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Travel Guide Asia Japan Hokkaido Sapporo

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Introduction

Sapporo - Tower

Sapporo - Tower

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Sapporo is one of the biggest cities in the north of Japan and the capital of Hokkaido. Located in Ishikari Subprefecture, it is the capital of Hokkaido Prefecture, and an ordinance-designated city of Japan. Sapporo is known outside Japan for having hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics, the first ever held in Asia, and for the city's annual Yuki Matsuri, internationally referred to as the Sapporo Snow Festival, which draws more than 2 million tourists from around the world. The city is also home to Sapporo Brewery, and the white chocolate biscuits called shiroi koibito (白い恋人, "white sweetheart").

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Sights and Activities

  • 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! ¥200.
  • 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 for "¥1,500" but reservations must be made 3 days in advance. ¥600.
  • 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. ¥700.
  • 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. 9AM-6PM. 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 (see Eat). Beer sample ¥200, 3 samples ¥500.
  • 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.
  • 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. 9:00am-4:00pm. 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. ¥400.

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Events and Festivals

Traditional Festivals

Japan has countless traditional festivals and holidays. Then when you add the local festivals that number just grows and grows. Here is a list of the few major national traditional festivals.

  • Japanese New Year (January 1) - the most important holiday in Japan. Although there are lots of customs and traditions most of them are done in the private. This is mainly a family holiday and Japan can feel very empty as almost everyone goes home. Travelling in Japan in during this time is difficult because everything is shut down.
  • Seijin No Hi (2nd Monday of January) - the coming of age holiday for Japanese women which 20. Traditionally families will buy any young woman how turned 20 in the last year a kimono. On this day almost all Japanese women will ear a kimono.
  • Hin Festival (March 3) - Also known as doll festival the Hin Matsuri festival is meant for young women. In early february families with daughters put dolls in order to make the women happy and healthy later in life. On Girls Day, on March 3, the dolls are put away until next year.
  • Shichi Go San Festival (Novermber 5) - Boys who are 3 and 5, and girls 3 and 7 are taken to a shinto shrine in traditional Japanese dress. The children are brought there to pray for good luck, good health and wealth.

National Holidays

  • Golden Week - Is quite often referred to as the "Japanese Spring Break." It is a combination of many state holidays, including Showa Day, Greenery Day, Children's Day, and Constitution Memorial Day in order to give a full week off. It takes place during the first full week of May. Everyone gets this week off in Japan so it is very bad time to travel because everything is crowded, expensive and most hotels will be full. There is also a major festival in the southern city of Fukuoka this week, it is called Hakata Dontaku.

Local Festivals

  • Sapporo Snow Festival - This lovely February event is the first celebration on the festival calendar and takes place in Hokkaido’s regional capital, Odori Park. Vast snow and ice sculptures are featured, drawing visitors from all over Japan.

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Weather

Sapporo has a humid continental climate, with a wide range of temperature between the summer and winter. Summers are generally warm but not overly humid, and winters are cold and very snowy, with an average snowfall of 5.96 metres. Sapporo is one of the few metropolises in the world with such heavy snowfall, enabling it to hold events and festivals with snow statues. The heavy snowfall is due to the Siberian High developing over the Eurasian land mass and the Aleutian Low developing over the northern Pacific Ocean, resulting in a flow of cold air southeastward across Tsushima Current and to western Hokkaido. The city's annual average precipitation is around 1,100 mm, and the mean annual temperature is 8.5 °C.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max-0.6 °C0.1 °C4 °C11.5 °C17.3 °C21.5 °C24.9 °C26.4 °C22.4 °C16.2 °C8.5 °C2.1 °C
Avg Min-7 °C-6.6 °C-2.9 °C3.2 °C8.3 °C12.9 °C17.3 °C19.1 °C14.2 °C7.5 °C1.3 °C-4.1 °C
Rainfall113.6 mm94 mm77.8 mm56.8 mm53.1 mm46.8 mm81 mm123.8 mm135.2 mm108.7 mm104.1 mm111.7 mm
Rain Days18.11614.298.56.588.59.711.713.915.4

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Getting There

By Plane

New Chitose Airport (CTS) is the main gateway arriving by plane. Most major Japanese cities are served, as well as international destinations like Seoul, Hong Kong, Busan, Taipei, Guam, Beijing and Shanghai.

