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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.

Kyoto – Where Tradition Meets History

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Japan is a nation full of rich history and fascinating tradition. The ancient city of Kyoto is home to some of the most stunning temples, shrines, streets and castles in all of Japan, and is one of the best places to soak in the traditional Japanese culture.

ACCESS

Getting to Kyoto is easy with many trains and buses going straight to the centrally located city. From Tokyo, it’s just three hours on the shinkansen (bullet train), and from the much closer city of Osaka, it’s only one hour.

TRADITIONAL SITES

Because Kyoto is such a hotspot, the temples in Kyoto are kept in great condition and are among the most vibrantly coloured. The gates and temples are typically painted a classic red to symbolise the expelling of demons and illness. The striking colour makes quite a sight, and lends itself well for photos.

NATURAL SITES

The city of Kyoto also has beautiful forests that run alongside wide and calm rivers. It’s easy to see why ancient Emperors called this place home for so many years. As many of the trees in the area are deciduous, the views along the rivers and forests can be enjoyed in any season.


Shinto priests still man most of the temples and religious sites, and many locals come to the major temples to pray – especially during special times of the year. As you walk around, you will see a mix of locals and tourists, both from overseas and Japan. The priests in Kyoto take great pride in their work but are always happy to help visitors to understand local traditions.


FOOD STALLS

One of the great things about visiting temples and shrines in Kyoto are food stalls; there are so many diverse and tasty Japanese street foods to try! As you approach major sites, you’ll know you’re getting close as the smell of delicious food gets stronger.

ACCOMMODATION

Staying in Kyoto is the best option if you want to take in as much of the culture as you can. Kyoto has some amazing ryokans (traditional Japanese inns), business hotels, and more recently, self-contained apartments. Shinobi House is a newly renovated house in Kyoto, which is perfect for families or groups.

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

Beginners Guide to Japan

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Japan is a stunning country with a rich culture, history and of course amazing ski resorts, but it can be daunting for first-time visitors. Don’t worry, because we’re here to share our top tips and handy hints to get you through Japan like a pro.

These are just a few of our top tips, and our team has even more great advice and info to make sure you have the best trip ever. Contact us today for the best deals and service.

Luggage Transport

One of the biggest question visitors ask is “how can I move my luggage around?” Well, Japan is the land of convenience, and there are a range of luggage transport and storage services available. The main one is called “Yamato Transport”, also commonly known as “Taku-Bin”, and “Black Cat” named for their mascot which is a black cat. With this service, you can send your ski bags or luggage anywhere in Japan from almost any convenience store, luggage office at airports, or hotel desk. The service usually costs around ¥2,500 per ski bag, and less for regular luggage. It’s perfect if you’re going to stay a few days in a major city as part of a stopover, and don’t want the hassle of lugging around skis and boots through the city to a resort such as Hakuba.

Food In Japan

There’s so much food in Japan and it’s all so good! Here are some tips to enjoy food just like the locals do.

Ramen: Commonly available in three main flavours – miso, soy and salt. They’re all delicious, so don’t worry too much about which one you choose. You’ll get roast pork, noodles and some vegetables. Try to get the noodles onto the large spoon, and then slurp away! It’s not rude or impolite to slurp, it’s just considered the normal way to eat ramen!

Sushi & Sashimi: Sashimi is simply very fresh fish that has been sliced into small portions. The price varies per species and cut, with the fattier cuts more prized, more delicious and more expensive. Sushi is when the cut of fish is placed atop a small portion of rice and commonly served with a hint of wasabi. Both sushi and sashimi can be enjoyed with special soy sauce for dipping, but make sure to try it without the sauce first! Niseko even hosts some of the best sushi restaurants in Hokkaido.

Yaki-Niku: BBQ meat is a favourite, no matter what country you’re from. In Japan, BBQ meat can be found at Yaki Niku restaurants, and are often available in timed sessions where you can eat as much as you want for a certain period of time – only in Japan!

Sake: Sake is undoubtedly Japan’s most famous alcohol, and there are many different varieties available. In the bigger cities there are even dedicated sake bars where you can try sake from different regions, and sample all kinds of different flavours and styles.

Phrases

The Japanese language is very difficult to master, and it doesn’t make sense to learn it for a holiday a few weeks a year. BUT there are some great phrases which every visitor to Japan should know!

Arigatou: (Ah-ree-gah-toh) – “Thank you”. Probably the most important word to know in Japan. You can say this at any time you would thank someone.

Sumimasen: (Sue-me-ma-sen) – “Excuse me”. If you’re at a restaurant, you can yell this one out to get the attention of a server, or if you bump into someone on the street you can say this as.

Onegaishimasu: (On-ne-guy-she-muss) – “Please”. There are a number of ways to say this, but this one is the most commonly used. You can say this when you order food or for that all-important Japanese beer.

