Autumn in Japan starts in the north! Five popular spots for viewing the fall colors in Hokkaido
|Let’s go see the first of the fall colors in Japan!||Niseko Annupuri|
|Shiretoko Goko Lakes||Onuma Quasi-National Park|
|Jozankei Gorge||Sapporo Mt. Moiwa|
Hokkaido experiences the shortest summers and earliest “kouyou” (fall colors) in all of Japan. While people in Tokyo in the Kanto area and Osaka in the Kansai area are still talking about the heat, Hokkaido is already turning red with the beginning of autumn. The vast expanses of Hokkaido make for a grand scale of fall colors and are most certainly well worth a visit! So for all of you headed to Hokkaido between late September to November, how about including some of the fall colors in your journey? There are more than a few popular spots for viewing the fall colors in Hokkaido that are difficult to find without a car, but here we’ll introduce some carefully selected gems easily accessed by public transportation so that even foreign visitors can enjoy some of the colorful fun.
Annupuri is not only the mecca for skiing in Japan, but also the No. 1 most popular spot for the fall colors in Hokkaido!
The popular secret weapon of this mountain is riding the gondola, normally used for the ski season, which will allow you to casually take a walk through the sky while looking down upon the vibrant colors of fall.
For those who want to see more of the surrounding fall colors, start from the observation deck at the terminus of the gondola for a light trek of about 1.3 km that rises 300 m in elevation. Why not aim for the highest peak in the Niseko mountain range along with a nature guide?
◆Refresh yourself in some hot springs after your colorful hike!
There are tons of “onsen yado”, or hot spring inns, located around Niseko Annupuri. Of course, they are great places to stay, but many of the hot springs can also be used for short day trips. Just be warned, most inns will likely be booked for overnight stays during the fall season, so if you plan to stay the night be sure to get your reservation far in advance!
We personally recommend, Ikoino Yuyado Iroha which is located only a 5 minutes’ walk from the gondola station. The rotenburo (outdoor bath) surrounded by nature gives the ultimate feeling of freedom! The sauna, rotenburo, and sleeping bath will all work wonders to sooth your tired body.
Ikoino Yuyado Iroha（いこいの湯宿 いろは）
Address: 477 Niseko, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido（北海道虻田郡ニセコ町ニセコ477）
Phone No.: +81-136-58-3111
◆Direct bus from New Chitose Airport!
We definitely recommend the direct buses that run from New Chitose Airport and Sapporo Station for those headed to Niseko Annupuri! The number of runs is relatively few but it takes only about 3 hours to the mountain.
Located: 485 Niseko, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido（北海道虻田群ニセコ町字ニセコ485）
Phone No.: +81-136-58-2080
Fall colors viewing season: Late September to early October
There is a legend that says a god put his hand into the earth, and the imprint left behind created the five Shiretoko Goko lakes. Needless to say, this is a place wrapped in a mystical air. The picture below is a view of the 3rd Lake. The forest dyed scarlet reflecting off the lake turns the whole scene pure red! Each of the 5 lakes’ names go by numbers, 1st Lake, 2nd Lake, etc., each of which provide a slightly different view of the fall colors to enjoy.
There is a roughly 3 km circuit that goes around all five of the lakes and takes about an hour and a half to walk. For those who may not have that much time go around them all, you can take a shorter version that only goes around the 1st and 2nd lakes which takes about 40 minutes to complete.
But since you’ve made it all the way out here, missing out on the 3rd Lake which is considered the most beautiful, and the 4th Lake that has the greatest variety of color, would just be such a shame, so we really recommend taking the time to see them all.
◆Take a look at the World Heritage Site, Shiretoko Peninsula from the sea
The UNESCO World Heritage Site registered Shiretoko Peninsula is a primitive world largely untouched by man. There may be a lot of people wanting to go, but walking along the coastline consists of heavy hiking for two days and camping for the night in your own tent!
