If you are considering visiting Hokkado in summer, you’ve made an excellent choice.
As Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido remains somewhat of a mystery for most travelers venturing off to Japan. Depite being home to stunning destinations, it sees far less foreign visitors than the main Island.
The absolute best time to visit Hokkaido is in summer, where the weather is fair and reveals the best of what this region has to offer.
Summers in Hokkaido are characterized by colorful flower fields, rolling green hills, expansive national parks, and beer gardens in the cities.
Here’s everything you need to know when planning a trip to Hokkaido in summer!
Hokkaido is the second largest, and most northern island of Japan that shares a sea with Russia.
it’s not nearly as densely populated as Honshu, the main island where Tokyo and Osaka are located. In fact, a visit here sometimes feels nothing like what one would expect from a trip to Japan.
Instead of sky high buildings and ultra-modern metropolises, Hokkaido can feel quite rural in comparison. Instead of skyscrapers and flashing billboards, you’ll find vast farmland, snowy mountains, active volcano hikes, expansive lakes, and if you’re lucky, wildlife.
When to Go to Hokkaido
Most of Japan experiences a rainy season that last the duration of the summer. Luckily, Hokkaido does not have any rain season and is rarely affected by typhoons like the rest of the country.
This is why visiting Hokkaido in summer is a great choice for visitors coming to Japan in summer. You can avoid the sticky, incredibly humid weather that the rest of Japan will be facing this season!
Within the summer season, there are still certain time frames that are more ideal for visiting Hokkaido.
Hokkaido in June
Summer takes longer to arrive in Hokkaido than the rest of Japan. In fact, they are barely wrapping up their cherry blossom season by the end of May!
While June is a great season for exploring the cities like Sapporo and Asahikawa, it may still be a bit cold especially at higher elevations. This may rule out any hiking, such as to Asahidake where there can still be snow.
Plus, none of the flowers that make Hokkaido in summer famous will be in full bloom yet.
Hokkaido in July
Personally, I think July is the ideal month for visiting Hokkaido.
The month of July starts to see the the full swing of summer weather, ideal for any hiking or outdoor exploration in the national parks. This is also the month where most of the flower fields will be in full bloom and at their most beautiful.
If your reason for visiting is motivated by flower fields, absolute best time to visit is from the end of July to the beginning of August. This is when the sunflowers, lavender and other flowers will be blooming at the same time.
Hokkaido in August
August sees the best weather in Hokkaido. With day time temperatures averaging 20 degrees Celsius, and the longest days, it’s ideal for hiking adventures and spending time outdoors.
The flowers usually begin to fade away around the beginning of the month, but you may be able to catch some. If you time your visit right, you may also get to see some Obon Festival activities in the cities.
How Much Time Needed in Hokkaido
Hokkaido is larger than many may realize. This means that travel time between cities and destinations are usually several hours, and should be factored in when deciding how many days you need here.
To see the absolute highlights of Hokkaido, I’d suggest staying a minimum of 5 days. If you want to explore more of the national parks and the more off the beaten path attractions, opt to spend a full week here if not more.
Where to Stay in Hokkaido
For most visitors that plan to travel Hokkaido by train and on guided tours, then Sapporo makes an ideal base.
Even if you don’t spend most your time in Sapporo, you will definitely spend at least you first and last day here, so its important to choose a good hotel here.
When visiting Asahidake, I stayed in Asahidake Onsen which I can fully recommend. The best hotel in this area is Bell Monte, a newly constructed hotel with luxurious onsen baths for guests.
For a great experience in Furano, I’d suggest Hitohana Winery Hotel.
Best Places in Hokkaido in Summer
There are many places to visit in Hokkaido, from natural wonders to charming farmlands to even some impressive cities. Below are the best places to go during summer in Hokkaido, plus what to see and do there.
Furano is a town located somewhat in the center of the island of Hokkaido. You’ll be surprised to arrive and find it nothing like the towns and cities on the mainland island of Japan.
There are no skyscrapers or bustling busy streets here, just rolling hills and farmland – and lot’s of it!
Despite its rural nature, Furano is still one of the most visited places in Hokkaido in summer. This is largely due to the famous flower fields that can be found here.
Furano Lavender Fields
The lavender fields of Furano are amongst the most beautiful places in Hokkaido in summer.
The fields are not quite as large as the ones in Provence, but they are still quite impressive. Come for the beauty of the flowers, stay for the enticingly fragrant air produced by the lavender.
