Sapporo is one of the best places to go to for a winter or spring getaway–especially if you want to beat the heat, enjoy rich miso ramen, relax in an onsen, and use the cold climate as an excuse to cuddle on top of Mt. Moiwa while you gaze at a dramatic view of the city lights below. Unlike Tokyo, Sapporo runs on a slightly slower pace. Not only are it’s people more welcoming, but most places are English-speaking friendly so it’s relatively easy to get around and find your way. Speaking of getting from point A to B, expect some pretty hefty costs when you’re travelling around the city as Sapporo is known to have the most expensive public transportation rates in the country.
How much money will you need in Sapporo? Well, it depends in what you want to do and see. I brought ¥51,493 for this trip and it lasted us 3 days. Our daily average expense was ¥16,884 for two, which was expected as the supposed daily average cost per day for “budget” spending is ¥8,488 (according to BudgetYourTrip.Com).
So, how did we do it? Let’s take into consideration that almost half of our day was spent travelling from our first destination north of Sapporo: Sounkyo, Winter Wonderland (click HERE for the whole scoop!) As soon as we rolled up to Sapporo Station via free shuttle, courtesy of Sounkyo Choyo-Tei, we loaded up our KITACA cards for hassle-free access to Sapporo’s public transportation lines. We then stashed our luggage in Sapporo Station’s super-convenient lockers and headed straight to Sapporo Garden Park in Higashi-ku.
|KITACA Load (2)||¥10,000|
|Storage Locker (2)||¥1,400|
|Sapporo Beer Flight||¥600|
|Sapporo Beer Garden||¥6,998|
We had a filling all-you-can-drink beer and all-you-can-eat mutton Monglian BBQ at Sapporo Beer Garden, and a quick tour with a flight of Sapporo Beer’s finest at the Sapporo Beer Museum. This combination was perfect for the weather of Sapporo in winter.
The Sapporo Beer Museum can be accessed by the “Loop 88 Factory Line” bus that stops among other places at Odori Station and in front of Seibu department store near Sapporo Station Alternatively, it’s a 25 minute walk from JR Sapporo Station or a 15 minute walk from Higashi-kuyakusho-mae Station on the Toho Subway Line.
We started our day off with a heavy miso ramen breakfast at Sapporo Ramen Republic: located on the 10th floor of the ESTA Complex (near Sapporo Station) which offers a selection of the top Hokkaido ramen restaurants in one place! We recommend getting there early as it is a very popular place and wait times can get pretty long.
After stuffing our faces with delicious ramen, we headed over to Hoheikyo Onsen for a relaxing afternoon at their natural hot spring pools. Getting to Hoheikyo Onsen in Jozankei is surprisingly simple. Just take the Jotetsu Bus bound for “Jozankei Onsen” at Gate 12 underneath the ESTA Complex near Sapporo Station South, and they’ll drop you off right at their doorstep.
Afterwards, we had some Kirin Beer to get a slight buzz going and tried to catch the sunset up at Mt. Moiwa. Unfortunately, we didn’t get there in time. Instead, we ended up gazing at a romantic, brightly lit urban landscape of Sapporo City. Right in the center of a 360º panoramic view of Sapporo is the iconic “Fortune Bell” and the cliché ‘‘Love Padlock”, both of which help mature every couples’ relationship. Mt. Moiwa is supposedly a ‘‘sacred place for lovers”.
It’s easy to access Mt. Moiwa, as there are local trains and buses going there. You can take the local trains going there which is about 30 minutes from Susukino. Just make sure you get off at the Shiden Ropeway Iriguchi stop. There are arrows pointing toward Ropeway Sanroku station. It’s easier if you get on the shuttle bus from South 19 West 15, though. Trying to find your way there won’t be a problem as stops have maps for the shuttle bus station and it only takes 1 minute on foot. Then, the shuttle buses take you to Mt. Moiwa Sanroku station in about 5 minutes, and they operate every 15 minutes. As soon as you make it to the foot of the mountain, you’ll have to ride two rope way trams to get to the very top.
