HOKKAIDO’S LARGEST CITY OFFERS ENDLESS JAPANESE CULTURE AND EXPERIENCES.
In the winter, the city of Sapporo’s streets are permanently snow-packed, a testament to winter’s strength in Hokkaido. Luckily, you don’t need to venture far from the train station on the many heated sidewalks to find lodging and food suitable for all budgets, but the further you get, the more authentic the experience becomes.
During the day, it’s easy to sense the nearby sea, mostly because of the relative humidity and the bone-chilling cold. Arrive prepared with a trusted puffy jacket and a waterproof shell. Slipping into a restaurant or the Sapporo Beer Garden is also a great way to warm up and enjoy the amenities of a modern Japanese city, or nip into one of the numerous wellpolished hotels with sentos— or Japanese spas—in the basement.
The city shines brightest at night. The snow-caked sidewalks and streets magnify the glow from the karaoke bars and clubs, while street lanterns and string lights illuminate narrow streets lined with ramen bars and convenience stores. If you plan on heading in to an authentic restaurant, make sure your shoes are easy to slip on and off, as slippered dining is derigueur at most establishments.
Sapporo experienced a large earthquake during the summer of 2018, which left most of the nearby ski areas unscathed but did some damage to the city and its surrounds. Officials withdrew Sapporo’s bid for hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics to focus on recovery, but they plan to bid again for the games in 2030. Most of the city is still vibrant and unharmed by the quake, and after a dip in tourism this summer, residents will be more welcoming than ever to visitors in the near future. Go see for yourself.
Top: Anime and powder in downtown Sapporo. Right: Tasting room at the Sapporo Beer Garden.