So, there’s a snow festival in Sapporo. Big whoop. What ELSE is there to do while I’m there? Sapporo was originally established as a trading post with the Ainu people in 1821 by the Tokugawa shogunate. The growth of the city was exceptionally well planned, resulting in actual city blocks and streets that make… well.. sense! In our second instalment of our Hokkaido Inside Look, we’ll take a look at some of the sights to see in Sapporo itself, as well as provide you with resources.
Sapporo Maruyama Zoo
Located 2.5km from our hotel, the Maruyama zoo is one of the most famous zoos in all of Japan. The first zoo in Hokkaido, Maruyama was established in 1951. It houses over 1,000 animals which represent over 200 species. The park has daily shows where you can check out the meals of a different park citizen (and the animal!) up close. There is also the ‘Birds of Prey Free Flight’ experience where you can learn about what it takes to handle birds of prey…oh yeah, and maybe even hold one of these majestic hunters. The park includes a family of polar bears, a monkey mountain, a petting area, tigers, otters, lions, timber wolves, snow leopards and more. I’m going to have to stop myself here because I could go on all day about how excited I am about visiting this place.
February Hours: 9:00-17:00, Cost: 600 yen
To get to the zoo, you can easily walk directly from our hotel and be there in under 30 minutes. Or, from the Maruyama koen Subway Station (Tozai Line[T06]), take the Dobutsuen sen JR Hokkaido Bus to the Dobutsuen mae bus stop, or walk 15 minutes from Maruyama koen Subway Station (Tozai Line[T06]).
Mt. Moiwa Ropeway
One of the best views in the city, the top of the Mt. Moiwa ropeway affords views of the Ishikari plain, river, and bay in addition to Mr. Eniwadake. There are restaurant facilities at the top of the mountain, in addition to the stunning views. Who doesn’t want to see a winter wonderland from the top of the world or from inside a gondola?
February Hours: 11:00-21:00, Cost: 600 yen one-way or 1,000 yen round-trip
To get here, take the Sapporo streetcar to the Ropeway Iriguchi stop and walk west around 7 minutes. By subway, get off at the Maruyama Koen subway(T06) to the Maruyama bus terminal. Take JR Bus Ropeway Sen(Maru 10 or 11) to the ropeway stop and walk ~3 minutes.
Noria (Ferris Wheel on Norbesa Building Roof)
The first Ferris wheel in Sapporo, Noria measures 45.5m wide and is situated 78m above the ground. There are 32 gondolas and it takes around 10 minutes for a trip up into the frosty skies above Sapporo city (luckily the gondolas are all heated).
Hours: 11:00-23:00(Weekdays), 11:00-03:00(Friday, Saturday and the day before a National Holiday) Cost (per gondola): 1 person, 600 yen. 2 people, 1,200 yen. 3 people, 1,800 yen. 4 people, 2,000 yen. To get to Noria, go to Susukino Subway Station (Namboku line (N08)) and walk for two minutes. It’ll be pretty hard to miss it.
Moerenuma Park (Glass Pyramid)
Sculptor Isamu Noguchi wanted to create a landscape of dreams come to life– and that’s exactly what he did with Moerenuma Park, a former water treatment plant. The entirety of Moerenuma Park is thought to be one giant sculptures.
9:00-17:00(Tuesday, Wednesday) 9:00-21:00(Thursday-Sunday) Closed Mondays. Admission is free. From Kanjodori higashi subway station (Toho Line(H04)), take the Higashi 69 or 79 Chuo bus Kita Satsunze Sen to the Moerekoen Higashiguchi bus stop and walk around 10 minutes.
More or less a farm park, it is renowned for it’s plants and flowers. Unfortunately, we’ll be visiting Sapporo in the middle of winter and will miss out on most of that. However, Sato Land still offers hands on courses (fee based) where you can try your hand at making sausage, butter, and more. Sato Land is a former location space for the Sapporo Snow Festival.
