explore Sapporo, Japan

What to see in Sapporo, Japan

  • Clock Tower(Tokeidai), (Close to Odori Station.). This rather diminutive building has become a symbol of Sapporo, mostly by being the oldest building still standing. It was constructed in 1878 for the Sapporo Agricultural College (now the Hokkaido University) and would not look out of place in “Smalltown U.S.A.” Inside you’ll find a small retrospective of the Clock Tower’s history. Visitor beware, as this is – for some reason – a mecca for Japanese tourists coming to Sapporo who feel that no trip to Sapporo would be complete without a photo in front of the Tokeidai (Big Clock); it was actually recently rated as Japan’s third “most disappointing” tourist attraction! 
  • Ishiya Chocolate Factory. The chocolate factory has an incredibly corny, but fun tour, building up to a view of the actual chocolate making floor, and ending with a random toy museum. Also there are two restaurants, a souvenir store, and an hourly robot show complete with annoying music. Famous for its white chocolate, which is sold under the brand “White Lovers” (shiroi koibito), and is only available in Hokkaido. There is also a cake buffet available at the restaurant on the top floor but reservations must be made 3 days in advance.
  • Odori Park. Sapporo’s most famous park. It is in the center of town and is considered to be a symbol of Sapporo. Although quite narrow the park is quite long, stretching over fifteen blocks across downtown Sapporo. Filled with numerous flowers, trees, and fountains during the summer, Odori Park provides a welcome respite from the maddening crowds of the surrounding city. In the winter there is a festival called the Sapporo snow festival which is held every year at the Odori Park.  
  • Sapporo TV Tower, (At the eastern end of Odori.). A tourist trap carbon copy of the Eiffel Tower with an observation deck 90m high.
  • Sapporo Beer Museum (Sapporo Biru Hakubutsukan), North 7, East 9 (Next to the Ario Shopping Center. On the Loop 88 Factory bus line from the Odori Subway Station. Close to JR Naebo Station (ask the attendant there for a map). 9AM-6PM Closed Monday. Run by the Sapporo Brewing Company, offers free guided tours covering the history of beer in Japan and the process of brewing. The museum is not very big and the printed descriptions on the displays are in Japanese. Despite this, it makes an interesting trip. At the end of the tour you can taste all the different beers. Finish off the tour with more brews at the Beer Garden next door.
  • Hokkaido Pioneer Village. A large historical village on the outskirts of Sapporo offers a snapshot of Japan in the newly-industrialized age. The front gate (an old railway station) opens up into a series of opens alleys and buildings from before the 20th century. Also a variety of different gardens and shrines. Don’t expect costumed performers however — everything is self-guided. An English map is available. Accessible from Shin-Sapporo station on Sapporo’s Tozai line, but it should be noted that the park is far. If one visits in the summertime, s/he could easily spend several hours looking around. A minimum of two hours is recommended, but one could easily spend 4 hours or more reading all the information. 
  • 100th anniversary Memorial Park(Hyakunen Kinento), (Just down the road from Pioneer Village.). This is the site of a giant (and somewhat imposing) tower which can be climbed, providing a good vantage point of Sapporo (though quite some distance from the city center) and surrounding mountains. This site is popular with school groups.
  • Moiwayama, (Can be reached by cable car, or with a car, the summit (and tourist centre) can be reached directly.). This mountain, also called Moiwa Mountain, overlooks the city and is especially worthwhile at night to observe the city lights. An entrance fee is charged for cars.
  • Asahiyama Park. A beautiful flower garden and natural park that overlooks the city center. Noted for being a good place for romance, and is particularly good for cherry blossoms in spring and autumn colors, and local wildlife such as squirrels and foxes (somewhat of a feral pest around Sapporo). 
  • Hokkaido Shrine. Free.
  • Jozankei, (On the southern outskirts of Sapporo (but still nominally in the city), a 40-60 minute drive.). This area is famous for both its onsen, or hot springs (due perhaps to proximity to Sapporo) and the very beautiful autumn colours (especially around the Houhaikyou Dam).  
