Japan's fifth-largest city, and the prefectural capital of Hokkaidō, Sapporo (札幌) is a dynamic urban centre that offers everything you'd want from a Japanese city: According to tourism officials, before development began to take over in 1857, there were only 7 people living here. And because it was built not too long ago, the design of the city didn’t come about organically. It was measured and developed according to plan. The city’s blueprint is an almost perfect grid, with the Ekimae Avenue (north to south) and Odori Park (east to west) as the main axes. Much of the public infrastructures, like the subway system, were built in preparation for 1972 Winter Olympics. Sapporo requires a bit more effort to reach. Yet, it is the country’s fifth biggest city by population, which has significantly grown only in the past decades. Sapporo is one of the youngest urban areas Japan.
Thriving food scene, stylish cafes, neon-lit nightlife, shopping galore – and then some. While many travellers see the city as a transit hub from which to access Hokkaidō's mountains and hot springs, there are enough worthwhile attractions to keep you here for days. Summer is the season for beer and food festivals. In February, despite the bitter cold, Sapporo's population literally doubles during the famous Snow Festival.
Sapporo is famous for its beer, skiing and annual Sapporo Snow Festival featuring enormous ice sculptures. The Sapporo Beer Museum traces the city’s brewing history and has tastings and a beer garden. Ski hills and jumps from the 1972 Winter Olympics are scattered within the city limits, and Niseko, a renowned ski resort, is nearby.
Language: Japanese (Nihongo). English isn’t widely spoken, but it’s not difficult to get around. Menus, signs, and machines have English translations.
Currency: Japanese Yen (JPY, ¥). JPY 1000 is roughly USD 9.49, EUR 7.97, SGD 12.90, PHP 459.05
Modes of payment: Cash is preferred. Some bigger establishments accept credit cards, but cash is still king in Sapporo (and Japan in general).
Electricity Info: 100V. Type A sockets. Plugs have two flat pins. Type B is sometimes used but not that common.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SAPPORO
Winter, is the best time to visit Sapporo, although the weather isn’t always comfortable, much of what Sapporo has to offer is best enjoyed in the cold months. It gets 6m of snow a year, and the first of the season usually falls in October. By December, the entire city is already a winter wonderland, and temperatures continue to drop as the season progresses. April is when it gets warmer and snow begins to melt. Have you been dreaming of cherry blossoms but you’re always unable to travel in March or April? Sapporo to the rescue. The first bloom of sakura happens much later in Sapporo than in other major cities, usually in early May. Autumn is good, too, if you wish to see its landscapes get painted bright red and orange. The Sapporo Autumn Festival happens in September, but make sure to bring a cardigan. If you plan to visit in October, you will need a jacket.
Spring (March through May)
Humidity and temperatures combine to make this season feel moderately cold. Highs range from 70°F (21.1°C) and 35.2°F (1.8°C) with warmer temperatures in the later months. Rain is somewhat common with 5 to 9 days of significant precipitation per month. Spring is the busiest for tourism, which makes it a good time for those looking for things to do.
Summer (June through August)
The middle-year months have very comfortable weather with high temperatures that are comfortable. These months see the least precipitation with 5 to 8 days of precipitation per month. June – August is fairly slow season for tourism in Sapporo, so lodging and other accommodations may cost slightly less.
Fall (September through November)
Fall daily highs range from 77.5°F (25.3°C) and 41.5°F (5.3°C), which will feel chilly given the humidity and wind. It rains or snows a significant amount: 8 to 11 days per month. Tourism is the slowest during these months due to the weather, so hotels may be affordably priced.
Winter (December through February)
Weather is far too cold this time of year in Sapporo to be enjoyable for warm weather travelers. The average high during this season is between 39.1°F (3.9°C) and 29.3°F (-1.5°C). On average, it rains or snows a great amount: 11 to 12 times per month. These times of year are the second busiest with tourists.
GETTING TO SAPPORO
Given the travel time, it's best to come to Sapporo by a speedy plane. New Chitose Airport, the gateway to Hokkaido, is linked with major cities across the country and boasts a wide range of facilities. Accessing Sapporo City from the airport is also easy with many options.
