Autumn Odori
Photo Credit humbletree CC.BY.2.0

Autumn Hokkaido travelling guide – Japan

β€œNo spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.” – John Donne. Unlike Sakura (cherry blossom), which comes in Southern Japan first, Koyo (autumn leaves) starts in Northern Japan. Autumn in Hokkaido arrived mid September on the highlands and moves towards the southern side of the country. It slowly changes every leaf to a colourful flower. In this harvest season, Japanese tradition is to go out for Momijigari (Viewing of autumn leaves) also called as Kanpukai in Hokkaido. With its sprawling national parks and lakes, Hokkaido has many breathtaking locations for Kanpukai. Below is an autumn travelling guide for your trip to Hokkaido with information on transport and the best seasonal seafood.

Best spots for autumn leaves viewing in Sapporo:

1. Takino Suzuran National Park

Takino Suzuran is one of the most popular autumn viewing spots in Sapporo. Spreading over a vast area of a hilly country side, it is perfect for a day out hunting autumn foliage. Colourful leaves make a spectacular combination with the rainbow which can only be seen in October over the Ashribetsu fall. In October and November during Koen Matsuri, you can also get guided tours to the forest.

Takino SuzuranPhoto Credit Mr.Mosshi

 Click here for more information onTakino Suzuran Koen

Directions: From Makomanai Subway Station [Namboku Sen – Green line] take the Chuo Bus (Takino line 真106) to Takino suzuran koen bus stop.

2. Nakajima Koen 

Nakajima Koen is located in central Sapporo and is easily accessible by subway. It is a long loved park which has a soothing outdoor area with a lake, two creeks and several lawns. The park is perfectly placed to carry a cup of coffee and relax after a long day.

Nakajima KoenPhoto Credit Hideo CC.BY.2.0

Directions: Just outside Nakajima Koen Subway station on Namboku Sen towards Makomanai Station.

3. Hokkaido University

A customary location among Sapporo locals for Kanpukai. Eighty odd Gingko trees lined up with amber coloured leaves give a spectacular look to the Gingko Avenue inside the university. During the Hokudai Konyo Festival, the trees are all lit up against the night sky creating an attractive underpass of golden leaves.

Hokkaido University

Directions: 10 minutes walk from Sapporo Station North Exit.

6. Ishiyama Open Space

In Minami Sapporo, this place was initially used to mine soft stones before 1949. The southern block of the park is particularly interesting as it is surrounded by rocks, artworks and trees creating a unique landscape. Stop here, if you are driving towards Lake Shikotsu, as it is located along the National Road 453.

For more information on the park, click here.

Directions : Get off at Makomanai Subway Station on Namboku sen. Transfer to Chuo Bus to Ishiyama Higashi 3-chome bus stop, and walk 4 minutes.

 Tip: Best time for viewing Autumn foliage in Sapporo is mid to late October.

Popular Autumn leaves Site Seeing Spots in Hokkaido:

1. Jozankei

Wrapped by tall mountains, this little spa town is one of the best autumn viewing spots near Sapporo. The Futami Suspension Bridge and Hoheikyo Dam (one of the best 100 dams in Japan) are brilliant spots for viewing the yellow and golden leaves. Make it a day trip from Sapporo and relax at the Hoheikyo Onsen ( Bus and Onsen package 1800 JPY).  You can also hop on to the Momiji Kappa Bus from Sapporo, an autumn sightseeing  bus that would take you around some of the best spots in Jozankei.

 

Jozankei

For more information and directions to Jozankei, click here.

Best time to see autumn foliage: Early – mid October

2. Noboribetsu

This hot spring town is the most popular onsen place in Hokkaido. Sitting on the same latitude as Tuscany in Italy, Noboribetsu prides itself in exhibiting the opulence of colours covering the mountains and valleys in October. Demon`s fire trail from May 1st to November 30th in Jigokudani should not to be missed if you are here during the season. Noboribetsu is an all season destination, however winter is my favourite season for a visit.

For more information on a day trip and directions to Noboribetsu click here.

Best time to see autumn foliage in Noboribetsu: Early – mid October

3. Lake Shikotsu (Shikotsuko)

A part of the Shikotsu –Toya National Park, Lake Shikotsu is a popular day-out spot for Sapporo residents. The lake is surrounded with beautiful forests giving it a fantastic look in autumn. Famous among Onsen lovers is Lake Toya Onsen on the southwestern the National park. Toya Onsen is a perfect location for a quite romantic weekend getaway.

Click here for information on a day trip to Lake Shikotsu.

