The town of Obihiro sits on the island of Hokkaido and would have been one of the most important cities in the Tokachi Plain region of the island in the days of old. Now however the town has a far mellower feeling to it, and is also has the claim to fame of being one of the cleanest and most efficient parts of Japan, having won numerous awards.
One of the main reasons why people visit Obihiro is to use it as a base as it is located close to some of the most famous scenic attractions in Japan such as the Daisetsuzan Mountains and Lake Toya.
As this is part of the island of Hokkaido you will also find some ski resorts here that let you take in the best of the winter snows for which this region is famous, and in the summer months you will also find a huge range to do here such as cycling around town and hiking or rafting.
Here at the 15 best things to do in Obihiro…
1. Visit Kofuku Station
Kofuku Station is said to be one of the prettiest stations in all of Japan which is high praise indeed.
This station is famous as a film shoot location and it actually means ‘Happiness Station’ in English.
As a result, people now flock here and it is especially popular with amorous couples who want to take some romantic pictures and take in the pretty architecture at the same time.
2. Watch a Banei Horse Race
Horses are big business in Obihiro and they would once have been used as the principle form of transport in the region as well as on farms.
If you go out into the surrounding areas of Obihiro then you will still find a number of farms here that breed horses and you can usually also sign up for a scenic horse riding tour here.
One of the best known horse related attractions in Obihiro however is the horse racing track and in the winter months you can come here and check out horse races.
The horses are usually attached to sleds which they pull behind them with jockeys that sit in them and guide the horses around the course.
If you get the chance this is one of the most interesting cultural attractions in the area as this is one of the last horse racing tracks of its kind in Hokkaido.
3. Tour Obihiro Horse Museum
If you visit the Banei Race Course then you can also check out the Obihiro Horse Museum at the same time.
This will take you through the history of horse racing in this part of Hokkaido and will also explain why horses were so important in the islands history.
One of the most interesting sections is related to the Banba horses which would have been bred especially to work on the land and pull sleds, but one thing to note is that much of the signage is in Japanese only so aside from checking out the pictures and dioramas it can be a little difficult to understand the full story here if you don’t speak the language.
4. Try a pork bowl
One of the most famous delicacies in Obihiro is its pork bowls and one of the places in town that lays claim to being the founder of this dish is Panchou.
The dish basically consists of rice which is served with slices of grilled pig and then doused in sauce.
You can get different cuts of pork depending on where you dine and your own personal preferences but some popular cuts include pork loin and pork ribs.
5. Explore Obihiro Zoo
One of the main attractions in Obihiro is Obihiro Zoo.
There are a huge number of different animals and species here and you can also expect to find some species that are only found in the northern part of Japan such as cute snow monkeys.
As well as northern creatures there are other animals from all over the world such as elephants and giraffes.
The zoo is also close to Midorigaoka Park so you can visit both at the same time.
6. Visit the parks
There are a number of pretty parks in Obihiro which are well worth checking out when you are in town.
These include the Midorigaoka Park which is known for its green lawns and there is also a scenic memorial hall located here.
If you are looking for a change of pace then you can also explore the Shichiku Garden which is known for being modeled on a traditional English garden and you can also see local wildlife like squirrels roaming around here freely.
7. Travel to Lake Shikaribetsu
Lake Shikaribetsu is part of the wider and well known Daisetsu-zan National Park.
It makes a good day trip from Obihiro if you are looking to explore the wider region and you can get out on the water in a canoe and take in the scenery from a completely different vantage point.
If you want to do something truly magical then you can also go for a hot air balloon ride here and soar above the lake and take in the panoramic vistas across the park at the same time.
8. Tour the Centennial Museum
If you visit Midorigaoka Park then make sure that you also swing by the Centennial Museum which is located on the grounds.
Here you will find an interesting museum which is dedicated to filling you in on all the archeological importance of this part of Hokkaido.
To that end you will find engaging displays here which showcase ancient relics such as tools, pottery, ceramics and traditional weaponry and this is the ideal spot to come to if you are interested in seeing another side of Obihiro.
9. Try the chocolate
Hokkaido is known for its dairy industry and this also includes delicious local chocolate which is the perfect souvenir of your time in Obihiro.
Some of the most famous varieties that you will find here include the strawberry chocolate which, as the name suggests, consists of local strawberries which have been dipped in white and milk chocolate.
They even sell famous Kit Kats here which are only found in Hokkaido or you can try another local brand which is called Royce Chocolate.
10. Visit the swans at Iwanai Nature Village
Iwanai Nature Village is one of the prettiest spots in Obihiro and you will find a large park here that is covered in snaking rivers including the Tokachi River.
As you would expect, swans migrate here in the winter months and you can see hundreds of these snow white birds paddling and swimming along the water ways.
You can even feed the swans when they are in the park and this makes a great place to come for a walk to slow down and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere here.
11. Soak in an onsen
Obihiro, like the rest of Japan is known for its traditional onsen or hot springs.
Here you will find a range of famous onsen such as the Midorigaoka Onsen and the Shirakaba Onsen and there are even hotels which feature their own onsen so that you can go for a soak as part of your stay.
As such you will never be too far away from a hot springs in the city and this is the ideal way to wind down when you have been sightseeing all day.
12. Go out to the Daisetsuzan Mountains
The Daisetsuzan Mountains are located close to Obihiro so you are looking for something to do outside of town then these make the ideal choice.
As well as being stunning to look at, you can also enjoy a range of activities here such as go mountain climbing or trekking.
If you want to do something even more magical then you can even go horse riding along the mountain paths or go rafting along the rivers that cut through the gorges.
13. Do some winter sports
As Hokkaido is located in the north of Japan it is known for its winter sports.
On this count Obihiro is no exception and there are a number of ski resorts on the outskirts of town that you can enjoy.
Many of these are located in the neighboring mountains around the city and when the winter season starts you can go skiing here as well as snowboarding.
If you want to do something more mellow then you can have a go at snowshoeing or you can get out on one of the many lake here and try ice skating.
14. Go for a walk
Obihiro is a great place to go for a walk as it is one of the smaller cities in Hokkaido and you can also rent a bicycle from several spots around town and zoom around the pathways here.
As you walk around you will find delightful attractions such as small markets filled with fresh local produce.
There is also a location in town which is known as Tokachimura and this is a kind of flea market where you can also pick up some wonderful souvenirs of a trip to this part of Hokkaido.
If you want to take the weight off your feet at the end of a long day of shopping then head to Kita no Yatai which is known for its traditional Japanese bars which are known as izakayas.
15. Tour the museums
Obihiro is known for having an amazing museum scene even if many of these are not the biggest museums in Hokkaido.
Some of these that you need to head to include the museum that was built in honor of Naomi Uemura who was a famous mountaineer as well as a museum dedicated to agricultural machinery.
If you head to the main tourist office or the city hall then you will be able to get some information about all the varied and engaging museums in Obihiro.