Spring flowers in the Hokkaido Mountains

On December 8th, 2020,

What is the best time to visit Hokkaido?

For those looking for a unique experience when visiting Japan, deciding to take a visit to Hokkaido is an obvious option. Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is famous for its outdoor activities and stunningly beautiful scenery. Now that you’ve decided to come and visit us here, you’ll be thinking about when to come. This blogpost helps travellers answer the question “when is the best time to visit Hokkaido?”.

To help you choose the best time for your trip I’ll run through an overview of a full year in Hokkaido, including recommended activities and weather so you can plan your trip. In truth, Hokkaido is a stunner any time of year, with lush green summers, vivid autumns, powdery snow-covered winters, and vibrant springs. For those looking to travel to Hokkaido you can find something to do in each season depending on where your interests lie.

Konnichiwa, I’m Ayaka Yoshikawa, proudly born and raised in Hokkaido and co-founder of Adventure Hokkaido and these are my tips for travellers deciding when to visit Hokkaido. I’ll go through the whole year season by season, tell you about the weather and suggest best things to do in Hokkaido at each time of year. To see the details for a particular season click on the links below. I hope you find this information helpful for your trip to Hokkaido!

Visiting Hokkaido in Spring (April – June)

Visiting Hokkaido in Summer (July – August)

Visiting Hokkaido in Fall / Autumn (Sep – Nov)

Visiting Hokkaido in Winter (December – March)

Adventure Hokkaido Guide Ayaka taking photos in spring in Hokkaido
Ayaka from Adventure Hokkaido enjoying springtime photography

Visiting Hokkaido in Spring (April-June)

Spring comes later to Hokkaido than the rest of Japan, but it’s a safe bet that most snow will be gone by mid-April. Things really start to warm up in May, and generally the cherry-blossom viewing season coincides with Japan’s Golden Week, a multi-day holiday that occurs at the beginning of May. June begins the lead-in to Hokkaido’s summer, and with it consistently good weather. During Hokkaido’s spring, be sure to dress in layers, because although most days will be over 10° C / 50° F nights can still be cold. If you want to see the famous cherry blossoms, then spring is the best time to visit Hokkaido for you!

Weather in Hokkaido in Spring – Temperature & Rainfall

Sapporo
Higashikawa
Wakkanai
Shiretoko
Hakodate
Temp Rain Temp Rain Temp Rain Temp Rain Temp Rain
April 2°-11°C
36°-52°F
65mm
2.6inch
-2°-7°C
28°-45°F
84mm
3.3inch
2°-7°C
35°-45°F
58mm
2.3inch
0°-5°C
37°-47°F
38mm
1.5inch
4°-13°C
39°-55°F
70mm
2.8inch
May 7°-17°C
45°-62°F
58mm
2.3inch
3°-14°C
38°-58°F
106mm
4.2inch
6°-12°C
42°-54°F
42mm
54inch
3°-8°C
37°-42°F
69mm
2.7inch
8°-19°C
46°-66°F
84mm
3.3inch
June 12°-21°C
54°-70°F
68mm
2.7inch
9°-19°C
47°-66°F
112mm
4.4inch
10°-16°C
50°-60°F
69mm
2.7inch
7°- 12°C
45°-53°F
58mm
2.3inch
13°-21°C
55°-70°F
73mm
2.9inch
Sapporo
Temp Rain
April 2°-11°C 65mm
36°-52°F 2.6inch
May 7°-17°C 58mm
45°-62°F 2.3inch
June 12°-21°C 68mm
54°-70°F 2.7inch
Higashikawa
Temp Rain
April -2°-7°C 84mm
28°-45°F 3.3inch
May 3°-14°C 106mm
38°-58°F 4.2inch
June 9°-19°C 112mm
47°-66°F 4.4inch
Wakkanai
Temp Rain
April 2°-7°C 58mm
35°-45°F 2.3inch
May 6°-12°C 42mm
42°-54°F 54inch
June 10°-16°C 69mm
50°-60°F 2.7inch
Shiretoko
Temp Rain
April 0°-5°C 38mm
37°-47°F 1.5inch
May 3°-8°C 69mm
37°-42°F 2.7inch
June 7°- 12°C 58mm
45°-53°F 2.3inch
Hakodate
Temp Rain
April 4°-13°C 70mm
39°-55°F 2.8inch
May 8°-19°C 84mm
46°-66°F 3.3inch
June 13°-21°C 73mm
55°-70°F 2.9inch

