Odori Park SAPPORO is the capital of Hokkaido and the island's cultural, economic and political center. Home to 1.75 million people, it is famous for its winter festival ice sculptures and has a pleasant, friendly atmosphere. Sapporo was selected in a 2006 poll as Japan’s most attractive city. It was the site of the 1972 Winter Olympics and bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics but didn’t make the second round. Closer to Vladivostok than Tokyo, Sapporo still retains a bit of frontier spirit.
Sapporo still hosts international winter sports events and has first rate sports facilities. Sapporo is located in a snow belt and has a "subarctic" climate. But, despite having over four meters of snow some years, winter temperatures are moderate, seldom dropping below -7°C (20°) at night and staying just below freezing during the day. Spring is short but pleasant and summer is very nice with the temperatures in the 70s — 15 to 20 degrees cooler than in Tokyo or Osaka — but in recent years it has been getting hotter.
Tourist Information Sapporo has several tourist offices: in the International Information Center (Tel: 011-213-5062) in the JR Sapporo Station and at the Sapporo International Communications Plaza (TeL 011-211-3678) in the MN building opposite the clocktowers. There are also tourist offices at the airport and the Odori subway station. At these places you can get information for all of Hokkaido as well as Sapporo. Websites:Sapporo Tourist Association Sapporo Tourist Association City of Sapporo City Of Sapporo Maps: sapporo.travel On the World Maps ontheworldmap.com ; Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels ( Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books
Transportation in Sapporo and Getting There
Public transportation includes streetcars, three subway lines, and bus service. The subway system is fairly extensive. The 8.5-kilometer street car system carries 24,000 passengers a day. Sapporo Metro Map: Urban Rail urbanrail.net ; Sapporo Tram Map: Urban Rail urbanrail.net;
Sapporo is laid out in a grid and is one of few Japanese cities where it is easy to get around and find where you are going. Many places even have street addresses. According to ASIRT: Traffic is more congested and road crashes more common in the winter, especially during early winter. Be alert for construction sites. Roads are being widened, and links with trunks roads are being built. Sidewalks designed to enhance pedestrian safety are being constructed. Lighting is being upgraded. On-street parking is scarce. Snow removal has been greatly improved. Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT)
Sapporo Train Station North Entrance Plaza is a traffic hub, providing ready access to local public transportation systems. There is a large underground parking lot as well as parking for 700 bicycles. Sapporo Station South Entrance Plaza has underground shopping malls and an underground pedestrian concourse linking it with the Sapporo Station North Entrance Plaza. Additional key train stations are Kotoni JR Station Plaza, Soen JR Station Plaza and Shiroishi JR Station Plaza.
festival ice statues Getting There: Sapporo is accessible by air and by bus and by train from Honshu via the Seikan Tunnel. The main shinakensen line in northern Japan runs between Tokyo, Sendai, Morioka, Aomori and Hakodate in Hokkaido. It doesn’t make it all the way to Sapporo. The 150-kilometer section through the 50-kilometer-long Seikan Tunnel to Hakodate opened in 2016 under the name Hokkaido Shinkansen. The section to Sapporo is not expected to ne ready until 2030. In the meantime you will have to take a regular train from Hakodate to Sapporo. Regular trains from Honshu include the 16-hour sleeper service from Tokyo and the 21-hour sleeper service from Osaka. These may have been discontinued or are offered only as a special service.