New Chitose Airport located approximately 45 kilometers from the Sapporo city center, is Hokkaido’s largest airport, connected by direct flights to 30 cities in Japan. The airport is used by 17 million people annually, making it the third busiest airport in Japan. Notably, the number of passengers on the Tokyo (Haneda)–Sapporo (New Chitose) route exceeds 9 million annually, making it one of the world's busiest routes. The airport serves an important role as the gateway to Hokkaido.
The airport terminal is home to the “Hokkaido Showroom,” featuring an assortment of stores selling produce, gourmet foods, and sweets from all over Hokkaido. The airport also has a natural hot spring, a theater, and a theme park; even those not catching a flight can have a good time!
From New Chitose Airport to Sapporo City
By railway (JR) - JR is the fastest means of transportation to Sapporo City. The Rapid Airport to Sapporo runs approximately every 15 minutes (except early morning and late night) from after 8:00 to after 22:00, and takes passengers from the airport to Sapporo Station the quickest in just 36 minutes. If traveling prior to 8:00, you can take a local train bound for Sapporo. JR Hokkaido New Chitose Airport Station is directly connected with the first floor basement of the airport terminal building.
By bus - Chuo Bus and Hokuto Kotsu Bus operate services from the airport to Sapporo City departing every 10–15 minutes. The bus takes approximately 70 minutes to arrive in central Sapporo. There are bus terminals at two locations on the first floor of the domestic terminal and at one location on the first floor of the international terminal. Tickets can be purchased at the bus counter or from ticket vending machines and used for buses from both companies.
By rental car - Renting a vehicle may be an attractive option if you want to enjoy driving in Hokkaido. Sapporo City is located approximately 45 kilometers from New Chitose Airport and takes around 60 minutes by car (using the expressway). Rental car company counters are located on the first floor of the domestic terminal. Rental car guidance is provided at the Transportation Information Counter in the international terminal.
By taxi - There are taxi stands in two locations outside the domestic terminal exits and at one location outside the international terminal exit, where taxis are waiting at all times. The trip from New Chitose Airport to JR Sapporo Station takes around 60 minutes by car and will cost around 10,000–13,000 yen depending on the traffic conditions (a separate expressway fee is required). Some taxi companies also offer a fixed-price service to Sapporo city beginning from ¥7,000 (booking and a separate expressway fee are required)
GETTING AROUND SAPPORO
Sapporo is a fairly large city, but it’s one of the easiest cities to navigate in Japan. Thanks to its vast public transportation network, you won’t have any problem finding your way through the city.
Trains - The train system in Sapporo is actually a small part of an extensive network that spreads throughout all of Hokkaido. For travel within the city, you’ll mostly rely on the subway system or taxis to get you where you need to go, but trains are great for going to more out of the way places. If you’re interested in traveling all over Hokkaido, then JR offers a train pass that’s a great deal. A 3-day pass is 16,500 yen, a 5-day pass is 22,000 yen, and 7-day pass is 24,000 yen. While this may seem expensive, keep in mind that individual trains tickets add up fast in Japan.
Driving - Since Sapporo was designed on a grid, it’s really easy to get around the city without driving. That being said, you may want to get out of the city and driving is definitely way faster. There are many car rental services throughout Japan with rentals starting at as little as 5,000 yen a day. Many companies also have English websites that allow you to book in advance. To drive in Japan, you must be at least 18 years old and have a valid international driver’s license (or a Japanese license). You’ll need to arrange for your international license before coming to Japan, as they don’t issue them here.
Subway - Sapporo has three subway lines that can take you to many places throughout the city. Fares are generally anywhere from 200 yen to 360 yen per ride, depending on how far you’re going. Tickets can be purchased at vending machines outside stations, but the easiest way to manage the Sapporo Metro system is by picking up a Sapica card. The initial cost for the card is 2,000 yen, which gives you 1,500 yen of metro fare and includes a 500-yen deposit for the card. You can get your 500 yen back if you return the card at any station. If you’re traveling around Japan, it’s probably best to go ahead and get a SUICA card, since they can be used almost anywhere and cost the same as the Sapica card. The subway also offers the Donichika Pass on weekends and holidays that allows you to take as many subway rides as you like for one day for just 830 yen for adults and 420 yen for children.
