Friday, October 5, 2018

See Sapporo: Parks, Towers, Streets

Sapporo has an area of 1121 sq. km but I was only able to explore three parks, two towers, a street, and an alley.


Odori Park is a 1.5-kilometer park featuring fountains, a playground, open spaces for events (Beer Gardens pop up in Odori Park during summer), green spaces with trees and flower beds, and benches to enjoy this bit of nature in the middle of the city. And on the east end of Odori Park is Sapporo TV Tower, one of Sapporo's well known landmarks.

I did not attempt to see the park from end to end, because it meant I'd have to cross 11 roads. Not that crossing roads in Sapporo is a risk—it isn't (as is the rest of Japan); I was really just too lazy as I was unlucky to be in Japan during its hottest summer in years (Hokkaido experiences mild summers, but the unrelenting heat made its way to this northernmost prefecture)!

Directions to Odori Park: Take the subway (Namboku, Toho, or Tozai Lines) to Odori Station.

9AM to 10PM
Observation Deck Admission Fee 720 yen
(If you want to visit in the morning and in the evening,
you will have to purchase a ticket for every entry.)

Sapporo TV Tower, on the east end of Odori Park, stands 150 meters tall and has an observatory at a height of 90 meters. The observatory affords a view of Odori Park cutting through the concrete jungle.

And if you don't have a watch, just look up at the TV Tower and its enormous digital clock will tell you the time (except after midnight when it is turned off).

Directions to Sapporo TV Tower: Take the subway (Namboku, Toho, or Tozai Lines) to Odori Station.

 Sapporo TV Tower

845AM to 510PM (Last admission at 5PM)
Admission Fee 200 yen
(Closed for renovation until October 31, 2018)

Another Sapporo landmark is the Sapporo Clock Tower which was built in 1878. The clock is a weight-powered pendulum type and is the oldest clock of this type in Japan that still works.

At the time of my visit (July 2018) the Sapporo Clock Tower was undergoing renovation and entirely covered in tarp. Pffttt. (Renovation work is set to be completed on October 31, 2018.)

Directions to Sapporo Clock Tower: Take the subway (Namboku, Toho, or Tozai Lines) to Odori Station, take exit 7 and walk 5 minutes to Sapporo Clock Tower.

Sapporo Clock Tower
Photo by redlegsfan21 (Flickr) CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Clock Tower on Sapporo's manhole cover

Ganso Ramen Yokocho
Operating hours vary by shop

Sapporo is the birth place of miso ramen, and the best place to eat it is where it all started: Ganso Ramen Yokocho. This alley only had seven ramen shops in 1951. Today the alley has 17 shops.

I went to Ganso Ramen Yokocho for an early dinner and hungry diners hadn't crowded in yet. I just picked one at random and ate miso ramen (800 yen) at 天鳳 (Tenhou). Had I researched, I would have gone back to Ganso Ramen Yokocho and tried the seafood ramen Anthony Bourdain ate at 味の華龍 (Aji no Karyu).

Directions to Ganso Ramen Yokocho: Take the subway (Namboku Line) to Susukino Station. Walk 3 minutes to Ganso Ramen Yokocho.

Ganso Ramen Yokocho

Miso Ramen from 天鳳 Tenhou

Tanukikoji Shopping Street

Tanukikoji Shopping Street is a 900-meter long pedestrian-only street, spanning seven chome (blocks). The shopping area is covered (roofed), though some crossings (to get from one block to the other) are not. The shopping street has restaurants, cafes, izakayas, souvenir shops, tea shops, a huge Don Quijote store, and even accommodations—like Grids Sapporo Hotel + Hostel, which is where I stayed in Sapporo.

And because it is called Tanukikoji, there are tanuki (Japanese raccoon dog) figures everywhere. Even a shrine!

Directions to Tanukikoji Shopping Street: Take the subway (Namboku Line) to Susukino Station. Walk 3 minutes to Tanukikoji Shopping Street. If you're anywhere near a streetcar stop, you can take the Sapporo Streetcar to Tanukikoji stop.

Tanukikoji early in the morning.
When shops open, and especially at night, the place gets really crowded!

9AM to 6PM (Last admission at 5PM)
Admission Fee 600 yen (Free until end of March 2019)

Shiroi Koibito Park is home of the Ishiya Chocolate Factory, which, to my mind, is the Japanese counterpart of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. In the park is a rose garden and European-looking buildings which house the chocolate factory, a candy lab (see how candy is made!), a cafe, and a souvenir/sweet shop. In the chocolate factory, one can see the production line of Shiroi Koibito, their famous white chocolate cookie.

The production line was under renovation at the time of my visit (July 2018) so admission fee was waived. I just explored inside a bit where I saw a small exhibit about Ishiya and about chocolate, and a collection of tea cups. Outside, while queueing to buy their soft ice cream (really delicious), I witnessed a musical show of mechanical figures coming out of the building towers.

Grand reopening is scheduled on June 2019.

Directions to Shiroi Koibito Park: Take the subway (Tozai Line) to Miyanosawa Station. Walk 7 minutes to Shiroi Koibito Park.

 Shiroi Koibito Park

A collection of tea cups

Rose garden

Soft ice cream

East Entrance 7AM to 10PM (last admission at 9PM)
Free admission

From a waste disposal site in 1977 to a beautiful green park in 2005 up to the present, this is Moerenuma Park. This wide open space is covered in a carpet of grass with man-made hills, sculptures, fountains, play areas, and a glass pyramid.

I went to Moerenuma Park and was in awe of all the green around me. I wanted to take off my shoes and walk barefoot on the park's carpet of grass! But I didn't. Instead, I climbed Play Mountain where I enjoyed the 360-degree view while the wind blew my hair hither and thither.

It is a very relaxing park, perfect for picnics, and walking barefoot on the grass. And maybe even rolling down the hills!

Directions to Moerenuma Park: Take the subway (Toho Line) to Kanjodori-Higashi Station. Then take bus 69 or 79 to Moerenuma Koen Higashi-guchi モエレ沼公園東口 (210 yen, 25 minutes).

Doesn't this make you want to take off your shoes and walk around barefoot?

The glass pyramid "Hidamari"

Music Shell (left), and Tetra Mound with a height of 13 meters (right)

The view from on top of Play Mountain, a height of 30 meters

62-meter tall man-made Mt. Moere

It was very windy up here!

Tip: If you plan to use the Sapporo subway (there are three subway lines, namely Namboku, Toho, or Tozai Lines) multiple times in one day, you might want to obtain a Subway 1-Day Pass which costs 830 yen. On weekends, holidays, and from December 29 to January 3, the cheaper Donichika Ticket (520 yen) is available.

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Other places I did not get a chance to see (reasons for me to go back to Sapporo):

Japanese Summer 2018
See Sapporo: Parks, Towers, Streets (you're here!)
Itinerary and Expenses: 9D/9N Hokkaido and Sawara Town

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