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Hokkaidō is Japan's second largest island and the northernmost region and prefecture. It is known for its dramatic peaks, gorges and lakes. It is separated from Japan's main island Honshu by the Tsugaru Strait, which can be crossed through the underwater Seikan Tunnel. The island is particularly popular with outdoor lovers, thanks to its unspoiled natural environment. It's also a cooler option during the hot summer months.
Hokkaidō is situated in the north of Japan, near Russia at roughly the same latitude as Vladivostok. It covers a total area of 83,453 km². Its eastern coast lies on the Sea of Japan, its southwestern coast is on the Pacific Ocean and its northern coast is on the Sea of Okhotsk. The center of the island has several mountains and volcanic plateaus. It has 5 volcanoes that are considered active; Mount Koma, Mount Usu, Mount Tarumae, Mount Tokachi and Mount Meakan. Hokkaidō is, like the rest of Japan, seismically active, with earthquakes a regular occurence.
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The Daisetsuzan National Park is located in the central part of Hokkaido and is one of the natural highlights of the country. The name means 'Great Snowy Mountains', which is true for a large part of the year; from October to May, the park or at least the higher parts are covered in snow. It's the largest national park in Japan and an absolute must for anyone wanting to do some serious hiking. The park has 15 mountains which are over 2,000 metres high and hikes range from easy strolls of several hours to challenging multi-day hikes. The highest point is the Asahi Dake at almost 2,300 metres. The main gateway to the park is at Asahikawa, which can be reached by train. Other points of entry include Furano and Rubeshibe, both also excessed by train. From there you need to catch a bus or rent a car. Entrance to the park and most parking is free. After hiking, a great reward is a visit to the famous Sounkyo Onsen (hot springs).
Due to its northern location and plentiful snow, Hokkaido has some of the best skiing in Japan. This means if you're planning a ski vacation to Japan, a stop at one of Hokkaido's ski resorts is a must.
New Chitose Airport (CTS) is the main gateway arriving by plane. Most major Japanese cities are served, as well as international destinations like Seoul, Hong Kong, Busan, Taipei, Guam, Beijing and Shanghai.
To/from the airport
Hokkaido has fast and frequent connections from Hokkaido. There are many connections from cities like Kobe, Osaka, Hiroshima, Kyoto and Tokyo directly to Sapporo. Check Hyperdia for schedules and prices.
Hokkaido is an island so you can't travel by bus from Honshu to Hokkaido. There is however a submarine train tunnel that links the two islands. Numerous bus companies, JR Bus and WillerExpress among them, provide connections to cities in northern Honshu where it is possible to catch a ferry to Hokkaido.
Hokkaido is linked by ferry to Honshu. From Honshu you can travel from Aomori and Oma to Hakodate, and from Hachinohe to Tomakomai. Further connections are available, also see the Japan Guide website.
There are numerous trains operating on Hokkaido, many of them originating and terminating in Sapporo. Check Hyperdia for schedules and prices.
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