Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. Over 2.5 million people live in Sapporo, a city that only started growing rapidly in the last century.
Overview of Sapporo
Hokkaido used to be populated by its aboriginal inhabitants, the Ainu. In the early 19th century, the Shogunate made a small trading post here, the capital city of Hokkaido was still in Hakodate at that time. When the Meiji Restauration started, Hokkaido started developing at a rapid tempo and Sapporo became the administrative center of the island. Because it was the Americans who advised on how to build the new city, Sapporo has a block street system like New York and many other American cities. The main street that stretches from east to west, Odori Avenue Park is one of the symbols of the city and it is rich with flowers, plants, fountains, and art.
During summer the city boasts plenty of beer gardens which is no surprise as one of the nation’s most beloved beer brands comes from Sapporo. In the winter the city becomes the backdrop for a large, world-famous snow and ice festival. At this time of year, you can find some impressive snow statues and ice sculptures.
The north of the city is its financial district with many company headquarters and government offices located here. In the south, there is an enormous underground shopping complex that is comfortably warm and dry during winters. This maze of shopping streets is connected to Sapporo station which is where you will arrive if you take the shinkansen to Hokkaido.
The city boasts a large entertainment district called Susukino where you can find a great variety of restaurants, bars, karaoke spots, and even a small lane crammed with ramen shops. Tasting Sapporo-style ramen with miso-flavored soup is a must-do when you are in Hokkaido.
Landmarks in Sapporo
Famous sights in Sapporo include the century-old City Clock, the old government building, and the tree-lined street near Hokkaido University. Sapporo became known all over the world in 1972, which is when the first Winter Olympics were held in Japan.
The City Clock is the symbol of the city that was built in 1878 as the military training hall of the ancestor of Hokkaido University. The Clock Tower, which crowns the building, has been striking the hours without interruption since 1881. It is listed as an important cultural property.
The Moerenuma Park was designed by a world-famous sculptor Isamu Noguchi. I’ve been longing to visit here since I was really moved by a book about his life last year, and my wish came true last weekend. Noguchi was born from a Japanese father and an American mother in 1904. He became a successful great artist but his private life was not easy as he was often struggling with loneliness and bullying in his childhood because of his mixed parentage. So to create a natural park with a play mountain for kids and families was a long-cherished wish for Noguchi who had few happy memories in his childhood.
After many twists and turns, he finally got a chance to realize his dream when he was 83 years old, but he suddenly passed away before he could see the completion of his project in 1988, just leaving the design of the park. But thankfully his dream place was accomplished by the people who took over his will in 2005.
The park became just wonderful! I enjoyed cycling here, feeling the gentle breeze in the sunshine. I walked around the dandelion’s field barefoot and crazily tumbled down the grassy slopes of the play mountain. I traveled back to my lost childhood in the park feeling Noguchi’s spirit! Admission to the park is free, and I recommend anyone visiting Sapporo to stop by this wonderful park.