Before I had ramen in Japan, I thought ramen only came in the form of “almost tasteless instant ramen” that costs like 30 cents for a single bag. I had no idea how many different kinds of ramen there are(Sapporo and Fukuoka quickly come to mind as two of the most famous kinds) or exactly how delicious ramen can be. If you go almost anywhere in Japan, you will find tons of ramen ( ラーメン ) shops and probably will get something decent at most places. That being said, I have decided to share with you an excellent place in Ikebukro, Tokyo, Nakamoto with their spicy ramen, or I think they call it “tantan-men.”
Satoland Sapporo is one of the 3 sites for the Sapporo Snow Festival, with Odori Park and Susukino being the other two. Satoland is a little far from the city, but can easily be accessed during the snow festival by free shuttle buses that run from the other sites. While most of the impressive sculptures are at the Odori Park site, Satoland has such things as an ice labyrinth (maze), huge ice slide, ice rafting (a raft gets pulled by a snow mobile) and even hot air balloon rides weather permitting.
For more information and a few photos, see the official Satoland Site.
Thanks to Greg Logan for the photos!
Otaru is about a 30 minute train ride from Sapporo and for this simple reason, a lot of people make the trip to Otaru; however, I am not going to lie to you, there are very few reasons to go to Otaru. Seriously, unless one of the reasons I am about to give you applies to you, do not go to Otaru. You would be much better off doing almost anything (Asahiyama Zoo, Furano or Biei to give a few examples). That being said, there might be a reason to check out Otaru. You should go to Otaru only if: See more photos and read the rest of this entry »
A little over 2 hours from Sapporo, about 1 and half by train to Asahikawa and then about a 40 minute bus ride, Asahiyama Zoo is one of Japan’s most famous zoos and is the northern most zoo in Japan. If you plan on going to Biei, Furano or more north such as Wakkanai, Asahikawa is a nice place to stay for a day/night making it easy to make it to the Aasihayam Zoo and continue with your trip. As of February 2007 you could buy a combination ticket including round-trip transportation for an express train, bus and admission to the zoo, from Sapporo for 5500 yen or 7300 yen from New Chitose Airport. If you want to go to the zoo, this is definitely the way to go as it saves you about about 1000 yen. You can purchase this combination ticket at any JR ticket service. If you are in Sapporo and ask them or the tourist information center about the Asahiyama Zoo they will be able to provide you with more information.
I have not been to many zoos in my time but I have to say I was pleased with Asahiyama Zoo. There are some exhibits that are set up really nicely to take some very interesting photographs. The two best for this are the penguin exhibit and the polar bear exhibit. If you are traveling with kids, I highly suggestion considering taking a trip to the Asahiyama Zoo, and come on, let’s be honest, who doesn’t like animals? Especially ones that you most likely will not have a chance to see real life in the wild.
A district of Sapporo, Susukino is Japan’s largest entertainment district north of Tokyo and is home to hundreds of restaurants, clubs, bars and other nightlife establishments. During the Sapporo Snow Festival, Susukino gets involved and has it’s own road of ice sculptures on display.
These ice sculptures (are maybe I should say ice advertisements because that is pretty much what they are) are cool but the best part or the little ice bars that open up at night. In 2007, there was a Baily’s, Hennessey and even a Song Park Karaoke place where you could sing a song and you get a score depending on how accurate you were and then depending on your score you would get a coupon for a real establishment of Song Park.
The 2008 Sapporo Snow Festival will be held in Sapporo (of course) from February 5th until the 11th. Basically the Sapporo Snow Festival is a showcase of huge and amazing snow and ice sculptures. I have been to many festivals in Japan and can honestly say that most of them do not live up to their hype, but the Sapporo Snow Festival is one of the few that does…if you can bare the cold weather!
I actually went a few days before it started and left on the second day because it was a lot cheaper to do it that way. I suggest doing it this way not only because it is cheaper, but also because most of the big ones are (almost) done anyway and you can also see how they are made.
Onuma Koen is a Quasi National Park and as a result feels a little touristy, even for a place in Japan; however, that being said, it still may be worth your time to check it out. When I went there the weather was very cloudy which was very disappointing because one of the best parts about Onuma Koen the spectacular view of Mount Komagatake. To be honest, if the weather is not so good, you could make the same photographs at almost any lake/nature area. Onuma Koen is about a 2 hour train ride from Sapporo and only about 20 minutes from Hakodate.
If the weather is nice I can see this place being really beautiful and also it is a place where a car or at least renting a bike would be really convenient since the lake is really too big to walk around. Also, if you are so interested, water activities such as fishing, paddle boats, and taking a boat tour are available. For more information, check out the official site of Onuma Koen or the Japan-Guide.com.
Sapporo, located in Japan’s most northern and largest island, Hokkaido, is Japan’s 5th largest city and is a really great place to visit. There is good food, nightlife, modern buildings, old buildings and easy to get around. Sapporo is perhaps most famous for it’s annual snow festival held in February, it’s beer, Sapporo Beer, and it’s ramen (miso butter corn ramen is a MUST try if you go there). Sapporo has everything from a chocolate factory to modern art museums to a thriving nightlife in Susukino. Also Olympic and winter games have been held there. Below on the left is Odori Koen and on the right the Washington Hotel.
If you can handle the cold, or like winter sports, going to Sapporo during the snow festival is a great time to go. The snow festival has amazing sculptures made of, you guessed, snow and ice. If you are more into not freezing, then in the summer months the weather in Sapporo is pretty mild and not as humid as the rest of Japan. Below is the Sapporo Beer Factory and Sapporo TV Tower.
Sapporo is about a 40 minute train ride from Chitose Airport, 3 hours from Hakodate and about 2 from Furano and Biei.
If you are going to Hokkaido and plan to travel I recommend thinking about getting one of the Hokkaido free rail passes (they have different ones for foreign tourists–3 and 5 days–and one that anyone cane use–7 days).
If you plan on only staying in Sapporo, you do not need a car, but if you plan on going to other areas of Hokkaido, it would not be a bad idea to consider renting a car as a lot of places in Hokkaido are best accessed by car.