Hokkaido Travel ・ The Best Things to Do in Sapporo

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Not sure what to do in Sapporo? Hokkaido travel has been on the rise among foreign travelers to Japan in recent years, but with most visitors heading right to the region’s ski slopes or Furano’s lavender fields, Sapporo sometimes falls between the cracks. The JAPANKURU team is here to tell you: with great Sapporo restaurants, beautiful views, and fun sightseeing spots, it’s worth checking out. Don’t forget Sapporo!

The Charming Capital of Japan’s Northernmost Island:


Known for beer and snow, Sapporo is a bit of a departure from the other big cities of Japan, which is exactly why a trip to Hokkaido's capital is worth it! Sapporo makes a great home base while exploring the lavender and snowy mountains of surrounding towns, and with great food and plenty of sightseeing attractions, a walk around its compact downtown area and some excursions to the city's outskirts deserve a place on your itinerary as well. To start planning your next trip, check out what the JAPANKURU team got up to when we visited, including some tasty food, strangely adorable mascots, and fun places to spend an afternoon!

Locals say that this block absolutely covered with brightly lit billboards is iconic of Sapporo. It's a pity that some of the most famous ones weren't lit up the night we visited (look out for Nikka Whisky's bearded gentlemen when you pass by), but it was still pretty impressive!

Sapporo Restaurants

Thanks to the space for wide-open pastures and an expansive coastline, Hokkaido is known nationwide for its high-quality meat and vegetables, alongside fresh and flavorful seafood. All of these are gathered together in Sapporo, making it an ideal stop on any gourmand's food tour! 

Hokkaido is one of the best places in the world to sample the super-fresh salmon. If your favorite part of the fish is the salmon roe (if you're an "ikura" lover) you'll definitely want to stop by Umi Hachikyo for their overflowing bowls of marinated salmon roe over rice.

Kitano Gourmet: Fresh Seafood Bowls

A ten-minute taxi drive from Sapporo Station, the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market opens early in the morning at 6 am, and offers some of the freshest seafood in the city until 5 pm. It's here at the market nicknamed "Hokkaido's Kitchen" that you'll find some of the best ingredients from all over Hokkaido, which go into making the spectacular cuisine at Kitano Gourmet.

If you want to sample the marine delicacies of the area, this seafood bowl (or "kaisen-don", 海鮮丼) is often ranked #1. Open throughout the morning (prepared food available from 7!), you can duck in to the shop and dig in to the seafood whenever your stomach starts to growl.

Kitano Gourmet (北のグルメ)
Sapporo Central Wholesale Market, Japan, 22-4-1 Jonishi, 11 Kita, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido
Market Hours: 6:00 – 17:00 | Dining Hours: 7:00 – 15:00
Official Website (en)

Korean BBQ Wagyu Kurosawa: Yakiniku with High-Quality Japanese Beef

Wagyu… from Hokkaido? ("Wagyu" refers to extremely high-quality Japanese beef, and isn't a label applied lightly – there are official certifications!) While Kobe beef is so famously tender that it's known even in the US, Hokkaido tends to be known more for the dairy that cows produce than the meat itself. But, of course the same conditions that make Hokkaido a great place for dairy cows, also make it an excellent environment for Japanese wagyu cattle.

If you want to eat some absolutely amazing Japanese beef while visiting the country, Wagyu Kurosawa's yakiniku (Korean BBQ) branch is an obvious choice. Not only do they offer the highest possible quality of Kobe beef, they also have Matsuzaka beef (which is often ranked as the second-best in Japan), and most interestingly: Shiraoi beef. Shiraoi is wagyu that comes from Hokkaido itself, and since it hasn't quite become famous enough to be sold around the country (yet), you have to give it a taste while you're in the region!

Yakiniku Wagyu Kurosawa is committed to only offering the very best ("hotel-grade") wagyu, and the owner's infectious enthusiasm for the top-notch beef is obvious if you run into him. Ask about the official certifications for the beef you're eating, and they'll bring out the labeled whole cuts, showing you all the details.

