My wife and I made a road trip to Hokkaido, Japan after our wedding in May this year. We visited Sapporo, Biei, Otaru and Lake Toya during the week long trip and ran in three of the four locations. As this trip was largely aimed for us to unwind after our wedding, we kept the runs short. Here is how running in Hokkaido is like.
- Biei. We skipped a run in Sapporo because we were frankly dead out after the wedding and our completion of the Sundown half marathon in Singapore on our wedding night. Biei was a good place to kick off running in Hokkaido. Our hotel was located near the mountainous area (the building in the photo above is our hotel) and we arrived close to sunset. We took the opportunity to take a very short 2km run which included a whole lot of stairs climbing to get a good view of the sunet. It was breathtaking to run at that altitude. This was also my first contact with actual snow. I was surprised to find snow covering some parts of the grass along the road given that this was at the end of spring for Hokkaido. This short 2km run is one of the most scenic I have experienced.
- Otaru. Otaru was very unlike Biei as it was close to the sea and the area was clearly developed for urban tourism. The run was very much a city exploration run and we went past casinos, restaurants and many glassware shops. We also took the chance to run along the canal close to the sea. Parts of Otaru can be crowded with tourists and we found ourselves having to slow down once a while to make our way through the crowds.
- Lake Toya. A volcanic lake in Shikotsu-Toya National Park, Lake Toya is a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. Running along the lake was a tranquil and peaceful experience. Sure, there were tourists out and about but all of them came here to relax and enjoy the views. (There’s not much else you can do anyways.) Parts of the run will veer off tarmac and bring you through some greenery which perfectly balances terrain mix. We timed our run for midday as the weather was rather cold with temperatures falling to 5-7 degrees Celsius at night. If you do run at night, you will witness daily fireworks fired from barges in the lake.
Hokkaido is a great place to chill and putting in a few runs was definitely worth it. Even better, you can unwind after the run with a hot spring bath (onsen). If you do not feel comfortable in public hot springs, book hotels that offer private hot springs. It is the perfect way to relax after a run.