Streetcars - One of Sapporo’s more unique transportation methods is its streetcar network. With only about seven minutes between each streetcar, it is one of the fastest ways for you to get around some areas of town. The streetcars accept most IC cards (SUICA, Sapica, etc.) and the fare is only 200 yen, so it’s a reasonable alternative to subways or trains. On weekends and holidays, they also have the special Dosanko Pass that gives you unlimited rides for a day for 360 yen and children can ride free with an adult carrying a pass.
Underground paths - In many parts of the city, you can get from one place to another by taking underground routes. This is also a great opportunity to shop or grab a bite to eat, as most underground walkways have various shops and restaurants. For example, the Sapporo Ekimae-dori walkway lets you walk underground from Sapporo Station to Odori Station if you want to stretch your legs and avoid the icy roads and public transportation.
WHERE TO STAY IN SAPPORO
Open from November 2018, Tokyu Stay Sapporo Odori is situated in Sapporo. A 3-minute walk from Odori Park, the property is also a 7-minute walk away from Sapporo Clock Tower and offers free WiFi. Attractions in the area include Sapporo TV Tower, a 7-minute walk away, or Former Hokkaidō Government Office, located an 8-minute walk from the property. At the hotel, all rooms are equipped with a desk, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. All rooms come with a kettle, while certain rooms are equipped with a kitchenette with a microwave. All guest rooms will provide guests with a fridge. A buffet breakfast is served daily at the property. Staff at reception can lend a hand around the clock with advice on the area. Hokkaido University is an 18-minute walk from Tokyu Stay Sapporo Odori. The nearest airport is New Chitose Airport, 40 km from the accommodation.
Offering free WiFi and a shared lounge, Hotel Classe Stay Sapporo offers accommodation in Sapporo, 1.4 km from Sapporo TV Tower and 1.6 km from Odori Park. The property is set 1.7 km from Sapporo Clock Tower, 2.1 km from Former Hokkaidō Government Office and 2.7 km from Sapporo Convention Centre. The property is 2.7 km from Hokkaido University, and within less than 1 km of the city centre. The nearest airport is New Chitose Airport, 45 km from the hotel.
In a prime location in Sapporo, Comfort Hotel Sapporo Susukino provides air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi and private parking. Ideally set in the Sapporo City Centre district, the property is located 1.8 km from Former Hokkaidō Government Office and 2.7 km from Hokkaido University. The accommodation features a 24-hour front desk, a business centre and luggage storage for guests. All units in the hotel are equipped with a flat-screen TV. Guests at Comfort Hotel Sapporo Susukino can enjoy a continental breakfast. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include Sapporo TV Tower, Sapporo Clock Tower and Odori Park. The nearest airport is New Chitose Airport, 44 km from Comfort Hotel Sapporo Susukino.
Set in Sapporo, 1.9 km from Sapporo Convention Centre, Hotel Potmum Sapporo offers accommodation with a restaurant, private parking, a bar and a shared lounge. Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and room service, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The hotel features family rooms. Guests at the hotel can enjoy an American breakfast. Sapporo TV Tower is 1.9 km from Hotel Potmum Sapporo, while Sapporo Clock Tower is 2 km away. The nearest airport is New Chitose Airport, 44 km from the accommodation.
Well set in the Sapporo City Centre district of Sapporo, Randor Residential Hotel Sapporo Suites is located 700 m from Odori Park, 1.2 km from Former Hokkaidō Government Office and 1.5 km from Sapporo TV Tower. The hotel features family rooms. All units are equipped with air conditioning, a microwave, a fridge, a kettle, a hot tub, a hairdryer and a desk. With a private bathroom equipped with a bidet and free toiletries, rooms at the hotel also provide guests with free WiFi. At Hotel Sapporo Suites, every room comes with a seating area. The accommodation offers a hot tub. Sapporo Clock Tower is 1.5 km from Randor Residential Hotel Sapporo Suites, while Hokkaido University is 2.6 km away. The nearest airport is New Chitose Airport, 45 km from the hotel.
