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Your Trip to Obihiro (Hokkaido): The Complete Guide - Activities, Hotels, Savers & More

Your Trip to Obihiro (Hokkaido): The Complete Guide - Activities, Hotels, Savers & More

Date published: 13 March 2024

Journey through the beauty of Obihiro City in Hokkaido, Japan, a place of stunning landscapes, exquisite food, and rich cultural experiences. Obihiro offers an unforgettable adventure for visitors of any age.

(Main image: PIXTA)

Table of Contents
  1. Why Obihiro? What’s so special about Obihiro?
  2. How much time should I spend in Obihiro?
  3. What should I see in Obihiro? What are Obihiro's best attractions?
  4. When's the best time of year to visit Obihiro?
  5. What should I pack for a trip to Obihiro?
  6. How do I get to Obihiro?
  7. Where should I stay in Obihiro?
  8. What should I eat in Obihiro?
  9. What souvenirs should I buy in Obihiro?

Why Obihiro? What’s so special about Obihiro?

(Image: PIXTA)
(Image: PIXTA)

Obihiro (帯広) is a charming city located in the heart of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island. Nestled amidst the vast plains of Tokachi, Obihiro stands out as a gem in Hokkaido's crown. Known for its picturesque landscapes, unique culinary delights, and warm hospitality, Obihiro offers a blend of natural beauty and cultural experiences that make it a must-visit destination.

Culinary Excellence: Obihiro is famed for its gastronomic offerings, particularly its sumptuous butadon, a bowl of rice topped with succulent grilled pork. Local confectioneries, such as the much-loved sweet potato treats and dairy products from the region's rich pastures, are not to be missed.

Natural Splendor: The city is surrounded by breathtaking natural attractions, including the serene Shichiku Garden and the enchanting Taushubetsu River Bridge. The nearby Tokachi Millennium Forest offers a sustainable and immersive experience into the wilderness, with landscapes designed in harmony with nature.

Hot Springs and Wellness: After a day of exploration, visitors can unwind in Obihiro's numerous onsens (hot springs), where the healing waters provide a tranquil respite for both body and soul.

Cultural Festivities: Obihiro pulses with cultural vitality throughout the year. The Obihiro Ice Festival (late January/early February) showcases stunning ice sculptures, while the annual Kachimai Fireworks Festival lights up the summer sky with explosive beauty.

Horse Racing Heritage: The city is also the home of the Obihiro Racecourse, where the traditional Ban'ei horse racing—a unique test of strength and endurance for draft horses—continues to captivate audiences.

How much time should I spend in Obihiro?

Shichiku Garden sports an Instaworthy area to stroll around (Photo: PIXTA)
Shichiku Garden sports an Instaworthy area to stroll around (Photo: PIXTA)

For those on a road trip exploring Hokkaido, Obihiro is a convenient stopover place for those driving from Sapporo to places in eastern Hokkaido, such as Kushiro and Akkeshi.

While Obihiro is a great city in which to grab a bite before heading onward, to fully experience all the area has to offer, you should plan to stay a night. This will give you enough time to visit the main sights, indulge in the local cuisine, and immerse yourself in the city at a comfortable pace.

Popular day trips from Obihiro
  • Tokachigawa Onsen: Just a short drive from Obihiro, Tokachigawa Onsen is a popular hot spring resort known for its soothing moor hot springs, which are rare in Japan. These waters are said to have healing properties for the skin. Relax in the rejuvenating onsen baths as you enjoy the picturesque views of the Tokachi River, especially enchanting during the winter when the area is blanketed in snow.
  • Furano: Located approximately two hours from Obihiro, Furano is known for its beautiful lavender fields and picturesque landscapes. Depending on the season, visitors can enjoy vibrant flower displays, visit wineries, or engage in outdoor activities such as hiking and skiing.
  • Asahikawa: Asahikawa is located at a three-hour drive from Obihiro and is known for its unique Asahiyama Zoo. The zoo boasts innovative enclosures that provide up-close views of a variety of animals, including penguins, polar bears, and lions. Additionally, the city offers various opportunities for shopping, dining, and cultural experiences.
  • Sounkyo Gorge: Sounkyo Gorge, located about a two-hour drive away from Obihiro, boasts breathtaking natural landscapes such as waterfalls and rock formations. Visitors can hike through the trails around the gorge or ride the ropeway to the top of the mountain to enjoy the best views. The place is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers who want to explore the surrounding beauty of the area.
  • Tomamu: About an hour's drive from Obihiro, Tomamu is a year-round resort that offers skiing, snowboarding, golf, and various outdoor activities. It's an excellent option for both winter and summer day trips.

What should I see in Obihiro? What are Obihiro's best attractions?

Obihiro is also home to a Snow Festival (Photo: PIXTA)
Obihiro is also home to a Snow Festival (Photo: PIXTA)

Obihiro is a treasure trove of sights and experiences, each offering a glimpse into the area's soul. When you visit, make sure to explore these top attractions.

