Sapporo, Hokkaido

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Of all the places I visited, I would expect Sapporo to have the least chance of snowing. Usually it snows more in the mountain areas than in the city. But I couldn’t be more wrong. It actually never stopped snowing in Sapporo for the entire length of 3 days I was there! It just snowed and snowed and snowed almost nonstop, from the moment I stepped out of the bus! Remind me again why I love Japan so much?? 😀 😀 😀

Heavy snow does have one disadvantage though,… that is pulling your big luggage on the roads blanketed by thick powdery snow. That was quite a task, even for a considerably short distance from subway station to the hotel.

Pic : Frozen river outside our hotel.

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There’s one thing I find surprising though. There doesn’t seem to be any English maps available here. I was very surprised for this, as it is the capital city of Hokkaido and an international travel destination. I would expect maps to be available in the airport at least. Well, lucky that I decided to bring my own map. It does help a lot when internet is not always available.

Nakajima Koen

A beautiful park near our hotel, known for its rich greenery and abundant water, both of which we were unable to see, as the lakes were frozen and trees were white.(It was even more beautiful in my eyes 😀 ).

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Huge, spacious and shrouded by a thick blanket of snow, so thick that some pathways were totally gone. We have to stick to the main pathways, as those were the only paths that were walkable (as we don’t have any snowshoes nor skis). No kidding, this park in the middle of the city is actually used as practice ground for cross-country skiing at moments like this.

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Park benches almost completely buried by snow!

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City Sights – The historical Clock Tower, Sapporo TV Tower and Odori Park – Popular sights of Sapporo. Odori Park is also the venue for the annual Sapporo Snow and Ice Festival, which draws millions of tourist from all over the world for the gigantic marvels of ice sculptures. Well, unfortunately for us, we missed this happening event, due to time limitations. 🙁

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Susukino – the largest entertainment district north of Tokyo. Bright colorful neon signboards, thousands of restaurants, shops, pubs, convenient stores, shopping centres, hotels, clubs, retail establishments and oh, so many karaokes! There are karaokes in every building of every street it seems. I can’t believe Sapporons love singing so much. 😛

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Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade – a long covered shopping area that stretches over about 7 blocks in the city. Many restaurants, boutiques, drugstores, omiyage shops, pachinko arcades and of course, karaokes, karaokes and more karaokes – upstairs, downstairs, everywhere!! For the  craze of singing!! 😛 😉

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Shiroi Koibito Park

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Home of Hokkaido’s most famous brand of chocolate cookies and ice cream, Shiroi Koibito Park is a wonderland made up of a cluster of cute colourful buildings, a chocolate factory and museum, cookie production line, candy shops, confectionery and café, ice cream house, toy exhibition, a rose garden, a mechanical clock tower, a miniature steam train ride, and a beautifully decorated courtyard.

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Shiroi Koibito factory tour and milk chocolate cookies Production Line.

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Tudor House, café and Candy Labo.

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Chocolate museum and chocolate cup collection.

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Candy making and hands-on cookie making sessions.

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Outdoor Central Wholesale Market

Took us some time to find this place from the subway station due to poor signage. We thought we could find our lunch here, but all the restaurants were closed by the time we arrived. Just a row of traders selling fresh crabs and a variety of seafood.

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Maruyama Koen

We reached here in the evening, almost dusk. Didn’t have much time to explore the whole park area or the famous zoo, so we just took a short walk in the white peaceful park with very pretty trees, and paid a visit to the Hokkaido Jingu, a large Shinto Shrine located within the park.

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Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park

This is surely a hidden gem located in the suburbs of Sapporo. Not so hidden actually, just about 45 mins travel from the city centre. But I’m not sure why there are not many people here. The facilities available in Takino Snow World are marvellous (especially in winter 😉 ). This is where the biggest and longest tube sledding course in Japan is located, and a heaven for cross-country skiers, with many long and perfectly groomed courses. There are also plenty of activities and snow fun – skiing, snowboarding, show shoeing, kids sledding, body sledding, hiking into frozen waterfalls, etc.

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Best of all, everything is free! (Except for ski rentals, where a minimum charge is applicable). I’ve never heard of any snow activities anywhere in the world that are absolutely free, and especially in a beautiful and well maintained National Park. It was truly unbelievable! Free unlimited ski chairlift passes, free tube rentals, free plastic sledding rentals, free ski wear rentals, free rope towing, free cross-country skiing, free snowshoeing, etc. Even storage lockers are refundable, and the entrance to the National Park is totally free! (in winter only 😉 ). Plus another bonus thrown in – there is absolutely no tour busses or throngs of tourists here! Now isn’t this a snow-lover’s heaven or what??!  😀 😀 😀

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The only thing you will find lacking here is time. The last bus back to Makomanai Eki leaves at exactly 3.28pm, and you better don’t miss it otherwise you will be stranded in a cold national park for the night.

As much as I would like to do everything here, I only have that much time. So I made the choice of 2 activities that I’ve never tried before, and also the main attractions of this place. Snow tubing and cross-country skiing.

My first attempt at cross-country skiing (ski-walking/ arukuskii). It certainly was not as easy as it looked! I thought it was like skiing but it wasn’t. I totally suck at it! Gosh how embarrassing!  🙁

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Nevertheless, we practiced several times around the 1km Campsite course and then ploughed on through the 3km Ezorisu intermediate course, with some up and downhill terrain. It was tiring (and utterly embarrassing!) but fun! 😛 It was worth every minute. Where else can you try cross-country skiing in so many long groomed courses like this? 😀

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Snow Tubing down a 200meters long straight course, the longest tubing course in Japan. I’ve underestimated the speed and coldness of the dry chilly winds and snow slapping hard on my face as I sped down the exciting slope. At the end of the first ride, I actually tasted blood in my mouth.  Well of course that didn’t stop me from going at it again and again, it was so exciting! 😛 Just needed to cover my face and mouth this time. 😉

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Here we go again….Tow-tow-tow….. WoooowWweeeeeeeee………..!!!! 😛 😛 😛

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A warm “Genghis Khan” dinner after a fun snow day out 😛 . Genghis Khan BBQ Lamb seems to be a specialty at Sapporo.

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The “Very Fancy” (that’s the name of the hotel restaurant) pancakes and curry tuna melt breakfasts at the hotel. 😉

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3 Responses to Sapporo, Hokkaido

  1. Sharon says:

    Thank you for the nice blogs and beautiful photos. Didn’t know Sapporo has a lot more to offer especially winter time, all covered in white, definitely a must go place for those who love winter. Love the Maruyama Koen. Goosebumps too see that scenery :).

    Well, Winter in Hokkaido into my bucket list now. Haha.

  2. Christine Panggabean says:

    Can we rent the snow/ski jackets and pants at the Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park? I would like to go there in January, and try the snow tubing. But I don’t have the snow jackets and pants. So I wonder if I can just rent it at the park.

    • admin says:

      Hi Christine,
      Actually, you don’t really need snow jackets/pants for tubing. But you can rent them if you like. If I remember correctly, they are free rentals. Unless you would like to play other activities like skiing or ski walking, there’s a small rental fee for the equipments only. It’s totally worth it. I love the place and the experience. Hope you enjoy your snowy winter holidays in Hokkaido! 🙂

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