Sapporo (札幌) is the capital and largest city of the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan.
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 by hosting the world-renowned Sapporo Snow Festival in February every year.
By planeThe two airport in the area have the metropolitan area airport code of SPK
phone: +81 123 23-0111address: 千歳市美々１All international and inter-island flights land at New Chitose Airport to the south east of the city. The route from Tokyo is the one of the most heavily traveled in the world, with several dozen Boeing 777s flying daily on a variety of carriers and flights as low as ¥10000 one way if you book more than one month in advance. Direct international service to Sapporo is limited to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Sakhalin, Guam and seasonal flights to Macau and Australia, but both JAL and ANA provide nonstop service to Narita for intercontinental connections. Skybus operates a door to door shuttle and the JR trains run every 15 minutes directly to Sapporo station (36–40 minutes, unreserved ¥1040; reserved ¥1340).
phone: +81 11 785-7871address: 東区丘珠町A few local flights within Hokkaido land at the older Okadama Airport.
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.
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 travelOvernight 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.
JR Sapporo Stationphone: +81 11 222-6130address: North 2 West 1This is the main train station for Sapporo.
North of Sapporo
- Asahikawa on the Kamui, Lilac, Okhotsk or Soya (every 30 minutes morning and evening, every hour other times)
- Abashiri on the Okhotsk (2 direct trips per day) or Taisetsu (2 daily trips; change in Asahikawa)
- Wakkanai on the Soya (1 direct trip per day) or Sarobetsu (2 daily trips; change in Asahikawa)
East of Sapporo
- Obihiro on the Super Tokachi or Super Ōzora (11 return trips per day)
- Kushiro on the Super Ōzora (6 return trips per day)
South of Sapporo
- Hakodate on the Hokuto or Super Hokuto (12 return trips per day)
- Noboribetsu on the Hokuto, Super Hokuto or Suzuran (17 return trips per day)
- Muroran on the Suzuran (5 return trips per day)
West of SapporoRapid 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 busExpress buses connect to most points in Hokkaido. The main terminal is next to the Bus Center-Mae station of the subway Tōzai line.
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.
Two public transportation smart cards are sold in the Sapporo area; JR Hokkaido's Kitaca and the Sapporo City Transportation Bureau's SAPICA. While the Kitaca can be used on the buses, subway and streetcars, the SAPICA cannot be used on JR trains, making the Kitaca the better choice for most visitors. If you are coming from elsewhere in Japan, the major smart cards from other regions such as Kanto's Suica and PASMO, and Kansai's ICOCA are fully interchangeable with Kitaca, meaning that you do not need to purchase an extra smart card.
By trainThe 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 subwaySapporo 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 streetcarA 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 carYou 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.
Clock TowerThis rather diminutive building has become a symbol of Sapporo, mostly by being the oldest building still standing. It was constructed in 1878 for the Sapporo Agricultural College (now the Hokkaido University) and would not look out of place in "Smalltown U.S.A." The inside has a small retrospective of its history. Visitor beware, as this is for some reason a mecca for Japanese tourists coming to Sapporo who feel that no trip to Sapporo would be complete without a photo in front of the Tokeidai, but was actually recently rated as Japan's third "most disappointing" tourist attraction!
Ishiya Chocolate FactoryThe chocolate factory has an incredibly corny, but fun, tour building up to a view of the actual chocolate making floor, and ending with a random toy museum. Also there are two restaurants, a souvenir store, and an hourly robot show complete with annoying music. Famous for its white chocolate, which is sold under the brand "White Lovers" (白い恋人 shiroi koibito), and is only available in Hokkaido. There is also a cake buffet available at the restaurant on the top floor for "¥1,500" but reservations must be made 3 days in advance.
Ōdōri ParkSapporo's most famous park, it is in the center of town and is considered to be a symbol of Sapporo. Although quite narrow (one might argue that it is a nice boulevard), the park is quite long, stretching over fifteen blocks across downtown Sapporo. Filled with (during the summer) numerous flowers, trees, and fountains, Ōdōri Park provides a welcome respite from the maddening crowds of the surrounding city. In winter, there's not much to see.
Sapporo TV TowerA tourist trap carbon copy of the Eiffel Tower with an observation deck 90 m high.
phone: +81 1-1731-4368address: North 7, East 9Run by the Sapporo Brewing Company, offers free self-guided tours or "premium" guided tours (only in Japanese, ¥500) covering the history of beer in Japan and the process of brewing. The museum is not very big and while the printed descriptions on the displays are in Japanese, cards are provided offering English translations. Two short movies about the history of the brewery also have English subtitles. At the end of the tour you can taste all the different beers. Finish off the tour with more brews at the Beer Garden next door (see Eat).
