Best Things to Do in Hokkaido in Winter: Snow Festival, Illumination, Ski Resorts and Hot Springs

Hokkaido in winter is extremely cold with a lot of snow, but there are many events and scenery that can be enjoyed only during this season. This article details the highlights of winter travel in Hokkaido, from climate and clothing to the best places to visit!


Hokkaido in Winter


Winter (December through February) in Hokkaido is one of the coldest seasons in Japan, with severe below freezing temperatures and deep snowfalls due to the region’s abundant snowfall. Because of the low temperatures, the quality of the snow is reputed to be silky smooth, so even when it snows, there is no need to use an umbrella, and a coat hood or knit hat will suffice. Although the average monthly temperatures may vary slightly, it is still the season of long days below freezing, so it is important to be prepared for the cold.


In Hokkaido, where there is abundant snowfall, you can enjoy not only the pure white snowy landscape, but also the collaboration of snow and illumination, as many events using snow and ice are held in various locations. In addition to the many events held to enjoy nature in winter, the area is also crowded with people from Japan and abroad who come to enjoy winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding in search of Hokkaido’s high-quality snow. February in particular is the month of the Sapporo Snow Festival, one of the world’s three most popular snow festivals, attracting many tourists. This is the best time to travel to Hokkaido for the fantastic scenery and snow activities that can only be experienced in Hokkaido.

Winter Fashion

When visiting Hokkaido in winter, warm clothing is simply essential. The basic style is to wear warm underwear, a sweater, long pants, a heavy coat or down jacket, scarf, gloves, and hat. Since it snows a lot, hooded or long clothing is preferable. Cold-resistant and waterproof items are useful during this season. Because of the deep snowfall, wear waterproof, non-slip shoes that can be used on snow-covered roads. Longer length snow boots that do not allow snow to get into the shoes are recommended. Since it is heated indoors, it is easier to spend time in clothes that are easy to put on and take off, with multiple layers to accommodate the temperature difference between indoors and outdoors. When traveling outside, be aware of snow and icy conditions.

Things to do in Hokkaido in winter

Enjoy the illumination shining on the snowy landscape

As the Christmas season approaches, the whole town is decorated with gorgeous illuminations, creating a romantic atmosphere. Hokkaido in particular is the perfect location to enjoy the collaboration with snowy landscapes. We hope you will enjoy the fantastic spectacle that only this season can offer.

Odori Park (大通公園)

Sapporo White Illumination (さっぽろホワイトイルミネーション)

Every year from late November to late December, Sapporo White Illumination is held in Odori Park in Sapporo City. Visitors can enjoy the illumination of light objects inspired by Hokkaido’s nature, the universe, Christmas, and other themes. There are also booths inspired by Christmas markets in Munich, Germany, which is a close friend of Sapporo, where visitors can enjoy authentic German Christmas food and wine.

Munich Christmas Market in Sapporo (ミュンヘン・クリスマス市 in Sapporo)

The entire venue can be seen from the Sapporo TV Tower, and the illumination glowing in the snowy landscape is fantastic. The illumination is not limited to Odori Park, but also covers a wide area around Odori Park and Sapporo Station. The period of illumination differs from venue to venue, so be sure to check before visiting.

Goryokaku (五稜郭)

Goryokaku is a star-shaped fortress located in Hakodate, Hokkaido, and is a symbolic spot in Hakodate. It is registered as a Special National Historic Site and is now a park. The Goryokaku Illumination is held every year from early December to late February, when approximately 2,000 light bulbs are lit around the 1.8 km-long moat, creating a star of light. The view from the observation deck of Goryokaku Tower, from which the ruins of Goryokaku can be seen below, is breathtaking. Enjoy the beautiful snowy scenery of Hakodate at this historic spot.

Enjoy winter sports to the fullest

The vast land of Hokkaido is home to numerous ski resorts, both large and small. Many ski fans from overseas visit Hokkaido every year because of its excellent snow quality and powder snow. Here are some of the recommended ski resorts in Hokkaido.

Niseko United (ニセコユナイテッド)

Niseko Tokyu Grand HIRAFU (ニセコ東急 グラン・ヒラフ)

Niseko Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village Ski Resort, Niseko Annupuri International, and Niseko HANAZONO Resort are all located in this big, internationally renowned ski resort. The most attractive feature of the resort is the quality of the snow, which is called “silky snow,” and is so popular that it is considered one of the best in the world. You can enjoy winter sports to the fullest in this snowy world. There are also hot springs scattered around the resort, so after a hard day of sports, you can relax and soak in a hot spring.

Niseko Grand Hirafu (ニセコグラン・ヒラフ)

Niseko Village Ski Resort (ニセコビレッジスキーリゾート)

Niseko Annupuri International (ニセコアンヌプリ国際)

Niseko HANAZONO Resort (ニセコHANAZONOリゾート)

Furano Ski Resort (富良野スキー場)

Furano Ski Resort consists of two large zones. It is only a 10-minute drive to Furano city center, so you can enjoy après-ski sightseeing during your stay. Furano’s beautiful scenery and high quality powder snow are the attraction of this ski resort. There are a total of 28 courses with a wide variety of courses, which can be enjoyed by everyone from families and beginners to advanced skiers. Early morning fast track skiing can sometimes be seen “a sea of clouds” in the middle of winter!

Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort (札幌国際スキー場)

Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort is located in Jozankei, Sapporo. It is easily accessible from Sapporo City, so you can enjoy skiing even on a one-day trip. You can enjoy a variety of courses while enjoying powder snow, and since Jozankei Onsen (hot spring) is located nearby, stopping by the hot spring after skiing is also recommended!

Kiroro Snow World (キロロスノーワールド)

This large-scale ski resort is located in Kiroro Resort, which is easily accessible not only from Sapporo but also from Otaru and New Chitose Airport. It offers a full range of snow activities so that children and non-skiing adults can also enjoy the facilities. The resort is also equipped with lodging facilities and hot springs, so it is highly recommended.

Warm up your body in a hot spring

Hokkaido’s winter season is changing from the autumn leaves to a pure white world completely covered with snow. The cold days continue, so soak in a hot spring and warm up your body!

In our Hokkaido Autumn article, we introduced three of Hokkaido’s major hot springs, Jozankei Onsen, Noboribetsu Onsen, and Yunokawa Onsen, so this time we pick up other recommended hot spring spots!

To learn more about Jozankei Onsen, Noboribetsu Onsen, and Yunokawa Onsen, check here!

Toyako Onsen(洞爺湖温泉)

Lake Toya(洞爺湖)

Toyako Onsen is a hot spring resort located in Toyako Town in southern Hokkaido. Surrounded by the active volcano Mt. Usu and Lake Toya, the location is rich in nature and easily accessible from Sapporo and New Chitose Airport in 2 to 3 hours by train or bus. Ryokan, hotels, and souvenir shops form a hot spring resort town, so simply strolling around the town is full of fun.

Niseko Onsengo (ニセコ温泉郷)

Oyunuma, the source of Niseko Yumoto Onsen
Although it is too hot so can’t enter, it is supplied as a source to hot spring facilities of Niseko Yumoto Onsen.

Niseko Onsengo is the collective name for the hot springs scattered throughout the three towns of Kutchan, Niseko, and Rankoshi, located at the foot of the Niseko mountain range. The area has long been known as a hot spring resort, and its attraction is the abundance of hot springs with diverse hot spring water quality scattered throughout the area.

The water color ranges from clear and colorless to cloudy, green, and brown, but Niseko Yumoto Onsen, with its murky water, is the rarest of them all. The mineral deposits that collects at the bottom of the bathtub is scooped up by hand and placed on the skin to create a natural clay pack, which is expected to leave you with beautiful skin! Please take off your jewelry when bathing, as precious metals oxidize and turn black.

Hokkaido Local Food in Winter

Introducing Hokkaido’s making you warm & delicious local food which want you to try in the cold winter months!

Ishikari Nabe(石狩鍋)

Ishikari Nabe

Ishikari nabe is a local dish of Hokkaido. It is said to be a fisherman’s dish that originated in Ishikari Town on the Ishikari River, which has been famous for salmon fishing since the Edo period. It is said that at that time, fishermen used to eat chopped salmon or rough fish in a pot with miso soup to celebrate a big catch of salmon. Originally a fisherman’s dish, it is now a standard home-style dish.

This hot pot of vegetables and salmon simmered in a rich miso-flavored broth is perfect for the cold winter months! Enjoy!

Soup curry (スープカレー)

Soup curry

Soup curry is a specialty dish that originated in Sapporo. The ingredients used vary from restaurant to restaurant. It is a soul food with a satisfying taste that offers a sumptuous combination of Hokkaido vegetables cut into large pieces and meat such as chicken, pork, and lamb. Compared to ordinary Japanese curry rice, soup curry is particular about the aroma of spices and spiciness, so eating it in the cold winter will surely make you feel warm! Try eating soup curry with customized ingredients of your choice.

Hokkaido in December

The snow season begins in earnest in December, especially at night, when it is bitterly cold. The highlight of the season is the illumination that can be enjoyed in many places over Christmas and the end of the year. The white illumination in Sapporo’s Odori Park and the illumination along Otaru Canal are very popular.

Hokkaido in January

Hokkaido in January is a great opportunity to enjoy snowy landscapes and winter activities. As the New Year begins, we recommend visiting shrines and temples, as well as viewing spots where you can experience Hokkaido’s magnificent nature. You may also want to visit an onsen town to warm up your body as the cold days continue.

Hokkaido in February

Hokkaido in February is slightly warmer than in January, but the average temperature is still below freezing. The Sapporo Snow Festival attracts a large number of tourists every year. Winter sports are also popular during this season, so traveling during this time is recommended. However, with the increase in tourists, travel costs may rise and accommodations may be full, so early arrangements and reservations are recommended.

Related Articles




Let's share this post!