The Sun (Malaysia)
> This capital of the Hokkaido Prefecture is known for its superb autumn landscapes as well as its annual snow festival
THE CAPITAL city of Sapporo in the Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido may not be the bustling metropolis that is Tokyo or Osaka but it has its own quiet charm and uniqueness.
Sapporo became well-known after hosting the 1972 Winter Olympics, the first-ever to be held in Asia. The city is also famous for its annual Sapporo Snow Festival (Yuki Matsuri), which is held for seven days in February.
During the festival, Odori Park situated right in the city centre is turned into a winter wonderland with fabulous giant ice sculptures and carvings on display.
To learn about the city’s history, head to the former Hokkaido Government Office Building, which is now a museum. Then make a stop at the Sapporo Clock Tower. This wooden structure, built in 1878, is a symbol of the city and today serves as a museum.
Another historical place not to be missed is the Hokkaido Shrine in Maruyama Park.
Built in the late 1800s, the original building was destroyed in a fire in 1974 and was later restored. The shrine is a popular place for locals and visitors alike to receive blessings.
For shopaholics, Sapporo’s Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade offers seven blocks of retail therapy, with over 200 shops.
Later, they can take a cable car ride or even hike up Mount Moiwa to enjoy the most picturesque view of the city no matter what season it is. There is also the famous Observatory Deck where visitors can enjoy a relaxing 360° view of Sapporo City, even in the restroom!
For the more adventurous, travel by bus or self-drive to Lake Mashu to enjoy some really beautiful scenery, especially in autumn with the foliage bursting in shades of red, yellow and gold.
Nearby is Mount Iõ, a still active andesitic stratovolcano, which houses a shrine at the top from where visitors can get an amazing view of the sun setting over the Sea of Japan. In early summer, the mountain is covered with red azaleas.
For a unique experience, book yourself into one of the Jozankei onsen hotels, where one can indulge in a traditional Japanese onsen (hot spring) which is one of the best ways to rest and relax.
When it comes to food, Sapporo is a mecca for fresh seafood including salmon, sea urchin and the red Hokkaido king crab. There are many restaurants for you to choose from that serve delicious seafood cooked in a variety of ways.
The city is also considered the birthplace of the miso ramen, or Sapporo ramen. In 2001, it was listed as one of the Hokkaido Heritage.
Other must-try dishes include soup curry – a liquid curry with vegetables and chicken – and jingisukan or Mongolian BBQ, which is barbecued lamb.
Hokkaido people also like their sweets and Sapporo city is sometimes referred to as the Kingdom of Sweets.
Many of Japan’s famous confectionery makers were born on this island. So it is not surprising to
find many shops selling confectionery of all shapes and sizes, including the well-known Shiroi Koibito (White Lovers) Cookies.
This signature product of the Ishiya Chocolate Factory is one of Sapporo’s best-loved souvenirs and a visit to the factory at the Shiroi Koibito Park is a must for all visitors, locals and tourists alike.
The place is a wonderland that houses not only the factory but also a cafe, a cookiecraft studio, a toy exhibition room, gramaphone gallery, a rose garden as well as a mechanical clock tower which presents a parade of jolly singing and dancing mechanical dolls called The Chocolate Carnival every hour.
Another famous Sapporo product is Royce’ brand of nama chocolates, which was founded in this city in 1983.
Today, visitors can get to see how these chocolates are made at the Royce’ Chocolate World at New Chitose Airport, the first chocolate factory and museum located inside of an airport in Japan.