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Sapporo, Japan

Sapporo (札幌) is the capital and largest city of the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan.

Being a new city, especially by Japanese standards, means it has little in the way of traditional architecture and the like of cities such as Kyoto. But what it lacks in "Japanese-ness" it makes up for with its lovely open, tree-filled boulevards to enjoy in summer and excellent snow (and facilities to cope with said snow) in the long winter.

Climate

Sapporo has four distinct seasons. Temperatures are generally cool and pleasant in the summer, making it a popular place to escape the heat that grips much of the rest of Japan. Winters are harsh by Japanese standards, though not as harsh as the likes of Harbin or Chicago. Snowfall is extremely frequent in the winter, and the city makes full use of it by hosting the world-renowned Sapporo Snow Festival in February every year.

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Sapporo, Japan

Destination:
Sapporo (札幌) is the capital and largest city of the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan.

Being a new city, especially by Japanese standards, means it has little in the way of traditional architecture and the like of cities such as Kyoto. But what it lacks in "Japanese-ness" it makes up for with its lovely open, tree-filled boulevards to enjoy in summer and excellent snow (and facilities to cope with said snow) in the long winter.

Climate

Sapporo has four distinct seasons. Temperatures are generally cool and pleasant in the summer, making it a popular place to escape the heat that grips much of the rest of Japan. Winters are harsh by Japanese standards, though not as harsh as the likes of Harbin or Chicago. Snowfall is extremely frequent in the winter, and the city makes full use of it by hosting the world-renowned Sapporo Snow Festival in February every year.

Connect

There are quite a few internet cafes in the city, ask at the International Plaza (in Sapporo JR or near the Clock Tower) for current information and directions.
  • i-cafe (アイ・カフェ), North 5 West 5 (Just west of Sapporo Station, south of Kinokuniya Books.), +81 11-221-3440. 24h. A large internet cafe with relax chairs, pair booths, drink bar, manga, food, and shower. 
  • Biz Cafe (2-minute walk from the North exit of Sapporo Station on 2F behind the Hokuyo Bank.). M-F 10 AM-8 PM. Open tables with fast LAN and wireless. Unlimited internet, tea, coffee, and soft drinks. 
  • YahooBB Park (Near Tokyu Hands and the North Streetcar Terminus.). This place has permanently closed, though many guidebooks still list it as open. 
  • Tully's Coffee (6th floor of Stellar Plaza Central, attached to JR Sapporo Station). Free WiFi and a great view.

Source:
Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

Sapporo, Japan: Port Information


Cruise ships dock at the port of Otaru, a port city in Hokkaido.
You can get from the terminal to Otaru station by taxi - it'll take you just 5 minutes. Trip to Sapporo takes only 30 minutes by express train.

Get around Sapporo, Japan


Most unusually for a Japanese city, Sapporo is logically organized thanks to its strict grid system. The main thoroughfare, the leafy Ō-Dōri (大通り, literally "Big Street"), runs east-west across the city and divides the city into North and South, while Sōsei-Gawa (創成川, literally "Creation River") divides the city into West and East, running under the main street Eki-Mae-Dōri (駅前道リ、literally "In Front of the Train Station Road"). The address of every block in the center is thus of the type "North X West Y" (prominently signposted at all intersections), making navigation a snap. However, most businesses etc. will still provide maps to their location, building names or landmarks, because the address "North X West Y" or the like simply means that the place you are trying to find will be somewhere in the block, and blocks in the center of the city can be quite large!

By train
The JR above-ground trains are reasonably priced and a good option for traveling in Sapporo and surroundings. The trains arrive and depart at specific times. You'll most likely want to take a train to and from the airport.

By subway
Sapporo has three subway lines, all converging at Ōdōri Station at the center of the grid. The Namboku Line ("North-South") runs north-south, the Tōzai Line runs along Odori east-west. Only the Tōhō Line breaks the mold by running in a C-shaped curve from northeast to southeast. The simplest option is the With You stored value card. On weekends and public holidays, the Donichika-Kippu (ドニチカキップ) allows unlimited 1-day subway travel. On weekdays, the One-Day Card allows the same. There is also a Bus and Subway Transfer One-Day Card, which allows unlimited 1-day travel on buses, subways, and streetcars. Fares for children are about half those for adults.

