Although Sapporo is filled with delicious food and some great things to see and do, I had a couple of places outside of the city that I wanted to check out on my recent trip to Japan's northernmost prefecture.
The places I visited in this blog post are all easily accessible by public transport (train and/or bus), so you should have no issues getting to any of these without a car. Most people who visit Hokkaido say that hiring a car is preferable, and I'd probably agree, but it's really not necessary if you only plan to visit places located close to Sapporo city. Ultimately, I suggest doing some research to find out whether hiring a car will be worth it for you. If you're travelling from overseas, please remember you may require an international driving permit. Those who want to rent a car can pre-book though this website (English OK!)
If you're interested in what to eat and drink in Sapporo, check out my post about great places to eat and drink in Sapporo! I've also posted about what to see in Sapporo city, so be sure to take a look when planning your trip to Sapporo.
Let's get into it!
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Sapporo Art Park
Sapporo Art Park opened in 1986, with the dream to create an environment in which nature, culture and the arts all co-exist.
There are three main areas at Sapporo Art Park - the Sapporo Sculpture Garden, Sapporo Art Museum, and Craft Hall. There are a number of permanent exhibitions on the grounds, all which can be appreciated differently depending on the seasons. The Art Park also holds a number of events throughout the year including educational teaching projects and theatre productions.
I was able to enjoy the outdoor Sculpture Garden at the end of summer, while Hokkaido was covered in lush green grass and trees.
Upon entering the Sculpture Garden you'll be given a map showing several paths and possible routes, with pictures showing where different art is located. There's no set path that must be followed, and you're free to explore the area as you wish.
The sculptures on display range from modern to traditional.
I can't imagine these sculptures being on display anywhere else. You can see that even the more modern sculptures fit in really well with the surrounding environment. As the seasons change, the sculptures in the park will be able to be viewed from a different perspective.
I really enjoyed my time at the Sapporo Art Park. I really can not recommend it enough. Amazing art, beautiful scenery, the sounds of nature - wonderful!
Sapporo Art Park is located around 50 minutes from Sapporo station. The easiest way to get there is by taking a train to Makomanai station and then transferring to a local bus line. There are a few buses that conveniently stop right outside the art park.
I highly recommend visiting Sapporo Art Park on the same day as Hill of the Buddha and the Moai Statues mentioned below, as they are located conveniently close to one another. Even though the walk on Google Maps looks do-able, I recommend catching the bus to travel from one location to the other.
Sapporo Art Park is one of the best day trips from Sapporo and suitable for kids and adults. I highly recommend adding it to your list of things to do in Sapporo, whether travelling solo, with a partner, or with family.
Address in English: 2 Chome-75 Geijutsunomori, Minami Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 005-0864
Name in Japanese: 芸術の森センター
Address in Japanese: 〒005-0864 北海道札幌市南区芸術の森２丁目75
Hill of the Buddha and Moai statues
Getting to Hill of the Buddha and the Moai statues is around a one hour trip from Sapporo city. It's located a little further past the Sapporo Art Park mentioned above. Catch the subway to Makomanai station and then take the bus the rest of the way. Once you exit Makomanai station, turn left and you'll see a waiting room with information about bus times to Hill of the Buddha written in Japanese and English. The buses are not so frequent, so be sure to check the times for your return once you arrive at your destination. Google Maps was a great help here!
Also on site is a replica of Stonehenge (why, I have no idea!), although I didn't have time to visit, as I was keeping an eye on the bus schedule - buses from here only leave about once an hour, so be careful!
Once you arrive at your destination, the Moai statues will be easy to spot. You should also be able to see the buddha's head poking out of the top of the lavender covered hill. It should only take you a few minutes walk to get to the entrance to Hill of the Buddha from the bus stop.
Hill of the Buddha, designed by the famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando, was everything I expected and more. Photos really can't do the place justice. I also don't want to spoil anything too much (mainly the approach), so I'm going to limit the amount of photos I post here. You really need to visit yourself to get the full experience. Please visit Hill of the Buddha if you happen to be in Sapporo - you won't regret it!
Note: These attractions are actually part of Makomanai Takino Cemetery, so please remember to be respectful while visiting.
Address in English: Takino, Minami Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 005-0862
Name in Japanese: 頭大仏殿
Address in Japanese: 〒005-0862 北海道札幌市南区滝野
No trip to Sapporo would be complete without a daytrip to the historic seaside town of Otaru. From Sapporo station you can easily catch a train to Otaru without needing to transfer. The trip should take around 40 minutes on the express train, or longer if you catch the local train. For some great views of the ocean, I recommend sitting on the right side of the train when leaving Sapporo, or on the left side when leaving Otaru.
Let's take a look at some highlights from my daytrip to Otaru.
Admire the view of Otaru Canal (小樽運河)
Without a doubt, the canal in Otaru is the biggest tourist attraction in the area.
