Let’s go see the first of the fall colors in Japan!
Hokkaido experiences the shortest summers and earliest “kouyou” (fall colors) in all of Japan. While people in Tokyo in the Kanto area and Osaka in the Kansai area are still talking about the heat, Hokkaido is already turning red. The vast expanses of Hokkaido make for a grand scale of fall colors and are most certainly well worth a visit! So for all of you headed to Hokkaido between late September to November, how about including some of these popular spots? Here we’ll introduce spots that are easily accessible by public transport.
Annupuri is not only the mecca for skiing in Japan, but also the No. 1 spot for fall colors in Hokkaido. For those who want to see more of the surrounding fall colors, start from the observation deck at the terminus of the gondola for a light trek of about 1.3 km that goes up to an elevation of 300 m. Why not aim for the highest peak in the Niseko mountain range along with a guide?
Direct bus from New Chitose Airport
We definitely recommend the direct buses that run from New Chitose Airport and Sapporo Station for those headed to Niseko Annupuri. It takes only about 3 hours to the mountain.
485 Niseko, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido（北海道虻田群ニセコ町字ニセコ485）
Best time : Late September to early October
Shiretoko Goko Lakes
There is a legend that says a god put his hand into the earth, and the imprint left behind created the five Shiretoko Goko lakes. Needless to say, this is a place wrapped in a mystical air. The picture below is a view of the 3rd Lake. The forest dyed scarlet reflecting off the lake turns the whole landscape to red! Each of the five lakes’ names go by numbers, 1st Lake, 2nd Lake, etc., and each offer a slightly different view of the fall colors to enjoy.
There is a roughly 3 km circuit that goes around all five of the lakes and takes about an hour and a half to walk. The 3rd Lake is considered the most beautiful, and the 4th Lake has the greatest variety of color.
Take a look at the World Heritage Site, Shiretoko Peninsula from the sea
The UNESCO World Heritage Site registered Shiretoko Peninsula is a primitive world largely untouched by man. There may be a lot of people wanting to go, but walking along the coastline consists of heavy hiking for two days and camping for the night in your own tent!
By riding the Shiretoko sightseeing ship, Aurora, you can enjoy the full beauty of the Shiretoko Peninsula from the sea. There are tons of natural wonders you can only see here like 200m sheer cliffs, strangely shaped caves, and various waterfalls that gush straight into the Sea of Okhotsk.
Shiretoko Sightseeing Ship Aurora（知床観光船おーろら）
107 Utoro Higashi, Shari-cho, Shari-gun, Hokkaido（北海道斜里郡斜里町ウトロ東107）
Shiretoko Airport Liner
A convenient way to get to the Shiretoko Goko Lakes is to take the “Shiretoko Airport Liner” Shari Bus from Memanbetsu Airport. From there, it takes about 2 hours until the Utoro Onsen bus terminal. From the Utoro Onsen bus terminal, change buses to a Shari Bus on the Shiretoko Line which will take about 30 minutes until the Shiretoko Goko Lakes. Because there are only two lines of buses, please check the timetable. If you just can’t find a smooth way to work out the bus and flight connections, how about staying the night at Utoro Onsen and heading to the Shiretoko Goko Lakes the next morning?
Shiretoko Goko, Onnebetsu-mura, Shari-cho, Shari-gun, Hokkaido（北海道斜里郡斜里町遠音別村知床五湖）
Best time : Early to mid-October
Onuma Quasi-National Park
The Onuma Quasi-National Park has two lakes, Onuma-ko and Konuma-ko, which were created from the volcanic eruption of Mt. Komagatake. Dotted inside of the lakes are 126 large and small islands offering varied views of fall. There are lots of ways to enjoy the natural surroundings inside of the park like walks, cycling paths, and a course that is comprised of bridges that connect 18 different islands. The contrast of the fall colors around the lake and Mt. Komagatake in the background make for some spectacular views!
Getting to Hakodate is easy
One of the great things about Onuma Quasi-National Park is how close it is to the city of Hakodate. It only takes a mere 20 minutes on the Hokuto and Super Hokuto express trains from the JR Onuma Koen Station to JR Hakodate Station. In Hakodate, the star-shaped fort of Goryokaku is lovely for autumnal beauty.