They'll even show you the official documents proving the origin and authentic quality of each and every hunk of meat they use!

If you haven't gotten a chance to try Japanese yakiniku barbecue (焼肉), this is an indulgent introduction to the hearty cuisine. Since wagyu can end up getting a little pricey, staff at the restaurant highly recommend getting a sampler plate of their three wagyu varieties (Kobe, Matsuzaka, and Shiraoi) for your group, and then following it up with a selection of some normal (but still really delicious) non-"wagyu" beef to fill everyone up to the bursting.

They also have local produce to grill alongside your beef, like Hokkaido pumpkin, mushrooms, and peppers, which adds some fresh variety to the meal's main course.

A dab of wasabi adds the perfect hint of spice on top of a perfectly grilled and super-rich chunk of well-marbled wagyu beef.

Alongside three different kinds of wagyu and a variety of cuts, Wagyu Kurosawa has plenty of choices in terms of texture and cooking methods. We were intrigued by this Shiraoi wagyu prepared as chadolbaegi, Korean-style thin-sliced brisket. Just dragging it over the barbecue for a matter of seconds gave it a delectable melt-in-your-mouth texture.

They even had a number of different sauces, matched with different servings of beef.

Adding a little bit of Korean flavor to this "Korean BBQ" spot, you can order some Korean side-dishes as well. Their Korean pancakes are made with ground beef, adding some really luxurious, deep flavor.

And, last but not least, don't forget to try the local beer! A German-style pilsner, we thought Otaru Beer went pretty well with the rich flavors of the meal.

Korean BBQ Wagyu Kurosawa (焼肉 和牛黒澤)
Apollo Bld. B1F/B2F, 3 Jonishi, 7 Minami, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido
Hours: 16:00 – 23:30 (L.O. 22:30)
Official Website (jp)

Maido!: Seafood-Centric Izakaya Fare

Back to Sapporo's exceptional seafood, when we were ready to finish off our busy day in Sapporo by polishing off another feast, we headed over to the super convenient Maido! It was literally steps from the exit of Sapporo Station, which our tired feet were very thankful for, and the thought of colorful seafood platters lured us right in.

By this part of our trip, we'd come to expect the fresh flavor of Hokkaido's seafood, but the impressive plating at Maido! knocked us off our feet. A feast for the eyes, it added an extra bit of flavor to what was already a delicious dish.

To go with our meal, we opted for a few local specialty cocktails: a Hokkaido melon sour, and a "Napolin sour." A local Sapporo soda, Napolin isn't often found outside of Hokkaido, so this was a fun way to give it a taste.

Butter and soy sauce is a classic Hokkaido flavor combination, and grilled scallops soaked in the saucy mix might just be the best way to enjoy it.

For the members of your group who are less interested in seafood, Maido! actually offers some meat and poultry options as well, roasted right over their charcoal grill. If you're feeling adventurous, try dipping a skewer right in the egg yolk plated alongside, for an extra bit of rich creaminess.

The shop's most unique dish might just be their hand-made tofu. To be clear, this is uncommon even in Japan! And boy do they do a good job of making it. The soft, smooth tofu is a unique combination of decadently creamy texture, and pleasantly light tofu flavor.

After the tofu is scooped out at the table by restaurant staff, we recommend you try some with all the different topping options provided, which add a kick to the tofu's simple, satisfying flavor.

The izakaya-style restaurant and bar is a surprisingly large space, and they've got seating that caters to groups of all kinds. Enclaves with two-tops for couples, rooms with long tables for larger celebrations, and most interestingly… "igloos" with enclosed walls that curve up around a spacious, round table. We were interested to find that when we stepped inside the cave-like seating areas, the sound of surrounding conversations died down, and voices inside reverberated well. It was a nice place to have a good chat!

