Most of the resources I have used to date for planning my trips here in Hokkaido are in Japanese. Here are a few places to start if you’d like to have a browse.
- Digital Topographical Maps – There are a few smartphone apps for displaying official Japanese topographical maps. Take a look at my blog post about the different options here. The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI) also allows their maps to be printed out for free – instructions for doing that are here.
- Paper Topographical Maps – GSI also produces paper maps. I buy all mine from Kinokuniya Bookstore on the west side of Sapporo Station. Location on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/nj1G3hrD2Pr. They generally cost around 350yen each. GIS paper maps can also be ordered online using this amazing tool: http://maps.jmc.or.jp/#t=map_aerialphotograph_map_map25k&ll=43.094358,142.111145&z=7&mt=gsimaps. Check the individual ski touring and hiking route pages for specific map reference numbers.
- Yamareco.com – the definitive online community for the Japanese outdoors (in Japanese). It is one of the resources I go to first when researching a hiking or ski touring route in Hokkaido. Users upload GPX route files, photos, and route descriptions. Great for getting up to date trail conditions.
- Yamap – another very popular online community for posting routes and trip reports in Japanese. They also have an English interface version: https://yamap.co.jp/
- Hokkaido weather forecasts: We rely almost exclusively on Windy.com. Their forecasts for most regions in Hokkaido are uncannily accurate.
Backcountry Ski-touring Specific Resources
- Niseko Backcountry Ski Map: We published this 1:25,000 scale, waterproof, durable backcountry ski touring map for the Niseko region in December 2022. See the companion site here. You can buy this physical map online at Amazon.co.jp, Rhythm Japan Online, or Hokkaido Ski Club’s online store.
- Japanese-language Backcountry Ski guidebooks: There is a deep history of ski touring in Japan. As such, there are a huge number of excellent guidebooks for ski touring and backcountry skiing across Japan. See our list here.
- Hokkaido Hiking Logs: Check out Hokkaido Hiker for some winter and skiing-themed posts.
- Leon Roode’s HIOC page: Leon Roode was a mountain guide in Hokkaido for 16 years, and is arguably still one of the most experienced non-Japanese people about the Hokkaido mountains. Before moving back to New Zealand, he wrote some backcountry trip reports on the Hokkaido International Outdoor Club (now defunct) blog here.
- Strava: Strava is used prolifically for backcountry ski routes. Here is a search with ‘Hokkaido’ as the location: Click here. (HT: Essjaywhy).
Cycle Touring and Bikepacking Specific Resources
- Japan Cycling Navigator: The people behind the Japan Cycling Navigator deserve a medal of honor. Their length of Japan route is very well curated, and their Hokkaido section takes in some great areas of the prefecture. If you’re planning to cycle Hokkaido, also consider joining the Japan Cycling Navigator Facebook group – there’s always someone knowledgable about Hokkaido lurking there to answer questions.
- Bicycle touring, hiking and friends in Japan: This Facebook group is also very active, with over 3,500 members. James Oda, the main moderator of the group, is the man behind the invaluable Japan Free Campsites, Onsen and Michi-no-Eki Google Map.
- Touring Japan by Bicycle Facebook Group: A relatively new group, but plenty of tidbits of information.
- Paper maps: The best map book for cycle touring in Hokkaido is the Touring Mapple (http://amzn.to/29zK3Na – ISBN: 978-4398656261). It is all in Japanese, but the icons (such as convenience store, campground, hotsprings etc) are self-explanatory. It marks gravel roads too.
- Campgrounds: For campground information, we use the Hokkaido Campground Guide (http://amzn.to/29Cigum – ISBN: 978-4906740208). It is updated every year, and is super helpful, with details on the nearest onsen etc. All the campground info on my route maps is based on this book. It is also all in Japanese, and is unlikely to be any use unless you can read Japanese.
- Official cycle touring information: Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau’s Hokkaido Cycle Touring Pamphlet has a good deal of information on cycle touring in Hokkaido (PDF)
- Some videos: A great video series of two people cycling around old closed train lines in Hokkaido: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sfn3_nqQK28
- Hokkaido Hiking Logs: Check out Hokkaido Hiker for some winter and skiing-themed posts.
