Hokkaido is Japan’s second largest island after Honshu, accounting for about 20% of the country’s land area, but only 4.5% of its population (5.7 million inhabitants).
The name “Hokkaido” means “Way to the North Sea”, and was given to the island after the Meiji restoration. Before that, it was called Ezo, and was mostly populated by the indigenous Ainu.
Hokkaido is indispensable to the Japanese economy and culture. Most of Japan’s milk and dairy products come from Hokkaido. Japan’s first beer brewery (Sapporo) is also from Hokkaido, and is still one of the country’s most popular.
The seasons play an important role in Hokkaido’s tourism industry. Winter welcomes skiers and the Snow Festival (see Sapporo), Spring and Summer are reputed for their beautiful fields of colorful flowers so particular to Hokkaido, and Autumn for its crimson and gold landscapes.