By streetcar
A streetcar of relatively little utility to most visitors trundles around the southwestern side of Sapporo, connecting to the subway at Susukino. Its most important stops are probably the Chuo Library (Main Public Library in Sapporo) and the Mt. Moiwa Ropeway. It's most useful in winter when walking the icy footpaths to get to the library or otherwise less-accessible south-western areas of the city becomes quite treacherous. They also sell a "Do-san-ko Pass" on weekends and holidays. Since this is less than the cost of 2 normal trips, it is usually advisable to buy this if you are going to make a round trip on an eligible day.

By car
You could try to drive in the city, but parking might be problematic. Generally speaking, using the subways and buses is recommended. There are countless pay parking lots in Sapporo. One of the largest ones is about 100m south of the Susukino South Toyoko Inn, and it's a short walk from the subway.

What to see in Sapporo, Japan


  • Clock Tower 

    (時計台 Tokeidai) (Close to Ōdōri Station.). This rather diminutive building has become a symbol of Sapporo, mostly by being the oldest building still standing. It was constructed in 1878 for the Sapporo Agricultural College (now the Hokkaido University) and would not look out of place in "Smalltown U.S.A." The inside has a small retrospective of its history. Visitor beware, as this is for some reason a mecca for Japanese tourists coming to Sapporo who feel that no trip to Sapporo would be complete without a photo in front of the Tokeidai, but was actually recently rated as Japan's third "most disappointing" tourist attraction! 
  • Ishiya Chocolate Factory (イシヤチョコレートファクトリー). The chocolate factory has an incredibly corny, but fun, tour building up to a view of the actual chocolate making floor, and ending with a random toy museum. Also, there are two restaurants, a souvenir store, and an hourly robot show complete with annoying music. Famous for its white chocolate, which is sold under the brand "White Lovers" (白い恋人 shiroi koibito), and is only available in Hokkaido. There is also a cake buffet available at the restaurant on the top floor but reservations must be made 3 days in advance. 
  • Ōdōri Park 

    (大通公園, ōdōri-kōen). Sapporo's most famous park, it is in the center of town and is considered to be a symbol of Sapporo. Although quite narrow (one might argue that it is a nice boulevard), the park is quite long, stretching over fifteen blocks across downtown Sapporo. Filled with (during the summer) numerous flowers, trees, and fountains, Ōdōri Park provides a welcome respite from the maddening crowds of the surrounding city. 
  • Sapporo TV Tower 