What to do in Hokkaido in April?

The start of April will still be chilly, towards the latter half of the month is when Hokkaido really starts waking up from its winter hibernation. At this time hiking and other outdoor activities are still difficult due to the chill and lingering snow in the mountains, but now is the perfect time for something Hokkaido has in abundance – onsen! The Asahidake area has an abundance of natural hot springs, and for those wanting the Hokkaido winter-experience without blizzards, Mt. Asahidake will undoubtedly still have lingering snow.

What to do in Hokkaido in May?

May is when various flowers start blooming. It generally kicks off with the blooming of the cherry-blossoms, which happens often in the first week of May. The southern town of Matsumae near Hakodate is famous for their cherry-blossoms and Japanese history, but cherry blossoms are visible all over the island at this time! You can also visit the wild northern Okhotsk region to see stunning flowers- the Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park in Yubetsu and the pink moss phlox in Takinoue and Ozora are well worth the visit.

What do do in Hokkaido in June?

The entirety of June is usually a great time of year, and with sunny warm weather it brings the start of the outdoor season. June is the perfect time to go outside for stunning views backdropped with still-snowy peaks. It is also considered one of the best times to visit Shiretoko, located on Hokkaido’s eastern peninsula. The Shiretoko area is a National Park and a prime spot to see the Hokkaido brown bear (from the safety of your car!), sperm whales, and even orcas. Shiretoko has a lot of trekking spots and hikes around the area and is well worth the visit.

Best Hokkaido Spring Activities

  • Snow-shoeing! Enjoy the lingering snow in early spring (April) while you still can.
  • You can still go spring skiing in some mountain locations. Kurodake is typically  open, even until May.
  • Take some time to visit the islands of Rishiri and Rebun. There are ample opportunities for trekking and seeing rare alpine plants.
  • Don’t miss out on the Sapporo Yosakoi Festival, and outdoor dancing festival that takes place over multiple days.
Adventure Hokkaido Guide Ayaka
Hokkaido Local’s Tip for Spring – Ayaka
My favourite spring activity in Hokkaido is riding my bike through the rice fields and mountains. It’s so uplifting to feel everything coming back to life again after winter.
Hikers on the climb up to Mt Asahidake, Daisetsuzan
Spring hiking on Mt Asahidake in Hokkaido

Visiting Hokkaido in Summer (July-August)

Hokkaido probably has the best summer in Japan- never too hot, never too humid, no rainy season, and an abundance of outdoor activities to do and sights to see! For those looking for outdoor adventures, the summer may be the best time to visit Hokkaido. Long sunny days and cool nights give ample time to enjoy every day. July is famous for the blooming of myriads of flowers, and August is the best time to get out and enjoy all of Hokkaido’s lush scenery and the outdoors. Most days all you will need is a t-shirt and sunscreen, though keeping a light jacket for cool nights is a good idea!

