70,000 Singaporeans visit Japan every year, and many people go to Hokkaido for the food, an island famed for its dairy products and seafood. However, Hokkaido is more than just a food paradise; it is a haven for cyclists too. And it is not difficult to see why.
Land Area: 83,457km2, 116 times bigger than Singapore. Hokkaido covers 22% of Japan’s landmass.
A round-island venture around Hokkaido is 2,400km long and would take an amateur cyclist about a month to complete (that’s if you are riding an average of 80km a day for 30 days).
With guides and volunteers from Japan who hosted us, we explored three areas in Hokkaido: 1) Biei and Furano, 2) Wakkanai, the Northernmost tip of Hokkaido, and 3) the city of Sapporo. We will talk briefly about these places that we visited during our trip. We wished we had more time to explore the whole island, but we will be back for sure!
Rolling hills of Biei and Furano
We landed in Asahikawa airport after taking a domestic flight from Haneda Airport in Tokyo. After that, we took a bus ride to Furano and Biei to meet up with some local cyclists who showed us around.
Located in the centre of Hokkaido, the region of Biei and Furano is one of Hokkaido’s most famous sightseeing areas. You will be able to view a vast landscape of flowers in the fields during the flower season. Ride through the “Florists’ Highway” along Highway 237, connecting Biei to Furano from July to August to enjoy a spectacular view of lavender flowers. If you do not want to miss the flower seasons in Hokkaido, click here to view the flower calendar.
While we were there, we were treated with milk and lavender soft serve ice cream. It was a delightful treat during our ride.
Kamifurano is a small town which is well known for lavender, but it has a lot more to offer. Look out for the brown signboards which mark the 8 locations of these scenic spots.
Of the 8, the most famous spot is called the “Roller Coaster Road”, which is located after Miyama pass in Kamifurano.
At the top of Miyama pass lies a bicycle-themed family cafe called Yamaichi. Shingo, the owner of the cafe, joined us for the ride and changed right after so that he could serve us in his cafe. He, together with his wife, went out of their way to make us feel welcomed.
As you will be cycling in the countryside, there are only a few food stops and public toilets available. If you are self-supported, you might want to consider carrying some snacks and extra water with you.
Northern Hokkaido: Wakkanai
On the 2nd day, we took a long drive up North. Enjoy a flat coastal ride as you cycle past the Otonrui Wind Power Factory at Horonobe-cho. Apart from providing electricity to Hokkaido, it is also a famous photo stop as well.
Wakkanai is a town located at the Northern tip of Hokkaido. Situated at 45º 31′ 22º N, the Northernmost point in Japan has a monument designed in the motif of the North Star. The circular base represents peace and cooperation. On a clear day, you will be able to see Russia across the sea, which is only 43km away from Hokkaido.
Sapporo is the largest town on the island of Hokkaido and is an area popular with tourists.
On the outskirts of the town Tobetsu, located about 30 kilometres from Sapporo, lies a village that looks exactly like the houses in Sweden.
Most of the inhabitants are pensioners from larger cities in Japan, but the village is increasingly popular with families. All the wooden houses are strictly in red with white corners, and it is quite a sight to cycle past almost identical houses. Enjoy a gradual climb uphill in this area, and a nice long descend down into the countryside.
The roads in the outskirts up North of Sapporo are mostly flat, and the roads are quiet and smooth.
The main sunflower season is from July to August, but the sunflowers were still in full bloom while we were there at the beginning of October.
Why cycle in Hokkaido?
It is a dream to cycle in Hokkaido. You get a mixture of rolling hills along vast green plains (colourful during the flower season) and flat coastal roads.
The temperature is perfect for riding in. While we were there from the end of September to the beginning of October during the autumn season, arm sleeves were sufficient to keep us warm. It is great to cycle here as the roads are smooth (potholes are a rare sight) and motorists are courteous. We felt very safe while cycling on the roads and could enjoy our rides while marvelling at the scenery.
Planning a cycling holiday in Hokkaido is a perfect getaway and a breather from your hectic daily lifestyle, where you can forget about the stresses of life. It is a whole new experience cycling in Hokkaido, and you should come here to experience its beauty.
Not forgetting about the wide array of food options that are available in Japan.
For more information on cycling in Hokkaido, please visit Hokkaido Cycling Tourism Guide’s official website. You will be able to access 13 maps of recommended cycling courses through Google Maps, Strava, and Ride with GPS apps, more information for sightseeing areas, as well as rules and etiquettes, to follow when cycling in Hokkaido.
Hokkaido Cycling Tourism will be setting up a booth during Car-Free Sunday on 28th October 2018. To learn more about them, do head down and have a chat with them! I am sure they are more than happy to introduce you to their beautiful island.
We would like to thank Tanaka, Tohru, Kazuya, Nori, Celine, Ken, and Shelly for the fun and laughter during this trip.
*Some of you might be worried about the Earthquake which struck Hokkaido last month. It has only affected the Eastern Iburi subprefecture in Hokkaido. According to safety-travel.jp, major hindrances to transportation and lodging have been resolved, and the region has made a recovery from the incident, so rest assured that you can continue with your travel plans as per normal. *