While here, you can also try lavender flavored soft serve ice cream. As many know, Japan is kind of obsessed with soft serve ice cream, and this flavor is actually really good!
Tomita Farm Rainbow Flower Fields
Another must see flower field in Furano is the seemingly endless hills of colorful flowers at Tomita Farm.
The farm here uses a variety of flowers and colors to create rainbow flower fiels that sprawl out across the hills.
It’s a dreamy experience, being able to see all the flowers spread out across vast hills in all directions. Despite the popularity, it never gets too crowded here either. You can really enjoy your time here in peace.
Furano Fruit Picking
Eating fruit is not a staple in Japanese culture. Despite this, they are known to produce some of the highest quality, sweetest fruit.
A large majority of this fruit is produced in Hokkaido, right here in the Furano region.
The fruit that grows here ranges from berries, to melon, to squash and even asparagus. You can opt to visit a farm and try some locally grown products.
For a more hands-on experience, some visitors pay to do some fruit picking while here. For that, head to Ohashi Farm to pick cherries, or Yoshida Farm to try some fresh Japanese melon treats.
Biei is not far from Furano, and the two are usually visited in one trip. Like Furano, Biei is also characterized by farmland and flower fields.
The best way to see this area, is to rent abike so you can fully enjoy the scenery. Go for an electric bike when picking a rental bike, to to make cycling through this hilly area easier.
Biei Sunflower Fields
There are many sunflower fields spread out across Biei, and you really just have to drive around for some time until you’ll stumble upon one one.
One of the biggest and best sunflower fields is at Zerebu Hills, which is a large park home to many types of floral fields.
But the best sunflower fields were usually the unnamed random ones we encountered when randomly cycling along the roads.
These are usually larger, and without any entry fee or people so you are free to take as many pictures as you’d like (without damaging any flowers, of course).
This is not a destination, but an area. The name is likely a reference to the many patches of green farmland that covers the hills, forming a patchwork-like pattern on the landscape.
There is only one road running through this area so you can’t go wrong by driving or biking around and stopping whenever you see something beautiful (which happens often).
The scenery here is simply beautiful. So much so, that it has been the filming location for several marketing campaigns and commercials.
One famous landmark, is the Parent and Child Tree scene. These trees were planted for a commercial at some point and still remain today, serving as a popular photography spot.
You’ll also come across some farms selling locally produced goods, such as squash and pumpkin. There are even some art boutiques in this area, that make quirky little stops to admire local crafts and goods.
Like Patchwork Road, this road is known for its scenic beauty.
Here you’ll find more rolling green hills, scenic farmland and just all around beautiful nature.
As you drive or cycle around the area, you’ll find the iconic circular hay stacks among the farm fields. This may not sound special to visitors from Europe, but these types of scenes are very uncommon in Japan.
If you want to see more colorful flower fields, you can pay a visit to Kanno Farms. This farm isn’t as big as Tomita Farm, but still worth a visit for more rainbow fields of colorful flowers.
Shirogane Blue Pond
The Blue Pond is a very famous landmark in Biei and all of Hokkaido. You’ll see photos of it on many postcards, and may recognize it from a computer screensaver you’ve had.
The Blue Pond is stunning any season, and a major photography hotspot in Hokkaido. During winter, it’s covered in ice and snow.
But if you come during summer in Hokkaido, you’ll find a strikingly bright turquoise pond. Funnily enough, this natural wonder was not actually created by nature. It’s a by-product of the nearby dam on the Biei River.
A short bike ride from Shirogane Blue Pond is Shirahige Falls. This waterfall cascades down the slope of black volcanic cliffs into a rocky ravine below.
The water from this waterfall is the source for Shirogane Blue Pond, and also features the same bright blue waters in its basin.
The waterfall and pond both get their bright, ethereal coloring as a result of aluminum infused into its waters. The aluminum reflects light is a way that gives off its signature blue color.
Sapporo is the largest city in Hokkaido. As the location of the largest airport on the island, it’s likely to be your gateway into Hokkaido as well.
Sapporo is the one of the few places in Hokkaido that somewhat resemble the bustling metropolises on the main island of Japan. As a large city, Sapporo has a lot to explore, so opt to spend a day or two here at minimum.
Nijo Fish Market
Sapporo is famous for its high quality seafood.
The reason for the quality, has to do with the plankton rich waters which provide sea life with optimal health and nutrition.
The waters here are also colder than the rest of Japan. In face, if you look closely at Hokkaido on a map, you’ll see that it’s actually a lot closer to Russia than the rest of Asia.