Weather in Hokkaido in Summer – Temperature & Rainfall

Sapporo
Higashikawa
Wakkanai
Shiretoko
Hakodate
Temp Rain Temp Rain Temp Rain Temp Rain Temp Rain
July 17°-25°C
63°-76°F
75mm
3.0inch
14°-22°C
57°-72°F
132mm
5.2inch
14°-20°C
58°-68°F
106mm
5.2inch
12°-16°C
53°-60°F
97mm
3.8inch
17°-25°C
63°-77°F
130mm
5.1inch
Aug 19°-26°C
66°-78°F
141mm
5.6inch
15°-23°C
58°-73°F
171mm
6.7inch
17°-22°C
62°-71°F
115mm
4.5inch
15°-19°C
58°-66°F
109mm
4.3inch
20°-26°C
68°-79°F
154mm
6.1inch
Sapporo
Temp Rain
July 17°-25°C 75mm
63°-76°F 3.0inch
August 19°-26°C 141mm
66°-78°F 5.6inch
Higashikawa
Temp Rain
July 14°-22°C 132mm
57°-72°F 5.2inch
August 15°-23°C 171mm
58°-73°F 6.7inch
Wakkanai
Temp Rain
July 14°-20°C 106mm
58°-68°F 5.2inch
August 17°-22°C 115mm
62°-71°F 4.5inch
Shiretoko
Temp Rain
July 12°-16°C 97mm
53°-60°F 3.8inch
August 15°-19°C 109mm
58°-66°F 4.3inch
Hakodate
Temp Rain
July 17°-25°C 130mm
63°-77°F 5.1inch
August 8°-19°C 154mm
68°-79°F 6.1inch

What to do in Hokkaido in July?

July is famous in Hokkaido for its flowers, especially in Furano and Biei. Many visitors to the area during the summer months want to see the lavender farms. Trips to the area are also a prime time to stop by the local winery and cheese factory in Furano, and you of course should swing by Biei’s famous blue pond. If you visit the blue pond, however, don’t stop there – make sure to also go to the Shirahige Waterfall, where you can see stunning blue-tinted falls.

What to do in Hokkaido in August?

August is peak outdoor time, and with the hot days it’s the perfect time to enjoy some of Hokkaido’s water recreation! Try rafting, stand-up paddleboarding, and even surfing if you don’t mind cooler waters! If you’re not keen to get wet, however, this is also the perfect time to take to the mountains. With most snowpack gone and the mountains boasting cooler temperatures than sea level, August is the prime time to go hiking in one of Hokkaido’s numerous mountain ranges.

Best Hokkaido Summer Activities

  • Get out and do some hiking! With relatively mild weather, perhaps now is your chance to explore some of Hokkaido’s more remote areas like Shiretoko peninsula.
  • Kayaking in Abashiri is something you don’t want to miss- start at a lake and paddle out to sea along the river!
  • Try fly fishing in the Shokotsu River or in Akan, both world-famous spots.
Adventure Hokkaido Guide Yasu
Hokkaido Local’s Tip for Summer – Yasu
Summer is my favourite time to enjoy alpine hiking in Daisetsuzan National Park, when you’re amongst the alpine flower fields on “the roof of Hokkaido” all your worries are far away!
Scenic ridgeline under the blue sky
Summer hiking in Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido

Visiting Hokkaido in Autumn (September-November)

Hokkaido really shines in the autumn! Due to the rapid fall-off in temperatures from the summer months, the fall foliage bursts onto the scene with a wow-factor that will impress anyone. September still has ample time left to enjoy the outdoors, so fit in those hikes and cycling as much you can. October has by-far the greatest of the fall foliage, so be sure to bring a camera as you travel around. In November is when Hokkaido begins its transition into winter, so it’s the perfect time to see the changing of the landscape. As autumn progresses temperatures will from the teens to the single digits (°C), so bring a warmer jacket and leave your sandals at home.

