This Hokkaido itinerary guide for 5 days 4 nights begins at the New Chitose Airport and then heads to Sapporo and to Otaru.
We start off by traveling to Hokkaido's number one city, Sapporo. Then we will make our way to the outlying areas like Noboribetsu Onsen and Lake Toya, before finally heading further out to the flower-filled Furano area and on to Biei, home to the famous Blue Pond.
In this Hokkaido itinerary, we'll also share tips on what to eat and side trips so you can enjoy your trip to Japan's gorgeous wild north to the fullest!
- Table of Contents
- Hokkaido Itinerary Day 1: Where to go and what to eat in Sapporo!
- Day 2: Sapporo to Otaru - Shopping and walking around Otaru Canal
- Day 3: Sapporo to Furano and Biei!
- Day 4: Soak Up Some Hot Springs: Plan A or B!
- Day 5: To New Chitose Airport from your accommodation
- 5-Day Hokkaido Itinerary: Wrapping Up
- Explore Japan at Your Pace - Rent an RV!
Hokkaido Itinerary Day 1: Where to go and what to eat in Sapporo!
■Day 1: Morning
New Chitose Airport → Sapporo City (car: approximately 50km, train: 37 minutes, bus: around 1 hour 20 minutes)
Advice: Once you arrive at New Chitose Airport, head to JR Sapporo Station, the center of Sapporo. A convenient way to getting to JR Sapporo Station is by taking the Rapid Airport train from the airport.
During the day, there is a train every 15 minutes, and it is the fastest way to get to Sapporo. If you have time to spare, you could take the airport shuttle bus. There are many bus stops in nearby cities such as Susukino and Odori Park.
Advice: The three major iconic dishes in Hokkaido are Sapporo miso ramen, soup curry, and kaisendon (rice bowls topped with delicious fresh fish). There are ramen shops all over the city. However, if you plan to stop by while you are sightseeing, we recommend the Odori Park to Tanukikoji area.
There are soup curry specialty shops that have long lines to little known spots throughout the city. If you want to eat kaisendon, we recommend heading to the Sapporo Jyogai Market (Jyogai Ichiba). This is a seven-minute walk from the Tozai subway line Nijuyon-ken Station or going to Nijo Market (Nijo Ichiba), which is located within walking distance of Odori Park.
Many kaisendon specialty shops close in the afternoon. If you plan on having a bite, make sure to stop by between breakfast and lunch hour.
Advice: For the first day of Sapporo sightseeing, we recommend walking through Odori Park, which spans through the city from east to west, then heading to the three major sightseeing spots in Sapporo.
You can walk to each spot, and it will take about 4 hours at a leisurely pace. You can get a panoramic view of the city from Sapporo TV Tower’s observation deck; we also recommend the night view from here.
Tip: Visitors can casually walk around the campus of Hokkaido University located on the northern side of JR Sapporo Station. The poplar tree-lined street and museum is a place you can’t miss. If you want to take your time, it will take 2 to 3 hours; however, at a brisk pace, you can go around the place area in about an hour.
To go to Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill, Shiroi Koibito Park, Moerenuma Park, and Mt. Moiwa Observation Deck, taking public transportation (subway, train, or bus) or taxi is convenient. In total, budgeting 3 to 4 hours for this excursion will be necessary.
Advice: Many cafés operated by sweets brands that represent Hokkaido are located around Odori Park. Many stores offer light meals and can be an excellent place to stop by for lunch.
Kitakaro and Rokkatei have spacious shops to look for gifts. Most gifts can be purchased at shops in New Chitose Airport; however, certain exclusive items can only be bought in Sapporo that is worth checking.
Advice: Seasonal ingredients from all over Hokkaido is are gathered in Sapporo. Especially the seafood in Hokkaido has a wide variety and taste. Sushi, sashimi, and grilled fish are are especially must-tries for all times you do Hokkaido travel.
In the entertainment district of Susukino, there are many high-class sushi restaurants. Also, there are many casual places to enjoy seafood such as Kaisen Izakaya (seafood pubs) and robatayaki restaurants, where the food is slowly grilled with over charcoal fire.
For something other than seafood, we recommend jingisukan, a dish where lamb or mutton is cooked in a unique pot. Most Hokkaido jingisukan restaurants open at night, and some places offer all-you-can-eat courses.
Day 2: Sapporo to Otaru - Shopping and walking around Otaru Canal
■Hokkaido Itinerary Day 2: Morning
Sapporo → Otaru (Car: approximately 39km, train: 35 minutes, bus: 1 hour 10 minutes)
Wall Street of the North → Otaru Canal → Otaru Canal Cruise
Advice: A convenient way to getting to Otaru from Sapporo is taking the JR Rapid Airport train from JR Sapporo Station. If you plan to visit the outskirts area of Otaru, such as the Shakotan Peninsula and Yoichi, we recommend renting a car in Sapporo for efficiency.
