Drive slow and watch out for wildlife!
With the exception of city centers and popular tourist areas, Hokkaido roads are relatively spacious and straight with low traffic. Although this makes driving comfortable, it’s easy to lose focus and find yourself speeding. Driving over the speed limit in unfamiliar areas can lead to accidents, especially when the road conditions change without notice and you are unable to react in time. Wildlife in Eastern Hokkaido is dense, resulting in a high wildlife-to-vehicle collision rate. The chances of deer or foxes jumping in front of your vehicle is unexpectedly high, so be sure to drive at a safe speed at all times.
Be sure to fill up for long drives.
There are four national parks within Eastern Hokkaido, and it can take up to two hours to get from one city to the next by car. Gas stations and convenience stores are quite sparse in some areas, and cellphone reception is poor. Furthermore, you may not encounter anyone for long periods of time. Be sure to fill up regularly before long drives, to avoid being stranded on the side of the road at night in locations you are unfamiliar with.
Beware of dangerous icy roads during the winter.
Although driving is the best way to see Eastern Hokkaido, it can become very dangerous in winter, where clear sunny days can change unexpectedly. Sudden blizzards can come with little to no warning, causing whiteouts with very low visibility. Under these conditions, it is easy to get stuck in the snow with no help. Even seasoned locals are cautious about driving on the slippery black ice during winter. We strongly advise obeying winter traffic rules such as: “check weather updates,” “drive slow,” “keep enough space between you and other cars,” and to simply “not drive in a blizzard.”