population – 1.83 million.
name Sapporo comes from the Ainu word sari-poro-betsu
modern, clean city built on a grid pattern.
no rainy season, unlike the rest of Japan.
famous for Sapporo beer, the annual winter Sapporo Snow Festival and skiing.
hosted the Asian Winter Games and Winter Olympics.
food speciality: ‘Genghis Khan’ (barbecued mutton).
good base to explore rest of Hokkaido by hire car or train.
Sapporo, with a population approaching nearly 2 million inhabitants, is by far Hokkaido’s largest city and main commercial and business center.
Sapporo hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics and is famous for it’s Snow Festival, Sapporo beer and ramen noodles and of course, ‘Genghis Khan’ – a barbecued mutton dish.
Sapporo’s main historic sites date from the late nineteenth century when the new Meiji government was keen on developing Hokkaido on a colonial model with the help of Western expertise. Sapporo’s attractions include the Old Hokkaido Government Building and the campus of Hokkaido University. There are some worthwhile museums in the city including the Ainu Museum, Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art and a natural history museum in Miyabe Memorial Building.
Things to see and do in Sapporo – Sapporo Attractions Guide
Sapporo Snow Festival, Art Park, Sapporo Beer Museum, Botanical Gardens, Susukino entertainment district for nightlife. The Historical Village of Hokkaido 14km east of the city contains a collection of historic buildings from all over Hokkaido brought to this spot and makes for a good day-trip from Sapporo.
Walking south west from the modern Sapporo Station building and JR Tower, which was opened in 2003, brings you to the Old Hokkaido Government Building (known affectionately to local residents as akarenga or “Red Bricks”). The building was completed in 1888 and modeled on the Massachusetts State House in the USA. The Old Hokkaido Government Building contains a number of interesting display rooms including an introduction to the ongoing diplomatic problem of the return of the Northern Territories off the northern coast of Hokkaido seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II and the history of Japanese settlement on Sakhalin.
Walking a short distance west from the Old Hokkaido Government Building brings you to the Botanic Garden of Hokkaido University. The gardens were founded in 1880s on the recommendation of Dr. William Clark, the American Vice-president of the Sapporo Agricultural College (now Hokkaido University). The once virgin forest site is a beautiful place to stroll and includes a number of interesting museums including the Hokkaido University Museum housed in a wooden, colonial-style building with a number of stuffed animals including the only existing specimens of the Ezo wolf, a number of bear specimens and a rare Blakiston’s Fish Owl.
Other highlights of the Botanical Gardens in Sapporo include the greenhouses, the Miyabe Kingo Memorial Building and the Northern Peoples’ Museum (Ainu Museum), which displays artifacts from the indigenous people of Hokkaido (the Ainu and Uilta) collected during the colonization of the island from 1870 to 1930.
Walking back east and one cross street south along Kita Ichijo Avenue will bring you to another symbol of Sapporo – the Sapporo Clock Tower (Tokeidai) originally built in 1878 as a military drill hall for Sapporo Agricultural College – present-day Hokkaido University – on the recommendation of William Wheeler, the next Vice-president of the college following William Clark. The Clock Tower is now a museum dedicated to the history of the building and the lives and work of the early graduates and teachers of Sapporo Agricultural College.
Walking south on Sapporo Ekimae-dori and then east past Odori Station brings you to another Sapporo landmark – the 147m-tall Sapporo TV Tower, designed by Tachu Naito, also architect of Tokyo Tower, which it closely resembles.
The next subway station south of Odori is Sapporo’s nightlife center of Susukino, probably best visited in the evening to enjoy its many restaurants, bars, night clubs and red-light establishments.
Running east-west just north of Susukino is the Tanuki-koji shopping arcade, which is a good place for souvenir and food shopping along with the Sapporo Underground Shopping Mall. To sample some authentic Hokkaido ramen try Ramen Alley aka Ramen Yokocho in Susukino, though the modern Ramen Republic (Ramen Kyowakoku) on the 10th floor of the ESTA Building at Sapporo Station is now equally as popular with young diners.
