Further afield, those coming to Hokkaido for a secluded getaway will find the 506-room Hilton’s Niseko Village (from about $250 dbl to approximately $1,250 for a luxurious suite with astounding view; hilton.com), a superb property built in 2007 at the foot of a towering volcano, Niseko Annupuri, to provide the most unrivaled and pure Hokkaido experience.
During the summer, hiking and trekking make it a preferred destination for golfers seeking the thrill of teeing off in what may be the most majestic setting in Asia. In winter, skiing on powdery slopes followed by basking in the natural onsen (Japanese thermal baths) will be unforgettable.
Hokkaido is another world where disasters and such seem as removed as the dark side of the moon, and even a brief visit will convince even the most fastidious traveler that Japan is still a marvel and a destination unlike no other.
Goway (goway.com) has a 3-day add-on to Sapporo that may be included in its comprehensive and exciting Japan In-Depth (from $3,233 dbl, air travel not included), a tour that touches on most of the traditional Japanese stops.
“For those who wish to combine the well-known ‘must sees’ like Tokyo and Kyoto with a glimpse of parts of Japan that are extremely interesting yet not commercial,” says Emma Cottis, Goway’s product and marketing manager, “this itinerary is perfect. [The tour] is a well-rounded experience and an insight into both modern and traditional Japan.”
The Sapporo segment (from $672 pp dbl) includes walking tours of Odori Park, where every February the famed snow festival is held, Old Hokkaido Government Buildings and the exotic Tanukikoji shopping street.
All Japan Tours (alljapantours.com) offers a 10-day (starting at $3,198 dbl international airfare not included) that highlights Hokkaido’s most significant spots. According to Kiyoshi Tan, U.S. manager for All Japan Tours operations, “I suspect that Hokkaido is seldom visited by Americans because of its similarity to many places in the U.S. The terrain and scenery would be familiar to most who live on the eastern states or New England. Most Americans come to Japan expecting something more thorough Japanese.”
The tour is held early in June so travelers can experience Hokkaido in late-spring or early-summer, a time ideal to explore the destination that’s considered Japan’s last frontier, when Hokkaido explodes in a burst of colors from the vast lavender and flower fields throughout the island.
All Japan Tour’s trip includes stops at Shiretoko to explore the rocky fields and the colonies of sea birds thriving in the area. It also offers white-water rafting trips down the island’s wild Shiribetsu River, hikes through vast forests and along the shores of sapphire lakes and volcanoes. This tour is ideal for those who want to vacation like the Japanese.
Roy Liao, director of Super Value Tours (supervaluetours.com), meanwhile—a company with vast experience in Asia—says that Hokkaido is “a fascinating destination, but more off the beaten path than others in Japan. Those who want to see Japan in a different light and want to be more in tune with what the country favor it.”
As a result, Super Value Tours offers a 7- or 9-day Hokkaido excursion (from $2,000 to $2,500 not including international airfare) on a limited basis from July to October. Liao agrees that although the island shines in summer and charms visitors, “it’s a destination that doesn’t appeal to everyone.”
For more information on Japan, visit the Japan National Tourism Organization at jnto.go.jp.