Ideally set in the centre of Sapporo, Hotel WBF Fourstay Sapporo features air-conditioned rooms, a restaurant, free WiFi and a bar. Conveniently set in the Sapporo City Centre district, the property is situated 1.4 km from Former Hokkaidō Government Office and 2 km from Hokkaido University. All rooms in the hotel are fitted with a flat-screen TV. All units will provide guests with a fridge. Languages spoken at the reception include English and Japanese, and guests are invited to request advice on the area when needed. Popular points of interest near Hotel WBF Fourstay Sapporo include Sapporo TV Tower, Odori Park and Sapporo Clock Tower. The nearest airport is New Chitose Airport, 44 km from the accommodation.
Located in Sapporo, Experience Sapporo provides accommodation with private balconies. A hot tub and a car rental service are available for guests. Free WiFi is available and private parking can be arranged at an extra charge. All units are equipped with air conditioning, a microwave, a fridge, a kettle, a hot tub, a hairdryer and a desk. At the hotel every room is fitted with a wardrobe, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Guests at Experience Sapporo will be able to enjoy activities in and around Sapporo, like hiking, skiing and cycling Odori Park is 2.4 km from the accommodation, while Former Hokkaidō Government Office is 2.8 km away. The nearest airport is New Chitose Airport, 54 km from Experience Sapporo.
Situated in Sapporo, within 200 m of Odori Park and 700 m of Former Hokkaidō Government Office, Fino Hotel Sapporo Odori features free WiFi throughout the property. Boasting a 24-hour front desk, this property also provides guests with a restaurant. The property is 600 m from the city centre. The rooms are fitted with air conditioning, a TV with satellite channels, a fridge, a kettle, a bidet, a hairdryer and a desk. At the hotel rooms include a private bathroom with a shower. Popular points of interest near Fino Hotel Sapporo Odori include Sapporo TV Tower, Sapporo Clock Tower and Hokkaido University. The nearest airport is New Chitose Airport, 45 km from the accommodation.
Well located in the Sapporo City Centre district of Sapporo, The Base Sapporo Susukino is located 1 km from Sapporo Prince Convention Hall, less than 1 km from Odori Park and a 16-minute walk from Former Hokkaidō Government Office. The property is around 1.7 km from Sapporo TV Tower, 1.7 km from Sapporo Clock Tower and 2.8 km from Hokkaido University. The hotel features family rooms. Guest rooms are equipped with air conditioning, a microwave, a fridge, a kettle, a shower, a hairdryer and a wardrobe. Featuring a private bathroom with a bath and free toiletries, rooms at the hotel also offer free WiFi. All guest rooms will provide guests with a stovetop. The nearest airport is New Chitose Airport, 45 km from The Base Sapporo Susukino.
Featuring 2-star accommodation, The Apartment Hotels YAMA is located in Sapporo, 1.8 km from Sapporo Prince Convention Hall and 2.6 km from Former Hokkaidō Government Office. The 2-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom and free WiFi. The property is 3.5 km from Sapporo TV Tower and 4.1 km from Hokkaido University. Guest rooms will provide guests with a microwave. Odori Park is 2.9 km from the hotel, while Sapporo Clock Tower is 3 km away. The nearest airport is New Chitose Airport, 48 km from The Apartment Hotels YAMA.
PLACES TO VISIT & THINGS TO DO IN SAPPORO with FAMILY
Sapporo is the largest city in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. Known for its mountainous snowy climate, winter sports, local cuisine, and festivals, this modern city attracts millions of travelers every year. Below are the list of the best sights, attractions and things to do in Sapporo has to offer.
The Maruyama Zoo in eastern Sapporo is the oldest zoo in Hokkaido. The main attraction is the polar bear enclosure. As the polar bear is unfortunately nearing extinction, this is a rare opportunity to see the animal. The zoo is easy to navigate and is within walking distance from the nearest subway station.
Opened in 1931, the Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium has hosted several notable winter sporting events, including the 1972 Winter Olympics. The stadium offers various attractions for tourists all year round. The Viewing Point provides one of the most scenic views in the city; from the peak, guests are treated to a skier’s view of the massive ski jump directly below them, with a panoramic backdrop of Sapporo city in the distance. In the evening, dinners can enjoy a night view of the city skyline.