Weather in Hokkaido in Autumn – Temperature & Rainfall

Sapporo
Higashikawa
Wakkanai
Shiretoko
Hakodate
Temp Rain Temp Rain Temp Rain Temp Rain Temp Rain
Sep 13°-22°C
56°-71°F
140mm
5.5inch
9°-19°C
48°-65°F
170mm
6.7inch
13°-20°C
60°-67°F
133mm
5.2inch
14°-18°C
57°-65°F
130mm
5.1inch
14°-23°C
57°-73°F
153mm
6inch
Oct 7°-16°C
44°-60°F
115mm
4.5inch
2°-12°C
35°-42°F
131mm
5.2inch
7°-13°C
49°-56°F
126mm
5.0inch
9°-14°C
47°-56°F
107mm
4.2inch
6°-16°C
43°-61°F
100mm
3.9inch
Nov 1°-8°C
33°-46°F
105mm
4.1inch
-4°-3°C
24°-38°F
113mm
4.4inch
0°-5°C
32°-42°F
123mm
4.8inch
3°- 7°C
37°-45°F
94mm
3.7inch
4°-11°C
39°-52°F
108mm
4.3inch
Sapporo
Temp Rain
September 13°-22°C 140mm
56°-71°F 5.5inch
October 7°-16°C 115mm
44°-60°F 4.5inch
November 1°-8°C 105mm
33°-46°F 4.1inch
Higashikawa
Temp Rain
September 9°-19°C 170mm
48°-65°F 6.7inch
October 2°-12°C 131mm
25°-42°F 5.2inch
November -4°-3°C 113mm
24°-38°F 4.4inch
Wakkanai
Temp Rain
September 13°-20°C 133mm
60°-67°F 5.2inch
October 7°-13°C 126mm
49°-56°F 5.0inch
November 0°-5°C 123mm
32°-42°F 4.8inch
Shiretoko
Temp Rain
September 14°-18°C 130mm
57°-65°F 5.1inch
October 9°-14°C 107mm
47°-56°F 4.2inch
November 3°- 7°C 94mm
37°-45°F 3.7inch
Hakodate
Temp Rain
September 14°-23°C 153mm
57°-73°F 6inch
October 6°-16°C 100mm
43°-61°F 3.9inch
November 4°-11°C 108mm
39°-52°F 4.3inch

What to do in Hokkaido in September?

With the arrival of September Hokkaido begins to cool off. The snow, however, is still a while away yet, so there is still ample opportunity to enjoy warm weather before winter comes. Due to the cool-off from summer, cycling tours are popular at this time of year and often cyclists can be seen as they travel around Hokkaido. With an abundance of campsites and road-side stations (michi-no-eki) that offer places to rest and stay, it is easy to travel Hokkaido by bike.

What to do in Hokkaido in October?

The autumn (fall) colors are in full effect here, and now is the best time to take a walk outside and enjoy the changing scenery. Although there are many places to see stunning colors and views, I have to recommend Jozankei. Jozankei, located south of Sapporo, is set in a valley and offers an assortment of incredible views as well as shorts walks and hikes that will leave anyone looking for the autumnal Hokkaido experience satisfied. And once you’re finished enjoying the sights and outdoor scenery, be sure to drop by their famous hot springs for a reinvigorating soak after your adventures.

What to do in Hokkaido in November?

November is generally considered the off-season for Hokkaido as everyone says goodbye to autumn and shifts into preparing for winter. November tends to see a few snowfalls but nothing that sticks quite yet, except in the mountains. Due to clear skies, few crowds, and not-yet freezing temperatures, November is a great chance to see the shockingly-clear Hokkaido night skies. Remember to wear something warm and bring an extra blanket- here is your chance to enjoy some star viewing while drinking your favorite hot beverage!

