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Guide to Sapporo

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Japan’ fifth largest city, Sapporo is a clean, friendly and relaxed city where you can experience nature, great cultural and historical sites and amazing food! No matter what time of year you visit, there’s plenty of fun-filled activities to enjoy.

Hokkaido Jingu

No trip to Japan is complete without visiting a traditional Shinto shrine, and Sapporo’s “Hokkaido Jingu” is the largest and most significant on the island. The site was first established in 1871, and enshrines four deities including the “God of Emperor Meiji”. Make sure to get yourself a fortune from the counter (English available), and offer a prayer at the main shrine.

Access
Get the subway to “Maruyama-Koen”, and walk about 5 minutes through the park to access the main shrine.

Mt. Moiwa Ropeway

The most stunning lookout over the entire city of Sapporo with views right out to the ocean on a clear day. The 1.8km gondola ride takes about 5 minutes and is followed by a short 2 minute ride in a mini cable car, which reaches the summit. Return Tickets to the summit are ¥1,700 and can be purchased at the ropeway base. For the best views, aim to arrive at the summit for sunset to see the twinkling lights of Sapporo city against a twilight sky.

Access
Take a street-car to “Ropeway Iriguchi”, and walk 1 minute across the road to the Mt. Moiwa Ropeway shuttle bus stop, where the free shuttle bus will take you to the ropeway.

Susukino Downtown Area

The central nightlife district of Sapporo, Susukino, is a hive of activity with hundreds of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and karaoke hot spots across many city blocks.

Ramen Alley, famous for some of the best ramen in Sapporo, is a hidden alleyway packed with tiny restaurants, located just off the main Susukino strip. If Japanese pub food is more your thing, try one of the many Izakaya’s in the area serving zangi (Japanese fried chicken), grilled fish and BBQ meat served alongside sake and beer.

Important Safety Tip: If you’re out late, resist the urge to walk back to your hotel – it is common for tourists to get lost and pass out in the snow late at night so make sure to take a taxi home after a big night. For best results, take a business card from your hotel with their address, and show it to your taxi driver.

Access
Take a street-car or subway to “Susukino” station and walk south from the main intersection.

Sapporo Beer Museum

This popular museum celebrates Sapporo’s rich history through the love of beer with displays featuring antique posters and Hokkaido’s early pioneers. The red-brick museum consists of three floors and is free to enter and explore with the option of a paid tour. Visits conclude in the beer hall where guests can sample a range of beers, including “Kaitakushi Beer”, exclusively available at the museum.

Access
From Sapporo JR station, catch either the 188 bus from stop No.2 on the north side or the 88 bus from the south side of the station. Alternatively, taxis cost around ¥800 from Sapporo JR station.


Sapporo Snow Festival

Now in its 70th year, the Sapporo Snow Festival is Hokkaido’s largest festival with three major sites. The main site in Odori is the largest with dozens of enormous snow sculptures across the entire park with food stalls lining the path. The Susukino site features intricately detailed ice sculptures set against the bright lights of the famous nightlife district. The Tsudome site is the most family friendly with huge slides and activities for all ages.

Access
To access the Odori and Susukino sites, simply take the subway to the station of the same name. For the Tsudome site, catch a subway to Sakaemachi station and get on the shuttle bus to the site.

Shopping

Sapporo JR station has hundreds of boutique clothing and accessory stores featuring up-and-coming designers, as well as high-end fashion brands. The upper floor even has a Disney store and a Snoopy store!

Sapporo Factory hosts most major outdoor brands like Mammut, as well as clothing and souvenir stores. This shopping hub features a large atrium and is located at the site of the original Sapporo Beer factory, which can be freely explored.

Tanuki-Koji is an undercover shopping arcade with traditional and independent stores. Drop into MOJANE snowboard shop at the eastern end for a selection of the best gear and locally made snowboarding videos.

Shugakuso is a haven for backcountry enthusiasts, with mountain maps, tents, touring accessories and more.


Getting Around

Sapporo is a relatively small city, navigation is straightforward with lots of public transport, underground walkways and taxis everywhere. If you are going to be using public transportation often, get an electronic card like Kitaca to simply tap on and off without worrying about purchasing tickets every time. These can be bought and filled up at most stations, and used throughout major cities in Japan. Note: Kutchan station does not use electronic cards.

There are a number of underground walkways along common routes to keep people out of the cold. There’s even an underground walkway all the way from Sapporo JR station to Susukino!