As a result, marine animals in this area develop more fat to insulate them from the lower temperatures. The end result is fish and seafood that is fatty, flavorful, and melts in your mouth.
The seafood here is caught locally, and always extremely fresh. You can find the best seafood at Nijo Market. It’s a large indoor and outdoor market selling all types of goods, but most famously, seafood.
Nijo Market is where you’ll find small street side tables to enjoy fresh uni (sea urchin) as well as stuffed crab, sashimi, or the popular local dish, uni ikura donburi (raw seafood over rice).
Come several times throughout your stay in Saporro, as this is definitely one of the best places you’ll encounter as a seafood lover in Japan.
Sapporo Brewery & Beer Garden
During the summer in Hokkaido, a number of beer gardens will pop up in the larger cities. One of the best ones is in Sapporo, appropriately named the Sapporo Beer Garden.
The Saporro Beer Garden is like Japan’s version of an Oktoberfest style beer garden. Here, you can order some yakiniku (barbecue) and local snacks, and of course drink some Sapporo beers on tap.
The beer garden is located right in front of the real Saporro Brewery.
For those who love Japanese beer, the Sapporo Brewery is a fun and educational way to see firsthand how this world famous beer is brewed.
A visit here offers a look into the history of Japanese beer, a tour of the brewing facilities, and of course beer tasting at the end of the tour.
For more information on the Sapporo Brewery Tours, click here.
Otaru is a beautiful harbor town, that is famous for its local glass art.
Historically, Otaru once was a thriving fishing and trading port. Its peak was during the 19th century, when Hokkaido had just become colonized and incorporated into the Japanese Empire.
Today, most visitors come to Otaru to enjoy the beautiful canals of the city, line with historic fishing buildings. Most of the town seems to retains a lot of its traditional appearance.
The whole town is connected by a network of small canals., and you can go for a boat tour while here to explore the town by sea.
Otaru is also only 30 minutes from Sapporo, making it a good candidate as a day trip. However, I think it’s worth the overnight stay just to have more time here and to see the town light up at night.
5. Daisetsuzan National Park
Daisetsuzan is the largest national park in Hokkaido, and truly unlike any other.
This park is most notable for its raw, unspoiled nature and very active volcanic areas.
Here, you can enjoy the spectacular natural scenery of an area which remains truly rugged and wild. This means you also have the chance to spot a wide range of wildlife, from deer to black bears.
If you are coming to Hokkaido in summer, you can’t miss a chance to hike up Mount Asahidake. Asahidake is not actually a mountain, but a very active volcano.
Any doubts you may have about how active this volcano is will be put you rest once you see all the heated vents spewing sulfurous gases alongside its flanks.
The peak of Mt Asahidake towers above Daisetuzan Park at 2290 meters in elevation.
This hike’s starting point will take you through the forest, then through hilly areas covered in alpine flowers. As you approach the base of the volcano, you’ll leave the tree line behind and have a steep 2 hour ascent all the way up.
Here the landscape transforms into a martian world where you’ll pass by sulfuric ponds and vents all the way up to the summit. The entire volcano is covered in loose gravel which can be very frustrating at time, but worth the effort.
On a clear day, the view from the top is breathtaking, allowing a full 360 degree view of the national and lakes below.
As a volcanically active area, Asahidake is full of naturally occurring hot springs. Hot spring baths or onsen, as they are called in Japan, are an integral part of Japanese culture.
Locals believe that onsen baths have healing properties, and serve to better ones physical and mental health. Whether you believe this or not, its still an amazing way to relax and sooth sore muscles after a day outdoors.
The best place to stay to enjoy onsen is in Asahikdake Onsen Resort. Most hotels here have their own onsite onsen baths for guests, which are perfect after a long day.
An overnight stay in an onsen hotel also includes a fully traditional Japanese dinner of locally produced meats, vegetables and desserts.
6. Lake Toya
Toya is a volcanic crater lake that formed during a volcanic eruption over 100,000 years ago. Today, this beautiful lake is the main landmark feature of Shikotsu-Toya National Park.
Due to its volcanic origins, you’ll find many hot spring bathes located along the lake’s edge in the city of Toyako. Some smaller onsens and footbaths are even free!
The Lake Toya area offers many opportunities for outdoor activities. The lake and surroundings are ideal for hiking, kayaking, and fishing.
The lake is incredibly clear and clean. If the sun is strong enough, you can even go for a swim if you’d like!
You can enjoy your time here by simply walking along the edge of the lake as well, which offers amazing views of the lake and mountains.
