Snow and Sapporo are inextricably entwined: the city hosted Asia's first-ever Winter Olympics in 1972, and the annual Sapporo Snow Festival wows visitors from the world over. In other seasons, Sapporo's green expanses and blossom displays are equally breathtaking. This young, wide-open city is also famous for its beer, beef, ramen, seafood and fresh produce.
You can reach Sapporo via train, air and ferry. Plane is by far the quickest, followed by high-speed rail options. Take a ferry for an adventurous and more leisurely journey.
Dozens of flights leave from Tokyo to Sapporo's New Chitose Airport from Haneda and Narita every day. Many other domestic airports also have direct flights to Sapporo. After the flight, it's a 35-minute express train ride to Sapporo Station.
Take the JR Tohoku/Hokkaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (four hours) and transfer to the Hokuto limited express to Sapporo (3.5 hours). The fare is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass and JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass.
There are also long-distance ferries from various points on the main island of Honshu, with most arriving either in Otaru, 30 minutes by train west of Sapporo, or Tomakomai, 45-60 minutes by train south of Sapporo.
Designed with the input of specialists from overseas, Sapporo has a North American-style grid street layout
The city's name means “important river flowing through a plain” in the indigenous Ainu language
Sapporo has only been around since 1868, making it Japan's youngest major metropolis
Unlike most of Japan's major urban environments, Sapporo is expansive and full of greenery. One of the best green spaces is Odori Park, which stretches about a kilometer and a half over 12 city blocks and splits the city into north and south. The park offers pleasant, relaxing spaces during the warmer months. In February, it's the main venue for the Sapporo Snow Festival.
You can't talk about ramen without mentioning Sapporo. The name reportedly originated here, as did miso ramen, one of the most popular types of ramen in Japan. At places like Sapporo Ramen Republic and Ramen Dojo, you can try specialties from all over Hokkaido, including Sapporo (miso), Asahikawa (soy sauce) and Hakodate (salt) ramen at eight restaurants in one location.
Sapporo has ample space and combines the wonders of nature with some fantastic outdoor contemporary sculpture at places such as Sapporo Art Park, Arte Piazza Bibai and Black Slide Mantra. Sapporo Art Park is a place to create your own art, with craft studios for woodworking, glassmaking, and outdoor crafts as well.
Indoors at the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, you'll find works from local artists as well as from the School of Paris painters. The Miyanomori International Museum of Art offers more contemporary masterpieces.
If you love running or cycling, find your way to the Toyohira riverbank, which is part of the course used for the Sapporo Marathon. Run the forested path or ride on the paved cycling road. Runners can also stride from Odori Park all the way to the Hokkaido University's pastoral campus.
For yoga enthusiasts, Maruyama Park, Toyohira riverbank and Nakajima Park are the perfect natural venues. After yoga, take a long, soothing soak at Jozankei Onsen.
The most famous ski resort in Japan, Niseko, is only a two-hour train ride from Sapporo Station. There are four interlinked ski resorts — Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and Annupuri, with some of the finest skiing and snowboarding runs in the country. Just outside the city center is Teine Ski Resort.
There is a great system of underground walkways and shopping centers under the main city. These walkways connect Sapporo Station to Odori Park, Sapporo Factory and the great entertainment district of Susukino. This is especially convenient on cold, rainy days or when there are snowstorms.