    (さっぽろテレビ塔) (At the eastern end of Ōdōri.). A tourist trap carbon copy of the Eiffel Tower with an observation deck 90m high. 
  • Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール博物館 Sapporo Biru Hakubutsukan), North 7, East 9 (Next to the Ario Shopping Center. On the Loop 88 Factory bus line from the Ōdōri Subway Station. Close to JR Naebo Station (ask the attendant there for a map).), +81 1-1731-4368. 9 AM-6 PM. Run by the Sapporo Brewing Company, offers free guided tours covering the history of beer in Japan and the process of brewing. The museum is not very big and the printed descriptions on the displays are in Japanese. Despite this, it makes an interesting trip. At the end of the tour, you can taste all the different beers. Finish off the tour with more brews at the Beer Garden next door.
  • Hokkaido Pioneer Village (開拓の村) (JR Bus from Sapporo or Shin-Sapporo station). A large historical village on the outskirts of Sapporo, offers a snapshot of Japan in the newly-industrialized age. The front gate (an old railway station) opens up into a series of opens alleys and buildings of the style pre-20th century. Also a variety of different gardens and shrines. Don't expect costumed performers however — everything is self-guided. An English map is available. 
  • 100th anniversary Memorial Park (百年記念塔, hyakunen kinentō) (Just down the road from Pioneer Village.). This is the site of a giant (and somewhat imposing) tower which can be climbed, providing a good vantage point of Sapporo (though quite some distance from the city center) and surrounding mountains. This site is popular with school groups. Free. 
  • Moiwayama (藻岩山) (Can be reached by cable car, or with a car, the summit (and tourist center) can be reached directly.). This mountain, also called Moiwa Mountain, overlooks the city and is especially worthwhile at night to observe the city lights. An entrance fee is charged for cars.
  • Asahiyama Park (旭山記念公園 Asahiyama Kinen Kōen). A beautiful flower garden and natural park that overlooks the city center. Noted for being a good place for romance, and is particularly good for cherry blossoms in spring and autumn colors, and local wildlife such as squirrels and foxes (somewhat of a feral pest around Sapporo). Free. 
  • Hokkaido Shrine (北海道神宮 Hokkaidō Jingū). Free
  • Jōzankei (定山渓) (On the southern outskirts of Sapporo (but still nominally in the city), a 40-60 minute drive.). This area is famous for both its onsen (due perhaps to proximity to Sapporo) and the very beautiful autumn colors (especially around the Hōheikyō Dam). 
  • JR Tower (JRタワー). The newly redeveloped building near JR Sapporo Station marks the center of the city. It is higher than the TV tower observatory is. Affording panoramic views. As a bonus for men, the observation level has a men's room with a view! 
  • Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art (北海道立近代美術館), North 1 West 17, Chuo (From Nishi 18 Station on the Tozai Line, 5 minutes on foot, located in a small park.), +81 11 644-6881. Tu-Su 10 AM-5 PM. A modern museum filled with collections of contemporary works and especially glass objects, Pascin of École de Paris, as well as temporary exhibits. The main hall is the center of exhibits of works owned by the museum and the special facility is reserved for "expo" of foreign and Japanese arts. Each summer the museum holds a special course for children.  
  • Sapporo Art Park (札幌芸術の森, sapporo geijutsu no mori), 南区芸術の森2丁目75 (West of Highway 453, several kilometers south of central Sapporo.), +81 11 592-5111. Containing over 74 modern and contemporary sculptures, this art park makes for a great day trip. 
  • Moerenuma Park (モエレ沼公園, Moerenuma Kōen). A popular excursion for Japanese families, this park offers several acres of carefully manicured grass and monumental landscape installations. Highlights include a 5-story glass pyramid and a man-made mountain, from which one can see all of Sapporo. Take the Toho Line to Kanjo-dori-higashi, then the Higashi 69 or 79 bus to Chuo Bus Kita Satsunae Line to Moere Koen Higashiguchi. Doing so allows you to enter the park from the east entrance. Rental of bicycles is available, from 7AM - 7PM. Free. 
  • Hokkaido University Botanic Garden (北海道大学植物園 Hokkaido Daigaku Shokubutsuen), North 3 West 8, Chuo (From JR Sapporo train station, go south 3 blocks and west 5 blocks), +81 11 221-0066. 9 AM-4 PM. A large botanical garden. There are two rock gardens, a rose garden, a lilac display, a greenhouse, and various other gardens. There's a small museum in the garden with artifacts from Hokkaido, some dating back to the Meiji period (no extra cost). In the winter, only the greenhouse and museum are of interest. 
  • Former Hokkaido Prefectural Government Building (北海道府旧本府舎), Chuo-ku N3 W6 (Two minutes walk from Sapporo station, in between Ōdōri Park and Sapporo Station), +81 11 231-4111. This beautiful western style red brick building is a famous site of Sapporo and worth taking a quick look, as it is in the center. Free. 

What to do in Sapporo, Japan


  • Sapporo Snow Festival (雪祭り Yuki Matsuri). First week of Feb. This is Sapporo's largest event. The festival is best known for the ice sculpture competition attracting artists from around the world, competing to create the largest and most elaborate artworks from ice and snow. The festival is focused on Odori Koen, in the center of Sapporo. It consists of a combination of large-scale replicas and artistic sculptures; children-aimed attractions; and a separate section for world-wide competitors (where you can see a wide range of smaller artistic sculptures). The festival should be enjoyed both in the day - but particularly at night when the sculptures (especially the larger ones) are lit up. When the weather is warmer and there's a bit of melting, the smaller sculptures are literally remade every night to ensure that they are in perfect condition the next day. Book accommodation early, because Sapporo gets booked out during the festival. 
  • Mt. Teine (手稲山 Teineyama). A ski mountain within an easy drive from most of Sapporo. This ski mountain featured in the 1972 Winter Olympics. Offers a good mix of beginner and experienced slopes (in two distinct parks; Highlands and Olympia which have recently been connected). You can purchase a Skip (スキップ sukippu, ski + trip) ticket at any JR ticket office that includes roundtrip train tickets to JR Teine station, roundtrip bus tickets from Teine station to the ski area, and a four-hour lift ticket. At Teine Station, make sure to exit at South gate #3 to find the correct bus. 
  • Skiing. As befits a former Winter Olympics site, Sapporo is famous for its ski resorts, which are easily accessible by bus. Niseko, arguably Japan's top destination for powder, is two hours away by bus. 