The Hokkaido Shrine was built in 1869, during Japan’s Meijiperiod. It enshrines Sukunahikona, Ookunitama and Ookuninushi, who are said to be the three deities of Hokkaido. While open year round, the shrine gets the most visitors during the spring season when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
The skiers in your group will want to head to the Mount Moiwa Ski Resort on the eastern slope of this little mountain. Those in search of a more relaxing afternoon can get on the Mount Moiwa Ropeway, which will take you about 3/4ths of the way up the mountain. From there, visitors take a mini cable car to the peak, which features an observation deck and a restaurant with a gorgeous night view of Sapporo city.
Satisfy your inner art connoisseur with a visit to the Miyanomori Art Museum, located not far from Sapporo’s Maruyama Park. Opened in 2011, the museum primarily focuses on contemporary art and features works from both Japanese and international artists. In addition to the standard galleries, the museum holds special exhibitions and events throughout the year.
Odori (literally “large street”) is located in the heart of Sapporo’s downtown, providing residents with a lush, green escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life. From east to west, the park spans about 1.5km and covers over 78,000 square meters. There are special events and festivals held at the park throughout the year, most notably the Sapporo Snow Festival. It’s possible to spend an entire day and night in this area, as many of the city’s nightlife areas and shopping districts are within walking distance of the park.
Sapporo Tokeidai is one of the city’s few surviving Western-style buildings. Built in 1878, the wooden clock tower looks straight out of an American colonial-era town. The Sapporo Clock Tower still chimes daily and walks visitors through its history in a small museum. The former Hokkaidō Government Office is another nearby landmark, dating back to 1888; its flower gardens and 2.5 million red bricks continue to attract admirers long after its role as an administrative centre. For a taste of Japanese architecture, head to the Hokkaidō Shrine next to Maruyama Park; its impressive gardens swell in sakura season and during the Hokkaidō Shrine Festival, which takes place each June.
The word Sapporo is synonymous with beer. The city’s eponymous brewery is the oldest in Japan, founded in 1876, and is still churning out its famous silver cans today. Its original brewery is home to the Sapporo Beer Museum, where you can learn about the history of beer in Japan. This ivy-covered red-brick building is neighboured by several beer halls and restaurants – try the jingisukan (all-you-can-eat lamb named after Genghis Khan) and wash it down with a glass of the Sapporo Classic, only found on Hokkaido. Those with a sweet tooth shouldn’t miss Shiroi Koibito Park either, run by chocolate maker Ishiya. This real-life Willie Wonka factory offers a glimpse inside the production of Hokkaido’s beloved Shiroi Koibito cookie – a layer of white chocolate wedged between two wafers.
Besides chocolate and beer, Sapporo’s other great culinary passion is seafood. The Sapporo Central Wholesale Market covers several city blocks with stalls selling sea urchins, salmon roe, squid, scallops and kegani (hairy crab), a local speciality. On the other side of Odori Park, Nijo Market (or Nijō Ichiba) dishes up even more ocean-fresh fruits of the sea. Arrive early in the morning to grab the catch of the day for breakfast, or visit a nearby eatery for donburi (seafood over rice).
Before he died in 1988, American-Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi drew up plans to convert an old waste-treatment plant on Sapporo’s northeastern outskirts into one of the city’s best parks. In 2005, his vision became a reality. As well as a 3,000-strong forest of cherry trees, Moerenuma Park is dotted with sculptures, such as the five-storey glass pyramid Hidamari, the steel triangle Tetra Mound and plenty of Noguchi’s art. Mount Moere and the smaller Play Mountain loom over the lawns, while the Sea Fountain shoots its jets 25m (82ft) into the air during the warmer months when a man-made swimming hole is also open.
Nothing draws visitors to Sapporo like the annual Snow Festival. More than 2 million people – equal to the city’s entire population – flock here for one week each February. The festivities, which include fishing, skiing and snow sliding, stretch from Odori Park and nearby nightlife precinct Susukino to the Tsudome. But the centrepiece is Odori Park, which plays host to a series of mammoth ice sculptures – some as tall as 15m (49ft). The best time to enjoy these frozen statues is in the evening when they are lit up in multicoloured hues.
