Japan has distinctive change of seasons and the seasonal changes add more beauty to Hokkaido. Clean air, blue sky, colorful flowers, undulating hills and the majesty of the mountains...there is so much more and cannot all mention here! In the spring, all the flowers start to grow and the hibernating animals wake up and get ready to be active again. In the summer, Hokkaido is rather dry with low humidity, and the weather is usually very pleasant. In the autumn, while many delicious seasonal food becomes available, the breathtaking autumn colors mountains are seen . In the winter, white snow covers the ground as far as the eye can see. This is Hokkaido where such four seasonal differences are gathered in one place. Hokkaido has a lot more to offer to visitors than its scenery, you can also try various activities to communicate with nature! There is no other place like Hokkaido, where you can do sightseeing, eating, playing and your will be satisfied to the fullest!
Hokkaido (north latitude 41°21’ - 45°33’) is the northernmost island of the Japanese archipelago and is on the same parallel as some of the world’s major cities including Chicago, Montreal, London, Rome and Munich. Its area is 83,457km2 which is 22.1% of Japanese territory. It is the largest of the prefectures; 39.7 times as large as Tokyo and equal to the area of the whole country of Austria.
Almost half of Hokkaido is mountainous but the ratio of mountains and slopes is comparatively lower than the rest of the country and much of the land consists of gently rolling hills. It is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean as well as the Seas of Japan and Okhotsk and is a world-leading fishing ground due to the intersections of the Tsushima and Liman Currents and the Japan and Chishima Currents.
The Ainu are the indigenous people of the north of Japan, in particular the Hokkaido region. They have their own language (Ainu) and have developed a rich culture represented by oral literature such as the Yukar and traditional dance as well as distinctive Ainu patterns.
However, during the process of modernization, the traditions and culture of the Ainu were impacted, bringing them to a critical situation.
Today, the traditional way of life is no longer continued in the same manner but the core of traditional culture is still steadfastly passed on and the distinctive features of ethnic culture are being cultivated as a foundation for keeping the culture alive.
In addition, the National Ainu Museum and Park (Upopoy) will open in April 2020 in Shiraoi-cho. The museum is slated to become a space that symbolizes the society in which through open dialogues and interactions with the Ainu people, different ethnic groups can co-exist with mutual respect.
The number of inbound tourist (actual numbers) decreased sharply due primarily to the effects of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. It steadily recovered from 2012 onwards and hit a record high in 2017 with 56.1 million.
The number of Japanese visitors from outside the prefecture also increased steadily from 2012 coming close to the peak figure of 1999 (6,150,000) at 6,060,000 (3rd highest figure ever).
The number of overseas visitors to Hokkaido has increased dramatically in the past few years due to new regular international routes and increasing numbers of flights, the relaxation of visa requirements, the expansion of the duty-free system and a continuing weak yen and reached its highest ever number of 2,790,000 visitors in 2017 (up 21.3% from the previous year); this is 9.4% of all overseas visitors to Japan (29,770,000).
Through exchange with northern countries with similar weather and climate (the United States, Canada, Scandinavia, the Russian Far East, Northeast China and so on), Hokkaido has been promoting the Northern Regions Concept for mutual local development. Through this exchange, Hokkaido is twinned with Alberta in Canada (1980), has a friendship affiliation with Heilongjiang Province in China (1986), is twinned with Massachusetts in the US (1990) and a has a friendship / economic cooperation affiliation with Sakhalin in the Russian Federation (1998). These demonstrate wide-ranging and lively exchange.
In addition, against the backdrop of the remarkable economic development in the East Asian region and increasing interest between regions, Hokkaido has been promoting exchange with Busan (2005), South Gyeongsang Province (2006), Seoul (2010) and Jeju Province (2016) in South Korea and Chang Mai Province in Thailand (2013) and formed a friendship affiliation with Hawaii in the US in 2017. Making use of the framework of exchange between municipalities that has been cultivated up to the present, Hokkaido has been transmitting the Hokkaido brand of a great natural environment, food, tourism and culture to the world and progressing with initiatives to encourage the people of the world to recognize its charm.
Furthermore, using heightened recognition and know-how cultivated through the 34th G8 Summit in Toyako in July 2008, Hokkaido has been actively trying to attract international conferences to contribute to the revitalization of the prefecture as a whole.
The cities, town and villages of Hokkaido are also conducting lively exchange with international society. As of December 2018, 73 of the prefecture’s municipalities were twinned with or had friendship affiliations totaling 116 with regions in 21 different countries, actively working on such themes like cultural exchange of life style bringing out the distinctive characteristics of the local communities and interactions with exchange students. Due to the active role played by Hokkaido in furthering international exchange, it has increased the expectations towards Japan in terms of its contribution to the international community.
Using know-how such as knowledge and technology cultivated from the era of the Hokkaido Development Commission, the prefecture is actively welcoming technical trainees and dispatching experts and so on. In addition, since 1965, 2,346 participants in JICA volunteer projects such as the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers have been actively cooperating in nation building and creating human resources in developing countries (as of August, 2017).
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A Hokkaido that continues to shine on the world stage.
～Polishing and cultivating the world-class appeal of Hokkaido and making use of its various strengths to form a local society in which people can continue to live fulfilled lives with peace of mind while increasing the presence of Hokkaido on the world stage through the promotion of SDGs. ～
Hokkaido has various values and strengths including a beautiful natural environment, unique history, culture and climate as well as good quality, safe food cultivated on the bountiful land and in the sea and plentiful and diverse energy resources.
With the 150th anniversary of the naming of this land as Hokkaido, we are at a juncture that requires us to build a solid foundation for the next 50 or 100 years, we will share the SGDs which are universal goals for the whole global society and, while using the multiple and diverse local resources that have been passed on to us by our ancestors to the maximum, we will work together as one to develop initiatives to obtain these goals. In addition, along with transmitting the appeal of Hokkaido to the world, we must overcome the difficulties that we will face and develop the prefecture sustainably.
With the belief that greatest responsibility of those alive today is promoting the creation of sustainable communities that keep pace with the rest of the world coupled with the task of handing our homeland of plenty, Hokkaido, steadfastly on to future generations, we hold aloft “a Hokkaido that continues to shine on the world stage”as the ideal for 2030.