There are number of flights to Hokkaido from Tokyo, Osaka and other cities in Japan. New Chitose International Airport is is about 50 kilometers southeast of Sapporo. It can be reached by train. Plane tickets to Sapporo are cheaper than they used to be as no frills airlines Skymark (from Fukuoka, Tokyo, Nagasaki, others), Peach (Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, others) and Air Do (from Tokyo, Kobe, Nagoya, others) have begun flying there. Major Airlines that fly to Hokkaido include: Japan Airlines (JAL), ANA (All Nippon Airways), Thai Airways, China Airlines, Singapore Airlines, China Eastern, Cathay Pacific, Air China, Tianjin Airlines, British Airways, Korean Air, EVA Air, Asiana Airlines. Cheap flights and package deals are sometimes advertised in the English-speaking newspapers or Japanese tourism websites like JTB.Lonely Planet
Entertainment and Shopping in Sapporo
Try to get a hold of pamphlets at the tourist office with a list of events such as Traveler's Sapporo, Monthly Hokkaido and What's On in Sapporo. The Tanukikoji and Susukino entertainment and shopping areas, boast 300 boutiques, stores and cinemas and some 350 restaurants, bars and nightspots. The city is famous for delicious Hokkaido crab and other seafood delicacies. It has a municipal symphony orchestra. Check out Time Out timeout.com and the Norbesa page sapporo.travel
Odori-Koen Promenade, the centerpiece of the city, is a mile-long promenade decorated most of the year with flowers. Underneath it is an underground shopping mall with 150 restaurants, souvenir shops, bars and coffee shops. Ramen Row is the best place to sample Sapporo's famous noodles. Sapporo has the forth largest fish market in Japan but visitors are generally not welcome. There are some sushi and seafood restaurants around it.
Space 1-15 was formerly a residential building called “Château de rêves” (Castle of dreams) in which a soap dealer decided to open shop in one of the rooms. Since that simple beginning, the vintage structure is now a complex of intimate stores that hosts numerous destinations for art and design lovers alike. Its offerings range from handmade ceramics to cheese, artist books to used records, organic clothes, and even photography classes. Open only on weekend afternoons, Space 1-15 also organizes seasonal events such as morning markets and summer festivals. Location: 15-1-319 Minamiichijo-nishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi,
Shiroi Koibito Park in Sapporo shows visitors the manufacturing lines of Shiroi Koibito, a brand of cookies that are popular souvenirs from Hokkaido. Visitors can make their own heart-shaped Shiroi Koibito cookies at a workshop. The factory also houses a European-style garden and cafe. Visitors can personalize the familiar design of the Shiroi Koibito tin by adding their own pictures.
Sights in Sapporo
Sapporo Dome Sapporo doesn't have much in the way of sights. It main attractions are its atmosphere, nightlife and restaurants. It has a zoo and a modern art museum. The Clock Tower adjacent to City Hall is the symbol of the city. Built in 1878, it houses a museum of local history. Good views of the city are offered from 90-meter-high viewing platform on the Sapporo TV Tower for ¥700. Similar views can be had for free on the 19th floor of the nearby City Office building.
Sapporo Dome is spectacular stadium that hosted several World Cup matches in 2002, including the much anticipated one between England and Argentina. Designed to look like giant computer mouse, it has a shiny, silvery exterior and embraces a 229-x-218-meter silver dome (the largest roof in Japan) with an artificial surface for baseball, and an outdoor field with a 8,300-ton, natural turf “floating soccer stage” that can be placed inside the dome. The process of switch the dome from baseball to soccer takes about five hours as the grass field is “floated” inside the dome on a hovering cushion of air.
Hokkaido University was founded in 1872 and modeled after a university in Massachusetts. It runs a Botanical Gardens covering 14 hectares and containing 5,000 species of local and imported plants. On the garden ground is the Ainu Museum. Also run by the university, it houses over 20,000 items, including traditional costumes, canoes, harpoons and utensils used by the Ainu and Gilyak.
Museums in Sapporo include the Museum of Modern Art, the Migishi Kotaro Museum of Modern Art and the Sapporo Salmon Museum. Also worth checking out are the facilities from the 1972 Olympics and 1,700-foot-high Mt. Moiwa, a popular picnic and skiing area. Outside of town, Jozankei Spa is a poplar hot spring resort set among spectacular forests, gorges and ravines.