9:00-17:00, closed Mondays. Free admission but the hands-on courses each have their own separate cost. To get to Sato Land: From Kanjo dori higashi Subway Station (Toho Line[H04]), take the Higashi 61 Chuo Bus to the Okadamakoko mae bus stop and walk about 10 minutes.
From Shindo Higashi Subway Station (Toho Line[H02]), take the Higashi 76 Chuo Bus to the Okadamakoko mae bus stop and walk about 10 minutes.
From Kita Sanjuyo jo Subway Station (Namboku Line[N02]), take the Higashi 76 Chuo Bus to the Okadamakoko mae bus stop and walk about 10 minutes.
Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park
Takino Park is the only National Government park in Hokkaido. This park offers skiing, cross country skiing, snow tubing (with the longest sled slopes in Hokkaido!), and snow shoeing in the winter months. You are able to borrow the snow tubes and snow shoes free of charge while ski rentals are very affordable. Pretty much, this is the place that you want to come for some fun in that winter sun. Maybe you’ll be able to spot a Hokkaido fox with some snow shoes strapped to your tootsies.
9:00-16:00, Free entrance in winter plus rental costs for certain equipment. To get to this park, from Makomanai subway station (N16), take the Chuo bus to the Takino Suzuran bus stop. From Fukuzumi subway station (H19), take the Chuo bus to the Takino Suzuran Koen bus top.
**Please note that the park is around 50 minutes away**
This urban style aquarium features over 10,000 fish and around 200 different species of critters. They have otters. You can pet the otters. Need I say anything more?
10:00-18:00(Last entry 17:30), 900 yen admission. The aquarium is a 4 minutes walk from JR Shin Sapporo Station or a 2 minutes walk from the number 2 exit of Shin Sapporo subway station (T19).
Sapporo Beer Museum/Sapporo Beer Garden
The ONLY beer museum in Japan, the building was originally constructed for the Sapporo Sugar Company. The building is considered to be a valuable cultural asset. Well, of course it is! Beer is made here! The old brick building is absolutely stunning and tours are offered inside the building.
9:00-18:00, entry is free of charge. To get your beer history on, take the Chuo Bus 188 from platform 2 at the Sapporo Station north exit (this is a non-stop bus to the beer garden). From our hotel, walk to Nishi 18chome station and get on the Tozai line towards Shin Sapporo. Get off at Odori station and transfer to the Tono line towards Sakaemachi. Get off at Higashi KuyakuShomae station. From here, it’s about a 12 minute walk to the museum/garden.
Shiroi Koibito Park (Chocolate Factory)
Who doesn’t want to know where delicious cookies come from? Here you can view the cookie production line, in addition to visiting the cafe, a toy exhibition, and the “Cookiecraft Studio” where you can decorate your own giant Shiroi Koibito cookie.
9:00-18:00(Last entry at 17:00), entry to the factory grounds/shops is free but the tour costs 600 yen. To get to cookie heaven, get to Miyanosawa Station on the Tozai subway line. Take exit 5 and the factory is about a 7 minute walk from there.
Sapporo Ainu Culture Promotion Centre (Sapporo Pirika Kotan)
The Ainu are the original indigenous people of Japan. This centre celebrates their culture, their way of life, and looks at how Hokkaido’s climate shaped them as a people.
8:45-22:00(Exhibition rooms are 9:00-17:00) Free entry to the centre, 200 yen entry for the exhibition rooms. To get here, go to the Sapporo Station bus terminal and take the Jotetsu bus Jozan kei line to Koganeyu. The centre is a five minute walk from the stop.
There are way more places to visit than what I have listed here. Sapporo is home to countless museums (A salmon museum!) and cultural assets. Take some time and research where you want to spend your time. The Sapporo Tourism Association and WikiTravel are both great places to start. Personally, I am incredibly excited for the Maruyama Zoo and Tsukino Park!