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Something Different: Hokkaido for Kids

Dogsled Racing

photo Racing across the snow on a dogsled (Wakkanai City)

Dogsled racing, which is popular in the American state of Alaska and in Scandinavia, is an ideal sport for the northern island of Hokkaido. One day dogsled racing might even become an official Winter Olympic event.

Though dogsled racing does not have a long history in Japan, races have been held since the 1980s. The races began after world-renowned adventurer Uemura Naomi presented some Eskimo dogs to the city of Obihiro, and the dogs Taro and Jiro, who appeared in the movie Nankyoku Monogatari (South Pole Story), were given to Wakkanai City. (This movie was the original story for the Hollywood film Eight Below.)

photo A dogsled race (Wakkanai City)

Dogsled races like the Japan Cup Dogsled Competition (held in Wakkanai City in February) and the JFSS Cup International Dogsled Race (held in Sapporo City in March) take place throughout Hokkaido. There are also races in which elementary school students can compete. Onlookers cheer on the children as they race across the snow on sleds pulled by dogs.

A ski resort in Rusutsu village offers beginners a chance to try their hand at dog sledding. As well as riding on a sled driven by an instructor, participants can even drive a sled on their own after taking a lesson. This unique experience is available to kids aged four years old and up.