Hokkaido Pioneer VillageA large historical village on the outskirts of Sapporo, offers a snapshot of Japan in the newly-industrialised age. The front gate (an old railway station) opens up into a series of opens alleys and buildings of the style pre-20th century. Also a variety of different gardens and shrines. Don't expect costumed performers however — everything is self-guided. An English map is available.
100th anniversary Memorial ParkThis is the site of a giant (and somewhat imposing) tower which can be climbed, providing a good vantage point of Sapporo (though quite some distance from the city center) and surrounding mountains. This site is popular with school groups. As of May 2018, the tower is closed "to prevent danger" and access path is blocked.
MoiwayamaThis mountain, also called Moiwa Mountain, overlooks the city and is especially worthwhile at night to observe the city lights.
Asahiyama ParkA beautiful flower garden and natural park that overlooks the city center. Noted for being a good place for romance, and is particularly good for cherry blossoms in spring and autumn colors, and local wildlife such as squirrels and foxes (somewhat of a feral pest around Sapporo).
JōzankeiThis area is famous for both its onsen (due perhaps to proximity to Sapporo) and the very beautiful autumn colours (especially around the Hōheikyō Dam). Accessible by public bus from the JR Sapporo station with multiple departures daily for ¥830 one-way.
JR TowerThe newly redeveloped building near JR Sapporo Station marks the center of the city. It is higher than the TV tower observatory is. Affording panoramic views. As a bonus for men, the observation level has a men's room with a view!
phone: +81 11 644-6881address: North 1 West 17, ChuoA modern museum filled with collections of contemporary works and especially glass objects, Pascin of École de Paris, as well as temporary exhibits. The main hall is the center of exhibits of works owned by the museum and the special facility is reserved for "expo" of foreign and Japanese arts. Each summer the museum holds a special course for children.
phone: +81 11 592-5111address: 南区芸術の森２丁目７５Containing over 74 modern and contemporary sculptures, this art park makes for a great day trip.
Moerenuma ParkA popular excursion for Japanese families, this park offers several acres of carefully manicured grass and monumental landscape installations. Highlights include a 5-story glass pyramid and a man-made mountain, from which one can see all of Sapporo. Rental of bicycles is available, from 7AM - 7PM.
phone: +81 11 221-0066address: North 3 West 8, ChuoA large botanical garden. There are two rock gardens, a rose garden, a lilac display, a greenhouse, and various other gardens. There's a small museum in the garden with artifacts from Hokkaido, some dating back to the Meiji period (no extra cost). In the winter, only the greenhouse and museum are of interest.
Former Hokkaido Prefectural Government Buildingphone: +81 11 231-4111address: Chuo-ku N3 W6This beautiful western style red brick building is a famous site of Sapporo and worth taking a quick look, as it is in the center.
Sapporo Snow FestivalThis is Sapporo's largest event. The festival is best known for the ice sculpture competition attracting artists from around the world, competing to create the largest and most elaborate artworks from ice and snow. The festival is focused on Odori Koen, in the centre of Sapporo. It consists of a combination of large-scale replicas and artistic sculptures; children-aimed attractions; and a separate section for world-wide competitors (where you can see a wide range of smaller artistic sculptures). The festival should be enjoyed both in the day but particularly at night when the sculptures (especially the larger ones) are lit up. When the weather is warmer and there's a bit of melting, the smaller sculptures are literally remade every night to ensure that they are in perfect condition the next day. Book accommodation early, because Sapporo gets booked out during the festival.
Mt. TeineA ski mountain within easy drive from most of Sapporo. This ski mountain featured in the 1972 Winter Olympics. Offers a good mix of beginner and experienced slopes (in two distinct parks; Highlands and Olympia which have recently been connected). You can purchase a Skip (スキップ sukippu, ski + trip) ticket at any JR ticket office for roughly ¥4500 (depending on which station you start from) that includes roundtrip train tickets to JR Teine station, roundtrip bus tickets from Teine station to the ski area, and a four-hour lift ticket. At Teine Station, make sure to exit at South gate #3 to find the correct bus.
SkiingAs befits a former Winter Olympics site, Sapporo is famous for its ski resorts, which are easily accessible by bus. Niseko, arguably Japan's top destination for powder, is two hours away by bus.
