We went to Hokkaido in 1998 as part of a group tour (sponsored by the Japanese Govt - Thank you JICA! - for ASEAN countries), and then returned in 2012. And then again in 2013.
For our last trip in 2016, we skipped Hokkaido reluctantly, because we brought our kid along - her first overseas trip - and we didn't want to be overly ambitious and visit like 5 or 6 cities... Actually, we covered 4 cities (not counting the brief stopover at Kyoto where we bought an eki-ben on our way to Tokyo/Shinjuku).
The other reason (or real reason) is that Kobe is quite a distance from Hokkaido.
But here are 35 reasons to visit Hokkaido at least once in your life. Or more.
Those are 35 places and things I haven't really done in Hokkaido. So it is on my list.
And even before we saw that list, after our last trip my wife and I missed Hokkaido. We did not regret our trip, but we wanted to re-visit Abashiri.
Strangely, or naturally, the things we love most about Abashiri were not blogged.
Abashiri is a small quiet town. As un-typical of Japanese cities or towns as you might imagine. It had its own railway station (which after considering Omoshiroyama station - no staff, no vending machines even! - is not really remarkable).
When I picked up the rental car in Asahikawa, the staff who spoke English quite well asked where we had been and brightened up when we said we had just driven in Abashiri. Her grandmother lives there, but she found the place quite secluded and dead. She like Asahikawa. I guess because she is young.
My wife and I liked the quiet life of Abashiri.
She, maybe more than me.
What I loved about Abashiri is Victoria Station. Which is not a train station, a bus station, or any kind of station. It is the name of a chain of restaurants in Hokkaido (only, I think. We had passed another Victoria Station in Hokkaido (near Asahikawa if I am not wrong... or maybe Hakodate). It was the place where we had our first dinner in Abashiri.
Abashiri is famous for another thing: riding the ice-breakers and whale watching.
In Winter (or is it spring), tourists book trips on the ice-breakers and whale-watching (whaling?) ships.
We had good memories there. And would like to return. Maybe later this year. Or next.