Sapporo, Japan

Sapporo, Japan

Sapporo, capital of the mountainous northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, is famous for its beer, skiing and annual Sapporo Snow Festival featuring enormous ice sculptures. The Sapporo Beer Museum traces the city’s brewing history and has tastings and a beer garden. Ski hills and jumps from the 1972 Winter Olympics are scattered within the city limits, and Niseko, a renowned ski resort, is nearby.

We arrived following the Tokyo Marathon so it very late winter with still plenty of snow around.  It wasn’t overly cold so we were able to walk around fairly comfortably and our hotel was conveniently close to the massive JR Tower shopping centre.

The time of year determines the attractions that are available to the visitor.  Obviously, many of the less active outdoor activities are closed as it’s just too cold or snowed under.  So shopping, eating & drinking was always a popular option! 

We did a private day road tour which included Asahikawa Zoo, Shirahige Falls and the Ningle Terrace boutique cottages.  The road trip showcased Hokkaido’s stunning snowy winter landscape scenery the whole way.

We’ve been to a lot of zoos during our travels but Asahikawa has to be the most impressive especially at this time of year.  All the animals were incredibly active in the cold which included polar bears, lions, snow leopards, tigers, hippos, seals, chimpanzees, spider monkeys, giraffes, pandas, snowy owls, reindeer, Pallas’s cats, foxes, wolves and so on and so on.  One of the highlights is the Emperor penguin parade which is held twice daily.  Around 15 to20 – mostly emperor penguins – complete a 500 metre march along a snow-covered path.  It’s pretty spectacular and despite being a very popular attraction, there were many places to get up quite close for photos.

Next stop was Shirahige Falls which are particularly stunning in the winter when frost-encrusted trees and shimmering icicles showcase the blue ravine below.  This was strictly a photo stop though as it was too cold and probably not safe to walk around.  Nearby is Biei Shirogane Onsen – an all-natural hot spring, open since 1950, which is rich in minerals like magnesium and calcium sulfate. The open-air bath lets you bathe among the snowy winter landscape. 

The Ningle or Ninguru Terrace is a beautiful collection of boutique cottages, housing specialty arts and crafts along with their creators. The creators sit there in the shops displaying and making more of their products as you wander around Terrace boutique cottages.  Ningle Terrace has been created using natural materials with timber buildings and a beautiful plank walkway around the waterfalls and trees.  In summer the forest gives off a beautiful scent with pine trees and the waterfall creating a wonderful atmosphere for wandering around or stopping in the café.  Being winter it was quite when we were there, and I suspect is a more popular attraction in the summer.

It was a long day by the time we arrive back to Sapporo and it was great to treat ourselves to a hot banquet local meal and our favourite Sapporo beer of course!

If you would like more information about this destination, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Emperor penguin march, Asahikawa Zoo

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