Hokkaido is the northernmost, second largest, and least developed of Japan’s four main islands. The winters are harsh with lots of snowfall, below zero temperatures and frozen seas, while in summer it does not get as hot and humid as in the other parts of Japan. With unspoiled nature, Hokkaido attracts many outdoor lovers, including skiers and snowboarders in the colder seasons. Hikers, cyclists, and campers come during summer and fall. It is considered to have some of the best snow powder in the world.
I just returned from a couple weeks in Japan visiting my son, who recently moved to Sapporo, the capital and largest city in Hokkaido. After 5 years living in SW rural Japan, he wanted a change of scenery so moved to northern Japan and one of the snowiest metropolis’s in the world. Sapporo hosted the first ever Olympics in Asia, the 1972 Winter games.
I won’t turn this weblog entry into a travelogue (More photos can be found on my Facebook Page,) but I did have a chance to do some painting. We spent a lot of time doing the normal tourist things, and it was a little rainy and cloudy off and on our entire visit. I normally paint in oils while at home, but as usual, I brought my acrylic travel kit which is much easier to handle on international trips. BTW, in case you missed it, some time ago, Plein Air Magazine published an article about my traveling with acrylic paints, you can see here.
Soon after we arrived, we realized it would be raining in a few days, so we took advantage of the sunshine, rented a car, and drove around the Hokkaido countryside for a couple days. Our first daytrip was south of Sapporo where we enjoyed rural Hokkaido and visited a couple lakes. The lakes in this area are all caldera lakes, that is, they are ancient volcanos.
The first was Lake Shikotsu-ku. We spent some time at the visitors center (we were in a national park), and I did a quick 90 minute study, plus a drone flight. The lake is very reminiscent of Lake Tahoe, except without all the boulders along the shore.
We then went on to Lake Toya, which was just as pretty, but it was getting late in the day, so flew the drone, and then headed home.
The next day, Justin and I headed to the Shakotan coastal area. What a spectacular coastline! It is much like the coastal areas of California, but with little Japanese fishing villages scattered throughout. We drove to the fishing village of Shakotan, had lunch, and then backtracked to a place I had spotted on our drive there to paint.
Shimadomarigyo Harbor is a small fishing harbor along the coast with a view of Candle Rock, an unusual natural monolith. It was a beautiful view, but the winds were around 20mph with gusts up to 40. Even my tubes of paint were being blown away. I moved to a boat shed to get out of the wind, but it was still too much to handle, so I made a quick study to finish the painting later.
The final painting is at the top of this weblog entry. Here are a few shots of the area…
I was disappointed the strong winds prevented me from flying my drone and capturing this amazing place from above, so this area is definitely on my list for the next visit!
There doesn’t seem to be as many temples and shrines in Hokkaido as in other parts of Japan. My assumption is this is because Hokkaido was the last area where the Japanese people populated. Prior to that, the Ainu indigenous people inhabited the area.
However, there was a little Buddhist shrine a few blocks from Justin’s apartment, called Nantoku Shrine, so I spent a few hours painting it.
The shrine in the painting looks a little askew, so will correct that when I have time.
One of the largest parks in Sapporo, Nakajima Park, is within walking distance of Justin’s apartment, and it was still Sakura (cherry blossom time), so I painted there twice.
The next day was still nice, so I went back to the same place and did another painting facing a different way.
Overall it was a wonderful journey and we saw new parts of Japan. I was a little disappointed I wasn’t able to fly my drone more, but when we were at places where it is allowed, the weather didn’t cooperate.
More photos can be found on my Facebook Page, and I’ll be making a short video in the next week or two, so stay tuned.
Up next week is the Carmel Art Festival, so stay double tuned!!