Sapporo is located on the island of Hokkaido in Japan and is the capital of this mountainous northern Japanese island. In Ainu language the name Sapporo means “important river flowing through a plain”. The city is well-known for its skiing, beer and annual Sapporo Snow Festival with gigantic ice sculptures. Here you can still see the ski hills and jumps from the 1972 Winter Olympics.
Every year Sapporo plays host to a snow festival and in 2017 it will be held from February 6 through February 12. This is one of Japan’s most popular winter events and was started in 1950. Today it is an amazing happening with impressive snow and ice sculptures, attracting over two million visitors from Japan and the world.
The Snow Festival is held on three sites –Odori Park, Susukino and Tsu Dome.
The main site is Odori Park where you can see spectacular snow sculptures which are lit up at night. This site also exhibits over one hundred smaller snow statues and hosts several concerts and events. Visitors can get a great view of this site from the Sapporo TV Tower at the eastern end of the park.
The Susukino Site is located in and named after the city’s largest entertainment district and here you can see around one hundred ice sculptures on display. They’re all lit up at night.
The Tsu Dome Site is centered on families and has three types of snow slides, snow rafting and different snow sculptures. Inside the dome you’ll find lots of food stands and a stage for various events. This site remains open for one additional week until February 19.
Odori Park is the broad median of Odori (“large street”) in the very center of Sapporo. It divides the city into north and south and stretches for twelve city blocks.
Japanese American artist Noguchi Isamu left Sapporo a wonderful piece of art right in Odori Park. The artwork is known as Black Slide Mantra and is made of black stone. It was created so that children could play on it. It has graceful curves and children and even adults love to slide on it.
At the eastern end of the park you’ll find the Sapporo TV Tower with an observation deck that offers great views of the park and the surrounding city. The tower stands at just under 150 meters tall and the observation deck is at an elevation of 90 meters. At night this landmark is illuminated.
Moerenuma Park located on the outskirts of Sapporo. It is a large park that is surrounded by a marsh. There is plenty of green space and due to the massive, dramatic features found here it is a very unusual public space. It was designed by the renowned Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi. The park has most impressive man-made features like Mount Moere, just build for this park and it stands 62 meters tall offering great views.
There is the smaller Play Mountain with an interesting path that leads up to the peak.
Hidamari is a pyramid-like buildings made of glass. Here you can find an information center, an atrium, basic facilities and gallery space that is dedicated to Noguchi.
Sea Fountain sits in the middle of the park and shoots water 25 meters into the air during daily shows from late April to mid-October.
Moere Beach is open to the public from early June to mid-September. You can rent a bike to get around the park from late April to early November.
The Historic Village of Hokkaido is an open-air museum located in the suburbs of the city. Here visitors can see around 60 buildings from all over Hokkaidu, dating from the Meiji and Taisho Periods. The museum is divided into four different sections – a town, fishing village, farm village and a mountain village.
The Historical Museum of Hokkaido is near the open-air museum and documents the history of the development of Hokkaidu. The museum has eight areas which chronologically cover the prefecture’s history from its first occupation around 20,000 years ago to the post war years after 1945 and toward the future.
Shiroi Koibito Park is a theme park owned by Ishiya, a local chocolate company. Their flagship product is the Shiroi Koibito cookie. The cookie has a layer of white chocolate between two thin butter cookies. This is one of the most famous souvenirs from Hokkaido.
The park has a free area with a shop, cafe and a restaurant. There are various exhibits related to chocolate and visitors can look through some large windows to see how the cookies are produced. There are also hands-on workshops where you can create your own cookies.
Mount Moiwa is one of the several small, forested mountains southwest of central Sapporo. This is a popular sightseeing spot, known for its spectacular view over the city from an observation deck at the summit. The view is especially lovely at sunset.
The Mount Moiwa Ropeway takes visitors from the base of the mountain up three quarters of the way to a transfer station. From there you proceed on a unique mini cable car which takes you the rest of the way to the summit. At the summit you’ll find an observation deck and a restaurant. The upper station also has a planetarium and theater.
On the southeastern slope of the mountain you’ll find the Mount Moiwa Ski Resort. This is a skier-only resort with several runs.
Sapporo Beer Museum was opened in 1987 in a former brewery from the Meiji Period. The museum introduces the history of beer in Japan and shows visitors the beer-making process.
After the exhibitions, for a small fee you can taste the beer. Hokkaido is the birthplace of beer in Japan and Sapporo Beer is one of the oldest and most popular beer brands in the country. Sapporo Beer has been brewed since 1877.