From Toya Lake, can also marvel at Mount Usu, the active volcano found close by, or even Mount Yotei a bit further in the distance. You’ll also find some unique artwork on the lake’s shores, by walking through some of the sculptural parks.
7. Shiretoko National Park
Shiretoko is located on the eastern peninsula of Hokkaido. Without any convenient train or public transport connections, it is definitely one of the most remote areas in Hokkaido.
It truly is one of the most beautiful national parks in Japan, and a visit here is worth the journey if you can make it. In fact, its natural beauty and abundant wildlife gained it a UNESCO title in 2005.
Since it’s located on a peninsula, this area is characterized by natural beauty on both land and sea. Shiretoko is home to an extremely dense population of diverse wildlife, which if you are lucky, you just may spot.
Interestingly, this park is home to perhaps the largest number of bears in Japan. The indigenous species of Japanese brown bears are among those found here.
So of course, visitors do need to exercise caution, since bear attacks do happen in Japan.
Aside from bears, you are more likely to see a spotted sea lion, fish owls and white tailed eagles.
If you’d like to try your luck at spotting marine life, head to the coast and join a whale watching tour The type of whales you can see depend on the season, but Shiretoko is mostly known for sperm whales, dolphins and orcas.
Other activities not to miss are driving along the coast of Cape Shiretoko, Shiretoko Lake, trekking Mount Rausu, viewing waterfalls, and of course, relaxing in more natural hot springs.
This western style fort is a kind of a spectacle in Japan since it doesn’t resemble any Japanese architectural styles.
This fort is mostly known for its unique star shape, formed by its outer walls when viewed from above. The shape of the fort can best be viewed from one of its own towers.
The fort itself is a mere 150 years old, not nearly as old as one might assume. Still, it is impressive to see and in summer the trees and plants are in full bloom, offering beautiful scenery.
You can find Goryokaku in Hakodate.
9. Mount Yotei
There are many active volcanoes in Hokkaido, but Mount Yotei is often regarded as the most beautiful.
This volcano is sometimes even compared to Mount Fuji on the main island of Japan, likely due to the similarity in shape and the signature snowy cap.
The entire base of this particular volcano spans across 5 villages, one of which is Niseko, the most famous ski resort in Hokkaido. In winter, this area is completely full of skiers and snow-sports enthusiasts.
In summer, you’ll have full access to the many great outdoor activities to do here. Some activities to enjoy here are canoeing, rafting, trekking, fishing, golfing, and horseback riding.
Near Mount Yotei, you can visit Takahashi Dairy Farm, which produces their own dairy products. They specialize in sweets and of course, more regional flavors of soft serve ice cream.
Hokkaido By Train
Like the rest of Japan, Hokkaido is connected by a modern and efficient public transportation system.
The subway trains here are just as modern and convenient as the ones on Honshu Island. For getting to most cities or points of interest, it’s very convenient to take the train.
You can take the JR line trains from Sapporo to Biei, Furano and Asahikawa city. For other points of interest like Daisetsuzan National Park, you can take the bus.
For those who will visit Japan with a JR Pass, you’ll be glad to know you can use the JR Pass in Hokkaido on all shinkansen journeys as you would in the rest of Japan.
A one week JR pass now costs 29,650 JPY (about $270 USD), and using it on a week long trip in Hokkaido will likely save you quite a bit of money.
For more information on the JR pass, click here.
Hokkaido By Car
Some destinations in Hokkaido cannot be reached by train. For places like Shiretoko National Park and Lake Toya, you’ll need either need to rent a car or join a guided tour.
If you do choose to rent a car, you’ll have the advantage of complete flexibility and control over your itinerary. Most travelers in Japan don’t rent cars, but in Hokkaido I would say it’s a wise choice.
As long as you are comfortable driving on the left-hand side of the road (like in the UK), driving in Japan is a breeze. The roads are well maintained and the signs are easy to read (there are subtitles in “English”).
If you will rent a car, you should do that once you arrive in Sapporo.
Other Tips for Hokkaido
1. Bring Cash
Japan is still a cash based country. Sure, in most larger shops or big cities, credit card is accepted.
But in Hokkaido you’ll spend time in more rural areas frequently, which means less chances they’ll take card.
You can’t ever be sure about whether or not you’ll be required to pay with cash so to be safe, keep some on hand at all times.
2. Bring a Bear Bell
If you plan to visit the national parks of Hokkaido in summer, do know that this is 100% bear country. In recent years, Japanese residents of Hokkaido have reported seeing a huge upswing in bear sightings and sadly, attacks are on the rise too.