We were impressed by the convenience of this Sapporo Station location, but Maido! has four branches around Sapporo, so there are a few options if you're looking for a place to dig into fresh tofu and seafood.

Maido! Sapporo Station South Exit (まいど!札幌駅南口店)
2-1 Jonishi, 4 Kita, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido
Hours: 16:00 – 1:00 next day (L.O. 24:00) (Sat, Sun, Holidays: 13:00~)
Official Website (jp)

Sapporo Sightseeing

Sapporo TV Tower & Odori Park

The first stop on our tour of the city? Before we ate a bite, we stopped here at the Sapporo TV Tower (札幌テレビ塔), right at the end of Odori Park (大通公園). When the snow starts to fall every winter, Sapporo's famous snow festival is centered in Odori Park, but thanks to some great greenery and gorgeous autumn colors, it's pretty all year round.

And the great view you get from the TV tower isn't to be missed! The park stretches out into the distance, disappearing into the rolling hills and mountains surrounding Sapporo's compact downtown area.

We were especially charmed by the silly mascot found all over the tower. This is Terebitou-san, whose name is a pun on the words for tower (塔, "tou") and father (父, "tou"). The mascot is essentially the TV tower in the form of a cheery dad! And these days there's a whole family of minor mascots to go with this father.

We were shocked to find out after we'd left the tower (which has a Terebitou-san themed area and multiple gift shops with the mascot's goods), that Terebitou-san… isn't an official mascot?? But he's such a good character that he was clearly adopted by the Sapporo TV Tower itself.

Long live Terebitou-san!

Sapporo TV Tower
1 Odorinishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido
Hours: 9:00 – 22:00

Shiroi Koibito Park

Japan is a country full of famous regional sweets and snacks, perfect for their "omiyage" (お土産, souvenir) culture. But even within this crowded field, Sapporo's Shiroi Koibito (白い恋人) stands out as a regional cookie known country-wide. Visit the Shiroi Koibito Park in Sapporo, and you'll find a little wonderland of Shiroi Koibito-themed fun!

Take the factory tour to get a look at these white chocolate langue de chat sandwich cookies being made right before your eyes. The cookies are baked, cooled, sandwiched with chocolate, and wrapped up on the park's factory floor.

There is also a little hard candy kitchen, where you can see how colors and flavors are added to molten sugar, arranged into larger shapes, and then stretched magically into little candies with minuscule detail.

They've got some workshops as well, so visitors (like us!) can get hands-on with the cookies. We decided not to go all-out this day, so instead of cutting out and baking our own langue de chat, we just decorated some pre-baked ones.

The factory's mascots were little cookie-making cat characters, so our English writer (yours truly!) decided to use the tubes of warmed chocolate to add some kitty faces to the cookie. What do you think? 

We finished things off by putting our freshly decorated cookies in special boxes, to take home and enjoy.

If you want to start snacking on something sweet right away, not only does a ticket for the factory tour come with a complimentary cookie, there are also a number of eateries around the park.

On the same floor as the cookie decorating, we got this cute parfait that had a little bit of everything inside.

Shiroi Koibito Park is a pretty ideal spot for photoshoots, as well. They've got a room dedicated to fun scenery to play around in, and take some commemorative pictures in front of.

The courtyard, with its rose garden and seasonally changing photo-op spots, is also lovely (especially with nice weather)!

Alongside dozens of souvenir options of all kinds (cookies, chocolate, drinks, keychains, magnets, t-shirts, and more), they've got some limited-edition items to take home. Bring in a photo, or get one taken there, and you can get it printed right onto a cookie tin or can of Shiroi Koibito chocolate milk! In the end, we grabbed a few boxes of the most basic Shiroi Koibito cookies to bring back home.

