Hokkaido literally meaning “Northern Sea Circuit” is the 2nd largest island of Japan, and the largest and northernmost prefecture. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu, although the two islands are connected by the underwater railway Seikan Tunnel. The largest city on Hokkaido is its capital, Sapporo, which is also its only ordinance-designated city. Its weather is harsh in winter with lots of snowfall, below zero temperatures and frozen seas, while in summer it does not get as hot and humid as in the other parts of the country.
Hokkaido was settled by the Ainu, Nivkh, and Orok peoples many years ago. The Nihon Shoki, finished in 720 AD, is often said to be the first mention of Hokkaido in recorded history. During the Nara and Heian periods (710–1185), people in Hokkaido conducted trade with Dewa Province, an outpost of the Japanese central government. From the Middle Ages, the people in Hokkaido began to be called Ezo. The Ezo mainly relied upon hunting and fishing and obtained rice and iron through trade with the Japanese.Read More
During the Muromachi period (1336–1573), the Japanese created a settlement at the south of the Oshima Peninsula. As more people moved to the settlement to avoid battles, disputes arose between the Japanese and the Ainu. The disputes eventually developed into a war. Takeda Nobuhiro killed the Ainu leader, Koshamain, and defeated the opposition in 1457. Nobuhiro’s descendants became the rulers of the Matsumae-han, which was granted exclusive trading rights with the Ainu in the Azuchi-Momoyama and Edo periods (1568–1868).
Ainu people portrait from 1870’s
The Matsumae clan rule over the Ainu must be understood in the context of the expansion of the Japanese feudal state. Medieval military leaders in northern Honshū maintained only tenuous political and cultural ties to the imperial court and its proxies, the Kamakura Shogunate and Ashikaga Shogunate.The Matsumae clan were of Yamato descent like other ethnic Japanese people, whereas the Emishi of northern Honshu where a distinctive group related to the Ainu. The Emishi were conquered and integrated into the Japanese state dating back as far as the 8th century, and as result began to lose their distinctive culture and ethnicity as they became minorities. By the time the Matsumae clan ruled over the Ainu most of the Emishi were ethnically mixed and physically closer to Japanese than they were to Ainu.
Niviks and Ainu People
There were numerous revolts by the Ainu against feudal rule. The last large-scale resistance was Shakushain’s Revolt in 1669–1672. In 1789, a smaller movement, the Menashi-Kunashir Rebellion, was also crushed. After that rebellion the terms “Japanese” and “Ainu” referred to clearly distinguished groups, and the Matsumae were unequivocally Japanese. In 1799–1821 and 1855–1858 the Edo Shogunate took direct control over Hokkaido in response to a perceived threat from Russia. The Tokugawa Shogunate realized there was a need to prepare northern defenses against a possible Russian invasion and took over control of most of Ezochi. The Shogunate made the plight of the Ainu slightly easier, but did not change the overall form of rule.
Hokkaido was known as Ezochi until the Meiji Restoration. Shortly after the Boshin War in 1868, a group of Tokugawa loyalists led by Enomoto Takeaki temporarily occupied the island , but the rebellion was crushed in May 1869. Ezochi was subsequently put under control of Hakodate-fu, Hakodate Prefectural Government. When establishing the Development Commission, the Meiji Government introduced a new name. After 1869, the northern Japanese island was known as Hokkaido and regional subdivisions were established. The primary purpose of the development commission was to secure Hokkaido before the Russians extended their control of the Far East beyond Vladivostok.
Former Government Office
In 1886, theShire three prefectures were abolished, and Hokkaido was put under the Hokkaido Agency ( Hokkaidō-chō). Hokkaido became equal with other prefectures in 1947, when the revised Local Autonomy Law became effective. The Japanese central government established the Hokkaido Development Agency (Hokkaidō Kaihatsuchō) as an agency of the Prime Minister’s Office in 1949 to maintain its executive power in Hokkaido.
Places Not To Miss:
Shiretoko National Park:Read
Shiretoko National Park covers most of the Shiretoko Peninsula at the northeastern tip of the island of Hokkaidō, Japan. The word “Shiretoko” is derived from an Ainu word “sir etok”, meaning “the place where the earth protrudes”. The Shiretoko Peninsula is one of Japan’s most beautiful and unspoiled national parks. No roads lead further than about three fourths up the peninsula, and the northern tip can only be viewed from boats or be reached on multi day trekking tours.
The peninsula is home to a variety of wildlife, including brown bears, deer and foxes. In 2005, Shiretoko was added to the list of world heritage sites for the irreplaceable value of the peninsula’s ecosystem and biodiversity.
Rebun Island is an island in the Sea of Japan off the northwestern tip of Hokkaidō, Japan. Rebun Island is known for its alpine flowers and the 8-Hour Hiking Course which runs from one end of the island to the other, north to south. The hiking course can be broken into two sections, known as the 4-Hour Hiking Courses. Rebun Island is home to a chashi, or hilltop fortifications of the Ainu people. The highest point on the island is Mount Rebun.The island is part of the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park.
Rebun Island is most famous for its rich flora, which features many alpine flowers, some of which cannot be found anywhere else on the world. The flowers are in bloom from around June to August, the best time to visit Rebun.
Furano Flower Fields:Read
Furano is known as Heso no Machi (the Belly Button Town) due to its central location. Furano’s inland location and high elevation result in a continental climate, the reason behind Furano’s successful ski hill and wine industries.
Nowadays, Furano’s lavender fields attract large numbers of visitors to the region every summer, when the plants are in full bloom. The majority of lavender usually starts blooming in late June and reaches its peak from around mid July to early August. Less numerous, later flowering varieties of lavender remain in bloom into mid August.here are numerous flower fields of various sizes all across Furano. The best spot to view the lavender is Farm Tomita, whose lavender and flower fields with the Tokachi mountain range as backdrop are spectacular.
Lake Toya is a volcanic caldera lake in Shikotsu-Toya National Park, Abuta District, Hokkaidō, Japan. It is a part of “Toya Caldera and Usu Volcano Global Geopark” which joins in Global Geoparks Network. In addition to the lake itself, the Toyako region features hot springs and an active volcano, Mount Usu, which last erupted in the year 2000. The area also offers many fishing, hiking, and camping opportunities.
Mount Usu is a volcano which has erupted four times in the past 100 years.The Usuzan Ropeway brings you close to the volcano’s summit. The upper station’s observation deck offers panoramic views of Lake Toya and neighboring Showa Shinzan.
Construction of the Asahiyama Zoo began in April 1966, and was completed in June 1967, at a total expense of 250 million yen. The zoo was inaugurated on July 1, 1967, with 75 species of animals including 200 common carp.
Its popularity lies in the enclosures which allow visitors to observe the animals from various angles, many of which are unique to Asahiyama Zoo. Highlights include a glass tunnel through the penguin pool that allows visitors to observe the birds’ underwater flights, and small glass domes in the middle of the polar bear and wolf enclosures that can get visitors right among the animals.
Daisetsuzan National Park:Read
Daisetsuzan National Park or Taisetsuzan is located in the mountainous center of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaidō. At 2,267.64 square kilometres (875.54 sq mi), Daisetsuzan is the largest national park in Japan, and is approximately the size of Kanagawa Prefecture. Daisetsuzan, meaning “great snowy mountains”, an apt description of these peaks. The park offers some of the most rugged scenery in Japan.
It preserves a mountainous area of virtually unspoiled wilderness, which is larger than some of Japan’s smaller prefectures. It is a paradise for hikers, outdoor lovers, deer and brown bears, and the first place in Japan to see autumn colors and snow each year.