You can go sightseeing around Otaru City on foot. There is a bus from Sapporo to Otaru; however, it takes longer than the train.
Advice: The first thing to do after arriving at JR Otaru Station is head towards Otaru Canal. It is about a 15-minute walk from the station.
On the way, you will go by a street with old bank buildings called the Wall Street of the North, while strolling through the area head towards the canal. The view of the channel can be enjoyed while walking alongside it. However, we also recommend taking a ride on the Otaru Canal Cruise. If there is an opening on the day, you can hop on, but it is better to make reservations in advance, especially during the holiday seasons.
■Day 2: Must-Haves for Lunch
Kaisendon / Wakadori Hanshinage / Ankake Yakisoba
Advice: Port city Otaru is famous for its fresh seafood. From Otaru Canal to Sakaimachi Street, there are many kaisendon (seafood rice bowl) specialty shops, and some have English menus.
Known as Otaru’s local delicacy, wakadori hanshinage (half a chicken, deep-fried) and ankake yakisoba (stir-fried noodles covered in a thick sauce) shops are located near the station. If you plan to stop by for lunch, make sure you consider the time it takes to get there.
Advice: Otaru's leading shopping street is Sakaimachi Street with many famous Otaru gift shops such as glass crafts, music boxes, and candles. From Otaru Canal Terminal to Otaru Music Box Museum, located at the end of Sakaimachi Street, is 1km and takes about 10 minutes on foot.
On the way, you'll see many sweets shops that represent Otaru, such as LeTAO's Café, Kitakaro, and Rokkatei. It might be a good idea to stop by and rest your feet. Many shops near Sakai Street closes around 18:00 to 19:00, so we recommend going shopping early.
Advice: Tenguyama Observation Deck offers a panoramic view of Otaru City to Otaru Ferry Terminal and Otaru Aquarium, with its penguin and dolphin shows, are all popular tourist sites in the outskirts of Otaru.
You will want to take a bus from JR Otaru Station, and it will take about 3 hours round trip. Also, there are many old buildings and warehouses along Otaru Canal that were renovated into retro-style cafes and restaurants; make sure to stop by for a break while you are strolling along the canal.
Advice: It is said that there are over 100 sushi shops in Otaru, and many shops can be found along “Sushi Street” (Sushiya Dori).
It is better to make reservations for popular restaurants, but if you avoid the busy hours, you might be able to get in. Your budget may vary depending on the shop, but it typically costs around 3,000 yen to 10,000 per person. Uni (sea urchin) and shako (mantis shrimp) caught near Otaru region are are very popular.
The best season for shako is spring to autumn, and uni is June to August. Fresh seafood dishes prepared with ingredients caught near Otaru is are also delicious. There are also western restaurants with dishes like cotriade and bouillabaisse.
Day 3: Sapporo to Furano and Biei!
Day 4: Soak Up Some Hot Springs: Plan A or B!
■Day 4: Plan A, scenic spots and hot spring hopping in the historical hot spring town Noboribetsu!
■Day 4: Morning
Sapporo → Noboribetsu Onsen (car: approximately 107km, train: 1 hour 10 minutes, bus: 1 hour 40 minutes)
Advice: Travel to Noboribetsu Onsen from JR Sapporo Station by train or rental car. There is an intercity bus Kosoku Onsen-go from the station; however, there is only one bus per day.
If you take the public bus, you will need to change routes, and it could take over two and a half hours to get there. You could get to popular locations in Noboribetsu Onsen by bus or taxi; however, we recommend renting a car for smooth traveling.
■Day 4: Local lunch is a must
Jigoku Ramen / Enma Yakisoba
Advice: Famous local dishes of Noboribetsu Onsen are Jigoku ramen (hell ramen), and Enma yakisoba (Enma is the god that judges your fate in the underworld). These dishes are named after the famous local site Jigokudani (Hell Valley). Jigoku ramen is a popular dish at the ramen shop Aji no Daio, and it is renowned for the spicy red soup that looks something the devil would serve up!
Noboribetsu Enma yakisoba is served in various restaurants in the hot spring area, and each shop offers a different variation of these spicy stir-fried noodles. Many restaurants are located along Gokuraku Dori, starting from the Noboribetsu Onsen bus terminal.
■Day 4: Afternoon
Jigokudani → Oyunuma → Oyunuma Natural Foot bath → Sengen Park
Advice: If you are not using a rental car, you could use a bus or taxi to reach sightseeing locations. You can walk to the areas, but it takes quite a bit of time.
