Japan's youngest province, Hokkaido, is the archipelago's northernmost island. Before the 1800s it was inhabited by the Ainu people, a minority group that still exists here and has recently made major breakthroughs in gaining mainstream recognition. Tourists come mainly for the region's outdoor appeal.
Hokkaido is a large island with plenty of area for tourists to explore. While visiting, they'll encounter a mix of cosmopolitan districts and wide-open spaces, and they'll also be sharing this space with enthusiastic Japanese tourists. Visitors will be greeted by hospitable locals and well-maintained tourist infrastructure that keep travel painless.
Hokkaido's mountainous park and forests lend themselves nicely to outdoor activities, and there are excellent seasonal activities offered throughout the year. The winter season lasts from November to March, when the activity focus shifts to snow-based sports.
Tourists don't travel to Hokkaido specifically for the shopping opportunities, but the provincial capital is an important shopping center for people who live on the island. Tourists can easily set aside a day or two to explore Sapporo's network of interlinking shopping malls and pick up a souvenir or gift in the process.
Hokkaido's best dining district is in Sapporo. All of the major shopping malls have food courts (usually on the basement level) with noodle shops, Western fast food restaurants and cafés. Most of these complexes also have blocs of nicer restaurants on their top floors, some of which come with a view.
Hokkaido is seen as Japan's last frontier, and the best attractions on the island are large swathes of national parkland. Each has its own seasonal attractions, from hiking to skiing, and millions of Japanese tourists come every month to enjoy the sites.
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