To/from the airport

  • Rail: The New Chitose Airport Station is located on a spur off the Chitose Line of Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido). Rapid service trains operate to and from Sapporo Station in about 35-40 minutes.
  • Bus: buses go regularly to Sapporo and Oyachi (4 per hour), Asabu and Miyanosawa (1-2 an hour) and places further away like Muroran (12 times a day) and smaller places like Tomakomai, Hobetsu and Urakawa (usually 1 or a few a day). Buses also serve the Apa Hotel & Resort a few times an hour. Atsuma is served 3 times a day as well.

By Train

Getting to Sapporo by train is time consuming and expensive. From Tokyo, for example, a one-way trip takes about eight hours using the Hayabusa shinkansen and the Hokuto limited express, changing at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station.

The national Japan Rail Pass fully covers the journey. If you are just traveling between Tokyo and Hokkaido, you could consider the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass, which is slightly cheaper than the national pass (¥26,000 for advance purchase). This pass covers travel on the shinkansen from Tokyo to Hakodate, and express trains from Hakodate to Sapporo. It can be used on any 6 days within a 14-day period. Unlike the national pass, however, the JR East-South Hokkaido Pass only comes in one version for standard class travel.

Overnight trains to Hokkaido were discontinued when the shinkansen began operations through the underwater Seikan Tunnel in March 2016.

It is now a little easier to make a trip during the day from Tokyo to Sapporo, with trains making the trip in about 8 hours. If 8 hours is too much, or if you will travel over a longer distance (i.e. from Osaka and cities beyond), you may wish to split up your journey; stop to visit another city along the way, or simply find a station along the bullet train route where you can find cheap accommodations. The latter is beneficial to Rail Pass holders. Potential options for layovers include Hakodate and Aomori.

Rapid trains run to Otaru several times per hour with connecting trains operating to the ski resort town of Niseko. During peak periods, a daily round-trip service from Sapporo to Niseko operates.

By Bus

Express buses connect to most points in Hokkaido. The main terminal is next to the Bus Center-Mae station of the subway Tōzai line.

By Boat

Although Sapporo is located inland, there are two major ferry ports nearby: Otaru and Tomakomai. Both have scheduled car and passenger ferry service to points outside Hokkaido.

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Getting Around

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 centre of the city can be quite large.

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.

By Public Transport

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.

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. Single fares cost ¥200 and up, with a choice between subway-only tickets or transfer (subway, bus and streetcar) tickets. The simplest option is the With You stored value card (lowest denomination ¥1000). On weekends and public holidays, the Donichika-Kippu (ドニチカキップ) allows unlimited 1-day subway travel for ¥500. On weekdays, the One-Day Card allows the same, but costs ¥800. There is also a Bus and Subway Transfer One-Day Card, which allows unlimited 1-day travel on buses, subways, and streetcars (¥1000). Fares for children are about half those for adults.

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. Single-trip tickets are ¥170. They also sell a "Do-san-ko Pass" on weekends and holidays which allows you to ride all you want for a day for ¥300. 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.

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Eat

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.

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Drink

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 labourers 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.

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Sleep

  • Auto Resort Takino, 247 Takino, Minami-ku (Near the Art Park in Minami-ku), ☎ +81 11 594-2121. From approximately the last week of April through the first week of November, there is a campground in Takino with the facilities you would expect in a suburban campground: a playground, restrooms, a cooking area, water, public phones, vending machines, showers, a store, and a laundromat. According to Outdoor Japan, "There are some beautiful waterfalls to hike around in Takino Suzuran Koen and the campsite is large and comfortable." ¥1000 per site, plus ¥800 per person.
  • DK Guest House Sapporo, South 5, West 13-2-8, Chuo-ku. A guest house where many international students stay. Service is friendly and it's only 15 minutes from Susukino. Cheap rooms with fridge and AC for ¥45,000/month, en-suites for ¥55,000/month.

Ino's Place, Higashi Sapporo 3-4-6-5, Shiroishi-ku (7 minutes from Ō-Dōri station on the Tōzai line in Shiroishi). Describes itself as a backpackers hostel and is a very friendly, open and clean place. Private rooms are available as well, as are discounts for long-term stays. Several 24h showers and a Japanese-style bath, free to use kitchen, a comfy living area and free internet access make this one a sure winner. Dorm beds ¥2900. edit
( Jimmyz Backbackers, 2-1 South 5 East 3, Chuo-ku, ☎ +81 11 206-8632. Check-in: 3:00pm, check-out: 11:00am. Small and very friendly hostel. Owner Jimmy is a traveler himself and takes well care of his guests. Free tea and WiFi. Dorm bunk ¥2,950.

