Everyone knows Japan is a foodie paradise, but most visitors rarely stray from Tokyo or Kyoto. On a recent trip to Japan, I had the unique opportunity to spend nearly three weeks exploring the different regions of Japan’s second-largest and least-populated island, Hokkaido. This mountainous island is also home to a rich indigenous history as well as an agricultural region extremely unique to the area. While you’ll see lots of sushi and ramen recommendations in this list, you’ll also find incredible breads, cheeses, and ice cream that wouldn’t be the first thing to come to mind when thinking of Japan.
I’ll break down this list into the three areas of Hokkaido that I visited so feel free to use these links to the section you’re visiting!
The ‘Rooftop of Hokkaido’, Daisetsuzan is home to Hokkaido’s tallest mountains, rich Ainu culture, and incredible onsens (hot springs). But I also found myself having some delicious local cuisine after a long day of hiking.
The closest airport to Daisetsuzan National Park is Asahikawa (or you can train from Sapporo). This Izakaya is one of the oldest in Asahikawa and we went to town on more courses than I can count, everything from sashimi, to grilled fish, and, of course, we had to hit the unlimited drink package that is very common in Japan.
Tucked right into the mountainside, this incredible hotel and onsen features a buffet with seemingly endless options. With that said, we were treated to a seven-course dinner of sashimi, tempura, smoked venison (which came out with a dome containing the smoke), and even a grill-your-own A5 wagyu.
My favorite place I stayed at during my time in Japan. Not only did Nukabira Onsen Nakamuraya have the best outdoor onsen experience, it also had an amazing dining experience with all local foods from the area. We were treated to marinated rainbow trout, soba noodles, local yezo deer, and pork that we cooked at the table using local butter.
Located right on the banks of the stunning Lake Shikaribetsu, we hit this cafe after summiting Mt. Hakuunzan and the Japanese Curry hit the spot. The soft serve ice cream after lunch was the chef’s kiss on the whole day.
Nestled in the northern expanse of Japan, Sapporo, the largest city in Hokkaido, beckons with a diverse culinary journey. Renowned for its hearty miso ramen, fresh seafood delicacies, and iconic Sapporo beer, this vibrant city is a haven for food enthusiasts.Let’s dive in and explore the flavors and traditions that make Sapporo a true food lover’s paradise.
No trip to Sapporo is complete without a visit to the brewery of the same name. This iconic beer can be found in every corner of the Earth and has been a longtime favorite of mine, so it was a no brainer to pay the museum a visit to learn of the rich history of the oldest brewery in all of Japan. While the museum is worth the visit, it’s also worth visiting the Sapporo Bier Garten to try a local specialty, Genghis Khan barbeque. This all you can eat lamb is cooked by you, at your table and can also be paired with all you can drink Sapporo beer. Pro tip, get the truffle egg fried rice to accompany the meat sweats you’re about to endure. After a trip through the museum you’ll ‘Exit through the Giftshop’, but in the best possible way as it’s a taproom with all the styles of Sapporo beer.
Ramen Alley | Sapporo Ramen Haruka
Miso ramen has become synonymous with Japanese cuisine, and Sapporo is actually where the famed miso ramen was invented! And there’s no better place to give it a try than in Sapporo’s famous Ramen Alley. This alley is full of incredible small shops that only seat a small handful of people in each. We opted for Haruka and the line in front led us to believe this was the best… and the line didn’t lie. I went with a spicy miso ramen and added extra pork and butter…yes, butter. The nearby Tokachi region of Hokkaido is famous for its dairy production and adding butter was a game changer to make a super creamy ramen even creamier.
Moon Sun Brewing
It’s hard to go to Sapporo as a beer fan and not go to the Sapporo Beer Museum, but that’s not the only good beer in town. Moon Sun Brewing. I was quite impressed with the complexity and flavors of their beer. You can get flights of three or five beers, which I would recommend. I’m a huge fan of stouts, but their IPA was so tasty that I opted to have a full pint of that.
Schichirinyakiniku Anan Sapporominamisanjoten (all you can eat BBQ)
Imagine a world where you can get all-you-can-eat BBQ WITH all you can drink for $36. That’s this spot. It was a late-night find for myself and a few friends and it was a meat lover’s dream. An iPad at the table eliminates any mistranslations and makes it a breeze. You simply key in what meat, side, or drink you want and within a minute someone brings it to your table ready to cook at your own tabletop grill.
The world-famous Obihiro Butadon is a sweet and spicy pork served on top of rice. Hageten is one of the original pork bowls in Obihiro and I loved it so much that I bought a bottle of the sauce to bring home.