Moerenuma Park (accessible by No. 69 or 79 bus from Kanjo Dori Higashi Station, 30 minutes north of Sapporo) is a park designed by the sculptor Isamu Noguchi. The centerpiece is 6-meter-high, manmade, grass-covered hill called “Mt Moere” . To reach it one must climb a long series of gradual white stone stairs. The park also features glass pyramids, mounds, cones and standing stones and a ziggurat called “Play Mountain”. “Tetra Mound” is a tripod made of tunnel-size stainless steel tubes and set on an earthen dome. “Sea Fountain” is a large fountain lit up at night. The whole park is designed to come together like a single sculpture.
Situated just outside Sapporo City, this public park infuses the surrounding nature with brightly colored playground equipment and sculptural art by Isamu Noguchi. The park project was initiated in 1988 to realize Noguchi’s lifelong dream of creating a park for children. .Situated within a loop of an oxbow lake in an old landfill, the park covers 188.8 hectares, has a circumference of 4.4 kilometers and embraces hills made from 3.7 million tons of rubbish covered by dirt.
The project evolved from proposals for works of art in New York’s Central Park that were rejected. The park opened in July 2005 and follows a plan unveiled on Noguchi’s 84th birthday, a month after he died. Moerenuma Park is a treat to visit all year round. Noguchi liked to incorporate playful and childlike qualities in his works. No doubt he would be delighted to see children sledding on the hills in the winter and enjoying the futuristic playground in the summer. Location: 1-1 Moerenuma-koen, Higashi-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido 007-0011, Tel: +81-11-790-1231
Sapporo Snow Festival
Sapporo Snow Festival The Sapporo Snow in early February is a festival in Sapporo famous for its ice sculptures. Truckloads of snow are brought in for the festival. Then with the help of wooden frames the snow is shaped into blocks of ice and finally sculpted into shapes of demons, famous landmarks or whatever captures the sculptures fancy. The sculptures are best viewed at night when they are all lit up with colored lights.
Typically more than 300 snow and ice sculptures are created by volunteers and over 2 million visitors check them out. There are sculptures of well known international landmarks, famous paintings and sculptures, popular animation characters and people who dear to the hearts of Japanese such as baseball player Hideki Matsui. The 57th Sapporo Snow Festival in 2006 featured 338 snow and ice statutes, a 100-meter slide and 1,000-square-meter maze at three sites. Sometimes there are rows and rows of snowmen
A total of 30,000 tons of snow is needed to build about 200 ice sculptures for one of Japan’s largest winter events, which starts in early February and unfolds at three locations: Odori Park, Tsudome and Susukino. Evenings also feature spectacular musical projection mapping programs at various spots in Odori Park. At the end of the park, meanwhile, check out sculptors from a range of countries battling it out in an international competition. With the theme changing each year, this event is well worth visiting multiple times. Address: Kita 1 Nishi 2, Chuo-ku, Sapporo Website: snowfes.com/english Sapporo Snow Festival Executive Committee
Sapporo Beer Tours. Museum and Beer Garden
The Sapporo Museum is housed in Japan's oldest brewery building (founded in 1876). The tours are free and given throughout the year but you don’t get free samples. . The beer hall has all-you-can-eat-and-drink deals that start at around ¥3,500.