Best time to see autumn foliage around Lake Shikotsu: Early – mid October

4. Sounkyo

Discovered by Ainu people, Sounkyo or Souunbetsu in Ainu (many waterfall rivers) is one of the first places in Japan where you get to see the autumn spectacle. Located at the foot of Mt. Kurodake in Daitsesuzan National park area, Sounkyo’s waterfalls, rivers, valleys, gorges and hot springs are loved by all Hokkaidians. Hop on to the Sounkyo Ropeway to the Kurodake lift and see the magnificent view of the Daisetsuzan mountain ranges at a height of 1700 meters.

Daisetsuzan Photo Credit indrikmyneur CC.BY.2.0

For more information and directions to Sounkyo click here.

Best time to see autumn colours in Sounkyo : Early – mid October

5. Akan National Park – Lake Akan, Lake Kussharo and Lake Mashu

Located in the middle of Hokkaido, Akan is the island’s oldest national park . Lake Akan is on the western side of the national park with a lakeside hotspring Akanhoken Onsen. Lake Kussharo and Lake Mashu are towards the Kawayu Onsen side. It is a magical place with a strong Ainu culture influence involved.

Lake AkanPhoto Credit O.Autan

For more information and directions to Akan National Park click here.

Best time to see autumn leaves in Akan: Late September to early October

6. Lake Onuma

Located in the Onuma Quasi National Park, lake Onuma was formed in 1958 due to the volcanic activities of Mount Komagatake. Onuma Park (Onuma Koen) is revered  in Hokkaido for its beauty.  If you are travelling from Sapporo to Hakodate, then stop over here or just visit as a side trip from Hakodate.

Onuma Kouen Photo Credit town.nanae.jp

Best time to see autumn leaves : Mid -late October

Directions:

Bus : Approximately 60 minutes. Catch  “Onumakoen via Shikabe bound” to Onumakoen bus from Hakodate JR Station.

Train: Approximately 20 minutes. Catch “Hokuto” or “Super Hokuto” train from Hakodate JR Station and get off at JR Onumakoen Station.

 7. Shiretoko

Blessed with unspoiled nature, Shiretoko is the untamed sanctuary of Hokkaido. Home to Ussuri brown bears, Stellar`s white-tailed eagles, Japanese Red Fox and  Ezoshika Deer , Shiretoko is a UNESCO world heritage site. Shiretoko Goko Lakes, with Shiretoko mountain ranges around is a beauty not to be missed in any season. The hot spring bath at Kuma-no-yu on the Mt. Rausu side of the peninsula is a must visit if you love onsen.  In, Autumn you can also see Salmon and Trout running upstream in the rivers. It is a favourite place for all anglers in Hokkaido and we too had our share of fishing trip here .

Shiretoko Goko lakesPhoto Credit Monjiro80

Best time for Autumn viewing in Shiretoko : Early to mid-October.

Go here for more information and directions to Shiretoko.

What Seafood is the best in autumn?

Although the best season for seafood in Hokkaido is winter and spring, you can still enjoy some autumnal delicacies such as Abalone in Shakotan (October – December), Snow crabs and Squid in Wakkanai, and Salmon in Shiretoko and Abashiri. Here is a more detailed seafood guide on Hokkaido.

Tip:

From mid September to early October, Sapporo celebrates an extravaganza of food and wine at the Autumn festival in Odori Koen.

Do let me know what is your favourite place for Kanpukai by commenting below

As always, thank you for reading

4 thoughts on “Autumn Hokkaido travelling guide – Japan

  1. Hi i enjoyed reading your post especially it helps me to have better idea on how to plan for my next trip to Hokkaido. I am planning to travel during the following period but wonder which one will be ‘safer’ to get to see beautiful foliage and coral grass.
    1) 04 Oct-12 Oct 2017
    2) 09 Oct-18 Oct 2017

    We plan to go Abashiri-Shiretoko-Sounkyo-Ashikawa- Noboribetsu-Hokodate

    I would appreciate your kind response πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Janice,

      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Just like the cherry blossoms, foliage period also changes every year. However, as long as are you in Hokkaido by late September-mid of October your chances of seeing autumn leaves are fine I guess. Good luck.

      Cheers,
      Monika

  2. Hi! Thank you for your post very helpful! We wish to visit Hokkaido during autumn too, do you think October 21-31 will be too late? We don’t plan to do hiking we are keen to visit parks/garden and zoo since we have a toddler with us. By the way, we plan to visit Tokyo too. Thanks and all the best!

    1. Hi Lian,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, I suppose your travel dates are a little late to see the autumn foliage in its full beauty. The leaves in Sapporo, have already started to change its colour, so I reckon we are in for an early autumn this year. You might catch it in Tokyo though. However, I am sure, you can still enjoy Hokkaido with your little one πŸ™‚

      Monika

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