Motoring fun in Hokkaido
A self-drive vacation in this scenic northern Japanese island offers lots of opportunities to enjoy its natural beauty, friendly culture and good food. -SPU
Lim Yann Ling
HOKKAIDO is an ideal destination to enjoy a self-drive holiday. The island's main highways and arterial roads are well maintained, and traffic is a breeze outside the city area - in fact, minimal in the remote countryside.
With a user-friendly GPS system and an itinerary that includes stopovers at the many hot spring resorts, enjoy the local culture and hospitality, with beautiful scenery along the way.
A great way to start is by filling up the stomach. The essence of Hokkaido cuisine lies in its simple balance of textures, colours, seasonal flavours and artful presentation, which embrace nature, harmony and restraint.
The southern-most city of Hakodate is best known for its delicious and fresh, thinly sliced raw fish - sashimi.
As the meat touches the tongue, its cool texture and light flavours create a sensuous experience.
June is the time for wildlife sightings in Hokkaido. Wild bears, red foxes and deer are common in Shiretoko World Natural Heritage site as well as Daisetsuzan - Hokkaido's largest national park.
More than 10 times the size of Osaka City, Daisetsuzan spells unspoiled wilderness that is home to the 2,290m-high Mount Asahidake - Hokkaido's highest mountain.
Asahidake Onsen is a small hot spring resort at the foot of Mount Asahidake. The small village consists of only about a dozen buildings, wooden lodges, a beautiful youth hostel and two or three large hotels.
From July to mid-October, the Asahidake Ropeway operates from here to the starting point for a two-hour hike up Mount Asahidake's summit.
Hokkaido in summer is filled with the aromatic scents of flowers such as lavender and sunflowers, which transform acres of the land into a blaze of bright yellow.
Lavender has been cultivated in Hokkaido for more than half a century.
The arrival of lavender imports in the 1960s and 70s transformed the agricultural product to a tourist attraction.
Today, lavender fields in the Furano and Biei region attract large numbers of visitors to the region every summer in July and August, when the plants are in full bloom.
Farm Tomita is one of the best spots to view the lavender and flower fields with the Daisetsuzan and Tokachi mountain ranges as the backdrop.
On the other hand, Rebun Island, a longish isle about 50km off the northern tip of Hokkaido, is famous for its alpine flowers that bloom from June to August. Many of these flowers cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Winding along the northern road, the vistas open up to gorges, grassy glades and stunning views of mountains, dairy farms and fields of wheat, corn, and potatoes.
4WD drivers can head for off-thebeaten paths such as the highlands, where beautiful fall foliage and spawning salmon appear in September and October, and autumn fruit-picking rounds up a bountiful trip.
The greatest harvest of all, however, is the freedom to go at your own pace, to do what you want and pull over at any point on your journey.
There are breathtaking sceneries at every turn and plenty of opportunities for photo stops, village walks, hiking, fishing and horse riding.
This article was first published in The Straits Times Special. It is produced by the Special Projects Unit, Marketing Division, SPH.
|[an error occurred while processing this directive]|
|Privacy Statement Conditions of Access Advertise|