Sapporo Beer Museum (near Higashi-Kuyakusho-Mae Station on the Toho Subway Line) offers an open tour that allows you to time to check out the facility at your own pace. The facility has a range of historic items dating throughout the history of Sapporo Beer and grouped by era. The tour takes 15-20 minutes and you not allowed to linger for more than 30 minutes, Afterwards you can head to the Star Hall for paid tastings. Premium Tours (paid guided tour) are also offered
In the Star Hall (Paid Tasting Corner) you can sample fresh-brewed beer shipped direct from the Sapporo Breweries Hokkaido Brewery and the Sapporo Kaitakushi Brewery. Try various brews like the Hokkaido exclusive Sapporo Classic, the Sapporo Draft Kuro Label, which has been beloved for 40 years, and the Kaitakushi Beer, which continues to be produced by the Kaitakushi Brewery in Sapporo in the same place it was originally founded. Prices: Sapporo Draft Beer Kuro Label: 300 Yen; Hokkaido exclusive: Sapporo Classic: 300 Yen; Kaitakushi Beer: 350 Yen; Three drink tasting set: 800 Yen; Non-alcoholic beer: 200 Yen Soft drinks: 100 Yen
Restaurants and other facilities: 1) Genghis Khan Hall has delicious food and Hokkaido specialties in a unique and stylish hall for your enjoyment. 2) The Garden Grill has tables equipped with smokeless induction heat roasters. Here can enjoy fresh lamb and crab prepared at you table as well as dishes featuring cheese, potatoes, seasonal seafood, and other fresh Hokkaido ingredients. 3) Lilac is a hall looks with a red brick facade. The main course at Lilac is the Genghis Khan dish featuring a secret sauce. We also have a rich selection of items on our a la carte menu.4) At the Museum Shop you will find a wide variety of exclusive Sapporo Beer merchandise and snacks. You can also purchase Hokkaido Brewery direct beers, Kaitakushi Beer, and other delicacies.
Location: 9-2-10 Kitananajo-Higashi, Higashi-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido, 065-0007; Bookings and Inquiries: Tel: 0120-150-550 Fax: 011-742-0521 Telephone support is offered in Japanese only. Tour Hours: 11:00am-6:00pm. Closed Mondays (or on Tuesday if Monday is a holiday), year-end/New Year, irregular closings. Booking in advance is not required but entry may be restricted if there is a large number of visitors. The shops and restaurants are open to all year. Getting There: By Train.: A) 10 minute walk from Higashi-Kuyakusho-Mae Station on the Toho Subway Line. B) Disembark from the JR Hakodate Main Line at Naebo Station; 8 minute walk from North Exit.
By Bus: Sapporo Station North Exit (Platform 2) Board the Naebo Kitaguchi Line [Higashi 63] (link to outside site) at Sapporo Station North Exit and get off at Kita 8-jo 8-chome (approx. 2 departures per hour) or (direct route) board the Sapporo Beer Garden/Ario Line and get off at Sapporo Beer Garden (approx. 2-3 departures per hour); Website: sapporobeer.jp/english/brewery
Nikka Whisky Distillery, Tour and Museum
Clock Tower Nikka’s Yoichi Whisky Distiller (an hour by train from central Sapporo), operated by one Japan’s foremost whisky producers, offers tours where you can see firsthand how whisky is made, and has a museum where you learn about the origins of Nikka and whisky production in Japan. You can also see the residence once occupied by Masataka Taketsuru, the father of whisky in Japan. Naturally, after such an exhausting undertaking you need to realx and sample a wee dram or three of Nikka’s smooth products. Both guided tours and self-guided tours are available. The tour is free. There is one type of whisky available for tastings. You can taste one serving. There are paid tastings ad the “whisky club" in the Whisky Museum offers a wide range of whiskies. There is also a souvenir shop and restaurant.
Masataka Taketsuru, the first Japanese who mastered whisky making in Scotland, valued the climate and natural features of the north. Yoichi, the place chosen by Masataka was close to the sea, surrounded by mountains on three sides and in many ways similar to Highland in Scotland. A cold climate with an appropriate humidity, crisp clean air and fresh water - everything necessary for his ideal whisky was available. The proximity to the sea is one of the distinctive features of Yoichi. The sea breeze gives a briny hint to the whisky during the maturation.
Masataka set a pot still using direct coal-fire when he built the Yoichi Distillery. This still was similar to pot stills at Longmorn Distillery where Masataka had the first practical training in Scotland. This traditional coal-fired distillation is hardly seen today as it is difficult to control temperature and requires highly skilled craftsmen. However, the distillation process at Yoichi has remained very traditional to this day. The characteristics of Yoichi Single Malt such as boldness and toasty burnt flavors are unique features of this distillation.