Noboribetsu OnsenIt's valley with set of hotels that provide onsens, accessible in 70 minutes by express train from Sapporo station and then 15 minutes commute by bus, so easy to do as a day trip. It has few trails, gorgeous views and onsens to soak in.
phone: +81 11-598-2410address: 〒061-2301 札幌市南区定山渓608番地2Probably the most beautiful outdoor hotspring that is easily accessible from Sapporo. Separate areas for male and female guests offer an indoor bathing area and a large outdoor pool with mountain view. Massage, a beer bar and a restaurant (Indian curry or Japanese soba) are available on site. A free shuttle bus departs daily from Makomanai subway station (in front of the middle school) at 10:00 and returns from Hoheikyo to Makomanai at 15:00. Public buses (Rapid 7, Rapid 8 and Kappa Liner) also run regularly from Sapporo JR Station for ¥840.
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.
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.
Nijō Ichibaaddress: South 2-3, East 1-2Sapporo's equivalent to Tokyo's famed Tsukiji Fish Market, this is where the best of Hokkaido's catch is traded — and like its Tokyo counterpart, there are many restaurants here offering top-quality, cut-price sushi and sashimi. Popular with locals and tourists alike.
Aji No TokeidaiThe best-known ramen noodle chain in Sapporo, now franchised around the country. Many famous people have eaten here including former Japanese prime minister, Tomiichi Murayama. Miso ramen is the most popular dish, but if you want something special, order the bata-kon ramen, a Hokkaido specialty made with a hearty broth of corn and butter.
Ramen YokochōAlso known as Ramen Gai, this alley is chock full of ramen shops of all varieties. Get butter corn ramen, crab ramen, and even scallop ramen. It's touristy but fun, and locals come here as well.
Sapporo Beer GardenAt the same location as the Beer Museum is the Beer Garden, an incredibly popular Genghis Khan (mutton barbeque) restaurant. Even though the dining rooms span three large buildings, come early and expect to wait. The restaurant offers a 100-minute all you can eat and drink plan, as well as à la carte. Bibs are provided, because the food can get rather messy.
RomanteiOne of the most popular sweets shops. Famous for its Chocolate Mont Blanc, a delicious concoction of sponge cake, whipped cream and ganache. Other delectables include cream puffs, apple pie, and strawberry bavarian. Located at Moiwa Mountain. There is also a takeaway shop at Tokyu Department Store, right outside Sapporo Station. A second dine-in shop is located at Sumikawa Station.
HirakuSpecializes in Hokkaido oysters served both Japanese and Western style, although there are other options on the menu as well. Reasonable prices, friendly atmosphere, popular.
Goemonaddress: Miyanomori 4-7-2-32, Chuo-kuA famous and popular udon restaurant with a long history.
Cafe Phytonaddress: South 2 East 1This small coffee shop has freshly made specialty coffees and a few Belgian beers by the bottle.
Nijō Shokuhinphone: +81 11 231-2358address: South 3 East 2This small shop is a seafood grocer in front and a restaurant in back. The menu consists of fresh seafood.
Rotary sushi Hokkaido Shikisai Auteiphone: +81 11-271-6720address: 2 Chome-1 Kita 5 Jōnishi, Chūō-kuTypical conveyor belt sushi restaurant with different colored plates ranging from ¥120-540 each. Drinks and orders from the menu also available. Can be very crowded at dinner time, so you can enter your name on a waiting list.
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.
O'Neills Irish PubAn escape from Japan while you wait for your train: here you can watch baseball on the big screen, listen to U2 and eat fish and chips from photocopied newspaper.
phone: +81 11 252-5807address: Chuo-ku South 2 West 3, Chome Parade Building 3FA local Brewery serving German style beers. Rotisserie grill and other food is also served. Free WiFi on request.
phone: +81 11 272-6665address: 6-5-3 Minami 2 Jonishi Chuo WardSince opening in 2006 it has become the most popular pub among foreigners living in Sapporo, Australian and Japanese bilingual staff will welcome anybody. Worldwide beers are available at cheap prices. Food choices include Tex-Mex, fish & chips, and beautiful beef burgers. Free WiFi. Open from midday on weekends.
Paul's Cafeaddress: North 5 West 5Belgium beer and rotisserie grill chicken. While you wait for your train, Paul will delight you with his wonderful beer selection.
phone: +81 11 271-5923address: Chuo-ku South 3 West 4One of the only places to get authentic Italian wine and food in Sapporo. Stop by for real Italian snacks or multi-course meals. Giulio has many well-known Italian wines, both high and low end.
