Sapporo: The Allure of Japan’s Northern Gem

As the capital city of Japan’s biggest and northernmost prefecture of 北海道 Hokkaidō, 札幌 Sapporo is a vibrant and modern metropolis with a rich history dating back to the late 19th century when it became the administrative center of the newly colonized island. This northern gem offers an exciting blend of food, shopping, and outdoor activities, all set against a backdrop of stunning natural landscapes. For first-time visitors to Japan, Sapporo is a must-see destination with countless attractions to explore and experiences to savor.


Sapporo is easily accessible via the JR Hokkaido Railway and the Hokkaido Shinkansen bullet train line. The nearest stations are Sapporo Station (JR01) and Shin-Sapporo Station (H07), which are approximately 8 hours from Tokyo Station. From these stations, many of Sapporo’s main attractions are within walking distance or a short subway ride away. A plane can also make the journey to Sapporo in about 90 minutes. It’s worth noting that Hokkaido is significantly larger than other Japanese prefectures, so travel times between destinations can be longer.

JR Sapporo Station.

Food and Drink

Sapporo is renowned for its distinct culinary scene, offering a variety of delectable options for visitors to enjoy:

Ramen: Sapporo is famous for its miso ramen, a rich and savory noodle dish featuring a miso-based broth, often topped with bean sprouts, corn, and butter. Many ramen shops can be found throughout the city, particularly in the すすきの Susukino area.

Slupring up noodles from a delicous bowl of ramen in Sapporo.

Seafood: Given its location in Hokkaido, Sapporo offers an abundance of fresh seafood. Sushi, sashimi, and crab dishes are particularly popular. 二条市場 Nijō Market and カーブマーケット Curb Market are great places to sample a variety of fresh seafood dishes. Some seafood and produce vendors even provide open-air seating where you can enjoy your food on the spot.

Enjoy the freshest seafood and produce at Nijo Market.

Beer: As the birthplace of Sapporo Beer, one of Japan’s oldest and most famous breweries, the city offers a unique beer culture. Visitors can tour the Sapporo Beer Museum and sample different brews at the Sapporo Beer Garden. The city’s name is already well-known globally, as Sapporo Beer can often be found in Japanese restaurants worldwide.

The Sapporo Beer Museum in Hokkaido.


Sapporo has an exciting shopping scene that caters to various tastes and budgets:

Sapporo Station: The area around Sapporo Station is a bustling shopping hub, with numerous department stores such as Daimaru, ESTA, and Stellar Place. These shopping centers offer a variety of international and local brands, as well as unique Hokkaido souvenirs.

狸小路商店街 tanukikoji shōtengai Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade: This historic shopping street stretches over seven blocks and features over 200 shops, cafes, and restaurants. Visitors can find a mix of traditional crafts, local food products, and fashionable clothing.

Stroll through the lively Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade for a unique shopping experience.

Sightseeing and Activities

Sapporo offers a plethora of sightseeing spots and activities that cater to various interests:

大通公園 ōdōri kōen Odori Park: This expansive park spans 13 blocks in the heart of Sapporo and serves as a venue for various events, including the famous Sapporo Snow Festival in February. The park is a great place to relax, take in the cityscape, and enjoy seasonal events.

The Sapporo Snow Festival in Odori Park

Sapporo Clock Tower: This iconic building, dating back to the 19th century, is a symbol of Sapporo’s history and a popular sightseeing spot. The clock tower houses a small museum detailing the city’s past.

The iconic Sapporo Clock Tower.

Susukino: Sapporo’s bustling entertainment district, Susukino, offers a vibrant nightlife with numerous bars, restaurants, and clubs. Visitors can experience the lively atmosphere of this area after sundown and enjoy a taste of local nightlife.

モエレ沼公園 Moerenuma Park: Designed by renowned architect Isamu Noguchi, this unique park offers a combination of nature, art, and recreational facilities. Visitors can enjoy various outdoor activities, such as cycling, picnicking, and exploring the geometric playgrounds.

Experience a unique fusion of art and nature at Moerenuma Park.

Day trips: Sapporo serves as an excellent base for day trips to nearby attractions. 小樽 Otaru, a charming port city with a picturesque canal, is just an hour away by train. ニセコ Niseko, a world-class ski resort and popular outdoor destination, is easily accessible for a day of adventure on the slopes or hiking in the surrounding mountains. In recent years, Niseko has seen the opening of luxury hotels such as Park Hyatt and Ritz-Carlton, with more high-end properties like Aman and Six Senses slated to open in the future. This growth in luxury development has increased demand for tourism in Sapporo, the gateway to Hokkaido.

Taking a cruise on the picturesque Otaru Canal.

In conclusion, Sapporo is a city that promises an unforgettable experience for first-time visitors. With its rich culinary scene, varied shopping opportunities, numerous sightseeing spots, exciting nightlife, and accessibility to nearby attractions, it’s an ideal destination for travelers looking to explore the beauty of Hokkaido. No matter what your interests are, Sapporo has something for everyone to enjoy, making this northern gem a great addition to any travel itinerary in Japan.