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  • Overview

    The most remarkable thing about the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and its capital city Sapporo, is the contrast in temperatures between winter and summer. Sapporo, site of the 1972 Winter Olympics, is a favourite ski destination with temperatures plummeting well below freezing in December and January - the lowest ever recorded was in January 1945, when the mercury dropped to -11ºF (-24ºC). Summer, however, sees daytime highs of above 86ºF (30ºC), although evenings and mornings are cooler.

    Because of the thick snows that turns the city into a winter wonderland, Sapporo is favoured more as a winter sports destination than a spring or summer resort. There are ski slopes within the city limits and residents often enjoy a quick run after work.

    Sapporo is one of Japan's newest cities, having been constructed almost from scratch as the capital of Hokkaido in 1871. Japan imported foreign technicians (including 46 Americans) to aid in the development of the city, formerly a small settlement of the native Ainu people, which has now grown to accommodate about two million inhabitants. Despite a large population, Sapporo is not as crowded or densely packed as other Japanese cities.

    A national survey ranked it as one of the country's most desirable places to live, which is not surprising because its natural setting allows for easy access to mineral spas, mountain hikes, campsites, and superb ski runs. Tourists enjoy the outdoor delights of the region and experiencing the ancient culture of the local Ainu people.

    Historical Village

    Situated in a corner of the Hokkaido Nopporo Forest Park in Sapporo, this impressive and entertaining outdoor museum village depicts Hokkaido life in days of old. The site features restored or recreated buildings from the Meiji and Taisho periods, and includes edifices like the old Sapporo railway station, old Otaru newspaper company buildings, fishermen's cottages and mountain villas. Horse-drawn trolleys run through the village and sleighs carry visitors during winter. The nearby Ainu Centre details the history of the region's indigenous people, exploring their unique culture developed on the island of Hokkaido for hundreds of generations. There are numerous interesting exhibits and demonstrations, making it the perfect companion attraction for the historical village.

    Address: Konopporo 50-1, Atsubetsu-chyo
    Hokkaido, Sapporo Hokkaido, Sapporo Kzaral
    Sapporo Beer Museum

    For beer lovers, a visit to the beer museum in the historic Sapporo Brewery building is a must, together with a tour of the brewery itself, which, of course, ends with a tasting. The red brick brewery building was opened first as a sugar factory in 1876 and has been the home of Japan's famous beer since 1887. It's possible to book in advance and request an English interpreter, while there is also English information detailing Sapporo beer's history. Despite the fact that the exhibits are almost totally in Japanese, it's still interesting to see the old photographs and memorabilia.

    Address: 9-1-1 Kita 7-Jo Higashi, Higashi-ku, Sapporo 065-0007, Hokkaido
    Vintage Beer Display Vintage Beer Display Toby Oxborrow
    Mount Moiwa

    Fondly known as Sapporo's backyard ski resort, Mount Moiwa offers 10 different courses for all grades of skiers from beginners to advanced. Most of the slopes are well lit to enable visitors and locals alike to enjoy the fun of night skiing, taking in the breathtaking view of the city as they fly down the sparkling slopes beneath the stars. There is an observatory on the mountain reached by cable car, and even if you have no intention of skiing it is worth a trip up to this platform to enjoy the incredible views.

    Mount Moiwa Mount Moiwa world_waif
    Noboribetsu

    The famous hot-spring resort of Noboribetsu Onsen is situated inside the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. The spa complex is one of many found in Hokkaido, but being closest to Sapporo is very popular. Hot mineral springs gush out about 10,000 tons of water a day, said to have healing properties for a range of disorders. There are more than 30 hotels and bathhouses grouped along a narrow street. The area is also known for its cherry trees, which make a stunning sight in spring, and there are some worthwhile hiking trails in the park. There is high-end luxury accommodation, but also cheaper options for those travelling on a budget. It is possible at some spots to bathe in the natural springs outdoors, which is the most atmospheric option.

    Noboribetsu Onsen Noboribetsu Onsen Kentaro Ohno

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    Sapporo has a humid continental climate with precipitation throughout the year. Summers are warm and last from the middle of June to late September; average high temperatures usually don't exceed 79°F (26°C) and lows generally stay above 54°F (12°C). Winter lasts from the beginning of December to late March, with highs that are frequently below 32°F (0°C) and minimum temperatures that can be as low as 19°F (-7°C) at the peak of winter. Light rain is a common occurrence in summer, while winters are known for their heavy snow. Sapporo is one of the few cities in the world with more than 1 million residents that regularly receives annual snowfalls in excess of 16 feet (5m). Sapporo receives the most tourists in summer and winter, for its snow-related activities and festivals.

    Sapporo is a clean, well-organised, and attractive city with plenty of parks and gardens, wide tree-lined streets, a number of good museums, and galleries. On top of this, there are enough shops, restaurants, and bars to keep everybody entertained.

    The main attraction of the city is Mount Moiwa and the mountain's ski slopes, which caters to all ski-enthusiasts with its 11 different courses right on the city's doorstep. Sapporo is a great holiday destination for families who are keen to enjoy a skiing holiday in Japan.

    For some insight into the fascinating Ainu culture and the region's history visit the outdoor museum in the Hokkaido Nopporo Forest Park, and the Hokkaido Ainu Centre a little way out of the city. For aprés ski relaxation and pampering take an excursion to the famous hot springs of Noboribetsu. Beer lovers should be sure to sample the delicious local brew, and enjoy the free tours offered by the Sapporo Beer Museum.

    The city offers many an opportunity for a scenic stroll and those looking for exercise and fresh air should explore Moerenuma Park, Odori Park, or even the pretty Hokkaido University Sapporo Campus. Getting around in the city is easy thanks to modern and extensive public transport systems.

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