Taxis in Sapporo are everywhere and can be quite cheap to get around in if you’re in a group of four people. If the place you want to go is not near a subway or streetcar stop, stay out of the cold and jump in a taxi!

To stay in Sapporo and make the most of your Japan trip, contact our team of experts today.

Sakura – The Symbol of Spring

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Japanese cherry blossoms, or sakura, have been regarded as a symbol of spring since the Heian Period (794-1185). The charming flower symbolises renewal, vitality, and beauty and is deeply ingrained in the art, literature and culture of Japan.

When the blooms arrive it’s time to indulge in one of the nation’s favourite pastimes; hanami, or flower appreciation picnics. Every year, crowds of people flock to parks, gardens and riversides to eat, drink, and be merry underneath the blooms.

During the short period when sakura is in bloom, you can find spring limited edition ice cream, chocolate, sweets and drinks all inspired by sakura!

When to visit?

Japan’s sakura season for 2019 has been recently released by Japan Meteorological Corporation (JMC). According to the forecast, cherry trees are expected to be in full bloom in Tokyo on March 31, Kyoto on April 3, Hakodate on May 6 and Sapporo on May 8. Stay up to date with JMC’s Cherry Blossom Forecast here.

Sakura at Shinjuku Gyoen. Photo Credit: Tatters at Flickr

Tokyo

One of the nation’s most stunning gardens is undoubtedly Shinjuku Gyoen, a large park located a short stroll away from Shinjuku and Shibuya. Originally built for the Imperial Family, the park features beautifully maintained gardens divided into Japanese, French and English sections.

Another lovely spot is Ueno-koen (Ueno Park), one of the oldest and most famous public spaces, cherished amongst locals for their 1000-plus blossoming cherry trees. After dark, you can enjoy a nocturnal hanami experience as the blossoms are lit up with a thousand lanterns.

When to go: Late March

Tetsugaku no michi. Photo credit: fastjapan.com

Kyoto

The ancient capital of Kyoto makes the ideal backdrop for cherry blossom appreciation.

Tetsugaku no michi (Path of Philosophy) is a lovely stone walkway that meanders 2km along the bank of a cherry lined canal through the northern part of the city’s Higashiyama district. Other famous hanami locations include Maruyama Park, known for its weeping cherry tree, Heian Shrine and the Arashiyama district on the outskirts of the city.

When to go: Early April

Hakodate

The best place to experience the beautiful colours of the sakura in Hokkaido would have to be Fort Goryokaku – a star-shaped, Western-style citadel which was built towards the end of the Edo Period. Since then over one thousand cherry trees along its moats were planted, making it one of Hokkaido’s best hanami spots.

When to go: Early May

Former Hokkaido Government Office. Photo credit: www.sapporo.travel

 

Sapporo

The prime cherry blossom viewing spots are Maruyama Park and the adjacent Hokkaido-Jingu (Hokkaido shrine). The shrine grounds hold 1,200 cherry trees as well as 250 plum trees which bloom at the same time.

If you’re looking to get away from the crowds, head to the former Hokkaido Government Office, which offers aesthetically pleasing photo-ops!

Located on the outskirts of Sapporo, Moerenuma Park is a unique and playful public park designed by renowned sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Containing an art gallery, kids playground and sakura forest where you can see over 2,300 trees in bloom.

When to go: Early May

Ski Resorts

With many northern Japanese ski resorts such as Niseko and Kiroro scheduled to stay open until Golden Week (first week of May), spring visitors have the chance to hit the best of Japan’s spring and winter both at once! Read more on spring skiing in Niseko.

If you’re visiting Niseko resort, one of the best places to see the sakura is on the south side of Mt. Yotei in Makkari campground. There’s also the Makkari Shinto shrine nearby, with an avenue lined with beautiful sakura trees.

Near Hakuba there is the ancient Matsumoto Castle, which is surrounded by beautiful cherry blossoms. During the bloom, the stark black and white of the castle offers an elegant contrast against the soft pink of the sakura petals.

If you’re dreaming of a hanami and ski holiday this springtime, contact us today.

Hokkaido up in Lights – A look at Hokkaido’s Stunning Ice Festivals

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Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido receives some of the most snow on the planet, with temperatures remaining below zero most of the year. This climate may be tough, but creates perfect conditions for snow and ice sculptures. Locals have made the most of it, and Hokkaido now hosts some of the most beautiful snow and ice festivals in the world.