By riding the Shiretoko sightseeing ship, Aurora, you can enjoy the full beauty of the Shiretoko Peninsula from the sea. There are tons of natural wonders you can only see here like 200m sheer cliffs, strangely shaped caves, and various waterfalls that gush straight into the Sea of Okhotsk. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to see some brown bears and deer on the shore.
Shiretoko Sightseeing Ship Aurora（知床観光船おーろら）
Location: 107 Utoro Higashi, Shari-cho, Shari-gun, Hokkaido（北海道斜里郡斜里町ウトロ東107）
Phone No.: +81-152-24-2147
◆The convenient Shiretoko Airport Liner!
A convenient way to get to the Shiretoko Goko Lakes is to take the “Shiretoko Airport Liner” Shari Bus from Memanbetsu Airport. From there, it takes about 2 hours until the Utoro Onsen bus terminal. From the Utoro Onsen bus terminal, change buses to a Shari Bus on the Shiretoko Line which will take about 30 minutes until the Shiretoko Goko Lakes. Because there are only two lines of buses that run, please be sure to check the timetable before your journey. If you just can’t find a smooth way to work out the bus and flight connections, how about staying the night at Utoro Onsen and heading to the Shiretoko Goko Lakes the next morning? There sure are plenty of fabulous onsen hot spring inns available.
Phone No.: +81-152-23-3145
Shiretoko Goko Lakes（知床五湖）
Location: Shiretoko Goko, Onnebetsu-mura, Shari-cho, Shari-gun, Hokkaido（北海道斜里郡斜里町遠音別村知床五湖）
Phone No.: +81-152-24-3323
Fall colors viewing season: Early to mid October
The Onuma Quasi-National Park is a beautiful space area that is composed of famous sites such as the two lakes of Onuma-ko and Konuma-ko which were created from the volcanic eruption of nearby Mt. Komagatake. Dotted inside of the lakes are 126 large and small islands that offer all different kinds of expressions of the fall colors to enjoy.
There are lots of ways to enjoy the natural surroundings inside of the park like walks, cycling paths, and a course that is comprised of bridges that connect 18 different islands.
The contrast of the fall colors around the lake and Mt. Komagatake in the background make for some spectacular views!
◆Getting to Hakodate is easy!
One of the great things about Onuma Quasi-National Park is how close it is to the popular sightseeing city of Hakodate. It only takes a mere 20 minutes on the Hokuto and Super Hokuto express trains from the JR Onuma Koen Station to the JR Hakodate Station. In Hakodate, you can also find some fabulous scenes of fall colors at the star-shaped fort of Goryokaku!
You can also find one of the best night city views in all of Japan atop Mt. Hakodate!
◆Use the shuttle bus from Hakodate Airport
Buses leave to and from Hakodate Airport headed for Onuma Quasi-National Park. Riding the bus is easy and takes about only 70 minutes to the Onuma Quasi-National Park Porotokan located right next to the Onuma Quasi-National Park Station!
Onuma Kotsu Shuttle Bus（大沼交通シャトルバス）
Phone No.: +81-138-67-3500
Onuma Quasi-National Park（大沼国定公園）
Location: 1023-1 Onuma-cho, Nanae-cho, Kameda-gun, Hokkaido（北海道亀田郡七飯町大沼町1023-1）
Fall colors viewing season: Mid October to early November
Located upstream of the Toyohira River is a ravine surrounded by mountains called, Jozankei which is the symbolic spot for the fall colors in Hokkaido! Because Jozankei is conveniently located only a 60 minute’s direct bus ride from Sapporo City, it is a popular spot for viewing the fall colors and draws large numbers of visitors every year
At the shore near the dam is a great spot to see the scintillating beauty of the water and fall leaves.
There are tons of great spots for beautiful fall colors around the Jozankei area like the Jozankei Gorge, Mt. Hakkenzan, the Hohei Gorge, Lake Sapporo, and the Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort!
There are three buses available during the season of the fall colors that run to and from the Jozankei Tourist Information Center including one headed for the Kouyou Gondola (Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort), a shuttle bus for the Hohei Gorge Dam, and the Kouyou Kappa Bus which shows you around secret spots for beautiful fall colors with the help of a local guide. Go ahead and give one a try!
