[source : https://theculturetrip.com/asia/japan/articles]
In previous article, which was introducing Rishiri Island, I shortly mentioned about Ainu people in Japan. Today, I am going to explain some historical sites where you can experience and feel Ainu people, culture, and their life. The Ainu are indigenous people in Japan, especially in Hokkaido Prefecture, and their culture settled down in Japan a lot in advance than mainstream Japan. The number of officially registered Ainu people in Japan are about 25,000; however, it is estimated that more than 200,000 Ainu people are living in Japan.
As I described in previous article, Japanese government, long time ago, thought Ainu culture is not developed and uncivilized. Ainu people have been discriminated by society until now, knowingly or unknowingly, and this made them becoming isolated from living harmoniously with mainstream Japan. This different eyes toward Ainu people made them hide their name, language, and culture. Some Ainu people moved to big city tried hard to live like a mainstream Japanese; however, they needed to come back to their hometown if any other people knew they are actually Ainu.
[source : https://www.thecrazytourist.com]
You don’t need any other things but all you need is true Japanese hot springs? You want to enjoy the contrast of freezing Hokkaido weather and super hot spring that can melt your frozen body? Or you focus on relaxing time rather than going out for adventures? If so, visiting Noboribetsu, which is a city located in Hokkaido prefecture and world widely well-known for its natural hot springs, is recommended.
Noboribetsu is one of the most famous and popular hot spring resorts in Japan. It takes only 2 hours from Sapporo so you can make a plan to visit this place if you are traveling to Sapporo. There is a volcanic crater which is called as Jigokudani, menas hell valley in English, and it creates a lot of steam from mountains as well as bubbling hot water. Noboribetsu is also called as Goblin town so that you can see statues of Japanese goblins in some places in village. In addition to this, it is not difficult to see and feel hot steam from onsen. This naturally means visiting here in summer will show you what real humid and hot weather is.
Rishiri Island, which is part of Hokkaido Prefecture, means “tall island” in Ainu language. Ainu people, which can be also called an Anyu, are indigenous people of Japan, especially Hokkaido Prefecture and Sakhalin area in Russia. Historically Ainu people are not Yamato clan but from a clan in northern Mongolia. Ainu people had their own language, which is Ainu language, and had a feature of phratry. It is said that Ainu people their own traditional system to make human name; however, nowadays most of them use Japanese or Russian names.
Meiji government and society thought traditions and cultures of Ainu were not modern so they banned them to keep their traditions. In addition to this, Ainu people used to live in the wide regions of Japan but government forced them to move to Hokkaido area. Their own cultures were destroyed and Ainu people had been discriminated for a long time. Nowadays, some Ainu people live in an Ainu village and keep their lives by selling crafts.
[source : https://www.hankyu-travel.com/hokkaido/sapporo/yukimatsuri/]
In my previous article, which was to introduce attractions and things to do in Sapporo, I have shortly mentioned about snow festival(yuki matusri; 雪祭り) in Sapporo. Sapporo Snow Festival is world-widely well known and popular so you’d better not miss this great opportunity to appreciate snow and ice sculptures if you are planning to visit Sapporo during festival season.
It is said that the origin of Sapporo Snow Festival comes from the story that some high school students built snow statues in Odori park, where now is used for festival. This happened more than 60 years ago and by now it has developed into a huge annual event. Every year more than 2 million people visit Sapporo to participate in this festival and see hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures.
[source : http://niseko-village.com/ja/]
About 2 hours away from downtown Sapporo by car, Niseko is a town located on the northern Hokkaido Island. There is a famous dormant volcano mountain called Mountain Yotei, which gives perfect geographical features on this area to build ski resorts. Major ski resorts in Japan such as Niseko Mountain Resort Grand Hirafu are located in Niseko so that annually tons of people who love winter sports visit here. There also are resorts where you can enjoy both snow and hot springs.
The mountain view from hotels are said to be beautiful, especially when whole trees are covered by snow. If you are staying at high end hotels such as Hilton Hotel Niseko, the hotel provides shuttle bus between New Chitose airport and hotel, which takes around an hour and a half. Even if they don’t know how to play winter sports like ski and snowboard, there still are people who come and stay in Niseko to enjoy its scenery and take a rest.
Abashiri is a small village with about 40,000 residents located on the eastern coast of Hokkaido. If you are expecting something like high buildings and sparkling night views of downtown, you’d better visit somewhere else. There are not very many places for shopping and dining in Abashiri; however, if you love to travel every nook and corner of a village, it will give you enough pleasure. There are tour attractions you can only experience in Abashiri such as trying ice breaking cruise or visiting prison museum.
The Okhotsk Train is a limited express train service which runs between Sapporo and Abashiri. Many tourists use this train to get to Abashiri even though it takes more than 5 hours since there are some factors people can enjoy while taking this train. Abashiri is famous for ice floe and every year many people including tourists and researchers gather here to observe huge ice floes. Then why Ice floe in Abashiri became famous?
[source : https://www.ana.co.jp/en/jp/tastesofjapan/hokkaido/0015.html]
Shopping and dining gives pretty much of pleasure to travelers; however, please don’t forget that there are some more exciting things you can enjoy in Hakodate. Similar to Sapporo, Hakodate also provides snow related attractions like ski resort. It is said that snow fall starts from November to March in Hakodate so that you can enjoy snow basically everywhere. If you are willing to spend more time in Hakodate, you may try winter activities such as skiing and and snowboarding.
You feel hanging around Sapporo is not enough to explore whole Hokkaido? If so, visiting Hakodate is recommended. Hakodate is a city located in the southern part of Hokkaido and it takes around 4 hours by train from downtown Sapporo. I honestly recommend using trans rather than renting a car unless you have special plans with a car. Even if you have a car, it takes almost same hours to get to Hakodate and weather condition in Hokkaido area is hard to expect, especially in winter. Besides, the cost is going to be similar as one way ticket from Sapporo to Hakodate costs about JPY 10,000.
In our previous article, we have looked for Genghis Khan, which means lamb barbecue in Japan, and soup curry. These two are definitely representative foods you can enjoy in Sapporo. However, we haven’t even started yet if we are going to start talking about food in Sapporo. I guess it will take more than 3 days if we really wish to do so, though. Probably we will have endless discussion for deciding which one can be number one that represents Sapporo.
As I mentioned in previous article, Sapporo is famous for its fresh ingredients such as seafood, vegetables, and dairy products. A bowl of ramen with a piece of butter, fresh sushi and kaisen-don(rice bowl with sashimi), crab shabushabu, cheesecakes and milk… Every single thing in this area is mouthwatering enough and perfect to satisfy your tongue.
[source : https://hokkaido-labo.com/en/sapporo-ramen-3924]