There are pathways around Jigokudani and Oyunuma, and you can stroll through the area. It’s a long path trail, so we recommend walking shoes and comfortable clothing. It will take about 3 to 4 hours. Every day, foot lamps along the pathway are illuminated from sundown to 9:30 p.m., you can enjoy the stroll in a magical atmosphere.
Advice: If you have spare time, check out the Noboribetsu Bear Park by ropeway and Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura, a theme park with Edo Period historical building replicas.
Either facility closes around 4 to 5 p.m., so it might be better to stop by here then heading over to the illuminated pathway in the Jigokudani area. Also, some hot spring hotels offer public baths that you can stop by while sightseeing.
■Day 4: We recommend a relaxing dinner at the hotel!
Advice: Near the Noboribetsu Onsen area many hotels have dining facilities, so few restaurants offer dinner in the area.
If you decide to spend the night in Noboribetsu Onsen, you should make sure to order the inclusive dinner plan. There are various meal plans depending on the facility, such as buffets using seasonal local produce, full course meals filled with food gathered from the mountain and sea, and local cuisine called ozen-ryori.
■Hokkaido Trip Day 4: Plan B, one night at Lake Toya Hot Spring and lake resort in the outskirts of Sapporo
■Day 4: Morning
Sapporo → Lake Toya (car: approximately 153km, train: about 1 hour 50 minutes, bus: 2 hours 45 minutes)
Advice: Lake Toya Hot Spring is the center point for sightseeing in the area. There are four buses per day to Lake Toya Hot Spring from JR Sapporo Station; reservation by phone is required (Donan bus).
When taking the train, take the Super Hokuto from JR Sapporo Station to JR Toya Station, from there take the bus to Lake Toya Hot Spring. It is possible to use the bus to go sightseeing in the Lake Toya area; however, using a rental car is more efficient.
■Day 4: Lunch is a must
Advice: Around Lake Toya, there are few restaurants and cafés that offer a panoramic view of the lake. There aren’t a lot of famous local dishes; however, there are few options using scallops from Funka Bay located in the outskirts of Lake Toya.
Dishes such as Hotatedon (scallop rice bowl), scallop okowa (sticky rice), deep-fried scallops and scallop ramen can be enjoyed at restaurants, train stations and service stations in the Lake Toya area.
■Day 4: Afternoon
Toyakokisen → Usuzan Ropeway
Advice: The highlight of Lake Toya sightseeing is the lake cruise. The boat operates every 30 to 60 minutes (depending on the season), and you can buy boarding tickets that day.
There is a summertime-only fireworks viewing cruise that is also quite exciting. To get to Usuzan Ropeway, use the local bus. There are only a few buses, so make sure to keep track of bus departure times when planning.
■Day 4: If you have the time!
Cuisine: Okadaya / Waksaimo Honpo Lake Toya Honten
Advice: The two major sweets of Lake Toya are Okadaya’s shiroi oshiruko and Waksaimo Honpo’s wakasaimo. Okadaya’s shiroi oshiruko is made from sweet daifuku beans harvested in the area.
Wakasaimo Honopo’s wakasaimo is a white bean paste with kombu (edible kelp) mixed in shaped like yaki-imo (roasted sweet potato). Both shops have cafés that offer sweets and a regular food menu; it is a convenient place to have lunch.
■Day 4: Must-Haves for Dinner
Dinner at the Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa
Advice: The Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa is Lake Toya’s luxurious resort hotel.
There are restaurants listed in the Michelin Guide Hokkaido, such as Michel Bras Toya Japon. It is possible to get seats at the restaurants if reservations get canceled. If there is a restaurant that you want to go to, we recommend making reservations ahead of time. You can also stay at other hotels and have dinner here.
Day 5: To New Chitose Airport from your accommodation
A: Noboribetsu to the Airport (car: approximately 73km, bus: 1 hour 15 minutes)
Advice: There are only 2 Express Airport buses per day in the morning. If you are heading to JR Sapporo Station, there is the Kosoku Onsen-go bus once per day, or you can use the train.
B: Lake Toya Onsen to the Airport (car: approximately 100km, train: 1 hour 30 minutes ~)
Advice: From JR Toya Station head to JR Minami-Chitose Station and transfer to the train heading to the airport. Depending on the transfer at Minami-Chitose Station, your travel time may vary, so make sure to check the departure schedule beforehand.
The bus from Noboribetsu Onsen to JR Sapporo Station takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Then you will transfer to the airport shuttle and head to the airport.
*Times and distances are a reference guide
5-Day Hokkaido Itinerary: Wrapping Up
In this 5-day Hokkaido itinerary, we covered the significant sights and areas people visit in Japan's northern island. One of the critical factors in planning your dream trip to Hokkaido will be the season. While spring and summer are particularly popular times to visit Hokkaido, have a look at the links below to help you decide what time of year is best for you.
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