◆Popular hot springs town wrapped in the colors of fall
The onsen-machi (hot springs town) of Jozankei Onsen is a “kouyou” fall colors viewing spot in and of itself. This area is perfect to enjoy on a stroll along the Toyohira River which runs through the center of the town and is lined with traditional ryokan Japanese inns! We recommend staying the night in one of these inns to completely immerse yourself in the special experience of hot springs and seasonal beauty.
◆Direct buses from Sapporo City and the airport!
There are Hokuto Kotsu buses that run directly from the New Chitose Airport to Jozankei. This way you can reach your destination in only 1 hour and 40 minutes! There is also the Kappa Liner bus that runs directly from Sapporo Station. In 60 minutes, you’ll reach Jozankei before you even know it!
Hokuto Kotsu Bus（北都交通バス）
Phone No.: +81-11-375-6000
Jotetsu Bus Kawazoe Office（じょうてつバス川添営業所）
Phone No.: +81-11-572-3131
Location: Jozankei Onsen, Minami-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido（北海道札幌市南区定山渓温泉）
Phone No.: +81-11-598-2012
Viewing Season: Early to mid-October
Take a bus for 20 minutes from Sapporo Station and you’ll soon arrive at Sapporo Mt. Moiwa. Catching some views of this mountain from Nakajima Park in the center of Sapporo City also offers fabulous scenes of the fall colors. Because Mt. Moiwa is so easy to access from the center of Sapporo City, it’s a popular spot for viewing the fall colors.
There’s a ropeway stationed at the base of Mt. Moiwa, so reaching the top is easy! Enjoy a stroll through the sky as you look down on the brightly colored leaves of the mountain.
◆You can also enjoy the famous night view of Sapporo City!
Miraculous views of Sapporo City unfold before as night falls from the top of Mt. Moiwa! This night city view is ranked alongside Hokkaido’s other famous night view in Hakodate City as some of the best in all of Japan. Come and enjoy the marvelous 360 degree panoramic views waiting for you at the top of the mountain! The best way to enjoy the entirety of Mt. Moiwa is to head up the ropeway to watch the fall colors while there’s still daylight, and then view the spectacular night view after sunset.
As you descend the mountain, you’ll find yourself right in the middle of the gourmet city, Sapporo! Why not try one of the many fabulous ramen shops in the Ganso Sapporo Ramen Yokocho Lane?
Seventeen ramen shops are all crammed together in this small area of Yokocho Lane. Most of the shops only have an L-shaped counter area that is maxed out at about 10 customers! Because of this, you’re likely to find lines at many of these restaurants. Of these shops, the Higuma Yokocho Main Store established in 1972 is super popular!
(Source：T & A cooking）
Ganso Sapporo Ramen Yokocho, 3 chome, Minami 5-jo Nishi, Chuo, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido（北海道札幌市中央区南5条西3丁目 元祖さっぽろラーメン横丁）
Phone No.: +81-11-518-2423
Open: Hours change depending on the shop
◆Environment friendly free shuttle bus service!
Using the Sapporo Municipal Railway Tram, better known as the “shiden”, and the free shuttle bus to get to Mt. Moiwa from Sapporo Station is easy and convenient. From Sapporo Station, take the subway to Odori Station from which you’ll walk a couple minutes to the “shiden” tram stop of Nishi 4 Chome and board the tram headed for the Ropeway Iriguchi stop. From there, you can take the free shuttle bus to the Moiwa Sanroku Station.
Sapporo Mt. Moiwa（札幌藻岩山）
Location: 5-3-7 Fushimi, Chuo, Sapporo-shi（札幌市中央区伏見5-3-7）
Phone No.: +81-11-561-8177
Fall colors viewing Season: Mid to late-October
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Nodoka Watanabe Senior Travel Writers
As I have been an “otaku” for a long time, I often go and take part in the events related to comics, anime and games.
I would be glad if my reports mentioning my experience could make you feel like “I want to go to Japan!” or “I was glad to come to Japan.”