Hokkaido winters are very cold with temperatures below freezing, and there’s also plenty of snow. February is often considered the best time to visit Hokkaido in winter, as this is when the Sapporo Snow Festival is held.
Here we’ll share all about the climate in Hokkaido in winter and the clothes you should wear at this time of year. In winter especially, you need to make sure you’ve got cold-weather gear such as gloves, scarves, and hats!
What's Winter in Hokkaido Like (December to February)?
1. The average monthly temperature is below freezing!
Winter in Hokkaido is long and arduous. From December through March, the average monthly temperature drops sharply and falls below freezing everywhere in Hokkaido. Inland cities like Asahikawa, Biei, and Furano have lower average temperatures in winter compared to coastal areas. There’s a big difference in temperature, and the four seasons are very pronounced.
2. Snowfall picks up in Sapporo from late January to early February
The first snow in Sapporo falls in November, and late January to early February is when the heaviest snowfalls occur. This is when the Sapporo Snow Festival is held. Even in downtown Sapporo, you may find around 70-80cm of snow accumulating. There’s even more snow in the mountain areas. The locals say that during winter, it snows somewhere in Hokkaido every day. But in some cities, such as Sapporo and Asahikawa, there are sunny days in winter without any snowfall. Sometimes you’ll even have the rare phenomenon of snow falling out of a bright sky!
3. Skiing in Hokkaido: snow season is from late November to early December
The ski resorts start to open from late November to early December. On Hokkaido’s Sea of Japan coast, there’s a lot of snow. On the Sea of Okhotsk coast, the winter is intensely cold, but blizzards are rare. On the Pacific Ocean side, there’s less snowfall compared to the Sea of Japan side. Daylight hours in winter in Hokkaido are longer, and there’s more sunshine.
Flowers, Fish & Events in Winter in Hokkaido
・Seasonal fish: Cod, smelt, Botan shrimp, oysters, scallops.
・Winter event: Sapporo Snow Festival
Tsudome venue: January 31 (Thursday) - February 11 (Mon)
Odori venue/Susukino venue: February 4 (Mon) - February 11 (Mon)
Odori venue: Short walk from Odori Station
Tsudome venue: 15 minutes on foot from Sakaemachi Station on the Toho Line
Susukino venue: Short walk from Susukino Station on the Namboku Line
Winter in Hokkaido (December - February): Temperature and precipitation
Hokkaido in Winter (December - February): Clothes and accessories
- Average temperature in Sapporo in December
- Maximum temperature in Sapporo in December
- Minimum temperature in Sapporo in December
- Average temperature in Sapporo in January
- Maximum temperature in Sapporo in January
- Minimum temperature in Sapporo in January
- Average temperature in Sapporo in February
- Maximum temperature in Sapporo in February
- Minimum temperature in Sapporo in February
Snow in Hokkaido falls as powdery snowflakes. The locals use the hood on their coats or wear a woolly hat rather than using an umbrella, and then brush off the snow by hand when they go inside. So a thick jacket with a hood, and gloves and a woolly hat are essential for traveling in Hokkaido in winter.
You can buy winter accessories such as hokkairo (hand warmers) (about 30 yen each) and masks (50-100 yen each) and umbrellas to keep off the snow (around 500 yen upwards) at convenience stores and drug stores.
Related Articles on Hokkaido
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*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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