Hokkaido is the northernmost region of Japan. In fall and winter it gets very cold with temperatures lower than Tokyo and Osaka. Winter temperatures are often below freezing, and there’s also plenty of snow. In this article, we’re going to tell you all about the climate in Hokkaido in autumn and 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 accessories such as gloves, mufflers, and hats.
Autumn in Hokkaido (September to November)
The temperature drops rapidly day by day from fall through winter! You’ll notice big temperature differences in the mornings and evenings.
1. The temperature drops sharply from autumn through winter, and you’ll notice big temperature differences in the mornings and evenings.
In Hokkaido, the temperature falls quickly day by day from autumn onwards. You’ll feel it getting colder at the start and end of the day as the temperature changes. The morning and evening temperatures start to fall away in October, and in November it will sometimes be below freezing. Don’t get caught out by the change in season and the temperature differences over the day.
2. You need a coat and fleece from November onwards!
In Tokyo a thin cardigan is quite enough to keep you comfortable at this time of year. In Hokkaido, however, you’ll need a light coat or a fleece. Even if you don’t need a coat in Tokyo in November, it’s best to have one in Hokkaido so you’re ready for the onset of winter.
3. Hokkaido has torrential rain in September!
Other than in spring, autumn in Hokkaido is when you get the most days of clear and fine weather. In some years, however, there’s torrential rain in September, and this is when you get the heaviest rainfall of the year.
What to watch out for in autumn: Flowers, Fish & Events
◆ Autumn blooming flowers: Roses, lupine, marigolds, scarlet sage, glasswort (samphire), cosmos (all in early October).
◆ Seasonal fish: Sanma (Pacific saury)(September), salmon (September and October), hokke (Okhotsk mackerel) (September-November), shishamo (smelt) (October - November), oysters (October onwards), Ezo murasaki uni (Ezo purple sea urchin) (up to mid - October), Hanasaki crab (October/November).
◆ Autumn events: Furano Wine Grape Festival
Date: September 2, 2018 (Sun), 10.00AM to 4.00PM
Venue: Asahi-cho 1, Furano (Furano Ekimae Park)
Access: Short walk from JR Furano Station
Autumn in Hokkaido (September - November): Average temperature and precipitation
Autumn in Hokkaido (September - November): Clothes and accessories
September: Average temperature in Sapporo 18.1℃; maximum temperature 22.4℃; minimum temperature 14.2℃.
September often has the heaviest rainfall of the year. Don’t forget to bring a folding umbrella.
October: Average temperature in Sapporo 11.8℃; maximum temperature 16.2℃; minimum temperature 7.5℃.
Morning and evening temperatures fall quite sharply, and feel a lot colder than the rest of the day. You should have some long-sleeved outerwear that you can easily adjust to keep yourself warm and comfortable.
November: Average temperature in Sapporo 4.9℃; maximum temperature 8.5℃; minimum temperature 1.3℃.
Depending on where you go, it can be below freezing. You need to start wearing winter clothes to protect yourself against the cold.
Winter in Hokkaido (December to February)
Hokkaido winters are long and tough. The average monthly temperature is below freezing! In Sapporo the first snowfall is in November, and the volume of snow picks up in late January to early February.
1. The average monthly temperature is below freezing!
Winter in Hokkaido is long and difficult. 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
In Sapporo, the first snow 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 sunny sky!
3. The ski resorts open up 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 are longer and there’s more sunshine.
◆Winter sunshine hours
What to watch out for in autumn: Flowers, Fish & Events
◆ 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). Average temperature and precipitation
Hokkaido Winter (December - February): Clothes and accessories
December: Average temperature in Sapporo -0.9℃; maximum temperature 2.1℃; minimum temperature -4.1℃.
January: Average temperature in Sapporo -3.6℃; maximum temperature -0.6℃; minimum temperature -7.0℃.
February: Average temperature in Sapporo -3.1℃; maximum temperature 0.1℃; minimum temperature -6.6℃.
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 coat 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.
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