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
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)
The 108.1-kilometer-long Sanko Line of West Japan Railway Co. , or JR West, ended its service on Saturday, the final day of fiscal 2017, with many residents and train enthusiasts bidding farewell to the local railway. (Jiji)
Parties concerned made a decision on Thursday on the location of platforms for Shinkansen bullet trains at Sapporo Station, a development that is seen giving further impetus to work on the planned extension of a new Shinkansen line launched in 2016 to Sapporo, the capital of the northernmost Japan prefecture of Hokkaido. (Jiji)
The Fisheries Agency plans to reduce next season’s quota for small Pacific bluefin tuna that can be caught off Hokkaido and Kagoshima Prefecture effectively to zero, and greatly reduce the quotas for Iwate and Kochi prefectures, as these prefectures have significantly exceeded their quotas for this season. (the-japan-news.com)
Japan has some amazing prison food, which should be no surprise. Inmates are served healthy, nutritious meals of grilled fish, salads, rice and soup – which are actually healthier than most school lunches around the world! Would you like to try what prisoners eat? There’s a prison in Hokkaido that serves authentic meals to the public and that is where I went — Abashiri. (ONLY in JAPAN)
It was in December 2016 that casino gambling was first legalised throughout Japan, finally putting an end to a 15-year hiatus during which politicians basically argued with each other. (newsonjapan.com)
The annual unified college entrance examinations began Saturday as many parts of the country saw their coldest winter day so far cause traffic jams and force several schools to postpone the pivotal tests. (Japan Times)