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Winter in Japan

Japan… the land of cherry blossoms and dazzling autumn colours. But the colour white also suits this country quite well. Travel to Hokkaido, the northernmost prefecture in Japan, for a good dose of amazing winter beauty and fun.

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Winter in Hokkaido

Japan is made up of four main islands and no fewer than 6,852 smaller islands. The northernmost island of Hokkaido is the winter sports Mecca of the country. Thousands of winter sports fans visit ski resort Niseko yearly. But there are several other reasons to travel here, namely sparkling winter festivals, floating ice floes and steamy hot springs.

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    Sapporo Snow Festival

    Life-size snow palaces

    Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido and best known for the Sapporo beer you can enjoy in almost any Japanese restaurant. In the winter, an average of 600 cm of snow falls here, so the Sapporo Snow Festival is organised every February and is one of Japan’s most popular winter events. For an entire week, you can gaze in wonderment at complete palaces, pyramids and pagodas made of snow and ice.

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    Snowmen and lanterns

    Only 40 minutes by train from Sapporo is the city of Otaru, where the Otaru Snow Path Festival is held each year. For ten days, the entire city is enchantingly decorated with countless lights and snow sculptures. Since the festival usually falls at the same time as the Sapporo Snow Festival, why not visit both?

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      Soothing hot springs

      Nothing is more Japanese than ‘onsen’: hot springs that everyone in Japan visits on a regular basis, especially during the cold wintertime. Noboribetsu Onsen is the largest hot spring resort on Hokkaido. Most of the numerous types of mineral waters originate in the spectacular Jigokudani Valley, also known as Hell Valley, just to the north of the city. There are 11 different hot springs and the entire city is filled with bathhouses, some open 24 hours a day.

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        Shiretoko Peninsula

        Awe-inspiring blocks of ice

        The Shiretoko Peninsula is located in eastern Hokkaido and is home to the wild Shiretoko National Park. There are only roads on three-quarters of the peninsula and the northernmost point can only be reached by a hiking trip of several days or by boat. It is so cold here in the winter that even the Okhotsk Sea, which borders Shiretoko, freezes over and is filled with spectacular blocks of floating ice. Talking a walk across the endless white ocean and ice floes is an absolute must-do.

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          Mt. Hakodate

          The million dollar view

          Mount Hakodate, or Hakodateyama in Japanese, is a mountain that towers 334 metres above the city of Hakodate. If the cold hasn’t taken your breath away yet, the views from the top of this mountain are sure to. Mt. Hakodate is famous for its ‘million dollar view’, particularly spectacular in the evening. In winter, the skies are illuminated with thousands of lights and their reflection in the white snow is a sight in itself. The city is also well worth a visit. The snow-covered streets, with their red brick houses along the water, are picture perfect.

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