Best Hokkaido Autumn Activities

  • With cooler temperatures but still long days, this is the perfect time to do some hiking in the Daisetsuzan Mountain Range.
  • The fall foliage in Sounkyo shouldn’t be missed either!
Adventure Hokkaido Guide Yuka
Hokkaido Local’s Tip for Autumn – Yuka
Once autumn arrives my favourite day hike is Nakadake Onsen, a great day walking through the mountainside in all the colours of autumn and a soak in the natural hot springs !
Mt Asahidake in autumn colours
The slopes of Mt Asahidake in autumn colours

Visiting Hokkaido in Winter (December-March)

We have made it to winter, for skiers and powder hounds, the best time of year to visit Hokkaido! When we talk about Hokkaido, winter is the image most people have – a chilly snowscape, meters of snow, and cute animals playing in all the fresh powder. They aren’t far off! December brings the start of winter and the beginning of ski and snowboard season high in the mountains. January is when the snow really packs in, and the perfect time to see Hokkaido’s wilderness blanketed in white. Some of the coldest temperatures come in February, but it is also the perfect time to try some activities and see sights only possible in the dead of Hokkaido winter. Finally, March brings with it slowly increasing temperatures but also a chance to experience some truly unique outdoor Hokkaido festivals. Bundle up, bring your down jackets, and don’t forget your hat and gloves!

Weather in Hokkaido in Winter – Temperature & Precipitation

Sapporo
Higashikawa
Wakkanai
Shiretoko
Hakodate
Temp Rain Temp Rain Temp Rain Temp Rain Temp Rain
Dec -5°-2°C
29°-35°F
106mm
4.2inch
-11°–3°C
12°-26°F
87mm
3.4inch
-5°-0°C
24°-31°F
115mm
4.5inch
-3°-2°C
27°-35°F
86mm
3.4inch
-2°-5°C
28°-41°F
85mm
3.3inch
Jan -9°–2°C
16°-29°F
111mm
4.4inch
-16°–7°C
3°-20°F
77mm
3.0inch
-8°–4°C
17°-25°F
97mm
3.8inch
-6°–2°C
21°-29°F
71mm
2.8inch
-5°–2°C
23°-28°F
77mm
3.0inch
Feb -8°-0°C
17°-31°F
90m
3.5inch
-16–6°C
4°-22°F
66mm
2.6inch
-8°–4°C
17°-26°F
66mm
2.6inch
-7°- -2°C
19°-28°F
58mm
2.3inch
-3°-3°C
27°-37°F
59mm
2.3inch
Mar -4°-3°C
24°-38°F
79mm
3.1inch
-10°–1°C
14°-30°F
80mm
3.1inch
-5°–1°C
24°-33°F
59mm
2.3inch
-4°- -1°C
25°-34°F
38mm
1.5inch
0°-8°C
32°-46°F
59mm
2.3inch
Sapporo
Temp Rain
December -5°-2°C 106mm
29°-35°F 4.2inch
January -9°–2°C 111mm
16°-29°F 4.4inch
February -8°-0°C 90m
17°-31°F 3.5inch
March -10°–1°C 79mm
14°-30°F 3.1inch
Higashikawa
Temp Rain
December -11°–3°C 87mm
12°-26°F 3.4inch
January -16°–7°C 77mm
3°-20°F 3.0inch
February -16–6°C 66mm
4°-22°F 2.6inch
March -16–6°C 80mm
4°-22°F 3.1inch
Wakkanai
Temp Rain
December -5°-0°C 115mm
24°-31°F 4.5inch
January -8°–4°C 97mm
17°-25°F 3.8inch
February -8°–4°C 66mm
4°-22°F 2.6inch
March -5°–1°C 59mm
24°-33°F 2.3inch
Shiretoko
Temp Rain
December -3°-2°C 86mm
27°-35°F 3.4inch
January -6°–2°C 71mm
21°-29°F 2.8inch
February -7°- -2°C 58mm
19°-28°F 2.3inch
March -4°- -1°C 38mm
25°-34°F 1.5inch
Hakodate
Temp Rain
December -2°-5°C 85mm
28°-41°F 3.3inch
January -5°–2°C 77mm
23°-28°F 3.0inch
February -3°-3°C 59mm
27°-37°F 2.3inch
March 0°-8°C 59mm
32°-46°F 2.3inch

What to do in Hokkaido in December?

