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 regional carrier Air Do becomes the latest airline struck by the global shortage of pilots, saying Thursday it has canceled 26 flights scheduled for February after already grounding 34 trips this month. (Nikkei)
Hokkaido Prefectural Police have arrested the manager of a boxing gym in Asahikawa City for allegedly assaulting the driver of a vehicle during a road-rage incident earlier this year, reports the Sankei Shimbun (tokyoreporter.com)
Typhoon Lan blazed through Tokyo on Monday morning after making landfall along the central Pacific coastline earlier in the day, leaving seven people dead as it pummeled Honshu with heavy rain and strong winds. (Japan Times)
Passes allowing foreign tourists unlimited travel on major expressway networks across the country will go on sale in mid-October, in hopes of luring more visitors to regional areas, the transport ministry said Tuesday. (Japan Times)
The Defense Ministry deployed Patriot Advanced Capability-3, or PAC-3, missile interceptors in the city of Hakodate, Hokkaido, on Tuesday after North Korea recently fired two missiles over the southern part of the northernmost prefecture. (the-japan-news.com)
Japan has no shortage of festivals for every season, from the weird and wacky, to the absolutely magical. One such festival that would fall into the latter category is the Tengu no Hi-watari (天狗の火渡り), which takes place annually in Japan’s northern-most prefecture of Hokkaido. (rocketnews24.com)
A male police sergeant was re-arrested for allegedly leaking investigation details to an acquaintance following his previous arrest for allegedly buying marijuana from the same person, reports TBS News . (tokyoreporter.com)
strong earthquake has struck Akita Prefecture in northern Japan. Japan’s Meteorological Agency says a quake with an estimated magnitude of 5.2 occurred around 10:23 PM Japan Time on Friday. It says there is no risk of a tsunami. (NHK)
An increasing number of local governments are planning to introduce a lodging tax to finance tourism promotion and ease the load on infrastructure amid record-breaking arrivals of travelers from abroad. (Japan Times)
Five months after a potato shortages cause a halt in the sales of some potato chip products, competition is now intensifying between two major snack makers as they return to normal operations. (Japan Times)