Asia

Hokkaido, Japan: My Day in Sapporo

Sapporo is the capital and largest city on the northern-most Japanese island of Hokkaido. The city is the fifth largest in Japan, and one of the youngest– it was designed by foreign architects in the late 19th century. Where it lacks in Japanese traditional architecture, Sapporo makes up for it with its beautiful tree-lined boulevards and parks, as well as being an entertainment and shopping paradise. This cosmopolitan city is modern, dynamic and compelling; and during my visit in autumn, beautiful.

Hokkaido: My Day in SapporoWhile in Hokkaido, I had my eyes set on witnessing the autumn foliage (Read about it here: Autumn Colors in Sounkyo at the Daisetsuzan National Park)– and that only left me with a day to explore Sapporo. It was definitely not enough, but I made use of my time to sample what Sapporo is famous for; the beer, the food and the shopping. This is how I spent my (very short) day.

One Day in Sapporo

The nearest airport to Sapporo is the New Chitose Airport, which is linked to the Sapporo Train Station via the Rapid Airport train (35 mins, every 15 mins, ‎¥1070~US$9/way). I arrived at Sapporo in the late morning, and I knew the first thing I had to do was to satisfy my growling stomach with a delicious (and fresh) Japanese meal.

Hokkaido: My Day in Sapporo Hokkaido: My Day in Sapporo Hokkaido: My Day in SapporoNijo Fish Market
The Nijo Market is just a stop away from Sapporo Station– and a 10-minute walk from there. It occupies a whole block with indoor and outdoor stalls; all selling the freshest seafood and produce. Everything from crabs, sea urchin and salmon roe to yubari melons can be seen neatly displayed in front of the stalls. The fish market is open all throughout the day; but the best time to visit is in the morning, where you can begin the day with a fresh seafood meal.

I made my way to one of the many small restaurants in the market, and had the freshest uni, ikura and salmon donburi (sea urchin, salmon roe and salmon with rice)– and a plate of king crab leg (just one!) on the side.
More about the food here: Mynn’s Top 10 Food to Eat in Hokkaido.

Hokkaido: My Day in Sapporo Hokkaido: My Day in SapporoShopping in Sapporo
After filling my tummy, it was time to explore the shopping centers of Sapporo. The city has two main underground shopping malls– Pole Town and Aurora Town; as well as many huge shopping malls and streets. The malls offer the latest fashion brands and restaurants; and the streets are where you can find small clothing boutiques, souvenir shops, food stalls, specialty stores and game arcades– I also came across an extravagantly decorated casino.

I was out on a Sunday, so everywhere was packed and brimming with locals and tourists.

Hokkaido: My Day in Sapporo Hokkaido: My Day in Sapporo Hokkaido: My Day in SapporoOdori Park
After a few hours (window) shopping, I dropped by Odori Park. The park is a beautiful green space that runs 1.5km across the center of Sapporo, and separates the north and south sections of the city. It is the main location for Sapporo’s major events and festivals, and also a popular hangout spot for the locals. One of the city’s landmarks, the Sapporo TV Tower, stands at 150m high on the eastern side of the park– it has an observation deck.

Autumn in Odori Park is absolutely beautiful. I bought a milk-flavored ice cream from an ice cream stand in the park, and sat down on a bench to people watch. It was just a typical Sunday for the locals; children on a school trip, families enjoying the weekend together, couples on a date and friends hanging out.

Hokkaido: My Day in SapporoThe Autumn Markets
While walking in Odori Park, I couldn’t help but be lured by the delicious smells wafting through the air. The Sapporo Autumn Fest was in full swing during my visit– and it is all about the food! The festival usually starts from mid-September to early October, and aims to promote the city’s gastronomy by setting up food stalls at selected sites along Odori Park, and the rest of the city.

The food stalls sell all kinds of Japanese dishes (and some non-Japanese ones), and it is a great opportunity to sample as many popular local dishes as you can, especially when you’re short on time.

Hokkaido: My Day in Sapporo Hokkaido: My Day in Sapporo Hokkaido: My Day in SapporoSapporo Beer Museum
Towards the evening, I took a cab over to the Sapporo Beer Museum— the only one of its kind in Japan. The museum was opened in 1987 and showcases the history of beer in Japan, the beer-making process, the evolution of Sapporo Beer and its many marketing strategies. Most of the descriptions are in Japanese, but there was one part of the tour that is universally understood– the beer tasting! Entrance to the museum is free, but you have to pay for your beer.

After the museum visit, I made my way to the Sapporo Beer Garden for some Genghis Khan (Jingisukan), a delicious mutton barbecue buffet meal.
More about the food here: Mynn’s Top 10 Food to Eat in Hokkaido.

Hokkaido: My Day in Sapporo Hokkaido: My Day in SapporoMount Moiwa
It takes a little more than an hour to get from the museum to the base of Mount Moiwa— via the subway, a streetcar and a free shuttle bus. The mountain is located on the southwest of central Sapporo and is a great spot for sweeping views over the city.

There are two leagues to get to the top of the mountain; the Mount Moiwa Ropeway takes visitors up three quarters of the mountain to the first station. From there, a special double cable-car ride continues the rest of the journey to the summit station. I arrived at the observation deck about half an hour before closing time, so I only had a few minutes to admire the beautiful night panorama of Sapporo. It was too cold and windy to stay out there for too long anyway!

Hokkaido: My Day in SapporoSusukino
The final stop of the day was at the nightlife central, Susukino. Also known as the red-light district of Sapporo, this area is buzzing with activity– nightclubs, bars, karaoke joints and restaurants open till the wee hours of the morning. The bright lights, bold signboards and the huge neon-lit ferris wheel add to the vibrant atmosphere of the place. While you’re there, don’t forget to stop by for a meal at the Ramen Yochoko, an alley filled with rows of ramen shops.

I spent the rest of the night walking about the streets of Susukino; dropping by a bar or two, drinking, eating, people watching– an intriguing end to my day in Sapporo, and my trip to Hokkaido.

Hokkaido: One Day in Sapporo (Map)

Map of my one day discovery of Sapporo.

*She Walks the World was on Air Asia X’s inaugural flight from Kuala Lumpur to Hokkaido on the 1st October 2015. Air Asia X flies between the capital of Malaysia to the New Chitose Airport 4 times a week.

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