Natural Discoveries: A Hokkaido Road Trip
Having been happily ‘stuck’ in Japan for the last 18 months, it’s been a joy to visit some of the more remote locations across the five main islands. One of those islands being Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest, and one famed for its bubbling hot springs, active volcanoes and seafood delicacies.

Hokkaido is vast, sprawling coastlines contrast with mammoth natural landscapes and ancient shinto shrines engulfed by the sea. People have a deep respect for the landscape here, and Japan’s push-pull relationship with nature is ever more evident. Dams appear carved into the hillside, bolstering lakes of epic proportions and Buddha statues stand tall in vast fields of green.

Travelling by car gave us the opportunity to see things differently, moving at our own pace and wandering off the beaten path. This is slow travel, not just as a means of transport, but a mindset.

We began our journey in Sapporo, spiritual home of king crab miso ramen, and over the following days we would venture across the shores of Lake Shikotsu, pay our respects at Tadao Ando’s Hill of Buddha, and be swept off our feet by the gale-force winds of Cape Kamui. Venturing from west to east, we took a short hike to Jigokudani, affectionately known as ‘Hell’s Valley’, and along the way it wasn’t rare to see deer walking by the roadside, also foxes, snakes, sea eagles – and don’t forget to carry a bell in case you encounter a bear.

As the final hours of our trip set in, we had one last destination on our agenda: a three hour drive up the coast to catch the sun fade behind the Shosanbetsu Shrine, followed by one last miso ramen to mark the occasion.

Travelling through Japan by car was always a dream of mine, and I’m fortunate to have made this magical country my home over the last year and a half. Here’s hoping for more local travel and discoveries over the coming year, and who knows what next season will have in store.

Editor's Note:

Ben Richards is a travel photographer based in Tokyo, Japan. You can find more of his work via and on Instagram via @benrich__

Ben Richards
Ben Richards