  • JR Tower. The newly redeveloped building near JR Sapporo Station marks the center of the city. It is higher than the TV tower observatory. Affording panoramic views. As a bonus for men, the observation level has a men’s room with a view!  
  • Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, North 1 West 17, Chuo. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. Located in a small park, this modern art museum offers a collection that includes both Japanese and Western art, as well as temporary exhibits. 
  • Sapporo Art Park (West of Highway 453, several kilometers south of central Sapporo.). Containing over 74 modern and contemporary sculptures, this art park makes for a great day trip.
  • Moerenuma Park. A popular excursion for Japanese families, this park offers several acres of carefully manicured grass and monumental landscape installations. Highlights include a 5-story glass pyramid and a man-made mountain, from which one can see all of Sapporo. Rental of bicyles is available, from 7am – 7pm. free.  
  • Hokkaido University Botanic Garden(Hokkaido Daigaku Shokubutsuen), North 3 West 8, Chuo (From JR Sapporo train station, go south 3 blocks and west 5 blocks). 9AM-4PM Closed Monday. A large botanical garden. There are two rock gardens, a rose garden, a lilac display, a greenhouse, and various other gardens. There’s a small museum in the garden with artifacts from Hokkaido, some dating back to the Meiji period (no extra cost). In the winter, only the greenhouse and museum are of interest. 
  • Former Hokkaido Prefectural Government Building, Chuo-ku N3 W6 (Two minutes’ walk from Sapporo station, in between Odori Park and Sapporo Station. This beautiful western style red brick building is a famous site of Sapporo and worth taking a quick look, as it is in the center. 
  • Sapporo Snow Festival(Yuki Matsuri). Early Feb. This is Sapporo’s largest event. The festival is best known for the ice sculpture competition attracting artists from around the world, competing to create the largest and most elaborate artworks from ice and snow. The festival is focused on Odori Koen, in the centre of Sapporo. It consists of a combination of large-scale replicas and artistic sculptures; children-aimed attractions; and a separate section for world-wide competitors (where you can see a wide range of smaller artistic sculptures). The festival should be enjoyed both in the day — but particularly at night when the sculptures (especially the larger ones) are lit up. When the weather is warmer and there’s a bit of melting, the smaller sculptures are literally remade every night to ensure that they are in perfect condition the next day. Book accommodation early, because Sapporo gets booked out during the festival.  
  • Teine(Teineyama). A ski mountain within easy drive from most of Sapporo. This ski mountain featured in the 1972 Winter Olympics. Offers a good mix of beginner and experienced slopes (in two distinct parks; Highlands and Olympia which have recently been connected).
  • Skiing. As befits a former Winter Olympics site, Sapporo is famous for its ski resorts, which are easily accessible by bus. 
  • Otaru, approximately 60 minutes by car (shorter by expressway). A very pleasant small town located on the coast, and famous (within Japan) for its attractive canal which is very European in design. Also famous for its seafood, music box museum (with associated tourist shop) and glass works. Also famous for being the setting of the movie Love Letter.
  • Niseko, arguably Japan’s top destination for powder skiing and snowboarding, is two hours away by bus.
  • The hot springs and mossy canyons of Shikotsu-Toya National Park are within easy striking distance of Sapporo.
  • Asahikawa’s Asahiyama Zoo is the most famous and most visited zoo in Japan, even though it’s in the middle of nowhere (at least a two-hour trip from Sapporo). Its most famous exhibits are the penguins which walk around the park twice a day (THE must see for all the Japanese who find this immensely cute), and the seals that you can see swim vertically through a large transparent pipe. It also features polar bears, wolves, Japanese deer, big cats, different kinds of monkeys and more. It’s most impressive in winter when it’s covered in snow (have you ever seen a giraffe walking in snow) but a few of the exhibits are also closed during this season.