Unlike most of Japan’s other major metropolises, Sapporo was set out on a grid system like towns and cities in the USA. Its two main streets are Odori, a wide boulevard that separates the city into north and south; and Ekimae Avenue, which divides the east and west. Odori Park is home to many of the city’s landmarks, such as the Sapporo TV Tower (which looks like a scaled-down Eiffel Tower replica), and the 1920s-built Sapporo City Museum of Art. Other downtown attractions include the Hokkaidō University Botanical Garden and the Old Hokkaidō Government Office Building.
Neon-lit buildings spring to mind when you think of modern Japanese cities at night, and Sapporo doesn’t disappoint. The main entertainment area, Susukino, is described locally as the ‘district that doesn’t sleep’ thanks to its countless bars, restaurants, cafés and clubs. Embrace the local cuisine at Ramen Yokocho, an alleyway in the district’s heart where ramen shops sit shoulder to shoulder. Local varieties of this world-famous noodle dish have been served from these hole-in-the-wall style venues since the middle of the 20th Century. Wash down your broth with a bottle of the city’s native Sapporo lager.
The most northerly of Japan’s main islands has the longest and coldest winters, with Sapporo receiving approximately six metres of snow a year. Held over a week in early February, the Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo Yuki Matsuri) is one of the region’s largest celebrations, which attracts over two million people to see intricately carved snow and ice sculptures that are beautifully lit at night. If you’re visiting between the end of November and mid-March, don’t miss the chance to see the White Illuminations – a tradition of decorating major landmarks and parks with hundreds of thousands of white light bulbs that started here and spread across the whole country.
Hokkaido’s ski resorts are incredibly popular. A few are located near the heart of the city, including Teine Resort (a 1972 Winter Olympics venue), Bankei Ski Area and Mount Moiwa Ski Resort. Even if you don’t ski or snowboard, it’s well worth making an evening visit to the summit of Mount Moiwa to see the city lights – particularly during the White Illuminations.
Due to the region’s long and harsh winters, Sapporo’s cherry blossom season begins a little later than in more southerly cities and towns; ideal if you can’t travel earlier in the spring. On average, the trees tend to blossom in late April and during the first half of May rather than between late March and early to mid-April. Again, Odori Park is one of the best places to see this beautiful awakening of nature – or alternatively, travel to Moerenuma Park on the outskirts of the city.
Sapporo is a great base from which to explore the wider wonders of Hokkaido. Around an hour outside the city, Jozankei is one of the island’s main hot springs resorts and is famous for its breathtaking autumnal landscapes; while just 30 minutes northwest, the charming port city of Otaru is home to a picturesque canal lined with rejuvenated warehouses.
New Chitose Airport is an international airfield located approximately 40 minutes from the city centre. Simply contact one of our team and we can arrange everything you need to charter a private jet to Sapporo.