– The legendary Kitaguni (North Realm) of Japan –
Hokkaido, the Kitaguni (North Realm) of Japan, consisting of one large island and five small islands, is located at the northern end of the Japanese Islands, and is famous for its natural beauty, historic sites, and delicious seafood and local specialties. Sapporo is the capital city of Hokkaido, and is the biggest city in Hokkaido and the fifth biggest city in Japan. Major scenic spots in Sapporo are the Old Hokkaido Government Office (symbol of the Reclamation Times), the Clock Tower (Symbol of Sapporo), Odori Park, etc.. The famous Sapporo Snow Festival -the ‘White Illumination’ is held in the Odori Park every year. Susukino near Sapporo station is a wonderful world for gourmets. Otaru is a beautiful harbor city near Sapporo with a glorious history and is famous for its historic ‘Otaru Canal’, gas lamp arts and glass arts. Needless to say, the charm of Hokkaido’s winter scenes and festivals will entertain you to your great satisfaction.
Getting there and getting around
Sapporo, with a population of more than 1,800,000, is the capital city of Hokkaido, the biggest city in Hokkaido and the fifth biggest city in Japan. It takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Hokkaido’s Chitose Airport by airplane, and it takes about 36 minutes from Chitose Airport to Sapporo city by Airport Express of JR Chitose Line. The Airport Express, starting from the first floor of the airport terminal building every 15 minutes, will conveniently take you directly to Sapporo, Otaru, and Asahikawa. There are also shuttle bus lines conveniently connecting the Airport and Sapporo, and it takes about 65 minutes from the Airport to Sapporo city. You can have a clear view on the train or on the bus and if you travel in winter, you will surely get amazed at the all-white silver world outside the window. The scene is so beautiful and magnificent that you will not feel that it is a cold icy world. Sapporo is a comprehensive modern city. Paseo is a multi-functional district for shopping and restaurants around Sapporo Railway Station, and Apia is an underground street near Sapporo Railway Station with more than 300 shops and restaurants, where you can have a good enjoyment of shopping and eating without feeling the coldness of the winter above the ground. English tourist maps and pamphlets of Sapporo city are available at the 4 tourist information centers in the city. With all these you can have a more convenient and efficient tour in Sapporo.
Old Hokkaido Government Office – Symbol of the Reclamation Times
At a place of 10 minutes’ walk, the most eye-catching thing is an American neo-baroque style building called ‘Red Bricks’. It’s the building of the Old Hokkado Government Office, a symbolic relic of the Reclamation Times. It was built as the office of Hokkaido Development Bureau in the 21st year of Meiji (1888) and has been designated as an important national cultural heritage. Now it is opened to the public as Hokkaido Profectural Archives, and you can find there the associated materials and photos of the Reclamation Times. It is a good place where you can get to know about the history of Sapporo. In the evening this building will be illuminated, and especially in winter, covered with the white snow ‘cosmetics’, it really emits a scent of European romantic atmosphere. Clock Tower -Symbol of Sapporo There is another famous site 3 blocks east and 5 minutes’ walk from the Old Hokkaido Government Office. It is the American-style Sapporo.
Clock Tower – the symbol of Sapporo
The clock is the oldest pendulum clock in Japan, built in the 14th year of Meiji (1881) as a physical drilling house of Sapporo Agricultural School and designated as a national important cultural property in 1970, and even now it is still ticking the time for Sapporo. In winter covered with white snow, this white clock tower looks much whiter and shinier. It is really wonderful to take a picture with it as the background.
Odori Park – Oasis of Relaxation
With an east-west stretch of 1.5 km and separating the north and the south of Sapporo city, the Odori Park provides people a very good relaxing and enjoying space in the center of the city through all the four seasons, featuring a number of fountains, trees and flowers. And the Lilac Festival in spring, the Festive Beer Garden in summer, the Sapporo Snow Festival -the ‘White Illumination’ in winter and many other colorful seasonal ceremonies are carried out there. Therefore, this Park is endearingly called an ‘Oasis in the Metropolitan’ by Sapporo people. And the 147-meter-high Television Tower is just at the east end of the park, and from its observatory you can have a global view of the whole Sapporo city.
The Art of Ice
In the big event Sapporo Snow Festival- the White Illumination, 360,000 various neon and electric lights are artistically decorated, and the unique design of the ice art works will create you a fantastic world of night and make you be reluctant to leave. Please notice that the temperature in Sapporo at that time is around -10 and is very cold, so please don’t forget to dress more or take with you some heavy winter clothes. And the road there is frozen hard and a lot of people step on it, so it will become very slippery, just like a skating rink. Good idea to buy a pair of easy-to-wear, slip-preventing snow shoes from a specialty store.
