Muroran, Japan

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Hokkaido's main land and sea traffic port for the last century, as well as a center for Japan's steel industry, Muroran is a historical city that today numbers around 100,000 residents. The main harbor—peppered with cement factories, steel mills, oil refineries and shipyards—lends fascinating insight into the nation's industrial heritage and contrasts with the picturesque hills that surround the city. Explore the port area and take advantage of the dolphin- and whale-watching opportunities. The city also serves as a gateway to the mountainous northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts thanks to skiing and snowboarding in winter and hiking and cycling routes during summer, along with its popular hot springs. Hokkaido's capital, Sapporo, is both Japan's fifth-largest city (almost 2 million inhabitants) and one of its newest. It's a cosmopolitan place to visit, with many lively restaurants and bars. Sapporo was also the host of the 1972 Winter Olympics, so there are many excellent ski slopes and facilities (in summer, take a ski lift to the observatory top of the ski jump for thrilling views).
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