Opposites attract in Japan—ancient traditions fuse with advanced technology while minimalism meets kitsch
Sapporo, Ebetsu, Tomakomai
Crows the size of cows and rain falling from the sunny sky were the two things that followed me everyday during my short stay in Sapporo. My trip was only 2 days long, but there was so much more to see and do, I am already planning my next visit! Here are 6 interesting facts about Sapporo to get you started: ① It's the largest city in Hokkaido. ② People walk very fast. ③ Ramen shops close very early. ④ Everything must have milk or cheese in it. ⑤ The night view ranks higher than Hakodate. ⑥ Its "historical" village is only 150 years old. Legend: 🎫 Admission fee 🍁 Recommended autumn foliage viewing spot ❤️ Recommendation of something I enjoyed 🍙 Food recommendation 📸 Notable photo spot 👍 Pro tip 💸 Budget tip Feel free to drop me a comment if you have any questions.
Wondering what to eat while in Sapporo? Try these 6 local delicacies: ① 𝗠𝘂𝘁𝘁𝗼𝗻 𝘀𝗼𝘂𝗽 ② 𝗞𝗮𝗶𝘀𝗲𝗻 𝗱𝗼𝗻 (seafood topped rice bowl) ③ 𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗻𝘆𝗮𝗸𝗶 (grilled salmon in miso sauce) ④ 𝗝𝗶𝗻𝗷𝗶𝘀𝘂𝗸𝗮𝗻 (BBQ mutton) ⑤ 𝗜𝗸𝗮𝗺𝗲𝘀𝗵𝗶 (squid stuffed with rice) ⑥ 𝗦𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗼𝗿𝗼 𝗺𝗶𝘀𝗼 𝗿𝗮𝗺𝗲𝗻 ❄️ Crab meat is also a very popular choice if you're visiting during the winter. Sip on some local Sapporo Beer to go along with it all 🍻 https://lemi.travel/wabisavi/sapporo-of-crows-and-drizzles/donburi-chaya https://lemi.travel/wabisavi/sapporo-of-crows-and-drizzles/aji-no-sanpei
My trip across Japan started off in Susukino. The home to Sapporo's vibrant nightlife district was quiet enough at 11am, despite the extensive shopping options. As I sat for a little break in the covered shopping street, I was nostalgically reminded of the similar one in Kyoto. Except here my neighbors were not tourists but bundled up elderly. They eyeballed me as if wondering what strange creature I was, to appear in Sapporo during this off-peak season. In fact, not only were there very few foreign tourists, there were very few people in general. Not that I am complaining. Having sightseeing spots all to myself at whatever hour of the day? Yes, please. 💸 Susukino is a cheap place to put up for those seeking budget-friendly hostels in a central location (and that is exactly what I did). It is near to station, food and shopping (my travelling holy trinity). 📷 by wikimedia
Susukino St, Minami 6 Jōnishi, Chūō-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 064-0806, Japan
I walked by my hostel twice before seeing it, wondering if my GPS had gone awry (which it did frustratingly often). It was way early for check-in, but thankfully they took my luggage into custody (after check-out they will not hold it, but refer you to the coin lockers in the basement). Overall, it was value for money. The capsule beds were spacious, the price was cheap and the environment was clean and quiet. On the down side, the staff were rather cold and unhelpful, a first in Japan by my experience. No real explanation about the hostel was given, and any faux pas (which I'm of course very prone to being a bumbling airhead) was met with disapproval and slightly passive-aggressive comments 😭 Note: it's very common in hostels across Japan that you are asked to make your own bed and remove the sheets when checking-out.
Japan, 〒060-0063 北海道Sapporo, Chūō-ku, Minami 3 Jōnishi, 5-chōme, 札幌市中央区 南３条西５丁目32 狸小路5丁目アーケード内
My first stop after dropping off my luggage was 𝗢𝗱𝗼𝗿𝗶 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗸, Sapporo Tower quickly becoming the point of reference for poorly oriented me. Beautiful flower beds are laid out seasonally, but it wasn't all that impressive when I visited. A pit stop to the tourist centre to pick up a map and some information may be a good idea (though since you're reading my guide, you don't really need any of that anymore, do you? 😁) 𝗙𝘂𝗻 𝗙𝗮𝗰𝘁. In Japanese, Odori (大通) means main street.
