Sapporo

Sapporo Skyline

Sapporo (札幌) is the capital and largest city of the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan.

Understand

One of Japan's newest and nicest cities, Sapporo's population has grown from seven in 1857 to nearly 2 million today. Being a new city, especially by Japanese standards, means it has little in the way of traditional architecture and the like of cities such as Kyoto. But what it lacks in "Japanese-ness" it makes up for with its lovely open, tree-filled boulevards to enjoy in summer and excellent snow (and facilities to cope with said snow) in the long winter.

Climate

Sapporo has four distinct seasons. Temperatures are generally cool and pleasant in a summer, making it a popular place to escape the heat that grips much of the rest of Japan. Winters are harsh by Japanese standards, though not as harsh as the likes of Harbin or Chicago. Snowfall is extremely frequent in the winter, and the city makes full use of it be hosting the world-renowned Sapporo Snow Festival in February every year.

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) -1 0 4 12 17 22 25 26 22 16 9 2
Nightly lows (°C) -7 -7 -3 3 8 13 17 19 14 8 1 -4
Precipitation (mm) 114 94 78 57 53 47 81 124 135 109 104 112

Get in

Sapporo is Hokkaido's main transport hub.

By plane

If traveling by plane, you may wish to consider one of the air passes for foreigners sold by Japan Airlines and ANA, including the Japan Explorer Pass and Experience Japan Fare, respectively.

By train

JR Sapporo Station

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 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.

Sapporo Station serves as the hub for long distance services to/from other parts of Hokkaido, with reserved seating available. These include:

North of Sapporo

East of Sapporo

South of Sapporo

West of Sapporo

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 ferry

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.

Get around

Sapporo TV Tower at night

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 train

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.

By subway

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.

By streetcar

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.

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.

See

Tokeidai, Sapporo's icon
Hyakunen Kinentou, Memorial Tower near Pioneer Village
View from Asahiyama overlooking Sapporo city
Autumn at Houkaikyou Dam, Jozankei

Do

Edo-jo recreated from snow/ice at Yuki Matsuri
Historical theme of Perry arriving in Japan at Yuki Matsuri

Buy

For those living in Japan who have an omiyage (souvenir) obligation to fill in your Japanese office when you return from your Hokkaido holiday, the best omiyage to buy in Sapporo is the ubiquitous Shiroi Koibito (白い恋人, "White Lovers"). It is a chocolate slice sandwiched in two wafers of sweet biscuit, individually wrapped and available boxed in a range of different quantities tasty enough, but rather bland, and few Westerners would associate the taste with Japan. The original flavour is white chocolate sandwiched in plain sweet biscuit, but there is also a dark chocolate version. It's available in every souvenir store in the city (try the Sapporo JR area or Tanuki Koji Shopping Arcade when shopping for souvenirs), and also most souvenir stores around the island.

Being a wintery kind of place for a good part of each year, Sapporo also has many stores selling all manner of snow goods. At the beginning and end of each season, many good deals on the previous year's gear can be found, often at discounts of up to 60% off, sometimes more! Also, there are several sports recycle stores in the city and suburbs where good deals on barely-used gear can be found, thanks to the Japanese fondness for having new gear every season. Ask Tourist Information to help you locate sports recycle and snow-goods stores.

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.

Drink

The 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.

Chuo Ward,  +81 11 272-6665. 4PM-2AM. Since opening in 2006 it has become the most popular pub between foreigners living in Sapporo, Australian and Japanese bi-lingual staff will welcome anybody. Worldwide beers available at cheap prices. Food, tex mex, fish & chips, and beautiful beef burgers. Free wifi. Open from midday on weekends. Cheap.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Connect

There are a quite few internet cafes in the city, ask at the International Plaza (in Sapporo JR or near the Clock Tower) for current information and directions.

Cope

Consulates

Go next

Routes through Sapporo

Asahikawa Iwamizawa  N  S  Otaru Hakodate
Shibetsu Iwamizawa  N  S  Chitose JCT E Muroran
Otaru  W  S  END


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 29, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.