What's the Weather like in Hokkaido in May
Spring settles in Hokkaido in May and if you travel here at this time of year you'll be greeted by colourful plains, verdant hills and sparkling lakes, although snow will still be visible as it melts in the hinterland lowlands.
With average temperatures of 12°C and a total of 7 hours of daily sunshine, it makes for delightfully warm days out and about. The wind front is still prevalent this month, and the chill in the air, although pleasant, means you'll still need to pack a warm jacket.
Daytime average highs can reach 16°C in May, although there is a most definite increase in warmth as the month progresses. May can sometimes experience heat waves, so if you do book your vacation for the end of the month, don't be surprised if you experience a summer-like day or two with temps in the mid-20s. Night-time average lows of 7°C are much more likely to occur during the first half of May.
This is the time of year when even a single week can make much difference in the climate, so book your trip as far into the month as possible if you want the highest chances of beautifully warm days. Late May is also the time when the so-called 'cherry front' moves north, so it's not unusual to see wild blossoms in full bloom even on the highest mountains at this time. If you're particularly interested in visiting the splendid gardens of Furano and Biei, please do note that May is just a tad too early in the year to see them in their full glory, so best delay your trip until June to avoid disappointment.
Hokkaido receives, on average, about 74mm of rainfall in May, over a few sporadic days. This is when temps tend to drop considerably, although showers are usually short lived. Sapporo in Japan averages 60mm in May.
Average Sea Temperature
Hokkaido Hotels in May
Onsen Ryokan Yano
Matsumae is a charming town on the southern tip of Hokkaido, right on Cape Shirakami, and the best place to visit in May to see the gingerly blooming cherry blossoms. Your accommodation choices in town are quite limited, as most people tend to visit only on a day trip from Hakodate, nevertheless you will still find lodging at the rustic Onsen Ryokan Yano, arguably the oldest inn in town. This guesthouse offers traditional Japanese-style rooms with en-suite bathrooms, and both breakfast and dinner are included in the room price.
Ryokan Yokohamaso Matsumae
An excellent choice for travelling families is the Ryokan Yokohamaso Matsumae, a delightful family run inn which encourages guests to take on a nightly cooking class. It is here that you can also savour local specialties like sea urchins, tuna and squid. Rooms are spacious, the house is bright and clean and whilst the stay may not be all that luxurious it is very authentic and bound to be a lasting memory for many.
Bars and Restaurants
Matsumae Sakura Fishery
The Matsumae Peninsula may be little-known outside of Japan, but in its home country it is the epitome tuna and squid headquarters. Whilst visiting this region make sure you savour the famed Matsumaezuke, which is a pickle of squid, ginger and other spicy ingredients. If you're up for an early morning excursion, then head to the Matsumae Sakura Fishery and watch in awe as fishing trawlers return to shore with incredible loads of the world-famous Matsumae tuna, a revered sashimi specialty in Japan. This fishery processes hundreds of tunas nearly every day during fishing season and the sheer speed at which the fish is processed and stored in ice is apparently what keeps the flesh firm and tasty.
If you wish to feast like an ancient lord, then head to the Yano Inn near Matsumae Park and savour the authentic wedding meal of the 14th feudal lord. This consists of whale soup, abalone rice and herring roe. If that sounds a little too fishy for your liking then don't panic...Hokkaido is renowned for its tasty ramen noodle dishes (of all sorts) so you're bound to find a myriad of noodle eateries no matter where you choose to go.
Things to do in Hokkaido in May
Matsumae is home to a historic castle and was the northernmost feudal town in Japan. Matsumae Castle is the only Japanese style fortress built on Hokkaido and is one of the island's foremost historical attractions. It served the purpose of defending the shipping trade and oversaw a thriving town of about 30,000 at its peak. Nowadays, Matsumae is home to merely 10,000 people.
The town's castle is built on a hilltop and grants breathtaking and sweeping views of the cape and the entire coastal area. Ransacked and destroyed many times during its tumultuous history, the castle you see today is a total reconstruction undertaken during the 1960s and houses an interesting museum which recounts the story of the fortress though the centuries.
For a dose of flower heaven, head to Mastumae Park next to the castle and delight all your senses in what should now be an absolutely divine cherry blossom display. There are, quite literally, over ten thousand cherry trees here, of over 250 species, and if you're lucky enough to see them all starting to bloom you'll be in for a very special treat. Photographers will have a field day, as both the castle and neighbouring gardens serve as astonishing backgrounds for one other. Pop into the Sakura Museum housed in the park and you can learn all about the fascinating history of the cherry blossom in Japan. Due to the sheer variety of trees here, and its geographic position, Matsumae enjoys one of the longest cherry blossom seasons in Japan. Here, the blooming lasts for over a month at this time of year.
On the other side of the park is where you'll find the town's temple district, yet again a very enticing place to discover. This is Hokkaido's oldest temple district and many of its Buddhist shrines predate the castle.
For a fantastic day of hiking, head to the northern end of the park, past the cherry blossom tunnels and be astounded by the spectacular view to the Tsugaru Strait. From here, continue to the Hachijuhakkasho Circuit, where a 20-minute long hiking trail will guide you about half up the mountain, where you'll pass several statues and monuments along the way.