Japan's northernmost region and largest island is the island-prefecture of Hokkaido. Due to its location, Hokkaido experiences a generally colder climate with harsh winter seasons, with below zero temperatures and frozen seas. The island rarely experiences hot and humid rains with occasional rain showers.
This makes Hokkaido a popular tourist destination in Japan almost all year round. The months of June to September have ideal conditions for outdoor activities, and November to April is the height of the ski resort operations in the island.
With its unspoiled nature, Hokkaido has one of the most fascinating landscapes in Japan, with features similar to those found in Northern Europe. Hokkaido covers a significant percentage of Japan's small fertile land area, and the island strives on a controlled agricultural industry with rice and vegetable farms, as well as on strong fishing activities.
As Hokkaido was not quite populated by the Japanese during the earlier centuries, it lacks significant traces of Japanese history in terms of aesthetics. Its towns and cities, which were developed for the most part during the 19th century, are modelled after the Western design as recommended by foreign specialists. Most of its buildings and overall urban development follow modern designs.
Hokkaido is the least developed prefecture in Japan, and its capital, Sapporo, is one of the youngest cities in the country. Like typical cities in Japan, Sapporo has business, commercial, and well-defined residential areas.
Though not as cosmopolitan as other Japanese cities and is more popular for its nature and unspoiled wilderness, the capital is significantly developed just like any other city without the shortage of nightlife, shopping centres, and a variety of residential choices. The capital also has a significant number of expatriates who have found work in the island.
Another prime city in Hokkaido is Hokodate which is at the southernmost portion of the island. As a harbour city, it is known for its fish markets and seafood. The spectacular Mt Hokodate is a main attraction in the city.
Hokodate was the first port opened for foreign trade. Some foreign traders in the 19th century moved to Hokodate and established housing there.
Today, Hokodate displays Western-inspired structures throughout the city and in the district of Motomachi at the foot of Mt Hokodate. It is currently a favourite residential choice among foreigners.