Japan’s premier ski resort Niseko is only a two-hour drive southwest of Sapporo, but a series of smaller skiing spots surround the city itself. Sapporo Teine, in the northwest, is the biggest, housing two runs that were used during the 1972 Games as well as the Olympic torch. The Highland Zone features advanced courses with rails and jumps, while the Olympia Zone caters to families and beginners. Then a little farther from downtown, Sapporo Kokusai receives massive amounts of snow on its seven courses; there’s only one black run but plenty of off-piste adventures in the deep powder.
Hokkaido’s biggest city is naturally a perfect launchpad to explore the rest of the island, and there’s more than just snowy Niseko in the shadow of Mount Yōtei. Also within a day-trip distance of Sapporo is Otaru, a picturesque harbour city that’s only 30 minutes away by train. The city is home to the Historic Village of Hokkaido, an open-air museum that recreates life in the 1800s when this region first made its fortune.
An ideal option for families, the three snow slides (Tube, Ice, and Waku-Waku) at the Tsudome site provide good clean fun for guests of any age. The Ice Slide also features a “Family Lane” for parents and children to slide together.
Another all ages activity, this small rubber raft is pulled through the festival by a snowmobile. The fee is 600 yen (about $5) for adults and 400 yen for children under 12.
In addition to its massive snow and ice sculpture display, the Odori Park site also has stages set up for live musical performances featuring local artists from Sapporo as well as the US Navy, who come to the festival every year.
WHERE TO EAT IN SAPPORO
Surrounded by Hokkaido’s green fields and boundless seas, the kitchens of Sapporo are stocked with world-class seafood, Japan’s best dairy, mouthwatering meat and farm-fresh fruit and vegetables. And those local ingredients are what makes these restaurants must-visits. Steaming bowls of barbecued crab. Sizzling skillets of juicy mutton. Smooth-as-silk ice cream. It’s all on the menu in Sapporo, the birthplace of beloved soup curry, some of the country’s best beer and chocolate, and rich miso ramen tailor-made for frosty winters. Whether pulling up a horigotatsu table for a high-end kaiseki ryori degustation or grabbing a stool at a tiny Susukino hole in the wall, chew on the 10 best restaurants in Sapporo, Japan.
Kaisen-Ichiba Kitano Gourmet has been part of the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market for more than 70 years, selling seafood so fresh it could almost swim back into the ocean. The restaurant in the back serves the seafood sitting in the shop out front, either raw, grilled or any other method on request. The kaisendon bowl is the first thing on the menu – crab, sea urchin, salmon roe and whatever else is in season on top of fluffy rice. Barbecue-charred king crab, botan shrimp and fatty slices of tuna are other favourite dishes.
Sapporo is the birthplace of soup curry, a spicy dish with Indian and Chinese influences that evolved here in the 1960s and ’70s. While Sapporo’s famous soul food is different at every restaurant, it’s generally a meaty broth brimming with chunky vegetables, seasoned with spices and topped with a protein, such as chicken or pork. One block from Susukino station in the thick of Sapporo’s after-dark hotspot, Suage has been doing a delicious version since 2007. Choose from four soups (original, shrimp, squid ink and coconut), six levels of spiciness and many meat and vegetable toppings – Suage’s suggestions are crispy shiretoko chicken, braised lavender pork belly, maitake mushrooms and sweet inka no mezame potatoes.
The waters off Hokkaido are crawling with four main varieties of crab: the furry horsehair crab, the long-legged snow crab, the spiky red king crab and the even spikier hanasaki queen crab. Chew through all of them at Kani Honke, the century-old shellfish empire that spans 14 locations across Japan, including two in Sapporo: one at the central train station and the other in nightlife hub Susukino. A huge red crab hangs over the front door, but the timber interior is much more refined – a traditional backdrop to enjoy the kaiseki ryori experience, which presents a series of sophisticated seafood dishes degustation-style.