Shikotsu Lake Ice festival

The Shikotsu Lake Ice festival is one of the most stunning displays of ice and light in Hokkaido. Located just one and a half hours from Niseko, and only one hour from Rusutsu, this magical lakeside display features dozens of magnificent ice structures – some over a storey high. The event has a local, friendly atmosphere with ice slides, illuminated walkways and structures you can even walk through. Getting here will require either a taxi or hire car, but there will be a sightseeing bus going from Sapporo to the site.

Niseko Ice Village

Niseko’s Ice Village is a little closer to home with smaller, but equally impressive ice sculptures. This local event features a maze of enchanting ice structures, beautifully lit with candles and lights. Weave through the tunnels and rooms to find hidden pieces of art, and look out the windows for views across Niseko’s snowy landscape. The best time to view The Ice Village is at night, and there is a free shuttle bus from Hirafu to the site. It is located halfway between Niseko Village and Annupuri, with entry cost just ¥500. This is must-see on any trip to Niseko.

Sapporo Ice Festival

The Sapporo Ice Festival is by far the most well-known winter festival in Japan and runs from February 4th to February 11th in 2019. The festival has three main sites, with the biggest being in Odori Park in central Sapporo. This event is Japans biggest winter festival and has impressive displays of massive snow and ice sculptures as big as apartment buildings with incredible detail on each one. The Susukino site has intricate ice sculptures on show, wonderfully illuminated by coloured lights that almost mirror the surrounding nightlife district. The third site at “Tsudome” is the most interactive and family friendly with snow tubing, snowball throwing, and snow rafting as well as a large indoor arena featuring activities for kids and families alike. SkiJapan.com will be running a shuttle bus to the festival, so contact our team for details.

Kutchan Yukitopia

Kutchan Yukitopia is an incredibly fun, local event that’s great for families from all over the world. There are ice slides, food stalls, snow-bikes, snowmobile demonstrations, snow tubing and more. One of the most entertaining events is the pond skim and pond walk, where participants attempt to cross an ice-cold pond for a cash prize. Kutchan Yukitopia is a free event in Kutchan at Asahigaoka ski hill. It runs on February 16th from 10:30 – 17:00 and on February 17th from 10:30 – 15:00, and there’s a free shuttle bus to the site.

Otaru Snow Light Path festival

Just an hour away from both Niseko and Sapporo, the Otaru snow light path festival is one of Hokkaido’s most recognisable with stunning views of the canal lit by twinkling candlelight. The snow path starts close to the JR station, and winds through the snowy streets down towards the canal. Along the way you’ll find ice slides, cute animal shaped sculptures and romantic photo spots. It’s easiest to get a train from either Kutchan or Sapporo, depending on where you are. The event runs from February 8th till February 17th for the 2019 season.

If you’d like any more info or to visit any of these beautiful winter festivals, we’d love to hear from you. Contact our team today.

The Icy Jewel of Japan: Sapporo Snow Festival

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Nestled in the heart of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, Sapporo is the country’s fifth largest city with a population of almost 2 million people. The far-northern location offers a wide climate range between summer and winter; in the warmer months offering prime conditions for outdoor beer festivals and terrace dining, then in winter transforming into a scene from within a snow globe, with frozen flurries swirling the white streets and the denizens retreating to the vast network of subterranean arcades, shopping centers and restaurants interconnected by a labyrinth of heated tunnels.

During February, Sapporo takes advantage of the vast amounts of snowfall to transform into a winter wonderland with the Sapporo Snow Festival; snow and ice sculptures are erected at key locations in Odori Park, Tsudome community dome, and Susukino in celebration of the beauty and tranquility that the snow brings to the city.
Now entering its 69th year, the event first started with six snow sculptures created by local high school students. Interest in seeing their creations was so high – with around fifty thousand people viewing the statues – that it quickly became a major yearly event in Sapporo, now attracting teams from all around the globe and in excess of 2 million visitors annually to view more than 200 sculptures and the beautiful illumination displays around the city.

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Don’t miss out on one of the most unique experiences northern Japan has on offer: SkiJapan.com offers return transport from Niseko to Sapporo on the 5th and 11th of February, so book your trip today!

Sapporo Snow Festival Day Trip with SkiJapan.com

  • 2019 dates 31 Jan – 11 Feb 2019
  • 12:45 – 22:00
  • Adult 7,000 yen, Child 6,000 yen (5-11 years)
  • Includes return coach transport from Hirafu < > Sapporo, SkiJapan.com attendant staff, information kit
  • This is NOT a guided tour, this is a return transfer service

Sponsors
City of Sapporo, Sapporo Tourist Association, Sapporo Board of Education, Sapporo Chamber of Commerce and Industry