I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days in Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, Japan. I traveled with a friend who was an ideal travel companion, and we made the most of our time each day exploring the city. Although it’s covered in snow for many months of the year, the summer weather was ideal with warm sunny days and slightly cooler nights. Sapporo is a very pedestrian-friendly city, and the public transportation system of trains, subways, cable cars, and busses makes it extremely easy to get around without a car.
Sapporo hosts many festivals throughout the year from the Snow Festival famous for its snow sculptures to the fragrant Lilac Festival. I was there during the Summer Festival, known for its assortment of beer gardens throughout Odori Park. Each beer garden is hosted by a particular brand of beer, and the food menus vary from one garden to the next. The food alone is worth the stroll from one end of the park to the other. The Odori Park venue is quite scenic in the summer time with its varied fountains, landscaped gardens, sculptures, and play areas for kids. At night, there was live music and dancing. People of all ages joined in the dance. Many of them dressed in beautiful traditional kimonos.
The shopping in Japan is like no other place in the world. From promenades with local craft boutiques to 16-story malls with massive department stores, there’s something for everyone. The shopping at Chitose Airport alone is impressive, where I especially enjoyed watching the chocolate being made at Royce’ Chocolate World. There are several farmers markets and farms within reach of the city. Hokkaido is known for its unbelievably sweet and juicy cantaloupe melons, as well as its dairy farms and soft serve ice cream. At night, the Susukino neighborhood comes alive with night clubs and other entertainment.
There are many interesting sites throughout Sapporo. I spent half a day exploring Hokkaido University with its beautiful botanical gardens, University Museum, and native culture Ainu Museum. The red brick former Hokkaido Government Building is just a few blocks away from the University. It’s worth a short train and bus ride up to Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill to see the statue of American scientist and Hokkaido University founder William S. Clark. The view looking back on the city of Sapporo is a picturesque backdrop for a photo taken with the Clark statue. The parks and gardens throughout each city in Japan sets a beautiful example of how to preserve green space as modern cities expand. Even the manhole covers in Japan are artistically decorated.
I look forward to returning to Sapporo with my family and seeing some of the other festivals. I’d like to get outside of the city to enjoy some of the other opportunities Hokkaido is known for as well, such as hiking and skiing.