For our love of Japanese curry, we headed back down from the mountain towards the lively atmosphere of Tanukikoji for the highly sought after Garaku Soup Curry. Sadly, the place was jam-packed so instead we hoofed over to their offshoot: Treasure Soup Curry. We were pleasantly surprised that they had no line up at the door, and to top it off, we shared our first ever delicious Hamburg(Japanese for meat patty) Soup Curry which was swimming in a mildly spicy soup with heaps of fresh vegetables like long beans, mushrooms, peppers, and carrots. Truly, we have found buried curry gold in the middle of an urban jungle.
Finding your way here from Sapporo Station is easy! Take the Toho Line going towards Fukuzumi and get off at Odori Station, walk south bound for about 5 minutes and make a right at the second stop light/intersection.
|Shiraka Sansou Ramen||¥1,150|
|Bus to Hoheikyo Onsen via ESTA (2)||¥1,680|
|Treasure Soup Curry||¥1,880|
For our final day, we got up bright and early to catch a fresh seafood breakfast at Kaisen Ichiba Kitano Gourmet. Located just above the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market, “Kitano Gurume” chefs will cook food you purchased at their market right in front of you or serve them raw, grilled, and any other way you wish. We died and went to seafood heaven, basically.
Sapporo Central Wholesale Market offers a free shuttle service from Sapporo Station. Just wait for the bus in front of Family Mart near the North Exit off the West Concourse that extends from the West Exit of JR Sapporo Station. Coordinate your time wisely, and you’ll get there hassle-free:
-Pick-up Schedule 7:30, 8:30, 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, 12:30.
-Departure Schedule 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00.
We’ve had our fill of public baths during the first half of our trip so we decided to treat ourselves and reserved a private bath of our own at Otaru Kourakuen all the way in Shinko. It was kind of pricey, but it was totally worth it! We had our own 80-square meter spa with a Finnish sauna, showers, comfort room, loads of essentials, TV, fridge, and even a massage chair in their comfortable dressing room.
They don’t offer free shuttle service so in order to get here from Sapporo Station you need to hop on a bus at Sapporo Ekimae BT, get off at Shinko, and walk through a quiet suburban neighborhood for 12 minutes (thankfully, it was nice and sunny that day!) Alternatively, you can ride the train bound for Otaruchikko Station and hail a cab.
Just north west of Otaru Kourakuen, we rode the bus to Nikka Whisky Distillery for a quick look and a free flight of their finest whisky. Close to the sea and surrounded by mountains on three sides, the distillery is situated in a place with a cold climate, appropriate humidity, crisp clean air and fresh water – everything necessary for ideal whisky with a briny hint!
Access to Nikka Whisky Distillery from Sapporo Station is pretty straight forward: hop on the Hakodate Line bound for Otaru Station, transfer to the train bound for Kutchan, then get off at Yoichi Station. Head south-west and the distillery should just be 7-minutes away–it’s hard to miss!
Slightly mellow from sipping three drams of their good stuff, alas, we had to head back to Sapporo early in the evening to pack our bags, grab some snacks for the road ahead, and get some shut-eye for our early flight the next day. Thanks to our extremely accommodating AirBnB hosts: Sada and Cosi (check them out here), we had our last supper at one of the best miso ramen joints in town! Located in Misono, Haruichiya Sandaime Menjuku is a hidden gem that offers world-class ramen with a broth that is smooth and tasty, not salty nor oily. The smell and after taste of pork is absent, noodles are chewy and al dente, and best of all…practically no wait time!
|Kaisen Ichiba Kitano Gourmet (2)||¥5,690|
|Bus Ride: Sapporo – Shinko (2)||¥1,200|
|Bus Ride: Shinko – Yoichi (2)||¥2,060|
|Train Ride: Yoichi – Sapporo (2)||¥2,160|
|Shiroi Koibito Cookies||¥576|
|Haruichiya Sandaime Menjuku||¥840|
The capital of Hokkaido is unique by its own right: with its romantic spots for lovers, friendly residents, fast and convenient public transportation, hot-spring baths, and exciting restaurants. We loved our time here during the winter season and we can’t wait to return to this charming city in early summer.