2023 Food Tour of Hokkaido Japan
The 2023 Food Tour of Hokkaido Japan is the latest in the range of our frequently commended Food Tours. This 13-day Japan Food Tour is staged on an island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido is becoming very popular among serious Japan lovers as the next ‘it’ destination, but is still full of untapped gems.
Early pioneers began farming in Hokkaido in the 16th century. However, it was a government policy to develop Hokkaido as a source of primary production in the 19th century when broadacre rice production, cattle grazing, dairy farming and vegetable horticulture started on a large scale. Hokkaido also has abundant high-quality seafood being surrounded by the rich arctic and subarctic waters of the Sea of Japan, the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people of Hokkaido, the Ainu, add a fascinating and distinct culture to the island.
The 2023 Food Tour of Hokkaido Japan, samples Hokkaido’s original wagyu brand, Shiraoi beef, a great range of seafood, dairy products, and wine and whisky. The tour covers a variety of culinary styles from street food and Sapporo’s famous ramen to Michelin-starred restaurants, to name just a few. It is not just an “eatathon” either. You will experience a couple of unique nature walks, mochi pounding, fishing, harvesting, cooking with the fishermen’s wives in a fishing village, the fascinating cities of Hakodate and Sapporo, green rolling hills and much more.
Day 1: Arrival in Sapporo
On your arrival in Sapporo's New Chitose Airport or JR Sapporo Station, you will meet a Journey to the East guide who will escort you to your hotel. After a good night’s sleep, you will be ready to start the first full day of your 2023 Food Tour of Hokkaido Japan. Although Hokkaido is known for its abundant snow, great skiing, and freezing winters, our food tour travels in early summer, the best season in Hokkaido. On average, the temperatures range from approximately 12°C (54°F) overnight to a maximum of approximately 22°C (72°F) during the day.
Day 2: Shiraoi & Noboribetsu
The first stop today is the brand-new National Ainu Museum which will create a grand foundation about Hokkaido's history. You don't wait long for your first culinary experience, the premium wagyu beef brand called Shiraoi Beef. The BBQ Shiraoi Beef lunch is at a farm restaurant. After lunch, we head for Noboribetsu hot springs which generate some 10,000 tons of hot water a day. Here your guide will take you on the Jigokudani (Hell Valley) Nature Walk, an interesting walk where you can observe intermittently erupting geysers along the path. Tonight's accommodation is a high class traditional ryokan (Japanese-style inn), where you will sleep on futon bedding in a tatami mat room. You will experience your first onsen and kaiseki dinner on the tour tonight. Kaiseki cuisine is an exquisite multi-course banquet of seasonal local foods served in a traditional Japanese setting. A very fitting introduction to this food tour of Hokkaido!
Day 3: Toyoura & Yakumo
This morning is all about scallops, one of Hokkaido's seafood specialties. We will stop at a little fishing village called Toyoura. A local guide will explain to us how scallop grow from a minute egg to the delicious scallop. Of course, you will get to taste-test the scallops on a BBQ. In the afternoon at the bay side village of Yakumo we engage in the fun activity of "mochitsuki", Japanese traditional rice cake pounding. We visit a local rice farmer, Mr Chiba, whose family settled in Hokkaido in 1870 and have been producing rice ever since. This 5th generation "Dosanko" (Hokkaido resident) will show us the traditional custom of making mochi (sticky rice cake). After seeing the impressive pair work between the pounder and the turner, it is your turn to swing the mallet. After all, you will need to make your contribution to this energetic activity to reap the reward of freshly made mochi. Tonight's onsen ryokan will contrast with last night's stay. Unlike the previous night, tonight's ryokan is rustic, with large public baths as well as small outdoor baths scattered around the property. Make sure you have time to enjoy the 'onsen hopping' in the late afternoon. The dinner tonight is a local feast with a main meal of chicken sukiyaki.
Day 4: Shikabe & Hakodate
Another of Hokkaido's famous seafoods, konbu (kelp) is on display today. Hokkaido is the biggest producer of konbu which is used in most dashi soup stock. We will take a ride on a small boat to see konbu growing in the bay. Back on the shore we join the fishermen's wives for a cooking lesson. The cooking class is held in a purpose-built modern facility where you will get stuck right into hands-on techniques. In particular, you will learn how to extract konbu dashi stock and turn it into a delicious soup as well as making other dishes using konbu. You will be scaling and filleting fish, cooking scallops with geothermal steam and preparing local vegetables with cheerful and charming local ladies. By the end of lunch, you will be cooking and eating like locals. We move on to Hakodate via picturesque Onuma Park for a bit of relaxation. It is a quasi national park with a lake dotted with little islands connected by bridges. Relax among lovely walking tracks, bike trails and sightseeing boats. Upon arrival at Hakodate, tonight's dinner is sublime Japanese cuisine at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Enjoy one of the freshest, tastiest and prettiest meals on earth!
Day 5: Hakodate
Hakodate is packed with history, a melting pot of cultures and a wonderful place to explore. Firstly you take a short tram journey to Fort Goryokaku. It is a massive, star shaped, Western-style citadel, which was built in the last years of the Edo Period. It was constructed to defend Hokkaido against the Western powers. Hakodate has a unique history as it was one of the first ports that opened to the outside world after the isolation policy of the Edo period, and there was great influence from western cultures. Next you visit Hakodate's famous seafood market to see amazing range of fresh seafood available. Here you will enjoy your lunch of, guess what, seafood! A kaisendon is a rice bowl with beautifully arranged fresh sashimi on top. After lunch, the last program this afternoon is a visit to a green tea merchant founded in 1937, where you can hear all about how Japanese green tea is produced, processed and brewed. Tonight is free to have some rest after the action packed day. Your guide will explain dinner options near your hotel. If you are still energetic, why not go up to the top of Mount Hakodate by gondola for a magnificent view of the port, which is considered to be one of the top three night views of the world? Or venture out to the small Daimon Yokocho alleys which are lined with street food carts.
