Lonely Planet has named Japan’s Hokkaido prefecture as the top destination in Asia to visit in 2016 as part of its inaugural ‘Best in Asia’ list.
Hokkaido, famous for its skiing and snow, is the country’s northernmost island. It is kown as the powder capital of Japan, however offers more than just wintertime fun, with volcanoes, natural hot springs to explore and in early May, stunning cherry blossoms bloom as a prelude to a diverse summer landscape of flower and lavender fields.
With an array of domestic flight options and the recently opened Hokkaido Shinkansen (bullet train) linking Japan’s capital with the city of Hakodate, on the southern tip of the region in just over four hours, Hokkaido’s ease of accessibility from Tokyo is set to cement the destination on traveller’s itineraries.
Latest statistics released by ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) prove Japan’s popularity is peaking, as visitor numbers to Japan saw a 22.5 percent increase in visitation for the period of Jan-May 2016 year-on-year.
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5 reasons why you should be visiting Hokkaido
1. Near the dormant volcano of Mt. Yotei, lies Niseko. Known for its quality and consistent light, powdery snow - the result of Siberian winds interacting with moisture from the Sea of Japan.
2. 50 kms off the coast of Hokkaido lies Rebun Island in the Sea of Japan. The island features an abundance of rare alpine flowers, green spaces, and striking coastline.
3. Known best for its snow-capped peaks, Niseko is in fact a top autumn destination in Hokkaido. With lakes, hiking trails and hot springs to explore, and even golf and canoeing.
4. Jigokudani in Noboribetsu gets its 'hell valley' namesake from the bubbling steam vents and streams that dot the area. In summer, Thursday and Friday nights see a 'demon’s fireworks' display, complete with dancing Yukijin demons along the edge of the valley.
5. Lake Toya is a volcanic caldera lake in Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Nearby Mt. Usu is one of the most active volcanoes in Japan, its most recent eruption in 2000.