  • Obihiro Shrine: Erected in 1910, Obihiro Shrine for a taste of tranquility and tradition. Its elegant Shinto design and peaceful ambiance offer a contemplative escape. Don't miss its famous Autumn Festival (September 24) and New Year celebrations, which are key cultural events in Obihiro.
  • Manabe Garden: Open to the public since 1966, these expansive gardens have an array of plants to enjoy, from vibrant flowers to rare conifers. Celebrated as Japan's first conifer garden, it presents a stunning display of greenery throughout the seasons.
  • Obihiro Centennial Hall Museum: Discover Obihiro's past at the Centennial Hall Museum, set amidst Midorigaoka Park's greenery. Interactive exhibits, dioramas, and visual arts bring the city's story to life, making history both engaging and accessible.
  • Banei Tokachi Ranch: Experience the unique Banei horse races at Tokachi Ranch, where strength meets spirit as horses pull weighted sleds. It's an interesting glimpse into cultural heritage and the human-animal connection. Enjoy dining and activities alongside the races.
  • Rokka Forest: Immortalized by artist Naoyuki Sakamoto for Rokkatei Confectionary's packaging, it is a botanical haven where Tokachi's native flowers, such as beach roses and dogtooth violets, blossom throughout the year on its expansive ten-hectare grounds.
  • TOKACHI HILLS HOKKAIDO: Perched atop a gentle rise, it offers a picturesque agricultural park with a mosaic of themed gardens, including the reflective “Sky Mirror” and ornate vegetable plots. Savor the taste of fresh garden produce at the park's own restaurant, while enjoying panoramic views of Tokachi. The three distinct garden styles—a vibrant border garden, a classic English garden, and the untouched wildflower areas—provide a family-friendly environment that celebrates the region's natural beauty.
  • TOKACHIGAWA ONSEN: The restorative "moor hot springs" of Tokachigawa, where peat's humic acid and alkaline waters unite. Renowned for skin care, this tranquil haven offers a serene escape that nurtures both body and spirit.

When's the best time of year to visit Obihiro?

Late Autumn at Manabe Garden (Photo: PIXTA)
Late Autumn at Manabe Garden (Photo: PIXTA)
  • Spring (March to May): Spring is a delightful time to explore Obihiro as cherry blossoms bloom, adorning Midorigaoka Park with their delicate beauty. The city's other greenspaces, like TOKACHI HILLS and Manabe Garden, are also wonderful places to enjoy spring greenery.
  • Summer (June to August): Obihiro's summer is welcomed with pleasant temperatures and vibrant festivals. The city comes alive with cultural events and festivities, offering a dynamic experience. The Obihiro Heigen Matsuri (Obihiro Plain Festival), held in mid-August, boasts a parade with drums, floats, and dancing.
  • Fall (September to November): Autumn in Obihiro is marked by stunning foliage, as the city transforms into a palette of warm hues. The Tokachi Wine Festival (early October) and other autumnal fairs celebrate the season's bounty, offering a feast for the senses amidst the changing leaves.
  • Winter (December to February): Obihiro experiences a snowy winter, turning the city into a haven for winter sports enthusiasts. Enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and a variety of other snow activities at Sahoro Ski Resort, embracing the crisp, cold beauty of the season.

What should I pack for a trip to Obihiro?

The Inada Larch Windbreak Forest is a popular place to visit in autumn. (Photo: PIXTA)
The Inada Larch Windbreak Forest is a popular place to visit in autumn. (Photo: PIXTA)
  • Spring: Pack layers to accommodate for unpredictable weather. Bring a light jacket, comfortable walking shoes, and an umbrella.
  • Summer: Light and breathable clothing is suitable, along with sunscreen and insect repellent.
  • Fall: Prepare for cooler temperatures by packing warm clothing and a cozy scarf.
  • Winter: Dress in heavy winter clothing, including insulated jackets, gloves, and snow boots. Don't forget to pack snow gear if you plan to engage in winter sports

How do I get to Obihiro?

Obihiro Station area. (Photo: PIXTA)
Obihiro Station area. (Photo: PIXTA)
  • By Air: Fly to Tokachi-Obihiro Airport to get to Obihiro. The airport has 8 daily domestic flights connecting to major Japanese cities like Tokyo's Haneda Airport and Nagoya's Chubu Centrair International Airport. From the airport, you can easily reach the city center by taxi, bus, or rental car.
  • By Train: Obihiro is easily accessible by train from Sapporo and other major cities as it is connected to Hokkaido's rail network. To reach Obihiro from Sapporo, take the JR Ozora Line from Shin-Sapporo Station and get off at Obihiro Station. The train journey from Sapporo takes around two to three hours, but the stunning scenery along the way makes it a worthwhile experience.
  • Recommended rail passes: The JR Pass and JR Hokkaido Rail Pass.

