Averages for Hokkaido in October
Autumn is in full swing in Hokkaido in October, and almost the whole island is literally blanketed by gorgeous hues of reds and browns. The summer heat may well be gone, yet average temps of 12°C still make sightseeing and day-long excursions very enjoyable, especially in the hinterland, where the foliage is at its most picturesque. Sapporo and Niseko are among the loveliest autumn destination in Hokkaido and hiking on the high peaks is also extremel...
Autumn is in full swing in Hokkaido in October, and almost the whole island is literally blanketed by gorgeous hues of reds and browns. The summer heat may well be gone, yet average temps of 12°C still make sightseeing and day-long excursions very enjoyable, especially in the hinterland, where the foliage is at its most picturesque. Sapporo and Niseko are among the loveliest autumn destination in Hokkaido and hiking on the high peaks is also extremely rewarding, as the kaleidoscope of colours at high altitude is truly breathtaking.
Highs of 16°C and lows of 7°C are pretty much the norm this month, as October is said to be the most consistent month of the year. The sharp, cool winter change is not expected here until November. October does see a great decrease in rain, with only 101mm recorded island-wise. This actually makes October one of the best months to visit Hokkaido, as between the rains of summer, and snowfalls of winter, this is actually the month with the least amount of humidity. Crisp, dry and foremost sunny days are expected all month long.
Where to stay
As the big chill starts to encroach on summer fun in Hokkaido, take the opportunity to visit the O-numa Quasi National Park and base yourself in the town of Hakodate. The Ichinomatu is a brilliant and very affordable ryokan option, with tatami mattresses and kimono-style night robes offering that extra authentic touch. Service is tops, onsen revitalising and food delectable. If you're looking for a no-fuss place to provide you with a comfortable stay and great food, then Ichinomatu is very hard to beat.
The Loisir Hotel offers a little more luxury for its price but it is also well worth a splurge. Centrally located, just around the corner from the morning market, rail and bus stations; this hotel offers rooms with spectacular views, impeccable service and an overall comfortable feel. Rooms could do with a spruce up, yet when you are this close to all the action, it's safe to say you won't be spending too much time indoors.
Things to do
Hokuto, located just a few kms west of Hakodate, is possibly one of the least visited cities in Hokkaido and a superb day trip destination. The town is most famous for its Trappist Monastery, the first ever build in Japan. The now century-old monastery boasts a delightfully tree-lined entrance and an imposing hill-top location. Access inside is only allowed to males and with prior arrangement, yet in October the walk to reach it, and admire it from the outside, is well worth the trouble. Aside from this, Hokuto also boasts a vibrant town centre and several onsens, so if you feel like a mid-day soak you'll find plenty of public baths in town.
If you want to take a day off hiking and sightseeing, then do yourself a huge favour and head to Hokuto's town centre to indulge in a spot of fantastic souvenir shopping. Hokuto is a proficient grower of fresh fruits and it's in Hokuto that you can purchase vacuum packed bags of dried fruits to take home. Sweet, delectable and long lasting, food, they make for fantastic and unique gifts. Alongside local food produce (which also includes Mukawa rice and soba, the local buckwheat) you could also go shopping crazy at the many brilliant clothing stores which sell the latest fashion (and ski gear) at very good prices.
Get out and about
Koyo is the name of autumn leaves in Japan, and koyo can be said to attract just as many visitors to the country as its ubiquitous thermal springs in winter and flowering cherry blossoms in spring do. October is the definite koyo month in Japan and a time when many locals take vacation specifically to travel to the best places to admire the ever changing hues of the foliage.
The O-numa Quasi National Park, on the south-western end of Hokkaido Island, is the place to visit in October if you wish to indulge in the very ancient Japanese past-time of autumn leaves appreciation. Setting out for rewarding bicycle rides around the two main lakes (O-Numa and Ko-numa) is both revitalising and very relaxing. With an extinct volcano as a backdrop, and dotted with picturesque lakes and ponds, the O-numa Park may be Japan's smallest, yet still packs a formidable and very nature-rich punch. The prettiest area is said between the two lakes, and can be easily explored both on foot and bicycle. Sightseeing boat tours are still offered at the beginning of October and gift superlative views of both the park and outlining mountains.
Dining and drinking out
There is another valid reason why you should make the trek to the Trappist Monastery in Hokuto and it has more to do with gastronomic delights rather than any religious fervour. The Trappist monks are renowned through Japan's history for making the best cookies and ice-creams in the whole country. Only at the monastery shop can you reach a kind of double-divine-deliciousness, by purchasing a soft-serve cone of gelato and a box of home-made cookies. Dip one in the other and voila'! Devotion is guaranteed! The Japanese devotion to Trappist made cookies and ice cream has even made international headlines in the past.
Of all the noodle houses you could possibly visit during your stay in Hakodate, Yashiro best be at the very top of your wish list. The ramen noodle specialties here are simply faultless and you could almost order blindfolded and never be disappointed. You'll find this tiny, unassuming noodle haven on Nanaehama Street and although the staff speaks very little English, their helpfulness in trying to assist you with your order is truly outstanding. When in Japan and are a little afraid to order, then fear not: a little point in the direction of a fellow patron's dish, and an affirmative nod, can go a long way. Yashiori is also revered for its steamy dumplings, which can also be bought to take away.