Auto Resort Takinophone: +81 11 594-2121address: 247 Takino, Minami-kuFrom approximately the last week of April through the first week of November, there is a campground in Takino with the facilities you would expect in a suburban campground: a playground, restrooms, a cooking area, water, public phones, vending machines, showers, a store, and a laundromat. According to Outdoor Japan, "There are some beautiful waterfalls to hike around in Takino Suzuran Koen and the campsite is large and comfortable."
DK Guest House Sapporoaddress: South 5, West 13-2-8, Chuo-kuA guest house where many international students stay. Service is friendly and it's only 15 minutes from Susukino.
address: Higashi Sapporo 3-4-6-5, Shiroishi-kuDescribes itself as a backpackers hostel and is a very friendly, open and clean place. Private rooms are available as well, as are discounts for long-term stays. Several 24h showers and a Japanese-style bath, free to use kitchen, a comfy living area and free internet access make this one a sure winner.
phone: +81 11 206-8632address: 2-1 South 5 East 3, Chuo-kuSmall and very friendly hostel. Owner Jimmy is a traveler himself and takes well care of his guests. Free tea and WiFi.
address: South 6, West 5-3-2, Chūō-kuFormerly the Hokuo, this is a capsule hotel bolted on to an extensive spa complex, with separate floors for men and women. Your bill must be settled before they will let you out.
phone: +81 11 221-2311address: South 3 West 9Midrange western-style rooms with bathroom. There is a computer with internet for use in the lobby.
phone: +81 11 521-1521address: 〒064-0807 北海道札幌市中央区南7条西5丁目1番地This hotel is centrally located in the Susukino entertainment district of the city.
phone: +81 11 726-5511address: 北区北17条西5丁目2番50号A nice hotel with reasonable prices. The hallway carpets have some light stains, but the rooms are clean, and have a bathroom and a fridge. The breakfast buffet is included with stay.
phone: +81 11 551-1045address: South 6 East 2 1-1A reliable business hotel. This is a subway ride (or long walk) from the train station, so it doesn't fill up as quickly as the other Sapporo branches.
Sapporo Grand HotelThis hotel was built in 1934 and is a historical monument in itself. Although some of the rooms are rather aged, it is a stylish hotel and is very conveniently located.
Washington Hotel OneRight next to the train station and remodeled in 2006. Each room includes a complementary computer and internet access to use while you stay.
No smokingDowntown Sapporo is a smoke-free area. Smoking on public streets and in public buildings will get you fined, should the police be inclined, so please use smoking areas in cafes. Relatedly, cigarette vending machines require a special ID card.
Traveler SIM cards can be bought in BIC Camera stores, eg. in the ground floor of Esta Mall in the east wing of Sapporo JR Station. The cheapest choice is a 30day/1GB data-only SIM card for 2460¥. Bring your passport when purchasing the card!
phone: +81 11-221-3440address: North 5 West 5A large internet cafe with relax chairs, pair booths, drink bar, manga, food, and shower.
Biz CafeOpen tables with fast LAN and wireless. Unlimited internet, tea, coffee and soft drinks.
YahooBB ParkThis place has permanently closed, though many guidebooks still list it as open.
Tully's CoffeeFree WiFi and a great view.
- phone: +81 11-242-4381address: 17th Floor, Sapporo Centre Building, North 5, West 6-2, Chuo-ku
- phone: +81 11-563-5563address: 5-1. South 13, West 23, Chuo-ku
- phone: +81 11-218-0288address: 1-4. North 2, West 12, Chuo-ku
- phone: +81 11-561-3171address: 2-5, South 14, West 12, Chuo-ku
- phone: +81 11 641-1115address: North 1 West 28,Chuo-ku
- Otaru, approximately 60 minutes by car (shorter by expressway). A very pleasant small town located on the coast, and famous (within Japan) for its attractive canal which is very European in design. Also famous for its seafood, music box museum (with associated tourist shop) and glass works. Also famous for being the setting of the movie Love Letter.
- Niseko, arguably Japan's top destination for powder skiing and snowboarding, is two hours away by bus.
- The hot springs and mossy canyons of Shikotsu-Toya National Park are within easy striking distance of Sapporo.
- Asahikawa's Asahiyama Zoo is the most famous and most visited zoo in Japan, even though it's in the middle of nowhere (at least a two-hour trip from Sapporo). Its most famous exhibits are the penguins which walk around the park twice a day (THE must see for all the Japanese who find this immensely cute), and the seals that you can see swim vertically through a large transparent pipe. It also features polar bears, wolves, Japanese deers, big cats, different kinds of monkeys and more. It's most impressive in winter when it's covered in snow (have you ever seen a giraffe walking in snow?!) but a few of the exhibits are also closed during this season.