Is it easy to get around Obihiro?

While downtown Obihiro is relatively compact and walkable, some of the sightseeing points of interest are located farther away from the city center. The Accordingly, it is recommended to take a look at

  • Walking: Obihiro is relatively easy to explore on foot, as many of the main attractions are within walking distance of Obihiro Station.
  • Bicycle: Explore Obihiro leisurely with a bike rental available at the Obihiro Bus Terminal, typically from late April to November (weather permitting). Enjoy the city's sights at your own pace.
  • Car Rental: If you are planning to explore the Obihiro area, renting a car may be even more beneficial. Having a car gives you quicker access to the surrounding areas, such as ski resorts and hot springs, that may be difficult to reach using public transportation. Book a rental car here.

Is it easy to travel around Obihiro with kids?

Obihiro is an excellent destination for families, offering a wide range of attractions and activities that cater to children of all ages.

The Obihiro Zoo is home to a diverse collection of animals, including indigenous species from Hokkaido. Children can enjoy observing animals up close and gain insights into the world of wildlife conservation.

Midorigaoka Park, where Obihiro Zoo is located, has playgrounds, open spaces, and recreational facilities designed to provide children with endless hours of fun and laughter.

Where should I stay in Obihiro?

When selecting accommodation in Obihiro, the sites are all quite close, so staying in the city center is the most convenient option as the popular sites are all quite close to one another.

Near Obihiro Station, you can find a selection of economy hotels and affordable hostels for any type of vacation you have planned.

If you plan to ski or snowboard while visiting Obihiro, check out the ski resorts in the surrounding mountains for easy access to the slopes.

  • Richmond Hotel Obihiro Ekimae
    Richmond Hotel Obihiro Ekimae
  • Dormy Inn Obihiro
    Dormy Inn Obihiro
  • Hotel Nikko Northland Obihiro
    Hotel Nikko Northland Obihiro
  • Toipirka Kitaobihiro Youth Hostel
    Toipirka Kitaobihiro Youth Hostel
  • Sanyoan

What should I eat in Obihiro?

Pork bowl (Butadon) is a popular Obihiro specialty. (Photo: PIXTA)
Pork bowl (Butadon) is a popular Obihiro specialty. (Photo: PIXTA)

Obihiro's culinary scene is a delightful fusion of local flavors and Hokkaido specialties. Don't miss these must-try dishes during your visit.

  • Butadon: Try the specialty of Obihiro, butadon—a rice bowl topped with savory pork slices. This fulfilling dish highlights the region's rich agricultural produce, offering a hearty and flavorful experience.
  • Sweets: The Tokachi area in Hokkaido is famous for its dairy offerings. Treat yourself to delectable dairy treats such as soft-serve ice cream, milk pudding, and cheesecake.

What souvenirs should I buy in Obihiro?

The area in front of Obihiro Station has some shopping complexes. (Photo: PIXTA)
The area in front of Obihiro Station has some shopping complexes. (Photo: PIXTA)

When souvenir shopping in Obihiro, look for items that capture the city's essence and showcase Hokkaido's unique culture.

  • Obihiro Butadon Sauce: Bring home a bottle of the signature sauce used in butadon, allowing you to recreate the flavors of Obihiro's iconic dish from your own kitchen.
  • Locally Produced Dairy Products: Obihiro sports a variety of dairy products made locally, including cheese, pudding, and sweet treats. For an unforgettable souvenir of your journey, consider the offerings from Rokkatei. Headquartered in Obihiro City, this esteemed sweets manufacturer comes highly recommended. Ask anyone in Hokkaido for souvenir sweets suggestions, and Rokkatei will likely be at the top of their list.
  • Wine: The Wine Castle offers an enriching experience for wine lovers with its sparkling wines and Kiyomi grape-based wine. Around a 40-minute bus ride from Obihiro Station bus terminal to Ikeda Station and then a 4-minute taxi ride, this winery is a prime spot in the region's vibrant wine culture. Moreover, the Furano wineries are also within reach, inviting visitors to explore more of Hokkaido's renowned wine offerings.
Tips on visiting Obihiro
  • Local Guides: Enrich your experience by engaging local guides who can provide insights and take you to hidden gems that may not be in guidebooks.
  • Festivals and Events: Check the Tokachi Tourist Information Center for cultural celebrations during your visit and advice on places to see in the area.
  • Language: Although English is not as common in Obihiro as in bigger cities, locals are friendly and happy to assist you. Learning some basic Japanese phrases can help improve your interactions.

Obihiro promises an enchanting journey through Hokkaido's charm, offering a blend of nature, culture, and culinary delights. Whether you're savoring local delicacies or exploring tranquil gardens, Obihiro's allure will leave you with cherished memories of your time in this captivating city.

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*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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