Location: Kurokawacho 7-6, Yoichicho,Yoichi-gun, Hokkaido 046-0003 Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm; Closed over the New Year’s holiday and during distillery shutdowns., some of which are not scheduled in advance. Getting There: By Train: about 3 minutes walk from Yoichi Station (JR Hakodate Main Line). Please note that the number of trains from Otaru to Yoichi is limited. Please check the timetable in advance. By Bus: The Bus Terminal in front of The Otaru station: buses bound for Kutchan or or Iwanai or Mikuni or Yobetsu or Yoichi Umekawa garage will take you to Yoichi Station (35 minutes). Website: nikka.com
Hokkaido Asahi Brewery
Otaru canal Asahi Beer Factory offers free tours with free beer that last around 90 minutes. The Asahi Brewery Company is one of Japan's four leading beer breweries. The brewery tours pass through a gallery with displays regarding the history of beer and Asahi and winds its way around parts of the factory, offering views from above through observation windows of various parts of the manufacturing process. As you watch, thousands of cans and bottles of beer go shooting through factory machines at incredibly high speeds!
Beer Production involves boiling down barley to make mash and removing the chaff so the wort can be squeezed out. The bitterness and fragrance of the beer comes from adding hops to the wort and boiling it down again. The entire process takes place in a preparation chamber installed with nine boiling kettles, each 12 meters in diameter. Top quality beer are often made using only the first press of the wort. Fermenting takes place inside huge tanks for a period of one or two months. Visitors can try the first and second press of the wort for comparisons as well as up to three glasses of draft beer drawn straight from the fermenting tanks.
Guides give a tour of the facility, with an easy-to-understand explanation of the manufacturing processes that employ the latest technology based on rigorous quality control. After the tour, visitors are served freshly-brewed draft beer for 20 minutes, and unlimited refills are offered. Soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages are provided for minors and those who drove to the site. Language Support: Written displays are in English, Korean, and Chinese.
Tour: Reservations required. The tour takes about 90 minutes, including the beer tasting at the end of the tour. Location: 1-1 Minami 4 Nango-dori, Shiraishi-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido; Tour Hours 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Closed Year end and New Year’s Day, plus designated holidays; Reservations and inquiries: +81-11-863-3515; Phone hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please reserve by phone to book tours with an English-speaking guide. Website: asahibeer.co.jp/brewery
Kirin Beer Factory Tour and Tasting
Kirin Beer Factories (in Chitose, 50 kilometers south-southeast of Sapporo) offers free a tour that last around 80 minutes. The Kirin Brewery Company is one of Japan's four leading beer breweries. It was founded in Yokohama, a city that played a major role in Japan's adopting beer from the West and spreading it the rest of Japan. [Source: yokohamajapan.com]
The brewery tours pass through a gallery with displays regarding the history of beer and Kirin and winds its way around parts of the factory, offering views from above through observation windows of various parts of the manufacturing process. As you watch, thousands of cans and bottles of beer go shooting through factory machines at incredibly high speeds! According to the guide, 2000 cans of beer are filled and packed each and every minute. Near the end of the tour, a series of panels of Kirin’s history are on display. Tours are usually conducted in Japanese, but an English guide may also be available.
As the tour nears completion you arrive at the “tasting bar”. Here, you receive tickets that you exchange for three glasses of fresh beer—your choice. The selections on tap are “Ichiban-shibori”, “Lager”, and “Stout” (black beer). Location: 949-1 kamiosatsu, Chitose, Hokkaido; Tour Hours: 9:30am, 11:30am, 1:00pm, 3:30pm. Starts every hour at 10 minutes and 30 minutes past the hour. Closed Mondays, however, it will be open if Monday is a public holiday , year-end/New Year’s holidays, equipment inspection days, etc. If Monday is a public holiday, the facility will be closed on the following weekday. Getting There: 10 minutes from Osatsu Station on the JR Chitose Line.
