Four hours from Tokyo on the Shinkansen, youʼll find Hakodate, a historic city and foodie paradise in southern Hokkaido. While many of Hokkaidoʼs cities have humble beginnings, Hakodate has a long history as a flourishing trading port for goods such as kelp, which is shipped from Hokkaido to supply the Japanese mainland.
Before learning about the areaʼs history at the star-shaped fort of Goryokaku and the Hakodate Magistrateʼs Office, fuel up with this bustling port cityʼs mouth watering range of seafood. Many restaurants and markets offer sneak peeks and even samples of the raw ingredients, and offer a great chance to get to know friendly locals.
After exploring the city, hop on a train to the scenic Lake Toya, where you can recharge in one of the areaʼs rejuvenating hot springs.
After strolling around the 110,000-year-old caldera of Lake Toya and admiring the volcanic activity in ToyaUsu Geopark from the top of the ropeway, wash down your lunch with some mineral water produced by this volcanic region.
That same mineral-rich water also enhances the produce and seafood youʼll enjoy.
Then head to Sapporo where you can enjoy Genghis Khan, a popular mutton barbecue dish. Genghis Khan is a classic example of how earlier generations of Hokkaidoites made the most of their circumstances ‒ it began as a by-product of the domestic wool industry that emerged during the modernization of agriculture in Hokkaido and is now widely enjoyed at family meals and parties alike. Why not spend the night in Otaru, a seaside town just 40 minutes from Sapporo?
35 minutes from Otaru is Yoichi, where you can enjoy Scotch whisky just like the real thing thanks to the similar climate. You can even tour the Nikka Whisky distillery and learn all about the history and how the whisky is made (with samples, of course!) For lunch, head back to Otaru for a feast of sushi. Youʼll even find classes where you can try making your own! No culinary tour in Japan is complete without sake, so donʼt miss Tanaka Shuzo Brewery, where you can try over 10 different sakes and watch the brewing process.
Then head back to Sapporo for a traditional Japanese dinner. Notice the use of kelp this ingredient gives dishes the mild umami taste for which Japanese cuisine is renowned, and with Hokkaido supplying 90% of Japanʼs kelp, Japanese food culture as we know it would not be the same without Hokkaidoʼs influence. After dinner, take a stroll through Susukino.
Take a train to Iwamizawa and tour the Sorachi areaʼs wineries. Hokkaidoʼs cold climate was said to be unsuitable for vineyards, but through local wineriesʼ determination and innovation, European grapes were successfully introduced and the region is now the top wine producer in Japan. Toast the end of an enjoyable tour!
- Bullet train from Tokyo Sta. to Shin Hakodate-Hokuto Sta.
- Lunch at Asaichi Market, Hakodate
Sightseeing in Hakodate
- Stay at Toyako Onsen
- Toya-Usu UNESCO Global Geopark
Sightseeing in Sapporo
Ghengis Khan lunch at Sapporo Beer Garden
- Stay in Otaru
- Nikka Whisky and Yoichi Winery, Yoichi
Sushi-making workshop in Otaru
Sightseeing in Otaru
Traditional Japanese dinner in Sapporo
- Stay in Sapporo
- Sorachi Winery, Iwamizawa
- Return flight from New Chitose Airport