northernmost region, there is an island that the locals call Hana no Ukishima, or literally, a Floating Island of Flowers. This part of Hokkaido boasts of more than 300 kinds of alpine plants that reach their peak of blooming in summertime. Such a spectacle can be seen at the Rebun Botanical Garden of Alpine Plants where visitors can admire some 20,000 alpine plants in about 50 variations. For a more stunning effect, visitors are advised to head to the Momoiwa Observatory where the elevation provides a panoramic vista of the vegetation, its splendour further accentuated by the equally majestic coastline.
Hokuryu in Hokkaido is a feast for the eyes from July to August as the town allocates up to 23 hectares of open field that will make up of the Sunflower Garden, or Himawari no Sato, each year. When in full season, the field is a virtual carpet of yellow gold sunflowers that reaches a high of 1.5 million plants. It surely is a landscape that extends far beyond the eyes can reach and celebrated every year with the Sunflower Maze Festival (known locally as Himawari Meiro).
From the yellow carpet, one can jump to the lavender fields found in Furano that in winter time is famed for its ski resorts. During the summer, Furano’s landscape morphs into a purple carpet as several locations in the town – Lavender Field of Farm Tomita, Nakafurano Choei Lavender Farm, Tokachidake Mountain Range and Hanabito Kaido, among them – showcase not only the soothing lavender scent but also the flower’s crisp and vibrant display of living colours.
Now for the ultimate summer fun in Hokkaido, Niseko is the place to be. In recent years, the town, which counts Mt. Yotei and Mount Annupuri as among its imposing backdrops, has emerged as an all-year vacation destination. For winter activities, the obvious options are the ski resorts and the après-ski activities that follow, which put Niseko on the radar of holiday makers looking to experience an unforgettable winter break.
In the summer or green season, Niseko is still a wonder to explore. Hiking or mountain biking on trails that cut through the forest is certainly more inviting thanks to the warmer weather. For the more adventurous, they can take advantage of the rushing river waters, fed by the melting snow, via rafting and canyoning. Or just enjoy the grass by teeing off and relaxing on the many golf courses now found in Niseko. Accommodation too is never a problem as there will be plenty of choices that are more affordable without the snow covering the town. And one good option is the Snow Dog Village that was designed to be in sync with Niseko’s alpine forest.
Source: Wow! Japan