Obihiro Travel Guide
While this agricultural city in Hokkaido appears too plain for some to visit, its low-key nature will appeal to others.
With regionally important museums, a cool winter festival, and a distinct style of horse racing that is unique to this part of the world, Obihiro is definitely worth a look.
Come check out our Obihiro travel guide for off-the-beaten path globetrotters as we cover the best things to do in Obihiro, Japan.
Begin your time in this underrated city in Hokkaido by spending an hour or two at the Obihiro Centennial City Museum. Here, you’ll learn about the human and natural history of Tokachi Prefecture via a variety of exhibits.
Highlights include pottery excavated from local archaeological sites, its pottery sculpting classes, as well as its performing arts stage, where local artists perform traditional music and theatre productions.
When making plans, be sure to visit during the work week, as this institution is closed on Saturdays and Sundays for some strange reason.
Next, lovers of the visual arts will want to carve time out of their schedule to tour the Obihiro Museum of Art. Located adjacent to the main city park in Obihiro, its design makes this building a work of art by itself, setting the tone for your visit there.
While this institution has some works of art from the West, the primary focus of this museum is to showcase the best works from artists in Eastern Hokkaido. You’ll see traditional forms and modern works within, making it a relaxing way to feel the cultural pulse of this corner of Japan.
Travelling as a family? Be sure to check out its kid-friendly programs, as they will keep them engaged as you head off to check out the highlights of this hidden gem.
In some circles, Obihiro is best known for being a centre of horse racing. The source of this fame stems from the unique races that are run at Banei Tokachi Horse Race Track. Horse racing fans from all over Japan flock here to take in races that are run by massive draft horses.
In these contests, these beautiful creatures drag a one-ton iron sled as they race each other, adding an element of difficulty to what is already an exciting sport. As if that wasn’t enough, they also have to climb over obstacles, making it a must-see sport while you are on a visit to Obihiro.
If you are visiting Japan during winter, Hokkaido is the place to be, as its northern location, mountains, and massive amounts of snow give visitors the best overall experience of this season. If you plan on visiting the island during the first weekend in February, make plans to attend the Obihiro Ice Festival.
To be clear, this is nothing like the big event in Sapporo – this is a lower-key event, with an emphasis on smaller ice sculptures. While this may not appeal to those seeking big attractions, the smaller crowds at this event make it a great place to hang out if you are looking for an event that is under the radar.
Those who love greenery and the outdoors will want to include the Manabe Garden in their travel plans on a visit to Obihiro. Home to a number of features that are the best or first in Japan, it is a unique and beautiful botanical garden that will interest those into botany.
Given its location in Hokkaido, the presence of a conifer garden shouldn’t be too surprising, but it was the first of its kind in Japan and it is a masterpiece you shouldn’t miss. In addition to Japanese-style gardens, there are a number of western style gardens as well.
During your visit, be sure to keep your eyes open for some really old trees, as some of them exceed 1,000 years old.
A while back, railways in Japan once ran a line to Obihiro. Unfortunately, it didn’t get enough volume to justify keeping it open, leaving Kofuku Station without anyone to arrive or depart from it. However, its name saved it from the wrecking ball, as it translates it to ‘happiness’ in English.
This made it a popular destination among the locals, who have bought tickets over the years, affixing the white and pink boarding passes to the walls. Even if you aren’t into this, its rail cars and other displays will hold your interest during your visit here.
Grab a meal during your visit to Obihiro by walking through an alley known locally as Kita no Yatai. While Japanese specialities can be easily found here, you’ll also find Japanized versions of many western dishes as well.
If you need a breather during your travels in the Obihiro, take a seat on a bench in Midorigaoka Park. If you are looking for a place to exercise, this spot works as well – just be sure to take a break to check out the famous Hokkaido squirrels.