What's the Weather like in Hokkaido in January
Temperature and Rainfall
Winter is in full force in Hokkaido in January, a month which sees temperatures range from lows of -7°C to highs of 0°C, with averages of just -4°C, a big difference to Hokkaido in August! This is, in fact, the coldest month of the year and the perfect time to visit if skiing is on your agenda, as high snowfalls and low average rainfall (of only 80mm) are expected.
Although sunshine hours are among the lowest of the year (only 3 hours in January, the same as Sapporo) the overcast skies don't usually impede on fantastic days on the slopes. The weather does tend to improve as the month progresses, with the least rain and highest temps occurring during the second half of the month, however unexpected drops and freezing snaps are still quite common.
Travel here in January and you can expect the heaviest snowfalls in Central Hokkaido and the Taisetsu Mountain region, whilst Eastern Hokkaido sees the coldest temperatures by far. This is definitely the time of year to pack thermals, woolly hats and thick, insulated gloves...whether you intend to ski or not.
Hokkaido Hotels in January
JR Tower Hotel Nikko Sapporo
Located in Hokkaido's capital, the JR Tower Hotel Nikko Sapporo is an elegant skyscraper hotel and one of the most luxurious choices in town. Its stylish rooms, which occupy the top two floors of the tower, gift sweeping city and mountain views and offer unrivalled comfort and services. The hotel's supreme location (right above the central station) makes this the top choice in Sapporo if you want to be close to all the shopping, dining and drinking scenes. The most famous ski fields are between 20 and 60 minutes' drive away from the JR Tower. The in-house, full-services spa offers a great deal of body treatments to help relieve the aches and pains of a full day on the slopes.
On the other end of the luxury spectrum in Sapporo, is where you'll find Nikoh Refre, a 24hr capsule hotel which can be best described as 'the closest thing to a western dorm hostel'. Reserved for male guests only, Nikoh is considered one of the best budget stays in Sapporo and revered by young backpackers who are transiting through Sapporo for a single day. The comfy pods, hot saunas and spas make it a huge hit with local businessmen as well. If you're looking for a totally unique Japanese experience, then why not spend a night here on your way to the slopes? It will certainly make for a fun travel story.
Skiing in Hokaido
The city which hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics is a snow lover's paradise, with a whole host of activities and ski fields within close proximity to most major cities. This is what makes Sapporo an ideal base if you wish to experience pristine powder during the day and vibrant city life in the evenings. There are no less than 6 resorts in and around Sapporo, all of them offering a myriad of fun and active snowy pursuits such as skiing, snow-tubing, sledding and snowboard riding. Novice and skilled skiers alike will have no problems finding a suitable resort and run. All the equipment you could ever need is readily rented, so you'll need not bother bringing anything along.
Mt Moiwa Ski Resort
The Mt Moiwa Ski Resort is recommended for families and inexperienced skiers. These centrally located slopes, which take only 15 minutes to reach by taxi, are loved by locals for their ease of access and gentleness of slopes. Open for night skiing as well as offering 4 beginner, 4 intermediate and 3 advanced course, Mt Moiwa offers visitors the unrivalled chance of enjoying simply superb city views along with fun and stress-free skiing. Please note that snowboarding is strictly prohibited here.
Fu's Snow Area
Experienced skiers or snowboarders who are travelling with children or less-than-competent skiers may want to visit Fu's Snow Area instead, as it offers a kid's practice area, novice courses as well as an expert course. This ski resort is only 30 minutes by car from Sapporo's city centre and open from 9am until 9pm every day in January.
Bars and Restaurants
One of the finest restaurants in Sapporo is located in the above mentioned JR Tower Hotel. SKY J is a fusion restaurant on the 35th floor which offers a variety of cuisines for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Only the freshest of ingredients are used at SKY J so the menus change on a regular basis depending on produce available. Nevertheless, you can expect a mix of Japanese, Chinese and international specialties served here. This restaurant is one of the most revered in town, so best you book a table way in advance if you wish to enjoy an incredible dinner out in one of the most stunningly appointed restaurants in town.
Sapporo Beer Garden
If you didn't already know, Sapporo is most famous for its homonymous beer and delectable ramen noodle specialties. Options to delight in both are near endless. One of the most famous beer joints in town is the Sapporo Beer Garden, where you can enjoy a leisurely afternoon cooking your own mutton grill and enjoying bottomless mugs of beer. The fresh 'Genghis Khan' lamb buffet is arguably the most popular meal served. Order your favourite cut and cook it at your table equipped with a central non-smoke roaster. Don't worry about the fact that none of the staff speaks English! Picture menus go a long way into making for a fun and delicious meal.
Things to do in Hokkaido in January
Wherever you plan to spend most of your winter vacation, it's worthwhile to squeeze in a couple of days in Sapporo either at the beginning or end of your trip. The city boasts a vibrant nightlife and many attractions, all very worthwhile experiencing.
Mt Moiwa Observatory
Take in breathtaking city views from the Mt Moiwa Observatory, which rises high above the city centre at an altitude of 531 metres. This is the city's premier natural landmark and a place you ought to visit at sunset, so as to take in the most spectacular views possible. The two-tiered cable car ride gives you a chance to soak up the views as you ascend, and an interactive audio system will help you pinpoint the most famous landmarks in the city and the mountain range beyond its borders.
On a crystal clear January day, visit the Moerenuma Park, which offers a delightful reprieve from the hustle of the always busy centre. This extensive, natural haven is an anomaly in Japan, where most cities seem to be a collection of vertiginous skyscrapers. To get the best of this park, hire a bicycle at the main entrance for a few hours and take your time exploring the various hills and attractions. This is a sublime place to discover on a sunny winter day.