Exploring Snowy Sapporo
Sapporo is the capital of Japan’s biggest prefecture, Hokkaido.
You might have heard of Sapporo when it comes to winter sport as it gets a lot of snow in winter.
So, it’s not surprising that Sapporo is the host of the biggest winter festival in Japan, the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri.
But there’s more to explore and thus I want to show you around a bit today.
In front of JR Sapporo Station.
Sapporo City (札幌市) is the 4th largest city in Japan (measured by population). It’s also the capital of Hokkaido Prefecture (map).
Most tourist attractions in Sapporo City can be reached on foot as they are in walking distance from the train station.
One of the first things you’ll probably come across is this red brick building which is the “Former Hokkaido Government Office“.
It’s on the way from the JR train station to Odori Park and I happened to stop by when I was heading to the Snow Festival.
You can enter free of charge. It’s open daily from 8:45 – 18:00 and only closed during the end of the year / beginning of the new year.
The current building was constructed in 1888 and is an example of American neo-baroque architecture
A cute sign tells you to be careful in winter. Not only snow, but huge icicles might fall onto your head!
Inside you’ll find a few historical exhibits.
One of the most famous symbols of Sapporo is without a doubt the “Sapporo Clock Tower“, Tokeidai (時計台).
You’ll run right into it on your way from the station to Odori Park.
There’s an admission fee of 200 yen, so you might just want to take photos from the outside instead.
It’s open daily from 8:45 -17:10. Please check the official website for holidays.
I went inside for you and took a few photos, so you can decide if you want to pay the admission fee or rather skip going inside.
You’ll find a few old photos of the original clock tower.
There’s also a model of the clock that you can see outside attached to the tower.
And there’s a miniature model of the clock tower and its surroundings.
You will probably come across a few smaller temples and shrines, but none of them is huge or famous.
They’re still great for taking some rare snow-covered temple / shrine photos. ;)
The previous photos make it seem as if Sapporo has an European flair and isn’t a big city at all.
But that’s wrong. The previous buildings are surrounded by the typical Japanese big city landscape, namely skyscrapers, department stores etc.
There are plenty of tiny shopping arcades as well.
And in winter there will be adorable snow sculptures even far away from the famous Yuki Matsuri.
The Sapporo Tower (you can see it in the background on the right photo above) stands on one end of the huge Odori Park. If you don’t mind paying the admission fee, you can go to the highest observation platform and have a lovely view of Sapporo City.
Odori Park (大通公園) is always nice for a walk in any season. I couldn’t take any photos of the park itself as the “Sapporo Snow Festival” took place at that time. While Sapporo Tower is located at one end of the park, this building, the “Sapporo City Archive Museum“, stands on the opposite side (distance from the tower ~ 1,5 km).
The entrance is free of charge and as the name states you’ll learn about Sapporo’s history.
They have a few exhibits there, so after you’ve strolled through Odori Park it can’t hurt to pay a visit here as well.
They also had hundreds of photos of previous “Sapporo Snow Festivals”. Very interesting!
Another tourist attraction in Sapporo is the “Nijo Market” (Nijo Ichiba, 二条市場).
Nijo Market is said to have developed in the early Meiji Period, when fishermen from Ishikari Bay started selling fresh fish there.
Nowadays it’s a local market for fresh seafood. Just as the locals you can stroll around and buy something if you’re interested.
Though if you don’t live in Sapporo, I guess you can’t really do anything with those.
But don’t worry, most merchants have a small restaurant as well, so you could just enjoy fresh seafood there. And I highly recommend you do!
For me it was too early to eat at the fish market, so I ate at a normal restaurant.
When the weather is as cold as in Hokkaido, you gotta warm up with nabe or a hot noodle soup!
Let me know if you have been to any of these attractions and how you liked them.
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Upcoming events in 2017:
- Apr 15 - May 28: Fuji Shibazakura Festival
- Apr 29 - May 7: Golden Week !!!
- May 3-4: Hakata Dontaku Festival
- May 3-5: Kite-Fighting (Hamamatsu)
- May 13-14: Kanda Matsuri (Tokyo)
- May 15: Aoi Matsuri (Kyoto)
- May 19-20: Takigi O-Noh (Nara)
- May 19-21-: Asakusa Sanja Matsuri
- May 27-28: Aioi Peron Matsuri (Hyogo)
- June 1-2: Takigi Noh Bonfire (Kyoto)
- June 7-17: Sanno Matsuri (Tokyo)