Next to the museum you’ll find the Sapporo Beer Garden with several restaurants. Among them are beer halls which have popular all-you-can-drink beer and all-you-can eat mutton BBQ specials. Mutton BBQ is a popular local dish named after the great Mongolian, ruler Genghis Khan.
Sapporo Teine Ski Resort is the largest of several medium-sized ski resorts located on the outskirts of Sapporo. This resort has a variety of ski trails for different kinds of skiers. This resort also has two runs that were used for ski events during the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics. The Olympic Torch still stands above the resort as a monument that overlooks the city and the Sea of Japan.
The ski trails are spread out over two zones and connected by a gondola and a six kilometer long trail. 1000 meters above sea level is the upper Highland Zone which features medium to advanced courses, off trail runs and a snow park with jumps, boxes and rails. The lower Olympia Zone offers wider and less steep trails that are suitable for beginners and has a family park offering sledding and tubing.
Curb Market has nearly 80 stores and restaurants lined along several blocks just outside of Sapporo’s Central Wholesale Market. This is one of the city’s largest public markets and specializes in Hokkaido seafood like crab, sea urchin, salmon roe, squid and scallops. There is local produce such as corn, melons and potatoes.
The shops cater to both locals and tourists and always have a good selection at reasonable prices.
Sapporo Factory is a large shopping and entertainment complex that opened in 1993. Here you’ll find around 160 stores among them clothing stores, souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes and a multi-screen movie theater.
The shops surround a five story atrium that offers visitors a spacious atmosphere.
Sapporo Factory was built on the site of Japan’s first beer brewery and this complex includes a red brick Akarenga building which is reminiscent of Hokkaido’s early development in the late 1880s. There is also a small, functioning brewery which can be seen and afterwards you can enjoy some beer in the Akarenga Beer Hall or at a tasting bar.
The Botanic Garden is not far from the city center and is belongs to Hokkaido University. The garden is used for a scientific and educational purpose. Visitors can walk along the trails and enjoy relaxing on the lawns or having a picnic. It was established in 1886 and preserves a small part of the forest that once covered the Ishikari Plain. Here you can enjoy an alpine garden, a greenhouse and a small Ainumuseum.
In the wintertime only the greenhouse is open to the public.
Nijo Market is a public market in central Sapporo, occupying one city block. It is a favorite of both locals and tourists offering fresh local produce and seafood like crabs, salmon eggs, sea urchin and all kinds of fresh and prepared fish. Among the shops are several restaurants and small place to have a drink along a narrow corridor known as Noren Yokocho.
One of the best ways to enjoy your time here is to have a fresh seafood breakfast at one of the market’s restaurants. There are such popular menu items as uni ikura donburi, sea urchin and salmon eggs on rice.
Sapporo Station is the main railway station. Many shopping centers surround the station complex. The current building was opened in 2003. You can see a replica of the original station building dating from the 1800s at the Historic Village of Hokkaido.
A most impressive tourist attraction is the T38 Observation Deck at the top of the JR Tower building which rises above the station. The deck is on the 38th floor and offers great views all around. The deck has viewing areas, information displays, music and washrooms.
The Clock Tower is a symbol of Sapporo. It was constructed during the early period of the city’s development in 1878 as a drill hall of the Sapporo Agricultural College. A clock purchased from Boston was installed in 1881. The tower functions as a museum that displays the history of the building and of Sapporo on the first floor. On the second floor are displays about the clock and a large ceremony hall.
Hokkaido-jingu dates back to 1869. It is one of the oldest shrines in Hokkaido and known for its awesome cherry and plum blossoms in spring.
The shrine is located in the lovely Maruyama Park which has many trees making visitors feel as if they are walking in the woods. It is particularly beautiful during cherry blossom time.
Sapporo Maruyama Zoo was opened in 1951 as the nation’s tenth largest zoo. The zoo has 184 varieties of mammals, birds and reptiles. The zoo has recreated the natural habitats of all of the animals and new facilities are being built so that the visitors and animals can share the same experience.
The “Forest of the Zoo” is an area about 2 hectares and on the border of the zoo. Maruyama Primeval Forest is a natural monument. The area attempts to recreate Sapporo as it was 50 years ago. This is one of the most nature-orientated zoos in Japan.
The zoo features a children’s petting zoo and a large playground near the main entrance. The zoo is home to such animals as bears, wolves and even white-tailed eagles. There are species from other global regions like tigers, giraffes and primates.
The highlight of the zoo is the bear exhibit particularly the Polar Bear exhibit.