Landmarks in the Susukino district include the neon lights of Nikka Whisky on the Susukino Building and the Noria Ferris Wheel on the top of the Norbesa Building, which is illuminated at night.
One stop south of Susukino on the Namboku Line of the Sapporo subway is Nakajima Koen, an area with a large concentration of hotels including the Best Western Nakajima Koen, Art Hotels, Novotel, the Sunlight Sapporo, Marks Inn, Hotel Sincerit, and Sapporo Park Hotel.
The Kirin Beer Garden near the subway station is a good place to try Genghis Khan barbecued mutton in spacious surroundings. The main attraction here, though, is the delightful Nakajima Koen (Nakajima Park), which is a large, strolling, formal garden arranged around the central Shobu Pond.
Nakajima Park is home to a Japanese garden, the Sapporo Astronomical Observatory, the Hassoan teahouse, the Hoheikan guest house built in 1880, the modern Sapporo Concert Hall Kitara and the Hokkaido Museum of Literature. Just outside the park on the west side is the Ellair Square Sapporo Watanbe Junichi Museum of Literature.
Maruyama Park, in the west of Sapporo City, is a 6 hectare (14 acre) park named after the hill on which it is located. Maruyama Park is home to a small forest that includes hundreds of wild cherry trees: a popular sight in spring. Maruyama Zoo is located here as well. The zoo includes a bird and insect house.
Hokkaido Shrine (Hokkaido Jingu) is next to, and just north-east of, Maruyama Park. Hokkaido Shrine was built in 1871 as part of the “state Shinto” movement to help forge a national identity for the newly modernizing Japan. Of the Shrine’s several festivals, the most famous is the Hokkaido Shrine’s own spring festival, 14-16 June each year, which attracts huge crowds.
Mount Okura Ski Jump Stadium (AKA Okurayama-Schanze) is a winter ski stadium with a capacity of about 50,000 spectators. The stadium is less than a kilometer to the west of Maruyama Park.
Other popular places to visit in Sapporo city include the Sapporo Beer Garden & Museum east of Sapporo Station. The red brick building dates from 1891 and though beer is still brewed on the premises, the main focus is the modern museum dedicated to the history of Sapporo beer and the pleasant garden. Take Chuo bus #188 from Sapporo Station, walk from Higashi Kuyaku-sho-mae Station on the Toho Line or ride one of the free shuttle buses to the large Ario shopping center nearby.
The large campus of Hokkaido University north west of Sapporo Station is worth a stroll to see a bust of Dr. William S. Clark, the Furukawa Memorial Hall and Gingko Avenue – a lane of trees reminiscent of a similar road on Tokyo University’s campus.
Sapporo’s big two festivals are the Sapporo Snow Festival held in February and the Yosakoi Soran Festival, which takes place in June. Both festivals have their centers around Odori Park. Other festivals in Sapporo include a Lilac Festival in late May which also has its main venue in Odori Park. Music and beer are both celebrated in July at the Pacific Music Festival and a Beer Festival, which takes place in various locations throughout town. The Sapporo Marathon takes place in October and there are illuminations from November to January and a German-style Christmas market in December.
Shopping In Sapporo Guide
The main districts for shopping in Sapporo are the areas around Sapporo Station and Susukino. Sapporo Station boasts the Apia underground shopping mall, the Paseo mall, Daimaru department store and the ESTA building with 10 floors of shops and restaurants, with a large BIC camera store. The Hokkaido-Sapporo Food & Tourism Information Center near the North Exit of Sapporo Station has a small supermarket where you browse the various delicacies on show from all around Hokkaido.
