Lavender Season in Hokkaido (And Why You Should Visit During Summer)
Hokkaido in Japan is one of the “hottest” winter destinations in the world. Renowned for their breathtaking, gorgeous snowy landscapes that seem to have come straight from myths and legends, natural phenomenon such as the “Diamond Dust” that only occurs in winter, extraordinary seafood, winter sports, beautiful cities and winter festivals, only serve to reinforce the notion that second largest island of Japan is best visited during winter.
There are great things to do in Hokkaido during Winter for sure. But what of the other seasons on this gorgeous Japanese island?
Hokkaido Summer Travel
Hokkaido has a long tradition that stretches back over half a century about lavender cultivation and during summer, its lavender season. Unlike the more famous sakura (cherry blossom) season that lasts for just about a week, the lavender season lasts for more than a month stretching from July to August.
Hokkaido in June is just as lovely but it is too early to see Lavender fields blooming. In any case, if you decided to visit know that the temperatures are quite pleasant.
Where to go to see the Lavender fields?
The two best towns to visit in Hokkaido to admire the purple-hued fields are Furano and Biei.
Furano is a small city in Hokkaido whose claim to fame is flower cultivation. Cultivation of lavender in the Furano area began around 1955. Earlier, it was only grown by a few families to extract lavender oil to create scented products.
Many lavender farms with huge, rolling fields of lavender can be seen as you travel along the roads of Furano. The oldest and most famous lavender farm is the Tomita farm at Furano. Tomita Farm boasts a wide array of seasonal flowers planted in neat rows, and their irodori field is a delightful and colourful feast for the eyes.
Biei is a small town located in the centre of Hokkaido and like Furano is well known for their lavender fields. When summer rolls around and lavender is in full bloom, the lavender covered hills of Biei become a homing beacon for visitors. Two areas, known as Patchwork Road and Panorama Road are among the most popular places to visit to view the fields.
3. Northwestern Hill Observatory Park, Biei
Another great location is the Northwestern Hill Observatory Park in Biei. This spot has a uniquely shaped like a white pyramid and is located on top of a slightly sloping hill in Patchwork Road. The observatory is a tranquil location, with the fragrance of lavender creating a relaxing atmosphere. And in addition to the surrounding lavender fields, many trees provide a great colour contrast to the fields of lavender.
The lavender landscape of Furano and Biei steadily became a celebrated Hokkaido tradition and attraction after more farms started to cultivate their own lavender. Gradually, importation of inexpensive scents and fragrances made the farms shift their priorities and come up with new ways to make money. Some converted more fields to lavender to create perfume scent and ingredients and souvenir shops selling lavender scented soap and products such as perfumes and potpourri dot the streets.
Summertime Bliss: Places to visit and activities in Hokkaido
Apart from the lavender fields, there are more things to do in Hokkaido during the Summer. Read on to find the top spots your should include in your Hokkaido itinerary.
1. Shakotan Peninsula
Once off-limits to women, The Kamui and Shimamui coastline is famous for the blue seas around the Shakotan Peninsula. The caveat, however, is the long travel time and an interminable journey on foot along a narrow, winding path. However, the journey does impart a sense that this is a “secret” location. So, if solitude and tranquillity along with majestic views of a cerulean sea, make the trip to the Shakotan Peninsula.
- How to reach: Drive 2h (~75 km) from Otaru to Cape Kamui. Or take a bus from JR Otaru station.
2. Orochon Fire Festival
The Orochon fire festival commemorates the indigenous tribes of the Okhotsk who used to live at the estuary of the Abashiri river. Started by refugees as a summer festival, visitors will be enthralled by ethnic costumes, roaring bonfires which creates a capricious and volatile atmosphere. Participants dance, pray amidst processions of torchbearers. The festival is led by a shaman who lights the fire and “frees” the spirits of the indigenous people.
- Date: Happens in the last week of July.
- Address: 4 Minami 3 Johigashi, Abashiri-shi, Hokkaido.
