Lonely Planet Writer

Discover what inspired photographers most in Hokkaido in Japan

For years, countries around the world have wondered what exactly it is that tourists really get most inspired by on their travels.

Sunrise at Lake Toya.
Sunrise at Lake Toya. Image by JTB Photo/UIG via Getty Images

A project in Japan, which mapped photo-sharing across Hokkaido, the northernmost of the country’s two main islands, gives a glimpse of what travellers there were most enthusiastic about. The researchers used Flickr to measure the most photographed locations and colour-coded the island from red to green according to how popular places were.

Among the most popular locations were Toya Lake and Shikotsu Lake, two volcanic lakes in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. That national park is also home to another of the most photographed sights, Mount Yotei, an inactive volcano (which is often described as a mini-Mount Fuji). Other places that really seemed to appeal to visitors were the Tokachidake Mountain Range and a rice paddy field near the town of Hokuryu. A cluster of lakes in another of the island’s parks in Akan National Park also scored highly with visitors constantly snapping pictures of Lakes Masyu, Kusssharo, and Akan. Another park – the wetlands in Kushiro – proved very popular too with its complex ecosystem and wide variety of wildlife.

In general, national parks scored most highly, particularly lakes and rivers, followed by areas of farmland. In the cities and urban areas, it was generally parks or places where people could enjoy panoramic views of cities. Hokkaido is much less visited than Japan’s main island of Honshu. It is nonetheless, home to 23 natural parks and attracted 7.2 million tourists in 2014.

The new study not only provided an intriguing glimpse into what visitors liked most, but could also help tourism planning and conservation, according to the researchers from Hokkaido University.