What to eat and drink in Sapporo, Japan


Sapporo is famous for hairy crab (毛蟹 kegani), an expensive treat available at any seafood restaurant, and miso ramen (味噌ラーメン), a more affordable local variation of the ubiquitous noodle dish with miso paste added to the stock. The ramen, in particular, will warm you up nicely on a chilly winter day. Sapporo soup curry (just what it sounds like) is also increasingly famous.
As elsewhere in Hokkaido, you can also enjoy dairy products (milk, cheese, butter, chocolate, and ice cream), seafood (especially as sushi), fruits (honeydew melon, strawberries) and meat (sausages, ham, bacon, and beef).
Kuwanomi (桑の実) is a popular mulberry. It is red or black in color and sweet. Preserved kuwanomi can be made into jam, which is a traditional food. In elementary schools, students make kuwanomi jam every year.
  • Nijō Ichiba (二条市場), South 2-3, East 1-2 (5 min from Odori Stn). 7 AM-6 PM. Sapporo's equivalent to Tokyo's famed Tsukiji Fish Market, this is where the best of Hokkaido's catch is traded — and like its Tokyo counterpart, there are many restaurants here offering top-quality, cut-price sushi and sashimi. Popular with locals and tourists alike. 
  • Aji No Tokeidai (味の時計台). The best-known ramen noodle chain in Sapporo, now franchised around the country. Many famous people have eaten here including former Japanese prime minister, Tomiichi Murayama. Miso ramen is the most popular dish, but if you want something special, order the bata-kon ramen, a Hokkaido specialty made with a hearty broth of corn and butter. 
  • Ramen Yokochō (ラーメン横丁) (Just east of Susukino Station.). Also known as Ramen Gai, this alley is chock full of ramen shops of all varieties. Get butter corn ramen, crab ramen, and even scallop ramen. It's touristy but fun, and locals come here as well. 
  • Sapporo Beer Garden. At the same location as the Beer Museum is the Beer Garden, an incredibly popular Genghis Khan (mutton barbeque) restaurant. Even though the dining rooms span three large buildings, come early and expect to wait. The restaurant offers a 100-minute all you can eat and drink plan, as well as à la carte. Bibs are provided because the food can get rather messy. 
  • Romantei. One of the most popular sweets shops. Famous for its Chocolate Mont Blanc, a delicious concoction of sponge cake, whipped cream and ganache. Other delectables include cream puffs, apple pie, and strawberry bavarian. Located at Moiwa Mountain. There is also a takeaway shop at Tokyu Department Store, right outside Sapporo Station. A second dine-in shop is located at Sumikawa Station. 
  • Hiraku. Specializes in Hokkaido oysters served both Japanese and Western style, although there are other options on the menu as well. Reasonable prices, friendly atmosphere, popular. 
  • Goemon (五右衛門), Miyanomori 4-7-2-32, Chuo-ku. A famous and popular udon restaurant with a long history. 
  • Cafe Phyton, South 2 East 2 (Just north of Nijō Ichiba.). M-F 8 AM-midnight, Sa-Su 8 AM-8 PM. This small coffee shop has freshly made specialty coffees and a few Belgian beers by the bottle. 
  • Nijō Shokuhin (二条食品), South 3 East 2 (On the NE corner of Nijō Ichiba.), +81 11 231-2358, fax: +81 11 231-2362, e-mail: nijyo@etude.ocn.ne.jp. This small shop is a seafood grocer in front and a restaurant in back. The menu consists of fresh seafood.

