An entertaining gateway to the Hokkaido wilderness.
Japan’s fifth largest city, Sapporo has experienced rapid growth in a relatively short time period. Japan sought the advice of foreign experts during the island’s large-scale development in the 19th century, designated the city as the regional capital and built everything in a North American grid style.
It’s a modern contrast to the primitive natural landscape that surrounds it but still with a distinct Hokkaido vibe.
Before you head out into the wilderness, spend some time exploring the city’s urban parks and check out the former Olympic Ski Jump stadium, sampling some of the country’s best seafood at Curb market in between.
Susukino, Japan’s largest entertainment district north of Tokyo, has a dedicated ramen alleyway lined with shops offering up Sapporo’s famous miso ramen and then of course, there’s Sapporo beer, brewing since 1877 and sold all over the world. The Sapporo Beer Museum and its adjacent beer garden has an atmospheric hall where you can take on the all-you-can-eat “Genghis Khan”, layers of mutton barbecued on an open grill.
One of Japan’s most popular winter festivals, the Sapporo “Yuki Matsuri” (snow festival) is either the best or worst week to visit Hokkaido, depending on your feelings about large crowds. More than two million people attend the festival each year to see the breathtaking snow and ice sculptures on show in three main districts of the city. You’ll find all of the festival trimmings; food stalls, music, children’s activities, an ice bar and even hot air balloons. While this event held in Odori Park is the most popular winter festival in Hokkaido, you can also relax and enjoy beer gardens and fall festivals at the park in other seasons.