As well as being a feared Mongol emperor, Genghis Khan (or jingisukan in Japanese) is a plate of grilled mutton and vegetables that’s unique to Hokkaido. Legend has it that Mongolian warriors would grill their meat using their helmets as a hot plate. These days, domed skillets are a much more modern way of preparing this meal, which is cooked by diners at their table, similar to a Korean barbecue. Jingisukan Daruma has delivered this dish across Japan since 1954, including at its main Sapporo branch in the heart of Susukino. The venue only really offers its one speciality: these thinly sliced strips of mutton sizzling on top of a bed of regional vegetables, just like the soldiers used to make.
An even more atmospheric place to eat jingisukan is also the historic home of Sapporo’s most exported culinary creation: beer. Occupying a mini-city of red-brick buildings, the Sapporo Beer Garden contains a museum dedicated to the amber liquid as well as five different beer halls to sample the product. The favourite for foodies is Kessel Hall, a bierkeller that wouldn’t look out of place in Bavaria thanks to its soaring ceilings, original brick-and-timber fit-out and shiny copper kettle used to brew the beer that ends up in your glass. This restaurant offers all-you-can-eat jingisukan and all-you-can-drink beer for ¥4,100 (£31) – a bargain for those with the appetite of a famished Mongolian warrior.
Susukino is also home to Ramen Yokocho (Ramen Alley) – a narrow row of cosy shops scooping up generous bowls of Sapporo’s trademark miso ramen. And Sapporo Ramen Republic recreates that bustling atmosphere on the 10th floor of the ESTA shopping mall above Sapporo station. This place is a theme park dedicated to the Japanese classic, bringing together eight of the city’s top ramen restaurants under the one roof. Shirakaba Sanso, Misono, Yoshiyama Shoten and Sora are the four stores that specialise in local miso ramen – a rich variety that’s perfect for Hokkaido’s brutal winters.
On the eastern tip of Hokkaido, 430 kilometres (267 miles) west of Sapporo, the port of Nemuro is renowned for its fisheries. That’s where Hanamaru opened its first sushi store before expanding all across the island, including this one on the sixth floor of the Stellar Place shopping mall above Sapporo station. Nemuro Hanamaru is a kaiten-sushi restaurant, meaning dishes whizz along the benches on a conveyor belt while diners grab whatever they fancy. Plates are colour-coded to indicate price, and the seafood is particularly affordable given the quality. Try the fatty tuna for a taste of Nemuro’s seas, as well as the savoury egg custard.
A tsubo is a Japanese unit of measurement worth about three square metres (32 square feet), or two tatami mats. The name of this oyster bar is Gotsubo, meaning five tsubo – and you don’t have to be a mathematician to figure out that makes this oyster bar very, very small. And the small size is a big part of its charm. Only a handful of stools and even fewer tiny tables fit inside, while the takeaway hatch serves Susukino’s party animals until 2am, seven nights a week. Gotsubo sources plump, juicy oysters from Akkeshi – another port just down the road from Nemuro – that it then boils, grills or serves fresh with a slice of lemon.
The Ishiya Chocolate Factory isn’t a restaurant per se, but it’s impossible to talk about food in Sapporo without mentioning the city’s favourite edible souvenir. Shiroi Koibito – a slice of white chocolate sandwiched between two crispy langue de chat biscuits – are produced in the foothills of the Sapporo Teine ski resort on the northwestern outskirts of town. The timber-framed building that houses the factory could have been torn from the pages of a German fairytale, churning out sweet treats to match. The gift shop is loaded with Ishiya chocolates, which are also showcased in dozens of desserts in the factory’s opulent tea room.
Hokkaido produces the vast majority of Japan’s dairy, but they keep plenty of milk on the island to satisfy their ice-cream addiction. Residents lick soft serve 12 months a year – even during Sapporo’s brutal winters – from parlours pumping out inventive flavours such as lavender, cherry blossom and melon. A few kilometres south, though, the Hokkaido Agricultural Technical College Farmers’ Market is only open from April to November, swirling cones of additive-free ice cream made from milk from cows who only eat organic feed. The market is next door to Hakko Gakuen, a flower garden that blooms with 100,000 iris blossoms over summer.