Drink

The drink of choice when in Sapporo is obviously Sapporo Beer, and a good option for this is the Beer Museum (see See). Susukino (すすきの), to the south of the center, is one of Japan's largest nightlife (and red-light) districts, originally created to keep laborers in Hokkaido. It has a somewhat unsavory reputation due to heavy yakuza involvement in the business but is generally safe for travelers not actively looking for trouble. Get there on the subway Namboku line, Susukino station.
  • O'Neills Irish Pub (In Sapporo Station.). An escape from Japan while you wait for your train: here you can watch baseball on the big screen, listen to U2 and eat fish and chips from photocopied newspaper. 
  • Leibspeise - Otaru Beer, Chuo-ku South 2 West 3, Chome Parade Building 3F (Behind the PARCO Department Store.), +81 11 252-5807. M-F 5 PM-midnight, Sa Su noon-midnight. A local Brewery serving German-style beers. Rotisserie grill and other food are also served. Free WiFi on request.
  • TK6 Bar and Grill, 6-5-3 Minami 2 Jonishi
  • Chuo Ward, +81 11 272-6665. 4 PM-2 AM. Since opening in 2006 it has become the most popular pub between foreigners living in Sapporo, Australian and Japanese bi-lingual staff will welcome anybody. Worldwide beers available at cheap prices. Food, tex mex, fish & chips, and beautiful beef burgers. Free wifi. Open from midday on weekends. Cheap. 
  • Paul's Cafe, North 5 West 5 (Next to the railway station, in Century Royal Hotel Building.). 11 AM-10 PM. Belgium beer and rotisserie grill chicken. While you wait for your train, Paul will delight you with his wonderful beer selection. 
  • Wine Bar Giulio Vierci, Chuo-ku South 3 West 4 (Silver Bldg 2F), +81 11 271-5923. M-Sa noon-2:30 PM, 5 PM-midnight. One of the only places to get authentic Italian wine and food in Sapporo. Stop by for real Italian snacks or multi-course meals. Giulio has many well-known Italian wines, both high and low end.

Shopping in Sapporo, Japan


For those living in Japan who have an omiyage (souvenir) obligation to fill in your Japanese office when you return from your Hokkaido holiday, the best omiyage to buy in Sapporo is the ubiquitous Shiroi Koibito (白い恋人, "White Lovers"). It is a chocolate slice sandwiched in two wafers of sweet biscuit, individually wrapped and available boxed in a range of different quantities — tasty enough, but rather bland, and few Westerners would associate the taste with Japan. The original flavor is white chocolate sandwiched in the plain sweet biscuit, but there is also a dark chocolate version. It's available in every souvenir store in the city (try the Sapporo JR area or Tanuki Koji Shopping Arcade when shopping for souvenirs), and also most souvenir stores around the island.
Being a wintery kind of place for a good part of each year, Sapporo also has many stores selling all manner of snow goods. At the beginning and end of each season, many good deals on the previous year's gear can be found, often at discounts of up to 60% off, sometimes more! Also, there are several sports recycle stores in the city and suburbs where good deals on barely-used gear can be found, thanks to the Japanese fondness for having new gear every season. Ask Tourist Information to help you locate sports recycle and snow-goods stores.

Safety in Sapporo, Japan


  • No smoking. Downtown Sapporo is a smoke-free area. Smoking on public streets and in public buildings will get you fined, should the police be inclined, so please use smoking areas in cafes. Relatedly, cigarette vending machines require a special ID card.

Language spoken in Sapporo, Japan


Japanese is the official language. English is widely spoken. 

LOCAL TIME

7:43 pm
December 11, 2019
Asia/Tokyo

CURRENT WEATHER

8.55 °C / 47.39 °F
overcast clouds
Thu

-9.45 °C/15 °F
snow
Fri

-7.78 °C/18 °F
light snow
Sat

-4.17 °C/24 °F
heavy snow
Sun

-9.6 °C/15 °F
light snow

LOCAL CURRENCY

JPY

1 USD = 0 JPY
1 EUR = 0 JPY
1 GBP = 0 JPY
1 AUD = 0 JPY
1 CAD = 0 JPY

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