December is when the snow finally begins to accumulate. You can expect a mix of near-freezing and negative temperature days, so be sure to dress warmly from here on out! Some ski hills will have opened as early as the end of November, among the first to open is always Mt. Kurodake, located in the Daisetsuzan mountain range. Mt. Kurodake is accessed from the town of Sounkyo, which is nestled in a gorge and famous for its weather and views year-round. Due to the volcanic nature of the surrounding mountains, Sounkyo also has some premier hot springs accessed via the local inns, which draws both locals and visitors. It’s the perfect place to get in your turns, then relax and warm up!

What to do in Hokkaido in January

If you’re looking for that world-famous Hokkaido powder, January is your month. With consistent cold temperatures and lots of snow falling, this is the prime time to hit up any of Hokkaido’s famous ski hills or resorts to get your fix. The well known ski areas and resorts are always a good time, but if you’re looking for a unique experience away from the crowds, I heartily recommend hiring  a guide and trying backcountry skiing or snowboarding. Accompany a local experienced guide into the mountains to safely get at some of the waiting untouched powder. This is the perfect chance to see Hokkaido through a local’s eyes and visit a piece of the island that the average traveler cannot access.

What to do in Hokkaido in February?

Although skiing and snowboarding is still going strong, due to the chilly temperatures and firm ice pack February is a chance for those more elusive winter experiences! Try ice fishing on the top of a frozen lake around Sapporo or travel to the beautiful national forests of Akan. If you’re looking for more thrills, there’s always dog sledding. Let these beautiful canines pull you around a snowy course (and of course take a few moments to give them some pets!) Dog sledding is available in multiple places across the island, so it can fit easily into whatever trip you want to take.

What to do in Hokkaido in March?

March is a quieter month which gives discerning travelers a chance to enjoy the less-extreme side of winter while still getting a chance to visit some of Hokkaido’s interesting outdoor festivals. Now that the crowds have died down, March is a great time to visit Shikaribetsu-ko’s Ice Village and jump in the local hot springs. If you’re looking for another unique experience, the Sounkyo Ice Fall Festival is still in full swing until the middle of the month. It has gigantic ice buildings and sculptures, with illuminations and fireworks in the evening.

Best Hokkaido Winter Activities

  • Ski the world famous powder snow of Niseko and Furano
  • If you’re not keen on sliding down a mountain, try hiking up one on a snowshoe tour!
  •  If you’re still itching for that fresh powder, consider a cat ski tour to explore your own private mountain. Snow and ice festivals occur all around Hokkaido at the same time as the world-famous Sapporo Snow Festival in February
  • Catch the drift ice as it arrives in the north around Monbetsu, Abashiri, and Shiretoko.
Adventure Hokkaido Guide Tobaji's winter tip
Hokkaido Local’s Tip for Winter – Tobaji
Snowshoeing is a great way to experience the mountains in winter if you’re not an expert skier. The peace and tranquility of the Hokkaido mountains in winter is something special.
Hikers and steaming geysers of Mt Asahidake in winter
Backcountry skiers at the steaming vents on Mt Asahidake in Hokkaido

The best time to visit Hokkaido is now!

No matter which season you make it to Hokkaido, there is always a myriad of outdoor options that will leave anyone satisfied and wondering when you will find your next chance to come back. Whether you come for a leisurely trip in the spring, an adventure-filled outing in the summer, a serene journey in the autumn, or a snow-packed holiday in the winter, Hokkaido is always waiting to show you its best side.

We hope you found this guide to “when is the best time to visit Hokkaido” interesting and helpful for your trip. We’re Adventure Hokkaido, a group of passionate local outdoor guides who would love to share the great outdoors, history, culture and food of our home with international visitors. Adventure travel in Hokkaido is quite new, but your options are as diverse as the landscape here. One day hiking trips, week-long cycle tours, seeing nature up close and personal or learning about the indigenous culture, you will be able to find a tour to suit you. Explore with a local guide and immerse yourself in this unique environment and culture.

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