Get ready to go off script and really immerse yourself into the authentic local culture of Japan’s deep north! We welcome you to a private autumn adventure that allows you to explore a variety of aspects of the local Hokkaido culture and appreciate the beauty of Hokkaido’s fall foliage at classic autumn leaf viewing locations as well as at secret spots known only by the locals.
Hokkaido has a very unique history and culture that is unique to the rest of Japan, not least because it officially became part of the state only in 1868. From prehistory to Ainu culture and the ways of modern Japanese society in all its diversity, Hokkaido offers an opportunity for a traveler to get to know the “real Japanese culture” and feel genuine human connection.
The captivating culture of Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido
One cannot talk about the history and culture of Hokkaido without talking about Ainu, the indigenous people of North Japan and Russia. This fall adventure will start from Shiraoi town where you can learn about Ainu culture at the brand new, extensive Ainu Museum and Park Upopoy.
For lunch try some Ainu cuisine with a modern twist in a forest that has historical importance to the Ainu people.
After getting your first peek into the intriguing history of the island, let’s head to the renowned hot spring town Noboribetsu. You can enjoy an evening walk at steaming Hell Valley or relax at a warm foot bath surrounded by the colorful fall foliage.
Local gourmet: Ainu-style cuisine
– Ainu cuisine or restaurants are not common even in Hokkaido.
– The history of Ainu people and Japanese is a complicated one, and not in a very positive way. Nowadays, there are very few speakers of Ainu language and many individuals are not even aware of their Ainu roots because of extensive cultural assimilation.
– Culture is constantly changing and always in movement. If Ainu culture and Japanese culture had had a chance to live more harmoniously side by side, there would most likely been more fusion cuisine like the one you will have today.
Autumn salmon and the local fishing culture in a charming seaside town
After a nice breakfast at a traditional Japanese “ryokan” inn with hot springs, you will learn about another enchanting aspect of the local culture; Hokkaido is surrounded by the sea from all directions, and fishing is an essential part of the local way of life.
Today you will visit the seaport town of Toyoura where you can witness wild autumn salmon returning from the ocean to the rivers of their birth. You can also have some fresh salmon and salmon roe, that will be cooked together with the help of a local expert.
In the evening you will arrive in the city of Hakodate, where you can relax and set your eyes on the stunning, lit-up autumn leaves displayed in Kōsetsu-en park.
– Hokkaido’ salmon run occurs typically from October to November.
– Salmon run refers to salmon returning from the ocean to their original birthplace to spawn.
– The salmon run in Hokkaido is an unusual phenomena: wild salmon in a relatively urban environment.
– Salmon has cultural significance for Ainu, the indigenous people of North Japan and Russia. In Ainu language salmon is “Kamuy-Cep” meaning Fish God. Cep-keri are traditional boots made from salmon skin.
Hakodate, a city with an intriguing history
Southern Hokkaido is where the story of Japanese culture on the island began. Hakodate city has been a stage for some major historical events that ended up changing the fate of Japan. This is where the Imperial Forces – The Emperor’s side – and rebel Tokugawa Feudal Military Government – including “the last Samurai” – fought against each other.
The battle’s outcome was part of a chain of events that led to the end of Japan’s “Closed Country” policy and the swift “modernization” of Japan. This history is visible in the interesting mix of Western and Japanese architecture in the Hakodate cityscape. Today you can listen to the whispers of the past and enjoy some sightseeing in this extraordinary city.
History of Hokkaido: the Motomachi area
– Hakodate was one of the first Japanese harbors to open to the outside world some 150 years ago.
– In Motomachi area there is a concentration of historical Western buildings atypical to Japan.
– Hakodate Russian Orthodox Church (1916) and Former British Consulate (1913 to 1934) are just some examples of the buildings found in this fascinating area located at the foot of Mount Hakodate.
An eye-opening peek into the ancient prehistory of Hokkaido
Compared to mainland Japan, the record of Japanese culture in Hokkaido is relatively recent and it is even said, that the history of Hokkaido is still young. However, this northern island has naturally existed throughout ancient times in our planet’s history.
Jōmon period is Japan’s prehistorical period, approximately 1000 BCE. Being geographically apart from Japan’s mainland, Jōmon culture endured longer in Hokkaido than elsewhere in the present day Japan area. Hakodate Jomon Culture Center displays a one of a kind exhibition of this prehistorical era that continued for over 10, 000 years in Hokkaido.
Then, at the evening of this thought provoking day you will get to soak in hot springs at a quaint Japanese inn, surrounded by the soothing autumn leaves.
– A cozy traditional Japanese inn full of character.
– Hidden in the middle of nature in the Village of Yakumo, this Japanese inn is one that you will never be expected to visit in other mass commercialized trips.
– The inn is surrounded by natural hot springs, including a private ourdoor “rotenburo” surrounded by the fall foliage.
– Atmospheric Japanese style rooms with a “tatami” mat and futon.
– Traditional Japanese “Kaiseki” dinner will be served.
Walking in the middle of the colorful fall leaves in a beech forest
Time to stray off the beaten path again! Today you will join some friendly locals for a walk in an autumn forest in Kuromatsunai, a village that has been selected as one of the most beautiful villages in Japan. Kuromatsunai happens also to be the northernmost point in all of Japan, where beech trees grow, making this a real one-of-a-kind autumn foliage location.
Besides fishing, agriculture is also strongly rooted to the history and everyday culture of Hokkaido. Following a hike enjoying the crisp autumn air and admiring the fall leaves in the beech forest, let’s try some seasonal harvesting with the locals. After working up an appetite, have a bite of some seasonal delicacies, like steaming hot sweet potatoes will be just what you’ve been waiting for.
The best autumn leaves spots around Sapporo
After waking up in the hot spring area of Jōzankei, “the back parlor of Sapporo”, you can enter a tunnel of vibrant autumn leaves and try out some relaxing canoeing at Toyohira river. And while in Jōzankei, you must check out Hōheikyō Dam, a renowned location for witnessing some of the most spectacular fall foliage in Hokkaido.
Another must-see autumn leaves spot in Sapporo is the Ginkgo Avenue of Hokkaido University campus. This golden passageway of Ginkgo trees is one of the most legendary autumn leaf viewing locations in Japan, luring in photographs and visitors from all over the world every year!
Today marks the last day of your private Hokkaido tour full of authentic local culture and brilliant autumn leaves. Before it is time to head to the airport with a private airport transfer, you can enjoy some free time, shopping and sightseeing in Hokkaido’s largest city Sapporo.
6 Nights Accommodation
6 Breakfasts / 4 Lunches / 3 Dinners
7 Days Toyota Alphard with Local English Speaking Driver
*2-3pax Toyota Alphard with Local English Speaking Driver
Parking, Fuel and Highway Fees
Taxes (10% Consumption Tax)
*Prices are in JPY（Japanese yen）, per person, based on double occupancy.