Day 6: Kuromatsunai & Niseko
This morning you travel north in the private minibus to the town of Kuromatsunai. This small town is known as the northern limit for the beech forest in Japan. This natural treasure has been valued and fiercely protected by locals who have saved it twice from being cut down. We will have a guided walk of the forest this afternoon (about 90 minutes). Alternative optional activity of river fishing is available. The lunch today is a BBQ of freshly caught river fish. In the afternoon, we head towards Niseko (1 hour drive), well-known for its winter ski fields, where we stay for the night. It is also a prime agricultural region, in particular the dairy industry. We will make a stop at Takanashi Dairy Farm and try its famous ice cream! Dinner is contemporary French inspired cuisine, Niseko style.
Day 7: Yoichi & Otaru
You continue further north to the town of Yoichi. The first activity is a fruit-picking of Hokkaido's unique fruit, Haskap berry in a beautiful rural setting. Yoichi's biggest claim to fame is perhaps whisky. Today you can taste a special whiskey at Nikka Distillery that is only available at this venue. Lunch today is at a local restaurant built using materials from a nishin banya, a herring fisherman’s cabin, which used to exist on the coastline of Yoichi. Tonight we will finally reach a most photogenic canal city of Otaru where we stay for the next two nights. After settling into your hotel and having an orientation walk with guide, dinner tonight is at Yabuhan, a soba noodle restaurant. The restaurant was established in 1954, housed in an old stone warehouse. Another feature of this restaurant is the owner who is a Japanese sake expert. As a treat, she will kindly join us for a special chat about sake while we sample her best selection.
Day 8: Otaru
This morning you will visit a sake brewer to witness first-hand how this prized alcohol is produced. Next stop is the Former Aoyama Villa, a one-time residence of wealthy herring fisherman when Otaru prospered with its herring fishery industry in the 19th century up to the 1950's. Those houses built by successful fishermen are called Nishin Goten (herring mansions) and the Former Aoyama Villa is a great specimen of them. The well-preserved Aoyama Villa which spared no expense in the materials and construction, is a great place to reminisce how much wealth was made by the herring fishery in the heyday. This afternoon is free time for you to explore this atmospheric canal city at your own pace. Otaru's number one claim to fame is sushi, and we highly recommend sushi lunch or dinner. Another optional activity is Japanese sweet making. Please let us know if you would like us to make a booking. It is free night tonight. Enjoy the stroll around the beautifully lit up canal.
Day 9: Sapporo
Today we will finally reach Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido Prefecture. On a way we drop by a craft beer brewery and sample Otaru's local beer as well as tasty snacks. In central Sapporo we will have a guided walking tour of historic sites which include the former Hokkaido Government Office, the Clock Tower of the former Hokkaido Agricultural College, Odori Park and Sapporo Ramen Yokocho. In the evening, we will come back to a group dinner at a restaurant offers contemporary dishes using sustainably grown ingredients. Through their meals you will feel the passion, care and pride of the producers.
Day 10: Sapporo
It is a free day today and Sapporo has so much to offer. There are many cultural and historical museums and theme parks to learn more about this unique region, peaceful parks and gardens to stroll, and arguably the best shopping in Japan! Let us know what your interests are and we will make suggestions. This evening is also free. You may want to try the ramen or any of the endless choice of restaurants in Sapporo to suit your personal taste. Your guide will help you with the selection.
Day 11: Obihiro
You will continue travel eastward in your minibus and visit a unique local winery which produce wine from the indigenous grape variety. You will have a lunch at the winery's restaurant today. In the afternoon, we will visit a local edible flower grower where we will stop for an afternoon tea. Our final destination on this tour is the city of Obihiro, located right in the middle of Hokkaido island. Tonight we will take you to a local popular "yatai" village. Yatai is a street food cart and this village's alleys are lined with many yatai emanating tempting smells and sizzles. Pick one that tickles your fancy, or why not go 'yatai hopping'?
Day 12: Obihiro
It is your last day on the 2023 Food Tour of Hokkaido, Japan, but it is far from winding down. Today you will put gum boots on and get your hands dirty in a vegetable farm. After helping the harvesting, you will make a vegetable sushi lunch from today's prize. In the afternoon, you will visit a dairy farm, but not an ordinary one. This dairy farm employs and trains autistic young people. We hear from the farm's founder how this farm was inspired and how it helps young people to find their place in society. The farm makes a range of cheeses from their milk and you will definitely try a few. Tonight farewell dinner is a private BBQ in a special outdoor setting cooked by a popular chef just for us! This will bring together all the elements of Hokkaido food culture discovered along our journey – from its seas, mountains, rivers, and plains – reaffirming the fantastically diverse and rich nature of its food and geography.
Day 13: Back to Sapporo and Bon voyage
This morning, we will take you back to New Chitose Airport (or JR Sapporo Station). This concludes your 2023 Food Tour of Hokkaido Japan. If you are flying out from Hokkaido today, please book an afternoon flight. You can head back to your country by air from the New Chitose Airport. Alternatively, why not linger longer in Hokkaido and Japan? We will be delighted to plan your personal post-tour extension to show you a different part of Japan. Please see our Extension Model Itineraries for inspirations!
- 12 nights accommodation (including traditional inns)
- Lunches & dinners as specified
- Airport meet & greet on arrival
- All local transport (train and minibus)
- Locally licensed English speaking tour guides
- All cultural activities and entry fees included in itinerary
- International and domestic airfare (unless otherwise stated)
- Transfer on the last day
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
- Transport during free time
- Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
- Visa (if required)