In Susukino the Tanuki-koji shopping arcade, has a good selection of souvenir shops as does the Sapporo Underground Shopping Mall in nearby Odori near Sapporo TV Tower. The Nijo Fish Market is south east of Odori Subway Station at South 3, East 1-2. Just south of Odori Subway Station are branches of the Parco and Daimaru department stores and a large Don Quijote store. For more fresh fish shopping and super fresh sushi travel out to the Central Wholesale Market near JR Soen Station.
Close to the Sapporo Beer Museum and Sapporo Beer Garden is the Ario shopping mall with a large supermarket and many retail stores.
Also in this area is Sapporo Factory (Tel: 011 207 5000) a modern shopping mall with restaurants and cafes as well as over 100 retail outlets and a multiplex cinema. The Sapporo Factory complex consists of Renga Kan, a brick Meiji-style brewery built in 1876 and the large glass-covered Atrium. Opened in 1993, the Sapporo Factory was designed by Minoru Takeyama, who was also the architect of Seoul Station and the Shibuya 109 building in Tokyo.
To get to Sapporo Factory take the Hokkaido Chuo Bus Factory Line bus or any JR Hokkaido Bus leaving from bays #2, #3 or #4 from JR Sapporo Station and alight at the Sapporo Factory bus stop.
Finally if you are leaving from New Chitose Airport, the airport terminal has a large plaza of shops and restaurants for last minute shopping including a branch of the Tokyo toy store, Hakuhinkan, a Japanese version of London’s Hamley’s.
Otaru, 40km northwest of Sapporo, is the arrival and departure point for ferries to the city from Niigata and Maizuru and has some restored Meiji-era (1868-1912) buildings of interest. The Otaru Snow Light Path Festival runs at the same time as the Sapporo Snow Festival and is particularly beautiful.
Access to Otaru by bus and train (around 30 mins.) to Sapporo.
Hakodate, 260km southwest of Sapporo is on the main train line to Tokyo via the Seikan Tunnel and is worth a visit for the Asa-ichi morning market, the Motomachi area of old residences and foreign consulates, the nineteenth Pentagon-style Goryokaku fort and the amazing view from the top of Hakodateyama.
Access from both Sapporo and Tokyo by train and also ferry from the main island of Honshu.
Niseko is one of Hokkaido’s premier ski resorts popular with both Japanese skiers and snowboarders as well as winter sports enthusiasts from Australia, Singapore and China. Niseko can be reached by both train and bus from Sapporo.
Furano is famous for its flower – particularly lavender – farms, the lavender being in full bloom in July. Furano also has a cheese factory and a wine center, but they are rather, institutionalized tourist-bus traps.
Lake Utonai, a lake just a little south of Shin-Chitose Airport. Lake Utonai is about 9km in circumference and only about 120cm deep at its deepest point! The lake is not a famous tourist spot, except when migrating greater white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons) and swans swarm the lake. Lake Utonai’s biggest claim to fame is that it was Japan’s first bird sanctuary, established in 1981.
Sapporo Dome Stadium
Fukuzumi subway station the 42,122 capacity stadium in Toyohira-ku has an amazing hi-tech system where the football pitch slides into the roofed stadium from outside when the baseball pitch is not required or in the event of bad weather. Sapporo Dome is home to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters baseball team and to Consadole Sapporo of the J-League.
Sapporo Accommodation Guide
Sapporo’s hotels are grouped around Sapporo Station, the entertainment areas of Odori and Susukino and the quieter district of Nakajima Park.
No. of hotels, inns, hostels: 204
No. of rooms: 21,947
Besides its delicious beer, Sapporo is known for a number of other food delicacies that can be tried in restaurants and markets around the city.
Hokkaido’s famed seafood is probably best sampled at one of its fresh fish markets, either Nijo Fish Market near Odori or out at the Sapporo Central Fish Market, west of Sapporo Station near Sapporo University. Jingisukan, a mutton barbecue, is available at the Sapporo Bier Garten and at the branches of the Kirin Beer Garden. Delicious hot potatoes served with salt and Hokkaido butter and grilled Hokkaido corn on the cob can also be found in restaurants and stalls around Sapporo.
