Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, is a popular winter destination for tourists thanks to its Snow Festival in February and many ski resorts. There are, however, lots of things to do in Hokkaido during the other seasons too. Hokkaido was home to the indigenous people of Japan – the Ainu as well, so it really does have a rich history and is well worth a visit.
Shiroi Koibito park (literally translated as “white lover park” in English), Hokkaido’s “Chocolate Factory”, is a must-visit for chocolate and sweet lovers, for families and those interested in the origin of chocolate and chocolate making. There is a beautiful park with a luxurious European style building at the heart of it. If you spend some time in the garden you can see beautiful flowers, a treehouse, seasonal decorations and small colorful play houses for children to enjoy. After entering the building, you can buy a ticket to go on a tour. You will be able to see the Aurora Fountain, built in 1870 by an English company and rooms housing collections of every accessory imaginable needed for eating and drinking chocolate: from 18th century chocolate cups to chocolate packaging labels. There are also many interesting galleries including items such as gramophones, classic vintage toys and other retro pieces. You can even see a cookie production line during the tour, do a tasting session and experience some baking of your own here too. There are several shops and cafes with beautiful views of the surrounding area and a wide range of desserts offered. In what’s known as the Cookie-craft Studio, you can make your own design and even paint cookies. Please be aware that prior reservation is required, and that there is an additional fee of 972 yen per person and one cookie per person. Cookie-making takes approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes and cookie painting around 30 minutes). If the weather permits, you can have a 10 minute ride on a miniature six-car train for 300 yen (200 yen for children 2-12 years old, free for children under 2). Also if you’re lucky, a parade of singing and dancing mechanical dolls will greet you at the Sapporo Mechanical Clock Tower building at every hour on the dot.
Admission fee: 600 yen for adults and 200 yen for junior high school students and younger children (for groups of more than 20 people 500 yen and 150 yen accordingly).
Access: a short walk from Miyanosawa Station on the Tozai Subway Line.
More information at http://www.shiroikoibitopark.jp/english/
Sapporo Nakajima Park
Nature lovers – this is the place for you! Especially during the season of the autumn foliage, as the colors of around 5000 trees in the park change – it’s a beautiful sight to behold. There is also a lake, a museum, a concert hall, an observatory and a tea house (Hasso-an) in the park. With a convenient location near the subway in the middle of the city, it is a nice place to relax and have a stroll watching the ducks in the pond. The Sapporo Astronomical Observatory gives you a chance to observe stars in the night sky for free. Be sure to check the Observatory’s schedule before visiting.
Access: Nakajima Koen Station on the Namboku Line of Sapporo subway. More information: http://www.sapporo-park.or.jp/nakajima/lang/english.html
Sapporo Clock Tower
Sapporo Clock Tower is a site of historical importance for the locals. Sapporo became the capital of Hokkaido in 1869 and “The Clock Tower” was built soon after that, in 1878. Now it serves as a historical landmark with a museum and continues to be a symbol of Sapporo’s past. In 1970 it was designated as a National Important Cultural Property.
Access: It’s a short walk from exit 7 of Odori Station Namboku, Tozai and Toho lines of the Sapporo subway; 10 minutes on foot from JR Sapporo Station Southern entrance. Open: 8:45 – 17:10 Admission fee: 200 yen (free for children younger than high-school age and 180 yen for groups of over 20 people) For more information, visit http://sapporoshi-tokeidai.jp/english/
Odori park is a beautiful place to spend some time with lots of fountains and a nice view of Sapporo TV tower. You can also find many interesting statues and monuments, which can tell you more about the city’s history.
Access: Odori subway station or a 10 minute walk from JR Sapporo station
For more information: http://www.sapporo-park.or.jp/odori/en/
Sapporo Station and JR Tower Observatory
Inside of the station, you will be welcomed by a monument in the honor of the Ainu people, the indigenous people of Japan. A statue of a person dancing with a bow and saying “Irankarapte” (“Hello” in Ainu language) is a sign of hospitality and a wish for peace.
The JR Tower Observatory is also located here. It is on the 38th floor of the station and can be accessed from the 6th floor of the JR Tower east side. It is 173 m high and has a great view of the entire city. You can also make your own souvenir coins with your names and the date engraved on it on the observation floor.
Admission fee 720 yen for adults, 500 yen for junior high and high school children, 300 yen for elementary school children (free for children younger than 3 years old). Opening hours from 10.00 until 23:00 (22:30 last entry).
For more information: http://uu-hokkaido.com/corporate/buy/sapporo/t38.shtml
There are many resort facilities in Hokkaido and Rusutsu is one of them. You can get here by free shuttle bus which runs once a day and takes about two hours from Sapporo station. There is also a bus from New-Chitose airport which costs 2800 yen. Prior reservation is required for both. The resort is open all year long and winter is the busiest season. You can see an amazing view of the snowy mountains and nature, so it’s a great location.. For more information on plans and prices: http://en.rusutsu.co.jp/
Hokkaido is known for its beef and dairy products. Don’t miss the chance to try them!
Matsuo Genghis Khan (Matsujin) is one of the most recommended places located near Sapporo station. You can try Hokkaido style barbeque (Jingisukan) here. Reserving is advised as this is a very popular venue. For location and contact information check the web-site: http://www.matsuo1956.jp/shop/ekimae/ (Japanese)