- Mountains of Hokkaido: This site has a number of classic hikes covered, with very good, detailed write-ups. mountainsofhokkaido.com
- Hiking in Japan: There’s a number of hikes covered here too: https://japanhike.wordpress.com/hokkaido/
Michi-no-Eki, Free Campgrounds, and Free Onsen Map
Created by James Oda of the Free Camping and Hotsprings in Japan Facebook Group, this excellent map marks a great number of no-cost places to have a wash and a sleep in Hokkaido (and the rest of Japan).
15 thoughts on “Resources for Exploring the Hokkaido Outdoors”
Hi there, Thanks for making this content. I’m wondering how you might recommend bringing a bicycle from other areas of Japan like Tokyo? I’m flying to Chitose airport. Do you have experience with shipping your bike via 宅急便 or bringing it on a plane?
Hi Caitlin. I’d usually recommend taking it on the plane – most Japan airlines will take a bicycle in a bicycle bag. I’ve found that within Japan, even putting the bike into a large thin bike bag is fine – the airlines here are so careful with bicycles! I’ve never needed to pack a bike into a bike box for domestic flights. Just check with the airline in advance of your flight, to see if they have any specific restrictions or requirements for bikes.
Hi Rob – I think you mentioned somewhere that there are no English-language hiking guidebooks for Hokkaido, but is there a Japanese one you would recommend? Thanks, Ian.
The Hokkaido Natsu-yama Gaido 北海道夏山ガイド are a good bet. I think there are six of them, covering different mountain ranges. Looks like the Hidaka and Daisetsu ones have been updated for this year.
Hi Rob! This website is amazing! Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’m planning on recreating the Central Daisetsuzan Trek you did over 4 days. Do you have any recommendations on where to purchase food in Sapporo (dehydrated, quick dinners for the trail). I’ll be coming from Tokyo and I don’t wanna carry so much stuff on the plane. Thank you!
Hi Chris, if you want the standard dehydrated rice and pasta camping meals then the Shugakuso outdoor store a few blocks north of Sapporo Station has all that, as well as any other gear you may need! There are also supermarkets in the basement of Sapporo Station along with some import food stores (Jupiter, Kaldi), which is where I like to get dried pasta sauces and exotic noodles etc from.
Thanks so much for this website. It’s going to help me out for my trip planning. I’m coming from Washington, USA and this is very comforting that there is an Ex-pat BC community out there!
Hey Chris, your website is wonderful. I am planning a tour with a friend from NZ. We will have two weeks together before she leaves and I will have another 1. I was thinking of cycling from Sapporo in a clockwise direction south west. It looks like there is lots to see and lots of campgrounds. Have you cycled in this area? What did you think?
Also travelling from Scotland so will have a bike box that I’m leaving at a homestay for the duration of the tour (they have said this is fine). Do you think it will be ok to travel from Chitose on the train (my stop is Eniwa) with my bike in a box as other people will also have lots of luggage from the plane.
Thanks for your help.
Hey Maree, see the Niseko and Shakotan Route – highly recommended! Bike box on the train from the airport is no problem at all.
Hello, Sean here from OutdoorAdventure.jp. This is a wonderful website. Good stuff!
Just curious, but are you aware of Yamap?
It’s what I use nowadays when researching and planning hikes. https://yamap.co.jp It’s in English (kind of) too.
Hi Sean, thank you for the kind words. I’ve added Yamap to the list – thanks! I’ve only used Yamap a couple of times, but we have our mountain rescue insurance through Yamap. Not sure why I gravitated towards Yamareko rather than Yamap. Good point about (kind of) being able to use Yamap in English. I did have a poke around in English a few years back…has it improved over the last few years at all? Many thanks again.
I still find it easier to use in Japanese but obviously that’s not very useful for non-Japanese speakers. I think the English is adequate but only for basic information provided by the developers.
Some English is better than none, I guess.
I was wondering if there is a specific resource for avalanches conditions on hokkaido..?
Or you have to do the tests yourself?
Your website is awesome btw. Keep it up.
Thanks for that. Avalanche information in Hokkaido doesn’t really exist in any form useful to backcountry recreationalists. Niseko’s avalanche reports are the only exception, providing some daily insight in the immediate Niseko area: https://niseko.nadare.info
I’ll add that to the list. Thanks for pointing it out!