Hokkaido, Japan

Living in Hokkaido

Iyna Bort Caruso

Hokkaido is the island to go for snow.

Hokkaido, near Russia, is situated across the Tsugaru Strait from Japan’s largest and most populous island of Honshu. An undersea railway tunnel connects the two islands. The bullet train from the capital of Tokyo to Hokkaido’s largest city of Sapporo takes just over four hours. 

It is an island in which the seasons are experienced and celebrated. Summers are dry and comfortable and winters are white, snowy and famous. Sapporo made its debut as the host of the Winter Olympic Games in 1972.

As Japanese cities go, Sapporo is relatively young. Much of the architecture originated in the Meiji Period starting in the mid-19th century, a time that saw the influence of Western concepts in the form of stone and brick buildings and a grid street plan. The city is safe and compact with tree-lined boulevards. Compared to Japan’s larger cities, the cost of living fairs well. The Susukino entertainment district is packed with bars, nightclubs and restaurants, but it’s a surprisingly breathed-out city with an “outdoorsy spirit,” according to The New York Times. The city’s largest event is the Sapporo Snow Festival that’s been running since 1950. Two million people converge on the city for this wonderland of fantastical ice sculptures and snow statues.

Hokkaido is the top ski destination in Asia, specifically the mountains of Niseko for its reliable powder fields as well as for Japanese hot springs known as onsens. Niseko, about two hours from Sapporo, is favored by buyers from Australia, a fact that’s helped bolster a rise in Western-style properties. Investors from Singapore, Hong Kong and mainland China are drawn here, too. Many developments are expanding their amenities to drive demand year-round. Golf, horseback riding and mountain biking are increasingly popular and promoted green-season pursuits. There are no restrictions on international real estate purchases and properties are available on a freehold basis.

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