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Sapporo is the largest city in Hokkaido and a major economic and cultural center for northern Japan. Home to approximately two million people, Sapporo has many claims to fame, including the fact that it became the first Asian city to host the Winter Olympics in 1972. It also staged matches in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, but arguably the city’s most famous event is the annual Sapporo Snow Festival - a spectacular week-long celebration and ice sculpture exhibition which attracts millions of people to Odori Park each year. Sapporo is also considered to be one of Japan’s culinary capitals, and visitors flock to sample the fresh local produce, including prime meats, sumptuous seafood and the famous Sapporo beer and sake. A short distance outside the city, natural hot spring resorts lie nestled in the scenic mountains, while the world-class ski slopes of Niseko are just a short drive away.
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Odori Park is a large open space in the heart of Sapporo, which divides the city into north and south. Stretching for approximately 1.5 kilometers, this vast green space is a great place to stroll at any time of year. The park really comes alive however, in the winter when it hosts the famous Sapporo Snow Festival - a week-long celebration of snow and ice which features breath-taking sculptures and attracts more than two million people each year. This forms part of a year-round calendar of seasonal events in Odori Park, with others including the Hokkaido Marathon, Yosakoi Soran dance festival, Lilac Festival and Sapporo Beer Festival.
Mount Moiwa rises 531 meters near the center of Sapporo, making it an iconic city landmark and a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. Visitors can climb up to the mountain’s peak on foot, or alternatively take the Mount Moiwa Ropeway - a mini cable car ride - to the summit in glass-walled gondolas that offer spectacular views of the surroundings area. At the peak is a 360-degree observation deck where guests can enjoy panoramic views of the city, Ishikari Bay, the Sea of Japan and the Mashike Shokanbetsu mountain range, plus a restaurant and planetarium.
Sapporo Clock Tower
This historic wooden building was built in the 1870s and stands out from modern buildings of downtown Sapporo. A popular photographic spot and symbol of the city, Sapporo Clock Tower was originally built as a drill hall for the Sapporo Agricultural College (now Hokkaido University). The clock was installed in 1881. Today, the tower serves as a museum with displays about the history of the building and the city, information about the clock and a large ceremonial hall. It is one of the few Western-style buildings left in the city and reflects the design of colonial buildings in the American Midwest.
The Hokkaido Shrine, or Hokkaido-jingu, is a historical Shinto shrine located in Maruyama Park, in the Chuo-ku area of Sapporo. Dating back to the 1860s, it enshrines four “kami” (spirits of venerated figures) including the soul of the Emperor Meiji, and is said to bring good luck to visitors. Easily accessible via train from central Sapporo, the Hokkaido Shrine is a great place to visit at any time of year, but especially during spring as it considered one of the best places in Hokkaido to view the cherry blossoms. The Hokkaido Shrine Festival is held from 14-16 June each year.
Maruyama Zoo is the oldest zoo in Hokkaido, having opened in 1951. Located in the city’s Maruyama Park, next to the Hokkaido Shrine, the attraction covers 22.5 hectares and it is home to more than 180 different species of mammals, birds and reptiles, totaling approximately 1,000 animals. The aim of the zoo is to recreate the natural habitats of the animals, with attractions including Monkey Mountain, Kangaroo Hall, Deer Hall, Bear House, Hawk & Owl Forest, Orang-utan House, Waterfowl Hall and Tropical Bird House. Maruyama Zoo also features a Zoology Museum, gift shop and a café with outdoor terrace.
Things to do in Sapporo