Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital city and the largest city on Japan’s northern island. In 1972, Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympic Games and became the destination for winter sports in Asia for people around the world. In this article, we’ll overview the city, some of its history and what makes Sapporo an interesting place to visit.
Discover the Beauty of Sapporo Japan
As the gateway to Hokkaido, Sapporo Japan is the islands most well-known city and one of the biggest tourist destinations in Japan. Known for its wintery attractions, Sapporo brings in 13 million tourists per year. That number is increasing every year thanks to increased exposure of the region to the world, the opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen to the island and the onset of low-cost airline carriers flying in and out of the region.
Overview of Sapporo Japan
To get an overview of the city of Sapporo Japan, you have to learn a little about its history. Founded in 1868, it was designed as a more defensive main city for Hokkaido than Hakodate, the then capital of the island, and as a better, more centralized developmental hub for the island. The name of the city comes from the Ainu (traditional Hokkaido people) word “sat poro pet”, meaning "dry, great river" as, at the time, the city was nothing more than a man-made canal.
Since then, Sapporo has grown to be a rich, vibrant city and the heart of Hokkaido. With train lines to every section of the island, one of Japan’s most prestigious universities and some of the biggest festivals in the nation, heading to Sapporo is a must for any traveler looking to visit Japan.
Tourist Attractions in Sapporo Japan
Winter dominates the tourist attraction landscape in Sapporo Japan. Every year since 1950, the Sapporo Snow Festival dazzles tourists and locals alike on the main street outside Sapporo Station in early February. On display are the biggest snow and ice sculptures in the world with inspiration coming from all walks of life, from anime to real life buildings and even internet memes.
If you want to spend your nights doing something more “adult”, heading over to Susukino is where you’ll want to go. Dubbed the “red-light district” of Hokkaido, the district features many bars, clubs and adult entertainment spots to keep you entertained while the children are safe in bed.
Don’t be fooled though, being over 100 years old, Sapporo also features many museums and older buildings to visit. If you want to learn about the history beer in Hokkaido then head to a free tour at the Sapporo Beer museum, which also comes with a free tasting at the end of the tour. Or, if beer isn’t your thing, on the edge of Sapporo is the Historic Village of Hokkaido, an open-air museum that recreates life in older periods of Hokkaido’s history.
Taste Delectable Sapporo Food
Like any Japanese city, there’s some great Sapporo food on offer. Usually made with fresh Hokkaido ingredients, you’ll never go hungry with the vast amount of options in the city.
About Sapporo Ramen
Being the birthplace of Miso ramen, Sapporo ramen is known to be of high quality and great tasting. As with most Japanese cities, finding ramen isn’t hard, but for some recommendations, try heading to the Sapporo Ramen Republic on the 10th floor of the ESTA commercial complex, or head over to Sapporo Ramen Yokocho, which is where Miso ramen was born. Both these places are a variety of ramen to choose from, at low prices. We’d recommend going back to try all the different styles!
Fresh Sapporo Sushi
Of course, you can’t go to Hokkaido without trying some Sapporo sushi! While Sapporo doesn’t have its own distinct style of sushi, the freshness of the ingredients with that little Hokkaido flavor makes eating Sapporo sushi a must. Sushi Saiko near Susukino lets you try local delicacies like Kinki (Channel Rockfish) alongside the usual favorites.
Yummy Sapporo Ichiban Sapporo Ichiban Ramen
Though one thing you won’t find is Sapporo Ichiban Ramen, which literally means Sapporo’s number one noodle. The reason you won’t find it is because, while the brand name has the city in it, wasn’t created in the city, nor does any manufacturing there. The only connection with the city is that the president of the company went around Japan searching for the best ramen and found it in Sapporo, of which he tried replicating it in his Miso line of Instant Noodles.
Sapporo Beer is the Oldest Beer in Japan
Deeply ingrained in the history of Hokkaido’s capital is Sapporo Beer. Sapporo Brewing Company was founded in 1876 during the Meiji Period when the Japanese government wanted to develop Hokkaido into its own self-sustaining region. Sapporo Beer is the oldest brewed beers in Japan and is the number one Asian beer in the United States. You’ll be able to taste the beverage all over Hokkaido and especially in its capital city.
Travel from Tokyo to Sapporo
Getting from Tokyo to Sapporo has never been easier thanks to newly built infrastructure. The two main ways to get to Hokkaido’s capital is either take the Hokkaido Shinkansen from Tokyo Station and transfer to a local train in Hakodate for the rest of the journey or flying into New Chitose Airport.
The Hokkaido Shinkansen is the slowest way to travel, coming in at around 8 hours, and the most expensive at 22,000 yen for a one-way trip, and you have to transfer as the rest of the line hasn’t been built yet. In 2031, the Shinkansen will travel all the way from Tokyo to Sapporo in 5 hours or shorter making for a quicker trip, but for now the quicker and cheapest way is via plane.
With so many low-cost carriers in Japan, you’ll easily be able to find a flight to Sapporo from either Haneda or Narita for a little under 12,000-yen return. As the flight only takes an hour and a half, you’ll be saving time and money by flying. From there, just take the Airport Express train or Bus into the city.