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Travel, Teach, Live in Japan

Hokkaido: Japan's Last Frontier
By:Jim Sherard

Known for it's vast open spaces and breathtaking vistas, Japan's second largest island of Hokkaido offers visitors the ideal place to escape the confinements of life in the city and reconnect with a more natural way of life. With the island representing only five percent of the population of Japan, Hokkaido is one of the last wilderness areas remaining in the country, and is home to many national parks attracting an array of outdoor enthusiasts, from skiers and snowboarders, to cyclists, hikers, and campers. One of the most popular destinations for those wishing to explore the ultimate outdoor experience is Daisetsuzan National park, Hokkaido's largest. Consisting of a densely forested area, it's unspoiled wilderness provides hikers an opportunity to see abundant wild life. Also not to be missed is Shiretoko National park located on Shiretoko Peninsula. Reputed to be Japan's most beautiful and unspoiled national park, it's also considered one of the most remote, resulting in a variety of animals inhabiting the area, including brown bears, deer, and fox. Other attractions in the park include Kamuiwakka Falls, which provides a natural hot spring basin at the base of the waterfall which can be enjoyed by hikers wishing to take a relaxing bath in a spectacular setting. Those looking for a less strenuous trek can take advantage of the picturesque “Shiretoko Five Lake” region, where easily accessed trails leading around the five lakes offer hikers an excellent view of the surrounding countryside.

Travelers who long for the comforts of the city will eventually make their way to Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido and Japan's youngest major city. Upon arriving they may be surprised to see the North American style rectangular street system, which was built in accordance to foreign engineer's guidance during the Meiji Period when the capital was still in it's infancy. The city also has a reputation for it's delicious seafood, and is home to some of the country's finest beer and sake. In addition, the Sapporo Snow Festival, one of Japan's largest winter events, attracts thousands of visitors every year who come to view the hundreds of exquisite ice and snow sculptures which line Odori Park. South of Sapporo lies Hokkaido's third largest city Hakodate. This city is a favorite among tourists who wish to experience the spectacular views that can seen from nearby Mount Hakodate. The city was also one of the first harbors in Japan to be opened to international trade, and the western influence of that era still lingers at places like Motamachi, the former residential area of foreign traders, and Fort Goryokakau, Japan's first Western style fortress. Most travelers visiting Hokkaido arrive by air, landing at New Chitose Airport south of Sapporo. Another mode of transportation that has been somewhat neglected recently because of cheaper airline fares now available, is the Seikan Tunnel, which connects Honshu with Hokkaido via a 33 mile railway tunnel, a great portion of it running beneath the seabed.

Jim Sherard is the author of "Land of the Rising Sun, A Guide to Living and Working in Japan", which can be found at: www.escapeartist.com/e_Books/Living_and_Working_in_Japan/Living_and_Working_in_Japan.html

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