Asahiyama Zoo Within easy driving of Sapporo the city are breathtaking volcanic lakes and gorges, white water rivers, mountains covered with cedar, pine, birch, and aspen, and spectacular views of both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan. Jozankei (27 kilometers southwest of Sapporo) is a hot-spring resort, lies on the banks of a swiftly flowing stream in a beautiful valley. There are many large resort hotels, some with Western-style accommodations. Noboribetsu Hot Springs (130 kilometers southeast of Sapporo) is a valley filled with sulfur pools known as the Valley of Hell. The Yubari coal mine is an industrial tourism destination and Yubari town, famous for its expensive melons, has an interesting story.
Otaru (northwest of Sapporo, 30 minutes by fast train from Sapporo) is a ferry port with 160,000 people and services to Honshu and Russia's Sakhalin Island (late April to early September only). The city’s attractions include some Japanese- and Western-style building and pleasant walks on Otaru Canal. Lots of Russians come to the town Websites: JNTO JNTO Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Map: Map: Otaru Style otarustyle.blogspot.com Otaru City PDF maps Otaru City Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Otaru is accessible by fast train from Sapporo (30 minutes) and Local train from Sapporo (50 minutes). Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Asahikawa (about 80 miles kilometers of Sapporo) is an unappealing city with 360,000 residents. It attractions include a folkcraft museum and Ainu museum that sometimes host dance performances. The world's largest snow palace was built in Asahiawa, Hokkaido in February 1994. It was over 99 feet high and had a volume of 3,658,310 cubic feet. The Asahiyama Zoo is one of the most popular zoos in Japan. It contains over 800 animals in 150 species, including polar bears, orangutans, capybara and panthers, and includes innovations such as room with a two-meter tide used by seals to travel in between tanks. The pens in which the animals are kept are regarded as humane and animal-friendly. Websites:Asahikawa Tourism Asahikawa Tourism Map: Asahikawa City Asahikawa City ; Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Asahikawa is accessible by air, bus and train. It is 1/5 hours from Sapporo by limited express train. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Takinoue Uryunuma-Shitsugen Moor (70 kilometers north of Sapporo) is the second largest elevated moor in Japan. Located at an elevation of 850 meters above sea level, the moor measures two kilometers east to west and one kilometer north to south. If other nearby marshes are included the whole area covers 100 hectares. More than 700 pools and ponds are scattered around the area and 150 varieties of flower bloom between mid-June and October and hikers can take in the scenery walking on a four-kilometer-long boardwalk that straddles the moor. This trail is reached by a four kilometer trial on a river. On this trail is an observation deck which offers beautiful views of the entire moor.
Hokkaido Factory Cruise (an hour and three-quarters from Sapporo, or two and a half hours from Hakodate by train) is a boat tours of the industrial parts of Muroran City in Hokkaido run by Muroran Night Cruising. . Cruises leave every day all year round at 5:30pm in winter and 7:00pm in summer. The entire tour takes place within the harbour, in a small boat that takes up to twelve passengers, but the views are superb.According to unmissablejapan: The tour costs ¥3,000, and advance booking is essential. You can book or make enquiries using the online form here, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone on 090-1644-6793. Muroran Night Cruising is about five minutes drive (4 kilometers) from Muroran Station (a taxi is recommended). By train from both Sapporo and Hakodate you have to change trains at Higashi-Muroran for the short ride to Muroran Station, or take a taxi directly from Higashi-Muroran, which is 11 kilometers from the cruise’s departure point. [Source: unmissablejapan]
Image Sources: 1) map Japan Guest Houses 2) Wikipedia 3) Hakodate Tourism 4) 9) 10) Ray Kinnane 5) 8) Sapporro City tourism 6) 7) Yamasa 11) Asakikawa City Tourism 12) Hokkaido Tourism 13 Lake Toya Onsen tourism 14) Univerity of Tokyo Volcano Research 15) Noboribetsu Tourism
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Ministry of the Environment, UNESCO, Japan Guide website, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2020