WHERE TO SHOP IN SAPPORO
As in most large Japanese cities, shopping malls are the most popular places to shop in Sapporo. You'll find all manner of goods inside, from souvenirs and bargains, to exclusive, designer goods. There's no such thing as a typical mall, however, and the range of items in many can be mind boggling. Happily, almost all malls have leisure facilities, wheelchair access, and a good choice of restaurants and cafés. Sapporo has a lot of snow, so shoppers visiting during the winter will greatly benefit from the shelter and warmth inside malls. Although most of the major department stores and underground shopping options are located around Odori and Sapporo Station, shopping, dining and movies can be also be enjoyed under one roof at Sapporo Factory, just east of the downtown area.
Tanuki Koji shopping arcade, close to the Susukino train station, is amongst the largest and most historic shopping areas in Sapporo. You’ll find more than 200 individual stores along this covered shopping street, along with a great and varied choice of food choices. Browse the shops selling kimonos, tea or incense, scattered between modern stores specialising in computers and software or state-of -the-art electronics and digital cameras – all of which lends it a bazaar-like quality. Some items for sale here are even cheaper than in the 100-yen shops. Tanuki Koji is a popular spot to pick up some cheap souvenirs.
This fashionable shopping complex in downtown Sapporo is the best place for designer fashion. Parco is especially good for young ladies’ clothes and cosmetics although there are also whole floors dedicated to men’s and children’s clothing. Western-style boutiques such as Pour Les Hommes, Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood Red Label, Comme des garcons are all available, alongside plenty of Japanese brands. And if you feel like a coffee break or a bite to eat then you’ll not have far to look. The seventh floor comprises a lifestyle centre and eighth floor is the place to go if you’re hungry as it houses a collection of restaurants. Parco Sapporo is next to Odori subway station.
Marui Imai is a giant-sized department store selling everything from jewellery to power tools to home furnishings. Perhaps more of a ‘mall experience’ than a tangible shopping destination, it’s not to be missed. Smack-bang in downtown Sapporo, you’re never far from the action at Marui Imai and if you’re hungry there are plenty of food outlets. For larger items, it’s possible to mail them back home from the Post Office located on the 9th floor of the nearby Ichijo Building. Major credit cards accepted.
Nijo Ichiba is a famous fish market in the city centre. The market is located near Tanuki Koji shopping arcade and is arranged into crowded alleyways. Here you’ll find over 50 different vendors selling everything from fresh fish to sea urchins to salmon roe to truly impressive giant Hokkaido crabs. The market also has a hole-in-the-wall food stalls that serve the freshest food in the area – it’s a great place for a sashimi breakfast. Among the most popular menu items for starting the day here is uni ikura donburi (sea urchin and salmon eggs on rice). Nijo market also sells seasonal fruits and even Japanese chocolate. Light bargaining is expected here.
Sapporo Factory is a grand shopping centre constructed on the former site of a Sapporo brewery. The complex includes over 100 shops, restaurants, a hotel and a fitness centre within a group of historic redbrick buildings. The main building has an imposing glass atrium which adds to the pleasant experience. Items for sale here include clothes, home furnishings and household goods, souvenirs and craft shops. In the atrium, the centre-piece of the Factory complex, there’s a stage with regular live performances. The Sapporo Meissen Porcelain Museum is on the 4th floor.
Bic Camera is a major electronics chain store dealing in the latest type of electrical appliances, IT-related-goods and cool gadgets, all at good prices. The camera section, along with the mobile phones section and games displays are always crowded with customers. In the basement there’s a food-hall and a 100-yen shop, while the upper floors are for clothing, general goods, toys, baby goods, a pet shop and a craft shop. Bic Camera Sapporo is next to JR Sapporo station.
100-yen shops ("hyaku-en shoppu" in Japanese) sell a wide range of products for 108 yen per item (100 yen plus 8% tax). This corresponds to roughly US$1 per item, making these shops a trusty friend to thrifty travellers. There are thousands of 100-yen shops across Japan, from multi-storey department setups, to small corners in shopping malls. Market leader, Daiso, operates over 2,000 stores nationwide – including 8 in Sapporo – and pursues an aggressive expansion policy. By cleverly purchasing products in huge quantities and at big discounts from countries with low production and labour costs, 100-yen shops are able to offer an astonishing range of products at prices often below the products’ actual value. Popular things to buy include tableware, tools, and simple household goods.