Hokkaido is home to both Japanese black bears and brown bears, the first one being the one you really need to be wary of.
While an aggressive encounter with a bear is still a rare occurrence, they can happen. There are some pretty tragic stories of grizzly (no pun intended) bear attacks in Hokkaido, some of which are really horrific.
If you plan to hike or spend time in the wilderness, have a bear bell for at least one person in your group. Also, it pays to check in with the rangers before entering the park and checking about recent bear sightings or any warnings overall.
3. Pack for Cold Weather
Hokkaido in summer is an ideal destination for Japanese people looking to escape the stifling humidity present in the rest of Japan during summer.
Due to its northerly location, Hokkaido remains pretty comfortable in temperature throughout the summer months. But this also means it does get pretty cold sometimes, even during the day in summer.
This becomes amplified on days with rain or overcast skies. I’d recommend packing at least one solid cold weather outfit for your trip to Hokkaido. And on most days, always pack at least a light jacket in your day bag.
I’d also recommend bringing a waterproof jacket, as I did experience quite a bit of rain even in August.
Things to Eat in Hokkaido
If you are visiting in the beginning of summer, you may just catch the very end of the snow crab season in Hokkaido.
This is a delicacy, and the ones in Hokkaido are fresh, tender and just overall heavenly. You can try it at the Nijo Market in Sapporo. Look for the stuffed crab shells!
Around the Biei and Furano area, is where you’ll find many of Japan’s cantaloupe and melon farms. Fruit in Japan is notoriously expensive, but here at the source, you can try fresh melon and melon products for a fair price.
By melon products, I mean melon ice cream, melon sake and melon cakes, among other treats.
The melons in Japan have a distinctly sweeter and juicier taste than usual. I don’t know how they do it, but give them a try and you’ll see what I mean.
Jingisukan (Genghis Khan) Yakiniku
This is an awesome dish to share while knocking back Sapporo beers. The name is an ode to Genghis Khan, since the dish itself is a spin-off of Mongolian barbecue.
It’s unclear how this dish was introduced to Japan, but it likely originated from period in history when the Mongols invaded the country.
It’s served in a yakiniku style, with the meats brought to your table raw, and for you to DIY and cook it yourself. The meats on offer are usually comprised of grilled mutton, lamb, and lots of vegetables.
Hokkaido Ice Cream
Hokkaido’s most famous export may be it’s dairy products. So it goes without saying that a trip to Hokkaido should absolutely include knocking yourself out with as many soft serve ice creams as possible.
The secret to Hokkaido ice cream, is that they add a little bit of butter to it.
A little goes a long way, because the result is a flavor that is rich, but never too heavy. On top of Hokkaido ice cream, be sure to try other Hokkaido dairy based sweets, including cheese tarts, and even some Hokkaido cheese!
The “don” is short for donburi, which means a meal of something over rice. In the case of kaisen don, it’s usually a heavenly medley of scallops, ikura (raw fish eggs), uni (sea urchin), snow crab, and raw salmon over rice.
Each place may have their own take on this iconic local dish, but the theme that persists is the freshness of the seafood.
For some amazing kiasen don, head to Nijo Market in Sapporo, where you’ll have plenty of options to try this dish.
While ramen can be found all over Japan, each region has it’s own speciality, and Hokkaido is no exception.
The capital of Sapporo is famously the origin of miso ramen. This type of ramen features a rich pork and umami-miso based broth. The noodles are usually of the thicker type, and it’s traditional to add a bit of butter.
This ramen is unique in flavor, as it’s more rich and hearty than other ramens. This is likely due to the fact that Hokkaido is a very cold place most of the year. This ramen’s recipe was specifically formulated to warm one up on a cold day.
FAQ for Hokkaido in Summer
Is Hokkaido worth visiting in summer?
Summer is the absolute BEST time to visit Hokkaido. While it is a popular winter destination for skiing and some winter experiences, only in summer can you enjoy most of the outdoor and hiking activities Hokkaido is famous for.
Is it hot in Hokkaido in summer?
No, it never really gets hot in Hokkaido, even in summer. I’d say you can expect average daytime temperatures of 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees fahranheit) in the cities.
Which is the best month to visit Hokkaido?
To experience summer in Hokkaido, late July is the absolute best time to visit. This gives you the best of great weather, flowers in peak bloom, and best times to go hiking and visit national parks.
And that wraps up this guide on planning a trip to Hokkaido in summer. have you been to Hokkaido? Let me know about your experience below!