You can also find one of the best night city views in all of Japan atop Mt. Hakodate!
Use the shuttle bus from Hakodate Airport
Buses leave to and from Hakodate Airport headed for Onuma Quasi-National Park. Riding the bus is easy and takes about only 70 minutes to the Onuma Quasi-National Park Porotokan located right next to the Onuma Quasi-National Park Station!
Onuma Quasi-National Park（大沼国定公園）
1023-1 Onuma-cho, Nanae-cho, Kameda-gun, Hokkaido（北海道亀田郡七飯町大沼町1023-1）
Best time : Mid-October to early November
Located upstream of the Toyohira River is a ravine surrounded by mountains called Jozankei, a symbolic spot for the fall colors in Hokkaido. Because Jozankei i located only at 60 minutes away by bus from Sapporo City, it is a popular spot for viewing fall colors and draws large numbers of visitors every year.
At the shore near the dam is a great spot to see the scintillating beauty of the water and fall leaves.
There are tons of great spots around the Jozankei area like the Jozankei Gorge, Mt. Hakkenzan, the Hohei Gorge, Lake Sapporo, and the Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort.
There are three buses available during the season of the fall colors that run to and from the Jozankei Tourist Information Center including one headed for the Kouyou Gondola (Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort), a shuttle bus for the Hohei Gorge Dam, and the Kouyou Kappa Bus which shows you around secret spots for beautiful fall colors with the help of a local guide.
Popular hot springs town wrapped in the colors of fall
The onsen-machi (hot springs town) of Jozankei Onsen is a “kouyou” fall colors viewing spot in and of itself. An ideal way to enjoy this area is to stroll along the Toyohira River which runs through the center of the town and is lined with traditional ryokan (Japanese inns). We recommend staying the night in one of these inns to completely immerse yourself in the special experience of hot springs and seasonal beauty.
Direct buses from Sapporo City and the airport!
There are Hokuto Kotsu buses that run directly from the New Chitose Airport to Jozankei. This way you can reach your destination in only 1 hour and 40 minutes. There is also the Kappa Liner bus that runs directly from Sapporo Station which takes 60 minutes.
Jotetsu Bus Kawazoe Office（じょうてつバス川添営業所）
Jozankei Onsen, Minami-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido（北海道札幌市南区定山渓温泉）
Best time : early Oct-mid-Oct
Sapporo Mt. Moiwa
Take a bus for 20 minutes from Sapporo Station and you’ll soon arrive at Mt. Moiwa. Catching some views of this mountain from Nakajima Park in the center of Sapporo City also offers fabulous scenes of fall. Because Mt. Moiwa is so easy to access from the center of Sapporo City, it’s a popular spot.
There’s a ropeway stationed at the base of Mt. Moiwa, so reaching the top is easy.
Enjoy the famous night view of Sapporo City
Miraculous views of Sapporo City unfold before you as night falls from the top of Mt. Moiwa. This night city view is ranked, alongside Hokkaido’s other famous night view in Hakodate City, as one of the best in all of Japan. Come and enjoy the marvelous 360-degree panoramic views waiting for you at the top of the mountain. The best way to enjoy the entirety of Mt. Moiwa is to head up the ropeway to watch the fall colors while there’s still daylight, and then view the spectacular night view after sunset.
As you descend the mountain, you’ll find yourself right in the middle of the gourmet city, Sapporo! Why not try one of the many fabulous ramen shops in the Ganso Sapporo Ramen Yokocho Lane?
Environment-friendly free shuttle bus service
Using the Sapporo Municipal Railway Tram, better known as the “shiden,” and the free shuttle bus to get to Mt. Moiwa from Sapporo Station is easy and convenient. From Sapporo Station, take the subway to Odori Station from which you’ll walk a couple minutes to the “shiden” tram stop of Nishi 4 Chome and board the tram headed for the Ropeway Iriguchi stop. From there, you can take the free shuttle bus to the Moiwa Sanroku Station.
Sapporo Mt. Moiwa（札幌藻岩山）
5-3-7 Fushimi, Chuo, Sapporo-shi（札幌市中央区伏見5-3-7）
Best time : Mid to late October