Sapporo is the regional capital of Hokkaido. The vibrant city offers a lively and energetic feel to its visitors especially when coming in from Hakodate and/or the outlying coastal cities. As Sapporo is a major transport hub in the North, it will likely feature in any Hokkaido itinerary. As the article turned out to be too long with all the awesome photos I took, this guide is a two part series on what to see and do while in Sapporo. This is Part One.
Sapporo is well connected by both rail and air. For many, Sapporo can be reached by plane from Tokyo to the nearby New Chitose Airport and taking a train to downtown Sapporo. Alternatively, if coming up from the South, you can consider taking the main Hakodate line from Hakodate. If taking the train from Hakodate, consider making time for a visit to Hakodate and also the quiet but charming hot spring town, Noboribetsu. If you have not done so, do check out my guides for both Hakodate and Noboribetsu.
As to whether plane or rail would be better, the answer depends on your intended destination. If you intend to visit Sapporo first, plane would be the ideal mode of transport. By rail, it will take 5 hours to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and another 3 plus hours to Sapporo Station. If you intend to visit Hakodate first, travel time would be approximately the same whether by rail or train. So it may be more value for money if you were to take the Shinkansen there and benefit from buying a 6 days JR travel pass. I covered my Shinkansen experience here.
Breakfast at Sapporo Central Wholesale Market
There are two main fish markets in Sapporo: Nijo market and Sapporo Central Wholesale Market. Nijo market, being in central Sapporo, is likely the more popular option. However, Sapporo Central Wholesale Market maybe a better option depending on your itinerary.
We went with Sapporo Central Wholesale Market as it is along the way to White Lover Park our next intended destination.
Sapporo Central Wholesale Market is within walking distance from Nijuyonken Station and is laid out along both sides of a road. There are many different shops to choose from so do take your time and search for a better deal. We ended up making a wrong choice and had to pay slightly more for our shellfish sashimi then we would have at another shop. But that’s life.
Look out for those huge ass cabbages on sale and also those Hokkaido melons. If you intend to buy some back home, you may want to drop by later (while on the way back) to grab one.
White Lover Park
Having had breakfast, White Lover Park was our next destination. It is located at the end of the line and getting there was easy with the many signs pointing you in the right direction.
The Park itself is free and you have access to not only a shop selling White Lover’s products (FYI, White Lover is a Chocolate brand) but also a toy museum with an immense collection of toys. So it makes a good free attraction while in Sapporo. There is also a paid area (600 yen for adults and 200 yen for children) where you get to see the production lines for the chocolate products. We, however, stuck with the free areas as we were short of time.
Do look out for what I think to be hourly “performances” where the clock tower in the Park does a very elaborate performance with moving characters and music jingles. This location is highly recommended for young children given the kiddy aspects of toys/music jingles/ clock tower performances and easily available chocolates! Did I mention that there is also a small train running around a track in the park and also an ice cream booth?
Sapporo Beer Museum
When you are done with the chocolates, why not head over to the Sapporo Beer Museum? Take the train from Miyanosawa station to Odori Station before crossing over to the Toho Line and alighting at Higashikuyakusho-Mae Station.
The beer museum has both paid and free areas. The paid tour is guided. So depending on how much information or detail you require, the self-guided free tour might be more than sufficient. The visiting area is actually quite compact (just one floor) unlike the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam. But overall, that one floor packs a punch since its laid with loads of information presented over different mediums (education videos/placards). For example, did you know that the very first batch of beer that was meant for the royal family was lost as a result of the bottles exploding? Also, how many times was the Sapporo logo changed?
Once you are done with the tour, head down to the ground floor for a chance to taste the original Sapporo beer (brewed based on the original recipe). There is a taster set available (cheaper by about a 100 yen compared with you buying each type of beer individually) Do look out for the clarity of the beers. The original recipe is neither pasteurised nor filtered and is much cloudier from the suspended yeast. If you are on a budget or don’t want to drink as much, my suggestion is to go with Kaitakushi as it is supposedly based on the original recipe which makes it difficult to find out in retail stores.
There are also dining areas or beer gardens in the complex if you intend to grab a meal. Alternatively, the beer museum is located right beside a giant mall where there are plenty of restaurants as well. If you happen to be around at nightfall, the museum also offers a rather attractive night view:
Stay tune for Part Two of the other places to visit while in Sapporo!
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