Odori Ave, 20 Chome-1 Minami 1 Jonishi, Chūō-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
The TV Tower is one of Sapporo's most famous landmarks, standing tall in the centre of Odori Avenue since it's construction in 1957. Set 90m above ground, the 360 observatory deck offers a stunning bird's eye view of the city, both by day and by night. While I didn't get a chance to climb to the observatory, the TV Tower really made strolling around Odori Park in the evening a pleasure to the sight. 📸 The evening fountain display in front of the TV Tower was sweet, the changing colours of the lighted up tower making a mesmerizing backdrop. I know 𝘐 was enthralled when, in the midst of taking pictures, I almost got hit by the local youths skateboarding through the park. Admission: 720¥ (student discount available) 💸 You can get a 100¥ discount on the entrance ticket if you buy it through KLOOK (must be booked the previous day). If you are a new KLOOK user you can sign up with my referral code D7VCLL to get a welcome reward 🤩 (around 360¥). 👍 The illuminations and light-ups regularly change according to the season, so check out the official website to know what's on! http://www.tv-tower.co.jp/guidance/lightup/
Maruyama Park's virgin forest is a national treasure, and for good reason. Even if you are not much of a nature person, this is the one place you don't want to miss. Both Maruyama and Nakajima are extensive, so check the map at the entrance to get a feel of the layout. Being the gamer that I am, I decided to keep the best part (that would be the shrine) for last and tour the ponds first. And I was in awe. I often describe sights as "breathtaking", but this truly had me halt in my steps. It felt like stepping into a painting, almost surreal. There is something about Hokkaido that makes the reflections in the water so vivid, the likes of which I have not seen in the rest of Japan. 🍁 Golden maple leaves, like rain, fell quietly at every breath of wind, never disturbing the water surface. 🍁 📸 The photo of this post is unfiltered, and you can see it just as it came out of my phone. Now, multiply my horrible photo skills by a hundred, and you'll get a feel of what the real thing looked like. I had a lot to cover that day, but I loved the park so much I decided to skip lunch and dig into the onigiri I always carry around as emergency ration. Of course, a sun shower came to disturb my plans and urge me on. 円山公園 🍁🌸⛩️ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Admission: Free 🚇 Take the subway from Odori St. and get off at Maruyama Koen St.
3 Miyagaoka, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 064-0959, Japan
Located on the other side of Maruyama Park, Sapporo's zoo is a great place to come face to face with polar bears, penguins, snow leopards, siberian tigers and red pandas just to name a few. Don't let this deceive you though: a big family of tropical animals is housed here too! Maruyama Zoo is kid friendly, with many play areas and a petting zoo. 札幌市円山動物園 Admission: 600¥ (free for kids)
3番地１ Miyagaoka, Chūō-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 064-0959, Japan
I didn't have time to explore the full of this sprawling park, though to be honest the big pond is pretty but not that memorable. If you are pressed on time, head to the north-west corner of the park, where the hidden gem is a traditionally styled Japanese garden nestled within the bigger park. Overall, I preferred Maruyama's atmosphere (call me obsessed, but I cannot stop thinking about those ponds). 中島公園 🍁⭐⭐⭐★★ Admission: Free 🚇 Take the subway to Nakajima Koen St. The station exit is right inside the park.More details
Hakodate people will never admit it, but Sapporo's night view has stolen their spot in Japan's "most stunning night views" ranking. Fun fact. In Sapporo the guide stated the current top 3 best views to be Kitakyushu, Nagasaki and Sapporo. In Hakodate the guide stated the top 3 to be Kitakyushu, Nagasaki and Kobe. Lesson learnt: I need to go see this Kitakyushu thing. I saw both Sapporo and Hakodate views, and my personal preference leans towards Sapporo. Disclaimer: the lack of huge masses of tourists wrestling for a photo did play a part in my preference. 🎑 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 🚇 Ride the Shinden to Ropeway Iriguchi Stop. 👍 Get there early to enjoy the sunset too. It gets dark very fast (I mean, once it's dark, it's dark, right? how more night view can it get?), and you'll avoid the crowds coming in later. 💸 The shuttle bus going up and down the mountain is FREE. But! ❤️ But the ride down in the ropeway was magical and an experience I definitely recommend. I took the ride up in the late afternoon and thought it was just fine, you get the full commentary (Japanese only) but it's nothing more than a fast way to the top. Going down after dark was a whole different story. Because the ropeway landing is basically 𝘪𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘥𝘦 Sapporo, it feels like you are diving right into the sparkling, sprawling city.
Mt. Moiwa, Moiwayama, Minami Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 005-0041, Japan
Ok, this is by no way a typical or regional Hokkaido restaurant, but tonkatsu is a Japanese specialty, so I will recommend it guilt free, being that this tonkatsu in particular is my guilty pleasure 🤤. For those of you wondering, tonkatsu is a deep fried pork cutlet covered in crunchy crumbs, enjoyed with (usually) free flow shredded cabbage, white rise and miso soup. It's significantly pricier than other types of available set meals, usually on par with seafood sets, so you definitely want to splurge on a good one. That said, I've always found Tonkatsu Wako to be on the cheaper side of the scale. Not all tonkatsu are equal, and people have their personal preferences. I like mine crunchy on the outside and sinfully juicy with fat on the inside. If you have similar taste to mine, you will love this store. In other Tonkatsu Wako branches I visited, cabbage, rice and soup were laid out buffet style. In this store if you are in need of a refill, loudly exclaim "Sumimasen!" to get the attention of a waiter. No need to feel shy 😳, that's the way you communicate with staff in Japanese restaurants. Btw, Pole Town and Aurora Town are two massive underground shopping arcades that can help you get around the centre of town, without ever having to step foot into the cold or rainy outside. 🍙⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I had just as much ground to cover on day 2, so I set out for an early start. Wondering where to take my rumbly tummy (for some reason, I'm always hungry since I came to Japan), I headed out to the 𝘈𝘴𝘢𝘪𝘤𝘩𝘪, the morning market where fish, vegetables and other food is on sale starting from the wee hours of the morning. Still bleary eyed and sipping on my coffee, I squeezed through the narrow and dimly lit alleys of the inner market, following more savvy-looking Japanese tourists. Goal: finding the best 海鮮丼専門店 (𝘒𝘢𝘪𝘴𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘰𝘯 𝘚𝘦𝘯𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘯, a shop that specialises in seafood topped rice bowls). 🍙 ⭐⭐⭐⭐★ A short walk from Sapporo Tower.
