Hokkaido continues to represent the untamed wilderness with many great national parks. For many visitors the scenery resembles northern Europe, with rice paddies and concrete warrens replacing rolling fields and faux-German cottages. However, the ubquitous hotspring resorts in much of the island serve as a reminder that you are still in Japan.
One of Japan’s newest and nicest cities, Sapporo’s population has grown from seven in 1857 to nearly 2 million today. Being a new city, especially by Japanese standards, means it has little in the way of traditional architecture and the like of cities such as Kyoto. But what it lacks in “Japanese-ness” it makes up for with its lovely open, tree-filled boulevards to enjoy in summer and excellent snow (and facilities to cope with said snow) in the long winter. …WikiTravel
Clock Tower (時計台 Tokeidai), (Close to Odori Station.). This rather diminutive building has become a symbol of Sapporo, mostly by being the oldest building still standing. It was constructed in 1878 for the Sapporo Agricultural College (now the Hokkaido University) and would not look out of place in “Smalltown U.S.A.” The inside has a small retrospective of its history. Visitor beware, as this is for some reason a mecca for Japanese tourists coming to Sapporo who feel that no trip to Sapporo would be complete without a photo in front of the Tokeidai, but was actually recently rated as Japan’s third “most disappointing” tourist attraction! ¥200.
Ishiya Chocolate Factory. The chocolate factory has an incredibly corny, but fun, tour building up to a view of the actual chocolate making floor, and ending with a random toy museum. Also there are two restaurants, a souvenir store, and an hourly robot show complete with annoying music. Famous for its white chocolate, which is sold under the brand “White Lovers” (白い恋人 shiroi koibito), and is only available in Hokkaido. There is also a cake buffet available at the restaurant on the top floor for “¥1,500” but reservations must be made 3 days in advance. ¥600.
Odori Park. Sapporo’s most famous park. It is in the center of town and is considered to be a symbol of Sapporo. Although quite narrow (one might argue that it is a nice boulevard), the park is quite long, stretching over fifteen blocks across downtown Sapporo. Filled with numerous flowers, trees, and fountains during the summer, Odori Park provides a welcome respite from the maddening crowds of the surrounding city.
Sapporo Snow Festival (雪祭り Yuki Matsuri). First week of Feb. This is Sapporo’s largest event. The festival is best known for the ice sculpture competition attracting artists from around the world, competing to create the largest and most elaborate artworks from ice and snow. The festival is focused on Odori Koen, in the centre of Sapporo. It consists of a combination of large-scale replicas and artistic sculptures; children-aimed attractions; and a separate section for world-wide competitors (where you can see a wide range of smaller artistic sculptures). The festival should be enjoyed both in the day — but particularly at night when the sculptures (especially the larger ones) are lit up. When the weather is warmer and there’s a bit of melting, the smaller sculptures are literally remade every night to ensure that they are in perfect condition the next day. Book accommodation early, because Sapporo gets booked out during the festival. …WikiTravel
Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko started their three-day tour of Hokkaido on Friday, which will probably be their last visit to the northernmost Japan prefecture before the Emperor’s abdication in late April next year. (Jiji)
Many retailers and consumers in Japan are welcoming the free trade pact with the European Union. They are expecting it to lower prices for a range of gourmet products and provide a boost to the economy.
On Rishiri Island in the northern Japan prefecture of Hokkaido, people are on alert after a brown bear has recently been spotted for the first time in 106 years, ahead of the summer tourism season. (Jiji)
Law enforcement has accused a married couple of cultivating marijuana and possessing a special form of the same banned drug at their residence in the town of Tobetsu, reports the Hokkaido Shimbun. (tokyoreporter.com)
The launch of what would have been Japan’s first privately developed rocket to reach outer space failed Saturday after it burst into flames seconds after liftoff, the Hokkaido-based developer said.
The possibility of a powerful earthquake of lower 6 or above on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 occurring in the next 30 years has sharply increased in the eastern part of Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, a government report showed Tuesday. (Jiji)
The number of applications to conduct “minpaku” lodging business under a new Japanese law totaled 2,707 as of a week before the minpaku law goes into effect on Friday, according to Japan Tourism Agency officials. (Jiji)
Chinese money is pouring into Hokkaido at a much greater scale than imagined. In his recent visit to the island prefecture, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attended a forum of Japanese prefectural and Chinese provincial governors in Sapporo on May 11, but a Chinese diplomatic source said he was just using the meeting as an excuse for touring the island. (Japan Times)
Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands, is latitudinally different enough from the rest of the country that its seasons change later. So while the Tokyo area is getting ready for the early-summer rainy season to start, spring is finally getting into full swing in Hokkaido. (Japan Today)
A Japanese court gave three Taiwanese women suspended sentences Wednesday after finding them guilty of attempting to smuggle gold worth 50 million yen into the country by hiding it in their bras. (Japan Today)