Quick Tips for Touring Sapporo
Sapporo for many English speakers is that Japanese beer your weeb of a friend swears that they love. It is the oldest beer brewed in Japan (1876), and the most sold Asian beer in North America. Hokkaido government started developing many businesses during the Meiji period and hired a German trained brewmaster Seibei Nakagawa to operate their brewery. This helped get the capital of Japans most northern island on the map. The truth is, although refreshing it’s like many other light lagers. Think of it as the Budweiser of Japan. Very popular, possibly for a good reason but a pretty average beer. Asahi is Coors FYI.
This article will hopefully give you some insight into what attractions to visit, food to eat and how to get around while visiting Sapporo.
Attractions & Food
Unlike the beer itself, the city of Sapporo can be quite vibrant. Like many places in Hakkaido it becomes a winter wonderland during the months from November-March. There is a winter festival (Sapporo Yuki Matsuri) that takes place each year from February 1st to February 12th. During this festival, massive snow sculptures are displayed. The main sites are Odori Park, Tsudome and Susukino.
Besides the Yuki Matsuri the city is know for its nightlife. Not only can you get an amazing view of the city from the Sapporo TV Tower; it also has the largest selection of bars, restaurants and karaoke north of Tokyo. One of the most famous dishes that is a must try while visiting Sapporo or Haikkaido is Jingisukan (Genghis Khan, pronounced “Chingis”). If your vegetarian, well your out of luck because this is your worst nightmare. A medley of different delicious cuts of lamb, sometimes marinated or pickled depending on location. The dish was first made popular in 1936. In 1918 the Japanese government attempted to increase and spread the production of sheep farms. However shortly after they were established, a majority of the facilities were destroyed. This left Hokkaido with the only two remaining in Japan. The dish is named after the historic mongrel leader Genghis (pronounced Chingis) Khan. This was because the monguels were known for eating plentiful amounts of meat and as such the Japanese thought it was a fitting name. The grill shape represents a soldiers helmet that they were rumoured to cook food on.
The other famous dish of Sapporo or more accurately Hakkaido, is akamiso ramen. Miso is fermented soy bean paste and is very prevelant in Japanese cooking. In Hokkaido region they use specifically red soy bean miso for their broths in ramen. In Japan many regions have a specialty ramen that they are known for. Think of BBQ in the states, Kansas vs Louisiana vs Texas. Here it is Hakkaido vs Tokyo vs Kansai.
The sightseeing in Sapporo might not be the best in Japan but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth while. There are some impressive structures like Sapporo TV Tower, Sapporo Clock Tower and the former Haikkaido Government building. The Sapporo TV Tower has an observation deck which allows you to get a marvellous view of the city. The more attractive places for nature lovers are the Botanic Garden of Hokkaido University and Nakajima Park. Unfortunately the botanical gardens is mostly closed during the winter except for its green houses. Hakkaido University campus is in the most northern part of the city. The campus is the largest in Japan and makes for a nice little hike.
The Sapporo Beer Gardens and Museum is one of the spots to get your drink on and eat the delicious Jingisukan dish. It is free to tour yourself or a cheap guided tour can be purchased (in Japanese only). It is a neat little experience for those into brewing or simply beer. It also has a tasting section with cheap beers and snacks, the only drawback being a 30 minute limit. It is 300 Yen for each beer or 600 Yen for a taster set.
Transportation and Navigating the City
The city is easily navigated by foot, with it only taking roughly thirty minutes to get across town by foot. The city is broken into a grid and you can find each intersection labeled with your coordinates (e.g N5W6). The best way to get around in freezing weather is deifently by cab. Usually no more than 1300 Yen to get to any specific part of the city. There are means to get around on foot through a storm aswell. There is a large underground shopping centre and subway which can be used to navigate through the city. There is also a shopping plaza that runs east/west throughout the city. This is just south of Odori park, which are actually a collection of many small parks also running east/west.
Chances are you are either coming from Chitose Airport or Hakodate. If you are flying into Chitose Airport and wish to head to Sapporo, go to the bottom level where you can find a bus station kiosk. You can purchase a ticket for 1030 yen which will take you to Odori Park station. The ride is only about an hour and the bus is equipped with free wifi. If you are coming from Hakodate you will arrive at the JR station which is north east from the downtown area.
Quick side note if you plan on travelling across Hokkaido to Kushiro or Obihiro from Sapporo. Plan on cancellations or delays for trains and fully reserved busses being a factor during snow storms. Shutting down tracks for snow removal can be quite common.
All in all a fabulous place to visit. You should be able to take in all the sights and try the food in two or three days.