Shiroi Koibito Park (白い恋人パーク)
2-11-36 Miyanosawa 2 Jo, Nishi Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido
Park Hours: 9:00 – 19:00 | Factory Tour Hours: 9:00 – 18:00
Admission: Adults 600 yen, Children (4+) 300 yen
Official Website (en)

Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill

Sapporo is an urban city, but there's a reason why Hokkaido is famous for beautiful natural scenery – it's never far away! Hop on a bus and wind your way up into the mountains that make up the outskirts of Sapporo, and before long you'll find yourself at the bucolic viewpoint of Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill (羊ヶ丘展望台).

Check social media and most of the pictures you'll find from Hitsujigaoka are of people posing with a large statue, inscribed with the words "boys be ambitious." This statue standing in front of the Sapporo landscape is of William Smith Clark, an American professor who helped establish the beginnings of Hokkaido University, and left a lasting influence on many parts of Sapporo. The engraving is of Clark's parting words to his Sapporo students, so before you leave Sapporo, make sure to climb onto the platform, point out into the Hokkaido landscape with William Smith Clark, and be ambitious!

If you can speak a little Japanese, you might have already guessed the other charm of this observation hill: Hitsujigaoka (羊ヶ丘) literally means sheep hill, so of course there's a small flock grazing in nearby paddocks. After spending a little while gazing out at the relaxing sight of happy sheep in front of the city landscape, we tried some sheep-shaped custard-filled cakes that were pretty adorable inside the next-door rest area. If you're feeling a little more steel-hearted, you can also try Hokkaido's famous lamb cuisine there, too! Or just finish off your visit with a visit to their simple foot bath.

Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill (羊ヶ丘展望台)
1 Hitsujigaoka, Toyohira Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido
Admission: Adults 530 yen, Children 300 yen
Official Website (en)

Ready to See Sapporo for Yourself?

Perfect for a culinary tour or a refreshing escape from Japan's humid summers, Sapporo deserves a place on your next Japan travel itinerary. If you're planning a trip now, or you've been to Sapporo any time recently, let us know about your experience on twitter, instagram, and facebook!

(Plus, if you want to see Furano and the rest of Hokkaido, Sapporo is an important stop on your road trip. Try renting a car and exploring the island!)

See more of our quick excursion to Sapporo! ⇩


NAME:Sapporo City



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      Hokkaido (北海道) is the northernmost of the four main islands that make up Japan. The area is famous for Sapporo Beer, plus brewing and distilling in general, along with fantastic snow festivals and breathtaking national parks. Foodies should look for Hokkaido's famous potatoes, cantaloupe, dairy products, soup curry, and miso ramen!

    • Niki, in south-west Hokkaido, is about 30 minutes from Otaru. The small town is rich with natural resources, fresh water, and clean air, making it a thriving center for fruit farms. Cherries, tomatoes, and grapes are all cultivated in the area, and thanks to a growing local wine industry, it's quickly becoming a food and wine hotspot. Together with the neighboring town of Yoichi, it's a noted area for wine tourism.

    • Niseko is about two hours from New Chitose Airport, in the western part of Hokkaido. It's one of Japan's most noted winter resort areas, and a frequent destination for international visitors. That's all because of the super high-quality powder snow, which wins the hearts of beginners and experts alike, bringing them back for repeat visits. That's not all, though, it's also a great place to enjoy Hokkaido's culinary scene and some beautiful onsen (hot springs).

    • Otaru is in western Hokkaido, about 30 minutes from Sapporo Station. The city thrived around its busy harbor in the 19th and 20th centuries thanks to active trade and fishing, and the buildings remaining from that period are still popular attractions, centered around Otaru Canal. With its history as a center of fishing, it's no surprise that the area's fresh sushi is a must-try. Otaru has over 100 sushi shops, quite a few of which are lined up on Sushiya Dori (Sushi Street).


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      Sapporo, in the south-western part of Hokkaido, is the prefecture's political and economic capital. The local New Chitose Airport see arrivals from major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, alongside international flights. Every February, the Sapporo Snow Festival is held in Odori Park―one of the biggest events in Hokkaido. It's also a hotspot for great food, known as a culinary treasure chest, and Sapporo is a destination for ramen, grilled mutton, soup curry, and of course Hokkaido's beloved seafood.

