Hokkaido

Butter-flavored Kit Kats come to Japan as new specialty store opens in Hokkaido

In the year since it opened in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro, we’ve become big fans of the Kit Kat Chocolatory, the specialty store for the chocolate-covered wafers that’re especially popular in Japan. As a matter of fact, somewhere in the course of our multiple visits to procure the latest and greatest Kit Kat flavors, we’ve forgotten what life was like before the shop opened.

But while we’re living in the land of plenty with two different Chocolatory locations in Tokyo (the second is near Tokyo Station), not all of Japan is so fortunate. Until now, only residents of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nagoya could claim their town had its own Kit Kat paradise.

That’s about to change, though, as a new Kit Kat Chocolatory is opening soon in Hokkaido, and bringing a new flavor with it: butter.

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Mr. Sato channels his inner Elsa, books a night at a Hokkaido ice hotel 【Photos】

February: the time when most of us in the northern hemisphere look at the calendar in despair as spring takes its sweet time to arrive. It’s also the perfect month to get away to a warmer locale, soak up some sun and recharge yourself to be able to get through the last (hopefully) weeks of winter.

But instead of packing a swimsuit and sunscreen for that trip to the beach, our beloved reporter Mr. Sato instead decided to fully embrace winter and booked a stay at an ice hotel in Hokkaido for a vacation he’ll never forget or let (it) go.

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Mr. Sato visits the Retro Space Saka Hall, full of syringes, Mediocrity, and bittersweet memories

While visiting the city of Sapporo, our adventurous reporter Mr. Sato stumbled upon this bizarre looking complex called the Retro Space Saka Hall. The whole place looked incredibly sketchy, but that was right up his alley.

Little did he know, however, that this dingy-looking industrial complex nestled in snow would almost move him to tears.

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Say “I love you” with seaweed: Message kombu is the tastiest way to tell her you care

As you may have noticed, Japan has pretty much mastered the art of sprucing up food. We’ve already seen a plethora of tools to create bear-shaped rice or smiley face sausages, but we’re particularly excited about a certain product we just discovered up north in Hokkaido. They’re called “message kombu” and the heartfelt messages made out of seaweed are sure to put a smile on anyone’s face.

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As foreign tourists come streaming in, Hokkaido’s New Chitose Airport nears breaking point

World-class skiing; Japan’s largest national park; even ice hotels. For those who are looking to experience Japan outside of Tokyo or Kyoto, Hokkaido remains a prime destination. Indeed, as the last major island to be settled by the Japanese, Hokkaido arguably stands out from the rest of the nation in everything from topography to daily life.

It seems the secret is out of the bag. Taking advantage of a weak yen, travelers from Southeast Asia are flying en masse to the island of Hokkaido. However, this influx has proved to be a double-edged sword. While the tourist boom is certainly bringing money into local economies, it is also straining transportation resources–perhaps nowhere more than at New Chitose Airport.

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The 2015 Sapporo Snow Festival! 【Pics & Video】

Every February brings another amazing display of artful snow and ice carvings, and RocketNews24 loves to bring you the details for those who aren’t able to make the trip up to Hokkaido. While we weren’t able be there ourselves last year, we are pleased to bring you the firsthand account of the 66th annual Sapporo Snow Festival. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and join us for a photo tour!

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To hike or hibernate for the winter? The woes of a Hokkaido University student

Heavy winds, low visibility and snow drifts the size of houses. What do you do? Go to that lecture at 8:30 or grab as many blankets as you can and binge watch Dragon Ball? Although the answer might be pretty simple for some university students in Japan, the ones in Hokkaido know there is no such thing as a snow day. Freshman students at Hokkaido University are sometimes amazed to encounter the incredibly snowy weather conditions that face them on their way to class. There is not much else they can do but bundle up, snap a few pictures and share them with the Internet.

We’ve collected some of the best pics taken by Hokkaido’s students this winter. Would you go to class in this weather?

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Low crime in Japan means police officers create ridiculous snow sculptures instead

It snows a lot in Hokkaido. Like, a lot. No seriously, they have a hotel made out of ice and snow and just take a look at this poor Lawson convenience store that was devoured by snowfall.

So with all that snow around you can either grumble as you shovel your driveway for the third time that day, or you can make the best of it. One police officer in Hokkaido did just that, creating an amazing snow-sculpture of a Japanese police car right outside the station.

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Cold never bothered you anyway? Then spend a night at this Hokkaido ice hotel!

There’s no shortage of unique hotels in Japan. Aside from the well-known capsule hotels and love hotels, there’s Gundam and Hello Kitty hotels, a toilet hotel, a so-cheap-it’s-scary hotel, and much more.

But the latest hotel that just opened up in Hokkaido is definitely the coolest of them all. It’s a hotel made entirely of snow and ice where you can spend the night in below-freezing temperatures!

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Evacuation orders issued as town in northern Japan is flooded by rising tidewaters

Residents of Nemuro City, the easternmost point on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, have a close relationship with the sea. Fishing is an important industry for the town, which is known for its salmon, saury, and shellfish, and being located on a long, thin peninsula means at any spot in Nemuro, you’re never far from at least two coastlines.

Unfortunately, this also means Nemuro has more angles from which to be flooded, and huge stretches of it are currently underwater due to rapidly rising tides, as dramatic photos from the city show.

