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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in hokkaido
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Hokkaid? (???) is the northernmost of Japan's four main islands.
Home to Japan's aboriginal Ainu race, Hokkaido continues to represent the untamed wilderness with many great national parks. For many visitors the scenery resembles northern Europe, with rice paddies and concrete warrens replaced by rolling fields and faux-German cottages.
Alone among the main Japanese islands Hokkaido is not divided into multiple prefectures. Instead, there are four circuits, imaginatively named as follows:
Note that the Central Circuit is also sometimes referred to as the "western part" (?? seibu) of Hokkaido.
Hokkaido is not (yet) linked to the Shinkansen high speed network, but night sleeper trains from Tokyo are a popular option.
When the Seishun 18 Ticket is effective, it can be used on Hakucho limited express trains between Kanita and Kikonai, making it possible to cross between Honshu and Hokkaido for as little as ¥2,000. However, because of the scarcity of local trains around Aomori and Hakodate, scheduling such a trip can be a bit of a hassle.
Hokkaido is vast in size, so allow plenty of time to get around and don't try to do too much if your time is limited. Many Japanese maps (including the generally excellent Japan Road Atlas) show Hokkaido with a larger scale than the rest of the country, which may make distances appear deceptively small.
Due to its vast size and numerous outlying islands, Hokkaido has a fairly well-developed commuter airline network. The main regional carriers are JAL subsidiary Hokkaido Air Commuter and ANA subsidiary Air Nippon (now operating in its parent's livery). Many turboprop flights operate out of the tiny Okadama Airport in central Sapporo.
The train network in Hokkaido is (by Japanese standards) limited. Access to many of the more interesting sites will require either relying on infrequent and expensive buses, renting your own car, or trying your luck and hitchhiking.
Some convenient express trains include the Hokuto and Super Hokuto between Sapporo and Hakodate (3.5 hours, ¥8,590 each way); the Super White Arrow between Sapporo and Asahikawa (1.5 hours, ¥4,680 each way); the Tokachi between Sapporo and Obihiro (3 hours, ¥7,920 each way); the Super Oozora between Sapporo and Kushiro (4 hours, ¥9,120 each way); and the Super Soya, Sarobetsu, and Rishiri between Sapporo and Wakkanai (5.5 hours, ¥10,170 each way).
JR offers a special Hokkaido Pass, separate from the Japan Rail Pass, which allows the bearer to ride all JR trains in Hokkaido, as well as most JR buses.
A cheaper if slower and less comfortable option than the train is using buses, which also cover all the areas not accessible by train. Sleeper services radiate from Sapporo to most corners of the island. Note that local bus schedules can be very sparse, so check them carefully to avoid being stranded.
Hitchhiking is a viable option in Hokkaido, and due to the limitations of the public transport network it's not unheard of to see Japanese with their thumb out (a very rare sight in the rest of the country). The major caveats are that even private car traffic can be minimal on some roads, and for half the year the weather is too cold for comfort or safety.
See also: Hitchhiking in Japan
See & Do
For most visitors Hokkaido's many national parks are number one on the agenda, offering near-unlimited hiking opportunities.
Much of Hokkaido's population lives by the sea, and consequently seafood figures heavily in Hokkaido fare. Check out the hairy crabs (?? kegani) and sushi.
More unexpectedly, Hokkaido produces most of Japan's dairy products and particularly in the east you will run into many, umm, creative uses for them. Ever had cream cheese in your curry or butter in your noodle soup? In Hokkaido, you will.
Hokkaido is home to some of Japan's finest sakes, the most famous of the bunch being Asahikawa's Otokoyama (??). Beer is also big in Hokkaido, the most famous brand being Sapporo Beer (naturally from Sapporo), but the many microbrews found in nearly every town are also worth sampling.
Hokkaido is one of Japan's best places for camping, but beware of the nighttime chill — even in the summer months you'll need a good sleeping bag.
Many of Hokkaido's cheaper accommodations slap on an extra fee for winter heating (???? t?ki danb?), as Japanese houses even here in the north are notoriously poorly insulated and chew up vast quantities of fuel when the temperatures fall. This shouldn't be more than ¥500 or so.