    • Consisting of six prefectures, the Tohoku Region (東北地方) is up in the northeastern part of Japan's main island. It's the source of plenty of the nation's agriculture (which means great food), and packed with beautiful scenery. Explore the region's stunning mountains, lakes, and hot springs!

    • Akita Prefecture is on the Sea of Japan, in the northern reaches of Japan's northern Tohoku region. Akita has more officially registered important intangible culture assets than anywhere else in Japan, and to this day visitors can experience traditional culture throughout the prefecture, from the Oga Peninsula's Namahage (registered with UNESCO as a part of Japan's intangible cultural heritage), to the Tohoku top 3 Kanto Festival. Mysterious little spots like the Oyu Stone Circle Site and Ryu no Atama (Dragon's Head) are also worth a visit!


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      Fukushima Prefecture sits at the southern tip of Japan's northern Tohoku region, and is divided into three parts with their own different charms: the Coastal Area (Hama-dori), the Central Area (Naka-dori), and the Aizu Area. There's Aizu-Wakamatsu with its Edo-era history and medieval castles, Oze National Park, Kitakata ramen, and Bandai Ski Resort (with its famous powder snow). Fukushima is a beautiful place to enjoy the vivid colors and sightseeing of Japan's beloved four seasons.


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      Yamagata Prefecture is up against the Sea of Japan, in the southern part of the Tohoku region, and it's especially popular in winter, when travelers soak in the onsen (hot springs) and ski down snowy slopes. International skiiers are especially fond of Zao Onsen Ski Resort and Gassan Ski Resort, and in recent years visitors have been drawn to the area to see the mystical sight of local frost-covered trees. Some destinations are popular regardless of the season, like Risshakuji Temple, AKA Yamadera, Ginzan Onsen's nostalgic old-fashioned streets, and Zao's Okama Lake, all great for taking pictures. Yamagata is also the place to try Yonezawa beef, one of the top 3 varieties of wagyu beef.

    • Japan's most densely populated area, the Kanto Region (関東地方) includes 7 prefectures: Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, and Kanagawa, which means it also contains the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. In modern-day Japan, Kanto is the cultural, political, and economic heartland of the country, and each prefecture offers something a little different from its neighbors.

    • Gunma Prefecture is easily accessible from Tokyo, and in addition to the area's popular natural attractions like Oze Marshland and Fukiware Falls, Gunma also has a number of popular hot springs (Kusatsu, Ikaho, Minakami, Shima)―it's even called an Onsen Kingdom. The prefecture is popular with history buffs and train lovers, thanks to spots like world heritage site Tomioka Silk Mill, the historic Megane-bashi Bridge, and the Watarase Keikoku Sightseeing Railway.


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      Tochigi Prefecture's capital is Utsunomiya, known for famous gyoza, and just an hour from Tokyo. The prefecture is full of nature-related sightseeing opportunities year-round, from the blooming of spring flowers to color fall foliage. Tochigi also has plenty of extremely well-known sightseeing destinations, like World Heritage Site Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Lake Chuzenji, and Ashikaga Flower Park―famous for expansive wisteria trellises. In recent years the mountain resort town of Nasu has also become a popular excursion, thanks in part to the local imperial villa. Tochigi is a beautiful place to enjoy the world around you.

    • Tokyo (東京) is Japan's busy capital, and the most populous metropolitan area in the world. While the city as a whole is quite modern, crowded with skyscrapers and bustling crowds, Tokyo also holds onto its traditional side in places like the Imperial Palace and Asakusa neighborhood. It's one of the world's top cities when it comes to culture, the arts, fashion, games, high-tech industries, transportation, and more.