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In Hokkaido there’s weed, weed everywhere, but not a drop to smoke

Japan tends to be a very drug-shy country. Most people you talk to will say that they’ve never gone anywhere near substances like marijuana, and according to a Public Library of Science survey, 98 times out of 100 they’re telling you the truth.

And yet you might be surprised to hear that there is an abundance of cannabis growing wild all over the northern island of Hokkaido. But before you go booking a ticket, you may want to learn why.

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Sapporo police speechless after discovering one man’s creative use for a bomb: a door stopper

In this age of mass consumption where wasteful packaging is overused and people pour perfectly clean water over themselves for attention on the Internet, one of the best ways to counteract our increasingly wasteful society is to simply reuse items that would otherwise be headed for the dump.

But one wannabe environmentalist in Sapporo may have taken his pledge to save the earth a little bit too far when he “recycled” an old Japanese Imperial Army bomb into a rustic, and extremely dangerous, door stopper.

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Maruyama Zoo tries to mate two spotted hyenas for four years, recently learns both are males

Maruyama Zoo in Sapporo, Hokkaido was the scene of awkwardness on 26 September when it was learned that two spotted hyenas slated for making babies were actually both males. At first this might seem like a major oversight of really basic biology, but in the unique case of the spotted hyena it’s actually fairly understandable.

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Great hotel in Hokkaido has hot spring, all you-can-eat seafood for under 10,000 yen a person

With beautiful natural scenery, delicious food, and an unhurried atmosphere, Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido is one of the country’s most popular vacation spots. There’s one big drawback, though, which is that airfare to and from Hokkaido can eat up a big part of your travel budget, leaving you less cash to spend on a hotel with nice amenities or local delicacies like fresh salmon roe and scallops.

Recently, though, we found a hotel in Hokkaido that offers it all, with soft beds, all-you-can-eat seafood, an all-night hot spring, and even a price that makes it a very affordable luxury.

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Lose hair, save big! Hokkaido hotel offers discounts for bald guests

In a society that celebrates long and luscious hair, those who lose their locks prematurely are at a bit of a disadvantage. A person’s lack of hair can be caused by any of number of things: stress at work, illness, shaving it off for charity, or simply plain old genetics. But with so many products out there that promote flowing locks and even more for hiding hair loss, it’s easy to feel like a loser when you don’t have hair in Japanese society.

Well it’s time to start turning “less hair up there” into “more money in your wallet”! Hot on the heels of the Tokyo bar that gives generous discounts to bald patrons comes a hotel in Kamikawa, Hokkaido which is set to offer reduced rates to the follicly challenged! And it’s not just pure generosity behind these savings, either!

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Visit Elsa’s Frozen world at the Snow Crystal Museum in Hokkaido

Frozen has taken Japan and the world by storm, smashing through sales records and bringing a flurry of promotional items. One of the most iconic scenes in the film is Elsa singing Let it Go while giving rise to a beautiful ice castle. It’s too bad we can’t visit her frigid fortress in real life, but we can go to the next best thing: Hokkaido’s Snow Crystal Museum.

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Japanese photographer captures tiny whimsical water worlds in macro【Photos】

Photographer Miki Asai lives in Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands. It’s an area known for its expansive natural beauty, and although Asai does sometimes turn her lens to the broad vistas Hokkaido has to offer, some of her most engaging work focuses on much, much smaller subjects like beads of water, bits of dandelion fluff and even the humble ant.

Says Asai, “Through a macro lens, I am trying to show the beautiful world of the small. I am always surprised when I look through the camera’s viewfinder to see things normally unseen.”

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So that’s what they mean! SWAT hand signals as explained by a working Japanese mother

If we had a 100 yen for every action movie that showed scenes of SWAT teams sneaking around waving hand signals at each other, we’d probably have, um, a lot of yen. At least enough to buy a Happy Meal or something. But have you ever looked closely at those hand signals? For most of us, they could be making it up on the spot and we’d probably never know! Fortunately, this is the Internet and everything you could ever want to learn about anything is probably available online.

And that includes hand signals! For a few years now, charts explaining the hand signals that sneaky tactical groups use to communicate silently have floated around on the web, though their explanations have always been a bit…straightforward. “Stop.” “Look over there.” “Holy crap, they’re shooting at us!” All pretty standard fare, we suppose. But standard fare is never good enough for the Internet, and thus “Hand signals commonly used by mothers with babies” was born!

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Hokkaido police on look out for creepy one-man game show

Who wouldn’t want to be a game show host? It’s a relatively easy gig, making money while making other people happy with fabulous cash and prizes. But with only a few shows to go around it can be a highly coveted job.

Perhaps that’s why some people decide to start their own game on the streets. However, without all the slick production value of a major studio backer you’re bound to look like some kind of wack-job. Sure enough, that’s what happened to one young man who’s now gotten the attention of Hokkaido law enforcement.

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Girl who lost father in last year’s deadly Hokkaido blizzard pens heart-wrenching thank-you letter

While Tokyo’s recent blizzard showed us the lighter side of natural disasters with amusing snow sculptures and insane images of overly panicked urbanites, these kind of storms have the potential to be very deadly and serious if you are caught outside. Last March, a violent storm hit the northeast part of Hokkaido and took the lives of nine people.

One of the most tragic stories to come out of this storm was a young girl who lost her father after he used his own body to protect her from the freezing temperatures and strong winds. On the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, the girl asked one of Japan’s biggest newspapers, the Yomiuri Shimbun, to publish a heart-breaking letter thanking the country for the huge outpouring of support over the past year.

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