NORTH & SOUTH

HOKKAIDO AND YAEYAMA ARE WHAT TO CHECK OUT IN JA­PAN

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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.

YAEYAMA

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!

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