Daijoubu: (Die-joe-boo) – “It’s alright”. You can say this if you fall down on the snow and people ask if you’re alright, or if you’ve had enough fried chicken for the night.

Konnichiwa: (Ko-ni-chi-wa) – “Hello”. You can use this anytime you meet with someone, or even when you check in at your hotel.

Mou Ippai: (Mo’-ip-pie) – “One More”. If you’ve finished your drink, or need another plate of sushi, just say this (followed by “please”), and you’ll be served one more of whatever you just pointed at.

Sugoi Yuki: (Sue-goy You-key) – “Amazing Snow”. If it’s dumping with snow (a common occurrence), you can point to the heavens and yell this out!

Douzo: (Do-zo) – “Go Ahead”. Lift operators at ski resorts will say this to you once they sweep the chairlift of snow. When you get on the lift, you can respond with “arigato”!

Public Transport In Japan

Getting around on Japan’s public transport is super easy – especially in the cities. The subway systems might look big and scary, but they are easier to navigate than you think.

Tip #1: Use Google Maps or Hyperdia on your phone! This saves you so much time and effort. Get yourself a data sim, download one of these apps, and relax. The public transport maps in Japan can be pretty big, and using an app will save you a lot of time and effort when you need to get from place to place. They’ll give you times, routes, fares, platform numbers and up to date info.

Tip #2: Get yourself a public transport card! Instead of having to calculate and purchase a new fare every time you got on public transport, you can just tap your card and go. The two major brands are Pasmo and Suica, and both can be used on public transport across Japan. To get a card, just go to a branded machine at the station, choose the card, fill it up with cash, and then start tapping! Don’t worry if you fill it up with more than you needed, you can use these cards to pay for items at convince stores as well.

Tip #3: Plan your day in advance! This might sound obvious, but you’ll probably want to be maximising your time doing activities rather than being on trains all day, so make sure to plan your day as best you can before you leave the hotel. Sometimes the things you want to do are only a stop or two away!

Tip #4: Etiquette! Line up for trains and subways – this makes it easy for people to get off, and easy for you to get on. Don’t talk on the phone – it’s considered very rude to speak on the phone, so if you get a call, let them know you’ll have to return their call. Don’t speak loudly – it’s considered very rude to speak loudly on public transport, especially trains. Always give up your seat to the elderly or less mobile.

Tip #5: Taxis! When you check-in at your hotel, make sure to take a business card with their address. If you do get lost somewhere in Japan, you can take a taxi, show them your hotel’s card and be safely returned to your room without worry.

If you’re not sure how to get from resort to resort, or want any more handy hints for getting around, talk to an expert from SkiJapan.com today.

Onsen – Hot Pools And Bath-houses in Japan

Getting in an Onsen for the first time is an awkward mental struggle for just about every guest to Japan. Don’t worry though, because once you get into that steaming, healing water, you’ll forget all about how awkward the naked dash just felt!

When you enter the building, check if you need to remove your shoes – if there’s a step up, you probably will have to remove them. Head to the counter or ticket machine to pay the entry fee. If you don’t have a towel with you, it’s usually possible to rent one. It’s often possible to rent either 1 large towel, or a large towel and a small towel. The large towel is to dry yourself after your soak and should be left in the changing area, and the small towel can be taken inside to wash your face or use as a ‘modesty’ towel (don’t put it in the water though!). If you’re in a more traditional resort you may be asked if you have any tattoos, so be prepared to cover them.

Once you’ve paid the fee and then head into the gender-specific change rooms. Find a basket or locker to put your clothes into and then it’s time to get naked! If you’re using a locker, take the key with you which is likely to be on an elastic wristband.

Inside the next room will be a number of showers with stools to sit on. Find a free shower, sit on the stool and then wash your entire body and hair with the provided soaps. Once you’re all clean, then you can head through the next door where you’ll find the onsen! It’s going to be a cold walk and it’s tempting to run between the wash-room and the onsen, but don’t rush – you don’t want to slip here.

Some onsen have multiple baths with indoor and outdoor areas and varying water temperatures, so try to explore all the different options. Don’t worry about feeling awkward when you move between the baths; it’s worth it to experience each option. Most people will soak for about 20 – 45 minutes, but just go at your own pace and enjoy the scenery.

When you leave the onsen, it is recommended to give yourself a quick wash in the shower again, just to wash off the natural salts and minerals from the water. After a shower, dry yourself off and put your clothes back on. There’s usually a basket to put your used towels in as well.

Many onsen have relaxation areas, massage chairs, vending machines and spaces to lie down and nap. This is the perfect opportunity to just chill out until all your friends are done.

If you’re heading to Niseko, check out Niseko.com’s onsen guide here.

So that’s some of our best advice for beginners, but of course, there’s always so much more to talk about! Contact our team of experts for everything to know about skiing in Japan.