From powder snow to lavender fields, Hokkaido has much to offer – not just in winter but throughout the year. First and foremost, there’s Sapporo, the vibrant capital of Japan’s northernmost island, brimming with restaurants, shops and places of interest. The city also boasts easy access to some of Hokkaido’s most beautiful locations. Experience the grandeur of one of the world’s largest winter festivals and indulge your taste buds with Sapporo’s exceptional seafood, ramen and other local delicacies.
Thai Airways has recently relaunched its non-stop service to Sapporo. Here’s a full guide on making the most of your trip to Hokkaido, from food and drink to culture and, of course, lots of nature.
What to do in Sapporo
The heart and soul of Sapporo, Odori Park is an oasis in the heart of the city stretching 1.5 kilometers east to west. In winter, the park becomes a wonderland adorned with snow sculptures and intricate ice carvings. It’s also the main site of the Sapporo Snow Festival, a week-long extravaganza attracting more than 2 million visitors every year who come to enjoy snow and ice sculpture exhibitions and take part in fun winter events here and across two other sites in the city.
Also in winter, the International Snow Sculpture Contest attracts teams from across the world.
If you’re visiting Sapporo in the summer, from the middle of July to the middle of August, Odori Park turns into Japan’s largest beer garden. The major Japanese beer makers along with stands dedicated to beers from across the world and Japanese craft beers set up shop along the length of the park. With such a large selection of delicious beers, you will be spoiled for choice.
Sapporo Clock Tower and the Sapporo TV Tower
Near Odori Park, you can find the iconic Sapporo Clock Tower, an enduring landmark and one of the few surviving buildings that was constructed during the development of Sapporo after it became the prefectural capital in 1868. Today, you can enter the clock tower and explore the museum on the first floor. A short walk will take you to another of Sapporo’s attractions – the Sapporo TV Tower. Built in 1957, the tower was designed by architect Tachu Naito, the same architect who created Tokyo Tower. You can climb to the top of the tower for a view of Odori Park and the surrounding city.
Nijo Fish Market
One thing everyone remembers from a trip to Hokkaido is the delicious seafood. Nowhere is this more evident than in Nijo Fish Market in central Sapporo. Go in the morning to see throngs of people inside the covered arcade browsing the different stalls displaying their day’s catch. You can also dine on some of the freshest sushi and kaisendon fish bowls in Japan at seafood restaurants located inside the market. For some mouthwatering sushi, head to Sushidokoro Keiran at the east entrance of the market. The restaurant is operated by the long-established fish specialists Kondo Noboru Shoten and the restaurant is inside the store.
What to eat in Sapporo
Snow crab and hairy kegani crab
During crab season, there are few better places to be than Hokkaido. In Nijo Fish Market, you can see plenty of leggy snow crabs and hairy kegani crabs on sale. From the price tags, you will quickly realize it is not a cheap eat. But if you fancy splashing out on delicious crab cuisine, head to Kani-ya Honten in central Sapporo. Even though the building can accommodate 550 diners, bookings are at a premium so make sure you reserve your table well in advance.