- How to reach: Take the train from Sapporo Station to Abashiri Bus Terminal. Then, walk 10 minutes to the Festival premises.
- Official website: https://www.abakanko.jp/
3. Asahiyama Zoo
Famous for their creative and innovative exhibits along with an exceptional level of care for the animals, Asashiyama zoo can be an experience even for the most jaded traveler. Home to 700 animals with enclosures built to mimic their natural environment, the animals are active and mobile, unlike many other zoos where you see listless and lethargic animals.
Penguins line up and waddle/march in a line, polar bears dive, swim and romp through the snow and orangutans stroll and swing from their treetop enclosure. The zoo also features an underwater tunnel where the normally clumsy penguins become the very definition of poetry in motion as they almost seem to fly in the water. All exhibits also allow guests to get much closer than they normally would to the animals without disturbing them due to the unique and creative design of the zoo. Definitely not one to be missed.
- Address: Japan, 〒078-8205 Hokkaido, Asahikawa, 東旭川町倉沼
- Opening Times: 10h30 am to 3h30 pm.
- Entrance fee: 820 yen
4. Odori Park Beer Garden
Booze enthusiasts will undoubtedly want to visit the beer garden. Held from July 20 to August 15 in the middle of Sapporo, you will be able to enjoy tasting the exceptional locally brewed beer and other beers from across Japan. Beers from the rest of the world will be available as well and you will be sure to leave the festival with a buzz and happy memories.
- Date: July 20 – August 17, 2018
- Address: 7 Odorinishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 060-0042, Hokkaido
- How to reach: Walk 1 min from Odori Station
- Opening times: 12 pm – 9 pm (last order is at 8h30 pm)
5. Lake Mashu
Lake Mashu is a caldera lake in Teshikaga town located in the northeastern part of Lake Akan. famous for its mystical atmosphere due to the varying levels of fog that cover the lake. This gives rise to another name for the lake which is “Foggy Lake Mashu”. It is also as renowned for an exceptional level of transparency with its literal crystal clear water. There are three observatories that surround the lake to provide an excellent viewing experience.
Lake Mashu is a little off the beaten path and travel from Sapporo means taking a day trip. But if you love nature landscapes, you won’t be disappointed.
- How to reach: Drive 2h (~80 km) from Kushiro. Or, take the local train from Kushiro to Mashu station on the JR Senmou Line. The trip takes about 1h30 minutes. Then, take a bus from Mashu station to the 1st Observatory. This bus trip takes about 25 minutes.
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What is great to eat?
Japan is a seasonal country and the produce, meat, and seafood available changes with the seasons. During the summer you will find delicious fruit and plenty of fresh seafood available. Here is a quick and easy guide to the summer menu for Hokkaido.
- Uni – Sea Urchin is a renowned delicacy and prices tend to dip a little lower in the summer. This is especially so for the Shakotan Peninsula.
- Lavender Soft Serve – While it may seem strange and evokes ideas of eating soap or perfume, it is actually…. not bad. If you visit the lavender fields, Tomita farm produces this fresh and is a sought-after snack in the summer heat.
- Melon Soft Serve – Lavender is not your thing? Well, the melon soft serve is a great alternative made with fresh Japanese melons.
- Miso Ramen – This Sapporo-style ramen has the maggi mee style noodles and is served with a delicious miso broth.
- Sapporo Beer – When you visit Dublin Ireland, you drink Guinness. When in Sapporo, you drink Sapporo beer. They just taste better coming straight from the brewery and after all, you know the old saying. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
- Seafood – Try the botan ebi (shrimp) and the squid. The term Hokkaido Seafood has become synonymous with great quality and for good reason. Even other regions of Japan import seafood from Hokkaido and if you do visit, don’t make the mistake of missing out on some of the best seafood in the world.
Come back to Hokkaido and experience all the seasons
With all this lavender scent, you can’t avoid total relaxation during this trip. Come armed with a good camera (or phone!) and snap as many pictures as possible. Hokkaido in Summer is Insta-heaven!
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