NORTH & SOUTH
HOKKAIDO AND YAEYAMA ARE WHAT TO CHECK OUT IN JAPAN
HOKKAIDO A major foodie destination offering some of Japan’s best seafood and a variety of local specialties, Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost island and a nature-lover’s paradise. Stop at the Sapporo Beer Garden and sample the BBQ dish Jingisukan, locally known as The Genghis Khan and wash it down with a Sapporo beer. If you are a craft beer enthusiast, the Abashiri Beer Brewery offers some of the best.
While frequented as a winter destination, Hokkaido is just as appealing in summer. Breathtaking masses of lavender are in full bloom at the Furano Flower Fields, which also boasts a variety of other blossoms such
as poppies, lupins, lilies, sunflowers and cosmos throughout the warmer season. Summer is also the perfect time to take advantage of Hokkaido’s plethora of national parks, pristine lakes, adventure sports and wildlife.
Be sure to visit the Blue Pond (or Aoiike) and take in its stunning ethereal blue color. The artificial pond, created as part of an erosion control system, was designed to protect the area from mudflows that can occur from nearby Mt. Tokachi. The otherworldly color is caused by natural minerals dissolved in the water.
The Yaeyama archipelago is situated at the southernmost point of Okinawa. With their tropical atmosphere and laid-back lifestyle, the Yaeyama Islands are a popular getaway destination for those wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of Japan’s metropolises. This rural island paradise offers beaches, diving and relaxation.
Snorkeling and diving are popular pastimes in the archipelago and plenty of companies are available to show you the basics. The view above water is just as stunning, a vibrant turquoise sea against bright white sands. Head up to the observation point at Kabira Park for an awe-inspiring view of the islands dotting the bay, with Mount Omoto and the Hirakubo Peninsula in the north.
Perhaps the Yaeyama archipelago is one of the reasons Okinawans are among the longest-lived people in the world. Easily the most talkedabout restaurant can be found on Ishigaki Island; Hitoshi, an izakaya specializing in seafood, offers maguro tuna as one of its distinguishing dishes. Be sure to make a reservation!