  • Safro Spa & Capsule Hotel, South 6, West 5-3-2, Chūō-ku (South 6, West 5, in Susukino). Formerly the Hokuo, this is a capsule hotel bolted on to an extensive spa complex, with separate floors for men and women. Your bill must be settled before they will let you out. ¥3800, ¥500 extra on weekends.
  • Sapporo Grand Hotel. This hotel was built in 1934 and is a historical monument in itself. Although some of the rooms are rather aged, it is a stylish hotel and is very conveniently located.
  • Washington Hotel One. Right next to the train station and remodeled in 2006. Each room includes a complementary computer and internet access to use while you stay.

View our map of accommodation in Sapporo or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

Manga cafes are dotted along the streets of almost every city in Japan. For a very reasonable price (about ¥100 per 15 minutes), you receive a private cubicle with a PC with internet access at blistering Japanese internet speeds. The chairs are incredibly comfortable (making them an excellent place to sleep for the cash-deprived), and you can even order snacks and drinks from the staff.

A number of business hotels have Internet access available if you have your own device, sometimes for free. It is also possible to find Wi-Fi "hot spots" around many large cities in Japan, especially near tech-related businesses and large corporate buildings with unsecured wireless networks. 3G Wireless Data and Pocket Wifi are other options.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Payphones (公衆電話 kōshū denwa) are easily found, particularly near train stations, although with the popularity of mobile phones, public pay phones are not quite as numerous as they once were. Gray and green pay phones accept ¥10 and ¥100 coins and prepaid cards. Be aware that not all places with public telephones have phones that accept coins, so it may be worthwhile to buy a phone card for emergency use. Some of the gray phones, as indicated on the display, can make international calls. Pre-paid cards can be purchased at convenience stores, train station kiosk stores and sometimes in vending machines next to the phone.

Modern Japanese mobile phones (携帯電話 keitai denwa or just keitai) tend to operate on unique cellular standards not always compatible with the rest of the world. 3G phones using the UMTS/WCDMA2100 standard and equipped with a 3G SIM card will most likely work. If your phone is up to spec, double-check with your carrier if they have a roaming agreement with either SoftBank or NTT DoCoMo. Coverage is generally excellent, unless you are heading to some remote mountainous areas. If you have no 3G phone but still have a 3G-compatible SIM card, you can rent a 3G phone in Japan and slot in your card, allowing you to keep your home phone number in Japan. For a longer trip, you can also purchase a phone, but doing this legally requires an Alien Registration Card (or an obliging Japanese friend willing to front for you).

The easier way is to get a prepaid phone. Prepaid phones are sold in most SoftBank and AU stores. If you already have a 3G phone, go with Softbank as it can sell SIMs as opposed to au whose prepaid service is phone-based like most CDMA carriers. Prepaid phones use a "card" with a pass key to "charge" a phone with minutes. These prepaid calling cards, unlike the phone itself, can be found in most convenience stores. A prepaid cell phone is available for as little as ¥5000 plus ¥3000 for a 60-90 day call time package, which will get drained at a rate of ¥100 per minute (¥10 per 6 seconds for AU's prepaid service). Both SoftBank and AU offer prepaid phones.

Post

The Japanese postal service is excellent! Domestic and international mail service is very quick and reliable. The prices for sending letters, postcards and parcels vary depending on where you send if from and to which country you send it too, and of course depends on weight as well, so check this calculation page of Japan Post for more details. Post offices generally are open from 9:00am to 5:00pm on weekdays, closing at weekends and also on national holidays, though a few open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 3:00pm. Central post offices are sometimes open until 7:00pm, open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 5:00pm and on Sundays and holidays from 9:00am to 12:30pm. There are post offices in every major city and minor town. Another thing to remember is that the post office is one of the few places in Japan that is guaranteed to have ATMs that take international cards.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 43.0620958
  • Longitude: 141.3543763

Accommodation in Sapporo

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This is version 16. Last edited at 7:22 on Aug 17, 17 by Utrecht. 20 articles link to this page.

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