    • The Chubu Region (中部地方) is located right in the center of Japan's main island, and consists of 9 prefectures: Aichi, Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa, Nagano, Niigata, Shizuoka, Toyama, and Yamanashi. It's primarily famous for its mountains, as the region contains both Mt. Fuji and the Japanese Alps. The ski resorts in Niigata and Nagano also draw visitors from around the world, making it a popular winter destination.

    • Nagano Prefecture's popularity starts with a wealth of historic treasures, like Matsumoto Castle, Zenkoji Temple, and Togakushi Shrine, but the highlight might just be the prefecture's natural vistas surrounded by the "Japanese Alps." Nagano's fruit is famous, and there are plenty of places to pick it fresh, and the area is full of hot springs, including Jigokudani Monkey Park―where monkeys take baths as well! Thanks to the construction of the Hokuriku shinkansen line, Nagano is easily reachable from the Tokyo area, adding it to plenty of travel itineraries. And after the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, ski resorts like Hakuba and Shiga Kogen are known around the world.

    • Aichi Prefecture sits in the center of the Japanese islands, and its capital city, Nagoya, is a center of politics, commerce, and culture. While Aichi is home to major industry, and is even the birthplace of Toyota cars, it's proximity to the sea and the mountains means it's also a place with beautiful natural scenery, like Saku Island, Koijigahama Beach, Mt. Horaiji. Often used a stage for major battles in Japanese history, Sengoku era commanders like Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu left their own footprints on Aichi, and historic buildings like Nagoya Castle, Inuyama Castle, and those in Meiji Mura are still around to tell the tale.


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      Niigata is a prefecture on Japan's main island of Honshu, situated right on the coast of the Sea of Japan, and abundant with the gifts of nature. It's known for popular ski resorts such as Echigo-Yuzawa, Japanese national parks, and natural hot spring baths, plus local products like fresh seafood, rice, and sake. Visitors often spend time in the prefectural capital, Niigata City, or venture across the water to Sado Island.


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      Shizuoka Prefecture is sandwiched between eastern and western Japan, giving the prefecture easy access to both Tokyo and Osaka. Not only is it known for beautiful natural attractions, with everything from Mount Fuji to Suruga Bay, Lake Hamanako, and Sumata Pass―Shizuoka's Izu Peninsula is known as a go-to spot for hot springs lovers, with famous onsen like Atami, Ito, Shimoda, Shuzenji, and Dogashima. Shizuoka attracts all kinds of travelers thanks to historic connections with the Tokugawa clan, the Oigawa Railway, fresh eel cuisine, Hamamatsu gyoza, and famously high-quality green tea.

    • Kansai (関西) is a region that includes Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, and Shiga Prefectures. Kansai contained Japan's ancient capital for hundreds of years, and it's making a comeback as one of the most popular parts of Japan. Kyoto's temples and shrines, Osaka Castle, and the deer of Nara are all considered must-sees. Plus, the people of Kansai are especially friendly, making it a fun place to hang out.

    • Kyoto flourished as the capital of Japan between the years 794 and 1100, becoming a center for poilitics and culture, and to this day it's a great place for close encounters with Japanese history. The cobbled streets of Gion, the atmospheric road to Kiyomizudera Temple, Kinkakuji's golden walls and countless historic attractions, even Arashiyama's Togetsukyo Bridge―Kyoto is a place of many attractions. With new charms to experience throughout the seasons, travelers can't stop themselves from returning again and again.

    • Nara Prefecture's important history reaches back to 710, a time now called the Nara era, when it was once capital of Japan. Called "Heijo-kyo" during its time as a capital, it's said that nara was once the end of the silk road, leading it to flourish as a uniquely international region and produce important cultural properties of all kinds. To make the most of each season, travelers head to Nara Park, where the Nara deer who wander freely, or climb Mount Yoshino, a famous cherry blossom spot.