Susukino – Popular Restaurant Street
Hokkaido is very famous for its seafood cuisines and various noodles. Susukino is the largest amusement area north to Tokyo, which holds a great variety of snack bars, Hokkaido local specialty restaurants, sushi restaurants, etc., and it is really a fantastic world of colorful neon signs for gourmets. In the ‘Ramen Yokocho’ (the ‘Noodle Alley’), you can enjoy Hokkaido’s 3 major flavors of noodles. Just have a try and find out which ‘sect’ you belong to, miso ‘sect’?, pork rib with soy sauce ‘sect’?, or slightly salty ‘sect’?.
The Harbor City – Otaru
The harbor city Otaru is conveniently located at a place 35 minutes by express train of Hakodate Main Line from Sapporo. It has a glorious history and was the economic center of Hokkaido from Meiji Period to Taisho Period. When you get off the train at Otaru station, the refreshing air and sea breeze will surely come to greet you.
It takes about 10 minutes by walk from Otaru station to the famous ancient bank street along the Otaru Canal, which was called the ‘ Wall Street of North’ from the Meiji period to the early Showa period. You can have a good view of the nostalgic and romantic Otaru Canal, the roads along which are decorated with various gas lamps, while taking a relaxing stroll among the old-fashioned buildings in the bank street which symbolize the ancient prosperity. Otaru Canal was completed in the 12th year of the Taisho period, and a lot of cargo storehouses were also built in the harbor area. Now these stone-made warehouses have become various beautifully-designed restaurants and shops, and you can have a good feel there of the nostalgic atmosphere of the ancient Otaru Canal.
‘Starry Sky on the Ground’
In the evening the gas lamps along the Canal illuminate a fantastic world for us just like a starry sky on the ground. A big event called ‘Otaru’s Shiny Snow Road’ will be carried out here on February 8 – 17, 2002. Please don’t miss the precious chance. Many people in the town will work as volunteers to make all the candles by their own hand and create us an illuminated fantastic world. Their friendliness and warm-heartedness will make you feel warm in the icy winter evenings.
Arts of Glass
Otaru is very famous for its glass arts and lamplight arts, so it is also called the ‘City of Glass’, and the ‘City of Lamplight’. The Kitaichi Glass is a major company to make glass art works, which plays a very important role in the development of glass art in Otaru. The headquarter of the Kitaichi Glass is located on the bank of the Otaru Canal, and it takes 10 minutes by walk and 3 minutes by Otaru Sightseeing Bus to get there. Along the shitamachi-style Sakaicho Hondori Street, there are many glass art and other art galleries and shops in the ancient warehouses. Buildings No.1-5 are the Kitaichi Glass Industrial Art Gallery that sells a great variety of glass art works and glassware. You will surely find your favorite things there. The Kitaichi hall of Building No.3 is a very good recommendable resting place, and in the hall there decorated 167 gas lamps illuminating the unique space.
The Venetian Arts
The Kitaichi Museum of Venetian Art takes the outer appearance of an ancient palace in Venetian that still remains today. As soon as you enter the museum, presented before you is the gondola that the British Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana rode in when they visited Otaru. It is really a gorgeous museum of Venetian arts with a noble and refined atmosphere. You will find it very popular to have an experience of being an ancient noble by taking a picture in noble dresses at the experience corner.
Old Aoyama Villa
The Old Aoyama Villa was a luxurious mansion of an ancient fishing net maker, built in Taisho period (1923) for the purpose of his own pleasure and entertaining guests. It is a unique luxurious architecture, and now is one of the major historic buildings in Hokkaido. It takes 20 minutes from the Central Bus Terminal of Sappro Ekimae by bus. You will feel the atmosphere of that time as if you were a guest of the hospitable house owner.
1. Okurayama Jump Hill
As a site of 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics. This jump hill reopened in April 2000. The Museum of Winter Sports also opened nearby featuring an Olympic-related exhibition and jump simulator.
2. Jozankei Hot Spring
Jozankei Hot Spring is a collection of spas within an hour of downtown. The waters’ minerals are said to relieve aches and pains as the sight of the surrounding mountains eases the mind. Some hot springs in Jozankei are open to day visitors.
Mt.Moiwa affords an outsiding panorama of the city and the Ishikari Plain from 531 meters above sea level. Visitors can get to the top by car or gondora.
4. Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill
Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill is known for its statue of Dr.Clark,who extends his hand toward sapporo.A small chapel popular for wedd-ing adjoins the site.
5. The Sapporo Dome
The studium a multipurpose, all-wether dome, serves as a venue or a variety of sports and other events,and includes a shopping space called the “Town”and an observatory which commands a panoramic view of downtown Sapporo.
6. Odori Park
Stretches between West 12 Steets.Festive beer gardens and Bon-Odori dancing in summer and the world famous Sapporo Snow festival in winter are found here.