1 Chome Minami 3 Johigashi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0052, Japan
As I wondered around the market, I eventually followed some Japanese tourists into Donburi Chaya. The market here is definitely pricier than the one in Hakodate, but how better to start off your days of exploring Hokkaido than with a bowl of seafood? I know right, sashimi topped rice for breakfast? But you can't enjoy Japan to the fullest without being a bit adventurous with your eating habits. Bowls range from a 1000¥ breakfast sized bowl to a 6000¥ sampler set classily served in 7 bowls. If raw fish is not your thing, cooked topping versions are also available. 🍙 ⭐⭐⭐⭐★ Located within Nijo Market
Japan, 〒060-0053 北海道札幌市中央区南３条東１丁目７
Sapporo Clock Tower (not to be confused with the TV Tower's digital clock that graces Odori Park) is a wooden structure built in 1878 that has since become the symbol of Sapporo, as neatly depicted on the towns manholes. While the reasons why this tower became a National Cultural Property were yet to me unknown, I decided to make a stop to see it on my way to the University. Turns out it used to be the drill house for the Agricultural College (now Hokkaido University. You can visit the old hostel of this school at the Hokkaido Village). The building has been turned into a museum, but 📸 taking a selfie in front of the clock tower is the true proof you have been to Sapporo.
2 Chome Kita 1 Jonishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0001, Japan
A famous spot in Sapporo to enjoy autumn foliage is Ginkgo Avenue, located within the Hokkaido University. While the leaves were still vividly green, later in the season strolling down this lane means immersing into a magical golden atmosphere (swipe left to see more photos). If my university had been half this pretty, I'm sure I would have felt much more motivated to attend class every day. 🍁 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Japan, 〒001-0012 Hokkaido, Sapporo, Kita-ku, Kita 12 Jōnishi, 6-chōme, 北13条西5～7丁目北海道大学構内
I'm a big fan of outdoor museums, where I'm able to leisurely stroll around picture-perfect towns while still getting the informative side of an actual museum visit. All while never feeling I wasted a beautifully sunny day. Of course, since Hokkaido is a relatively young settlement, the houses here are at most 150 years old, dating back to the early Meiji era days. The 4 represented areas are: the town, the fishing village, the farm village and the mountain village. This museum is huge, and 2 and a half hours of wandering were not enough to tour all the 52 buildings. I really appreciated the reconstruction of the interiors, filled with period furniture, utensils and wax statues. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 👍 Wear shoes which are easy to take off and put on, as you'll be removing them frustratingly often if you plan to enter every building.
Konopporo-50-1 Atsubetsuchō, Atsubetsu-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 004-0006, Japan
After making my way back from the Hokkaido Village I was going to stop at the Sapporo Brewery before dinner. A good plan, if not for the fact that the ramen joint I had set my eyes on closes at 6:30pm (something unheard of in Kyoto, where ramen is the food of choice of people returning after a night of drinking and clubbing). Feel free to contest my choice, but I decided ramen was more important than beer so I headed straight for Aji no Sanpei. Hidden within a shopping mall, sitting at the end of a bookstore, this little shop with some 10 counter seats is famous with the locals. The originator of the iconic Sapporo Miso Ramen, for 60 years it has been serving up this nutritious fare. My ramen of choice is always tonkotsu, but I decided to give the local flavour a try, and I was not disappointed. After a long day of sightseeing in cold and windy Sapporo, the rich hot soup was a joy to the senses. The thick curly noodles were cooked to perfection. A generous portion of vegetables and minced meat completed the dish. This ramen does not come with chashu, and the owner recommended to not add it as a topping. Chili paste is available for those who want an extra rush of heat. I have no regrets about missing the brewery for this. 🍜 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Japan, 〒060-0061 Hokkaido, Sapporo, Chūō-ku, Minami 1 Jōnishi, 3-chōme−２ 大丸藤井セントラル4F
Opposites attract in Japan—ancient traditions fuse with advanced technology while minimalism meets kitsch