Introduction

Seasons of the Year in Hokkaido

Fresh green mountains in spring, colorful flower gardens in summer, brilliant trees in autumn and snow-covered landscapes in winter… Hokkaido has four distinct seasons and a variety of festivals throughout the year. Book accommodation and transport well in advance during the high-seasons.

Note: the following sunshine duration (Sunrise and Sunset) and Average Temperature (Lowest and Highest) are based on Sapporo (on the 15th of each month).


January

Sunrise 7.03am / Sunset 4.24pm
Lowest -0.6℃ / Highest 7.0℃

Photo: Shikotsu-ko Hyoto Matsuri, Shikotsu-ko Onsen

There is enough snow for much of Hokkaido, with freezing temperatures. This is the beginning of all winter activities from ice fishing to sledding.

New Year (Shogatsu): People celebrates the new year (正月) and eat osechi (おせち: new year’s boxed food), then visit a shrine or temple to pray for health and safety (初詣: hatsu-moude). Shogatsu is officially finished on 3 January.

Shikotsu-ko Hyoto Matsuri Held at Shikotsuko Onsen’s scenic lakeside, Hyoto Matsuri boasts the blue ice sculptures such as caves and mountains. They are lit up with colorful lights at night.

Sounkyo Ice Fall Festival Every winter from late January to mid March, Sounkyo has its own ice sculptures on the river. Ice sculptures are illuminated with colored lights at night.

Shikaribetsu-Kotan Mixed open-air baths and ice igloos set on the natural frozen lake Shikaribetsu-ko.


February

Sunrise 6.33am / Sunset 5.05pm
Lowest -6.6℃ / Highest 0.1℃

Photo: Sapporo Snow Festival, Odori Park

With its snow and ice festivals, this is the busiest of winter in Hokkaido. Book accommodation well in advance. The Sea of Okhotsk often covered with fantastic ryuhyo (drift ice).

Sapporo Snow Festival One of the world’s biggest winter festivals take place in early February. A number of elaborate snow sculptures lined up in Odori Park.

Otaru Snow Light Path Otaru’s romantic winter festival takes place in multiple locations, such as Otaru Canal and Former Temiya Line railway track. Countless handmade snow candles are lit after dark.

Okhotsk Region Attractive drift icebreakers run into the Sea of Okhotsk from Abashiri and Monbetsu. You might be able to see ryuhyo (drift ice).


March

Sunrise 5.48am / Sunset 5.40pm
Lowest -2.9℃ / Highest 4.0℃

Photo: Ikutora Station, Minamifurano

There is solid snow cover in the inland areas. Winter sports are still going strong in all mountain resorts. It is another excellent month for skiing.

Hina Matsuri Also known as Doll’s Festival (or Girl’s Festival), elegant hina dolls are displays on homes with daughters to celebrate for the healthy growth.


April

Sunrise 4.54am / Sunset 6.16pm
Lowest 3.2℃ / Highest 11.5℃

Photo: Miyajima-numa, Bibai

The winter season and ski slopes begins to wind down in Hokkaido, several resort hotels closed during month. Days are longer and brighter. Spring tourism starts from late April (Golden Week).



May

Sunrise 4.12am / Sunset 6.50pm
Lowest 8.3℃ / Highest 17.3℃

Photo: Goryokaku Park, Hakodate

May is the season for sakura (cherry-blossoms). The season starts in Southern Hokkaido such as Hakodate and Matsumae. Fresh green appears from mid May to June. Several sights and local museums start to open for the season.

Cherry-blossom Viewing Hokkaido’s hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) period is overlapping with the bustling Golden Week (from 29 April to 5 May). Book accommodation early.


June

Sunrise 3.55am / Sunset 7.15pm
Lowest 12.9℃ / Highest 21.5℃

Photo: Bogakudai, Tokachidake Mountains

There is no rainy season and weather is perfect. Days are long and pleasantry warm. Wildflowers bloom in the vast wetlands and remote islands. Hiking season begins.


July

Sunrise 4.08am / Sunset 7.12pm
Lowest 17.3℃ / Highest 24.9℃

Photo: Farm Tomita, Nakafurano

July is peak summer tourist season throughout Hokkaido, such as lavender gardens, beaches and campsites. Days are pretty hot.

Sapporo Summer Festival This summer festival is famous for its open-air beer gardens in Odori Park.

Hokkai Heso Matsuri Furano’s ‘navel festival’ takes place on 28 and 29 July every year, when locals painted the Heso-maru-kun face on their bellies and dance on the main streets.


August

Sunrise 4.39am / Sunset 6.38pm
Lowest 19.1℃ / Highest 26.4℃

Photo: Himawari-no-sato, Hokuryu

Major tourist sights and public transport still get crowded. Many people go to Hokkaido for return their hometown or have a vacation in mid August, particularly 11 to 15.

Ubagami Daijingu Togyo-sai One of Southern Hokkaido’s greatest festivals date back to the 17th-century and held in Esashi from 9 to 11 August. 13 decorated dashi (floats) are paraded through the town with festival music Gion Bayashi.

O-Bon It is a traditional event to venerate ancestors that held around 13 to 15 August. Bon-odori (traditional folk dances) are takes place in much of Hokkaido.



September

Sunrise 5.13am / Sunset 5.46pm
Lowest 14.2℃ / Highest 22.4℃

Photo: Cosmos Garden, Engaru

Days begin to grow shorter but still warm. Vegetavles are harvested and food festivals are held. Autumn foliage starts from the highlands of Daisetsuzan National Park.


October

Sunrise 5.47am / Sunset 4.53pm
Lowest 7.5℃ / Highest 16.2℃

Photo: Lakeside, Onuma Park

Autumn foliage peaks across most of Hokkaido. October is a lovely traveling month and the last hiking season of year.


November

Sunrise 6.26am / Sunset 4.12pm
Lowest 1.3℃ / Highest 8.5℃

Photo: Gingko Avenue, Hokkaido University

November is considered the off-season for travel. Several sights and local museums closed for the season. Days are short, snow starting to fall in the mountains.


December

Sunrise 6.58am / Sunset 4.00pm
Lowest -4.1℃ / Highest 2.1℃

Photo: Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery, Yoichi

Skiing season kicks off at the major resorts. Main cities are lit up with colorful illumination. At the end of December, many people return to their hometown or have a vacation to celebrating the new year. Most museums are closed from 29 December to 3 January.

Hakodate Christmas Fantasy Hakodate’s Christmas festival is held around the Bay Area’s red brick warehouses from 1 to 25 December.

New Year’s Eve (Omisoka) Many people clean their home, make (or get) osechi and eat soba (buckwheat noodles).


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