    • Osaka is known for friendly (and funny) people, but its history is nothing to laugh at, playing a major part in Toyotomi Hideyoshi's 16th century unification of Japan. Thanks to long years of economic activity, it's one of Japan's biggest cities, and Osaka's popular food culture earned it the nickname "The Kitchen of the Nation." To this day Osaka is the model of western Japan, and alongside historic structures like Osaka Castle, it also has major shopping malls like Umeda's Grand Front Osaka and Tennoji's Abeno Harukas. Osaka is a place to eat, eat, eat, with local specialties like takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and kushi-katsu, and for extra fun, it's home to Universal Studios Japan.


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      The Chugoku Region (中国地方) consists of five prefectures: Hiroshima, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori, and Yamaguchi. In Chugoku you’ll find the sand dunes of Tottori, and Hiroshima’s atomic bomb site, plus centers of ancient history like Grand Shrine of Izumo.


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      Hiroshima Prefecture has everything, from world heritage sites to beautiful nature and delicious local cuisine, and it's either an hour and a half from Tokyo by plane, or four hours by train. Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island and the Atomic Bomb Dome, two Hiroshima UNESCO sites, are famous around the world, but in Japan it's also famous for food. Seafood from the Seto Inland Sea, especially oysters, Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, and Setouchi lemons are all popular, and the natural scenery alone is worth seeing.


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      On the other side of the Seto Inland Sea opposite Japan’s main island, Shikoku (四国) is a region made up of four prefectures: Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi, and Tokushima. The area is famous for its udon (in Kagawa), and the beautiful Dogo Onsen hot springs (in Ehime).

    • Kagawa Prefecture is on the northern part of the island of Shikoku, facing Japan's main island and the Seto Inland Sea. It's known for being the smallest prefecture in Japan, by area, but at the same time Kagawa is called the "Udon Prefecture" thanks to its famous sanuki udon. Aside from Kotohiragu Shrine and Ritsurin Garden, the prefecture's small islands are popular, and Kagawa is full of unique destinations, like Angel Road. They say that if you lay eyes on Zenigata Sunae, a huge Kagawa sand painting, you'll never have money troubles ever again.

    • Located in the most southwestern part of Japan, Kyushu (九州) is an island of 7 prefectures: Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, and Kagoshima. The island's unique culture has been influenced by Chinese and Dutch trade, along with missionaries coming in through Nagasaki's port. Modern-day travelers love the lush natural scenery and fresh food, plus the natural hot springs found all throughout the area (thanks to volcanic activity)!


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      Fukuoka Prefecture has the highest population on the southern island of Kyushu, with two major cities: Fukuoka and Kitakyushu. Thanks to growing transportation networks, Fukuoka is more accessible than ever, and so are the many local attractions. On top of historical spots like Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, travelers shouldn't miss Fukuoka's food scene, with motsu nabe (offal hotpot), mentaiko (spicy cod roe), and famous Hakata ramen―best eaten from a food stall in the Nakasu area of Hakata. Plus, it's full of all sorts of destinations for travelers, like trendy shopping centers, and the beautiful nature of Itoshima and Yanagawa.


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      Kagoshima Prefecture played a major role in Japan's modernization as a backdrop for famous historical figures like samurais Saigo Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi, who pushed Japan out of the Edo era and into the Meiji. Because of that, Sengan-en Garden is just one of many historical destinations, and when it comes to attractions Kagoshima has plenty: the active volcano of Sakurajima, popular hot springs Ibusuki Onsen and Kirishima Onsen, World Heritage Site Yakushima Island, even what Japan calls the "island closest to heaven," Amami Oshima. Kagoshima might be found on the very southernmost tip of the southern island of Kyushu, but there's plenty to see.


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      The island chain of Okinawa (沖縄) makes up the southernmost tip of Japan, which is why it's also the most tropical area in the country. Thanks to a history of independence and totally distinct political and cultural events, Okinawa has a unique culture, and remnants of the Ryukyu Kingdom are still visible all over the islands. Food, language, traditional dress, it's all a little different! It's also said to be the birthplace of karate.