Access – Getting to Sapporo
40 flights daily from Tokyo (Haneda Airport) to Shin-Chitose Airport (1 hr. 30 min). From Osaka (Kansai International Airport) 10 flights daily (2 hours). Sapporo has direct air connections with most major cities in Japan, Wakkanai in northern Hokkaido and some international destinations including Bangkok, Beijing, Busan, Guam, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Kaohsiung, Shanghai, Seoul, and Taipei. Buses (80 mins) and trains (36 minutes) to Sapporo city center from the airport. Sapporo has the smaller Okadama Airport nearer to the city with flights to Hakodate, Rishiri, Memanbetsu, Misawa and Kushiro. To reach Okadama Airport take a bus from Sapporo Station or the Sapporo Bus Terminal.
Trains To Sapporo
From Tokyo (Ueno Station) JR express sleeper train (16 hours 35 minutes). Or Shinkansen via Morioka, to Aomori (10 hours) and then express train. From Osaka and Kyoto overnight couchettes on express (22 hours 30 minutes).
From Sapporo Station to the Sapporo Dome stadium, 11 minutes on the Toho subway to Fukuzumi Station then a ten minute stroll. See the Sapporo Station page for full services and times for trains to and from Sapporo.
Sapporo connects to Asahikawa in 90 minutes by Super Kamui Express.
Bus To Sapporo
Sapporo has good long-distance bus links with cities on the main island of Honshu and other destinations within Hokkaido. Buses leave from the main bus station opposite the Sapporo train station or Sapporo Bus Terminal at Bus Center-mae Station on the Tozai Line.
Ferry To Hokkaido
Ferries from nearby Otaru (30 mins. to Sapporo by train) to Niigata, Tsuruga and Maizuru (in Kyoto Prefecture). There are also ferries to Tomakomai from Nagoya, Sendai and Oarai.
Getting Around Sapporo
The Sapporo subway has three lines: Namboku Line (Green), Toho Line (Blue) and Tozai Line (Orange). The main interchange stations are Sapporo Station, Odori (where all three lines intersect) and Susukino.
Sapporo street car
In addition there is a street car (tram) line that loops from Odori Station to Susukino via Nakajima Koen-dori. From Chitose Airport to Sapporo Station take an express train (1040 yen; 36 minutes) or a bus, which is slightly cheaper but takes longer. Sapporo taxis’ flag fall is presently 650 yen.
Sapporo has two Loop Buses that pass many of Sapporo’s main tourist attractions:
-the year-round Sapporo Walk bus for the Sapporo Beer Garden and the Sapporo Factory
-the summer-only JR Hokkaido Burari Sapporo Kanko Bus handy for getting to Maruyama and Okurayama.
Bus at Chitose Airport.
Get from Chitose Airport to downtown Sapporo by bus
Train from Chitose Airport to Sapporo Station.
Get from Chitose Airport to downtown Sapporo by train
Sapporo car and bike rental
There are a number of places to rent both cars and bicycles throughout Sapporo. Check with the Tourist Information Office at Sapporo Station.
Sapporo Tourist Information Centers
The main tourist information center in Sapporo is the Hokkaido-Sapporo Food & Tourism Information Center (Tel: 011 213 5088) near the north exit of Sapporo Station with information in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean, internet access, a cafe, souvenir shop and mini-supermarket.
The US Consulate General (Tel: 011 641 1115) in Sapporo is located at North 1, West 28 in Chuo-ku; the Australian Consulate (Tel: 011 242 4381) in Sapporo is North 5, West 6 also in Chuo-ku.
Sapporo International Communication Plaza (Tel: 011 598 2012) is the city’s international center with more information on happenings in Sapporo and Hokkaido.
Sapporo Tourist Information Office Odori Park
Tel: 011 251 2141
City Hall 2F, near Odori Subway Station