Locations - Hokkaido

Teach in Japan


Hokkaido is the second largest of Japan's many islands, and is located to the north of the main island, Honshu. With a population of just 4 million, it is also one of the least densely populated parts of the country. Its name translates as North Sea Route. In the past, when Japan was largely closed to the rest of the world, the local Ainu traded with Russia and China and then in turn with Japanese traders from Honshu to the south.

"I love Hokkaido so much that even my family “back home” refer to it as my home. Warm summers at the lakeside and up in the mountains, snowy winters up in the mountains, and the rest of the time in a city as modern as any other part of Japan enjoying great food, meeting lots of friendly people. Awesome!"

- Vaughan, Hokkaido Instructor Manager

Well known among Japanese people for its beautiful rural areas, Hokkaido is popular with hikers and climbers in summer and autumn, and is world famous for its ski fields, especially around Niseko. It's a paradise for lovers of the outdoors. Rafting, camping, and sea kayaking are also popular.

“Hokkaido is the perfect mixture of convenience and nature. The cities offer all the amenities of Western life mixed with the food and culture of Japan. And, a few steps out of the city, you’ll find mountains, fields, lakes, hot springs, and more. With four distinct seasons, you can enjoy something different all year round!”
– Candis, Sapporo instructor

Hokkaido is well known for the freshness of its produce and seafood. The Susukino area in Sapporo alone has over 3,500 restaurants. Soup curry is a local specialty. Izakaya-style bars are there in abundance, and why not try some Karaoke afterwards?

Some of Japan’s major breweries are based in Sapporo and near Chitose. As well as tours and tastings, you can go there for some Jingiskan, a local take on a Mongolian lamb dish.
Asahikawa has great ramen noodles to warm you after a day on the ski field.

“I love Hakodate. The scenery is really nice and the local food is so good!”
– May, Hakodate instructor

Hakodate’s Asaichi morning market serves up the freshest seafood imaginable, just 2 minutes’ walk from the port. Go there for a really early breakfast and see the day’s catch coming in.
Yaki-tori restaurants in Hokkaido serve up more than just chicken. You can get all kinds of grilled meat and vegetables on sticks. Just the sort of place to go with a few friends to catch up.

“If you're into good food, Hokkaido has the best sushi in Japan. Try the local dishes such as soup curry and miso ramen too. You won't be disappointed!”
– Alex, Sapporo instructor

With winter bringing some of the best snow conditions you could ever experience, skiing, and snowboarding are particularly popular. Niseko is a virtual mecca for snow sports. Snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing can also be enjoyed in some of Japan’s largest national parks. Rather stay indoors? Indoor soccer is popular, and a number of 24-hour gyms are popping up all over Sapporo.

If fishing is your thing, the coasts and rivers provide plenty of variety. Want to try something a bit different? Why not try your hand at Wakasagi ice fishing, and then fry your catch up as tempura?

“Sapporo is a big city with small town friendliness. If you like nature, you’ll love Hokkaido. The people make you feel so welcome. The atmosphere here is wonderful.”
– Adam, Sapporo instructor
In the warmer months, cycling is a popular way of taking in Hokkaido’s beautiful landscapes.
As with other parts of the country, Japanese martial arts such as Aikido, Judo, Karate and Kyudo (Japanese archery) are taught at public gyms and are an interesting way to experience Japanese culture. Imagine getting your black-belt in Japan!

Hot springs are abundant in Hokkaido. They’re equally as refreshing after hiking back down a mountain in autumn as they are after a day skiing or snowboarding in winter, and many of them are located right there at the base of the mountain. That’s not to say you won’t find a hot spring just down the road from your apartment.
Take a stroll or relax by one of Hokkaido’s picturesque lakes, such as Lake Shikotsu, Lake Toya or Lake Mashu. In Sapporo take a walk or leisurely bike-ride along the Toyohira River or along one of the many cycling paths which wind through the city from one end to the other.

“Sapporo has everything you could want in a big city, but you’ll never feel lost here. In a word, “liveable”.
– Vaughan, Hokkaido Instructor Manager

The indigenous Ainu culture is captured in many of the place names throughout Hokkaido, such as the Toyohira River, and the towns of Tamakomai and Wakanai. You can see and experience aspects of how the Ainu people lived prior to Hokkaido becoming part of the Japanese nation at the Ainu Culture Promotion Center, at a dedicated museum in Hakodate, or at the Shiraoi Ainu Museum. Throughout Hokkaido there’s a real blend of traditions and customs that people brought from around Japan when they settled here.

“You can't beat the weather in Hokkaido. Tons of snow in winter for great skiing. Warm and sunny summers for hiking and camping.”
– Alex, Sapporo instructor

Hokkaido has scenic lakes, mountains and forests in abundance. Take in the colourful fields of the Furano area from a hot air balloon, experience the rolling hills of central Hokkaido on horseback, or see the ice floes of Abashiri from the deck of an ice-breaker ship.

“Asahikawa is the perfect blend of big city life, with small town prices, a friendly village community feeling and surrounded by gorgeous countryside. Asahikawa may be one of the coldest cities in Japan, but the people are not.”
– James, Asahikawa instructor

The Snow Festival, which features massive snow sculptures, activities and winter fare, is held in February, and attracts around 2 million visitors annually. The Yosakoi dance festival and competition is held in the streets of Sapporo in early June. Around 30,000 dancers converge on Sapporo from around the country to participate in the event. With the Odori Beer Garden in summer and the Sapporo Autumn Fest there’s something going on practically year-round. In Hakodate the Ika (Squid) festival includes a moving dance performance and floats past the scenic and historically important Goryukaku Park.

“With airports in Asahikawa, Sapporo, Chitose and Hakodate, getting away for a couple of days to Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto is not a problem.”
– Vaughan, Hokkaido Instructor Manager

Susukino in Sapporo comes alive as the day draws to a close. Bars, nightclubs, izakayas, karaoke places and restaurants are open all night, in a part of the city that never sleeps.

“In summer we have great festivals and it never gets too hot or humid. In winter we have amazing powder snow, it's great if you love winter sports.”
– James, Asahikawa instructor

Sapporo is one of those cities where you can buy almost anything imaginable. The Sapporo Factory shopping centre has a large number of outdoor goods specialist stores, as well as fashion and sports stores. You can take a break in the huge glass-enclosed Atrium area, and grab a coffee or have lunch in year-round comfort.

The covered outdoor Tanuki Kouji shopping street in downtown Sapporo is for pedestrians only. It features specialist shops as well as national chain stores along a strip that continues for 8 city blocks.