The canal was originally an important part of the city's port in the early 20th century, as it was used to send goods via boat from large freight ships to the warehouses in the area. After the docks in Otaru were rebuilt, the canal was no longer needed for this purpose, however, the city decided to keep this historically significant part of the city and restored the waterways in the 1980's into what you see today. The warehouses that line the canal have now been transformed into restaurants, stores and museums.
I was happy taking in the view from the water's edge and from the bridges that cross the canal, however, there are also sightseeing cruises that will take you on a cruise of the canal. This website has some more information about the sightseeing cruises including prices and departure times
Shopping along Sakaimachi dori shopping street
Sakaimachi dori shopping street is lined with restaurants and glass stores (Otaru is super famous for handmade glass products!) The glass stores offer lovely locally made pieces in a huge variety. I spotted lots of glass jewelry, vases, glasses, lamps - you name it, you'll find it in Otaru! Just remember it's a marathon and not a sprint, so don't buy up big at the first store you see. Take your time and wander the street until you find something that speaks to you.
While you pop into different shops on Sakaimachi dori, don't forget to take in the wonderful architecture. Some of the most famous buildings in Otaru have an information sign out the front of the store that outlines the history of the building. Be sure to keep an eye out.
Looking for more Sapporo content?
A Foodie's Guide: Where to Eat & Drink in Sapporo | Hokkaido, Japan
Check out the historic Otaru Steam Clock
Toward the end of Sakaimachi dori, and just outside the Music Box Museum, you'll find the Otaru Steam Clock.
If you're wondering why this clock looks familiar to you having never stepped foot into Otaru, you may have seen one very similar in Gastown in Vancouver, Canada, which is home to the first steam clock ever built.
The clock in Otaru was installed on June 25, 2994, and is considered to be the world's second steam clock ever built.
The clock stands at 5.5 metres high and weighs a whopping 1.5 tonnes.
I'd never seen a steam clock until this day, and knew nothing about it until I researched it during my visit. If you visit, be sure to look carefully as you'll be able to see the steam coming out of the top of the clock occasionally.
Address in English: 4 Sumiyoshicho, Otaru, Hokkaido 047-0015
Name in Japanese: 小樽オルゴール堂蒸気からくり時計
Address in Japanese: 〒047-0015 北海道小樽市住吉町４
Appreciate the details at the Stained Glass Museum
The Stained Glass Museum is located in the former Takahashi Warehouse, built in 1923 and originally used to store soy beans.
It is said that in the late twentieth century many churches in Britain were being torn down due to redevelopment projects and a general decline in people's interest in religion. The former warehouse now houses stained glass windows from Britain that were removed during this period of redevelopment. The stained glass on display is believed to have been produced in the early 1900s and removed from churches in various parts of the country before being sent to Japan.
The stained glass is artificially backlit, so you can enjoy the colors and designs regardless of the weather. The museum allows you to get up close to the displays and really enjoy the detail and effort that went into producing these windows.
Although I was surprised to see this display in Japan, I'm happy that the stained glass windows got a second chance at life at the Stained Glass Museum.
Note: I saw some complaints online about the price of entry to this museum. There are actually many different types of tickets available, so please check the information carefully. The most expensive ticket will allow for entry to all four museums in the area - House of Western Art, Nitori Museum of Art, Former Mitsui Bank Otaru Branch, and the Stained Glass Museum. Otherwise, tickets to individual museums are available for purchase at a cheaper price. Check out the site here for more information.
Address in English: 1 Chome-2-16 Ironai, Otaru, Hokkaido 047-0031
Name in Japanese: 小樽芸術村 ステンドグラス美術館
Address in Japanese: 〒047-0031 北海道小樽市色内１丁目２−16
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Eat the food of Otaru!
Let's take a look at some of the food I ate while in Otaru!
Otaru Ezoya is a casual Japanese restaurant well-known for its kaisen-don, which are rice bowls topped with fresh seafood. They have a huge variety of kaisen-don, so you're bound to find one that has the perfect mix of ingredients.
The kaisen-don I ordered on this day had a mix of scallop, squid and flying fish roe, plus a slice of Japanese omelet. I really enjoy eating flying fish roe, and much prefer it over the more famous salmon roe, or "ikura" in Japanese.
As you can see, Otaru Ezoya has a handy picture menu so you'll can see exactly what you're ordering!
Address in English: 2-22 Sakaimachi, 堺町 Otaru, Hokkaido 047-0027
Name in Japanese: おたる蝦夷屋
Address in Japanese: 〒047-0027 北海道小樽市堺町２−22
Popura Farm "Santa's Beard" ice-cream and melon
Absolutely delicious! I was extremely glad that I found a Popura Farm store in Otaru. I ordered a quarter melon with a melon and vanilla soft-serve ice-cream mix. It was the perfect amount for one person, however the store also sells half melons with ice-cream if you want a bigger serving, or plan to share.
They call this ice-cream "Santa no hige" which translates to "Santa's beard".
Address in English: 一福 Japan, 1 Chome-1 Ironai, Otaru, Hokkaido 047-0031
Address in Japanese: 一福 Japan, １丁目-１ 色内 小樽市 北海道 047-0031
Otaru Beer Warehouse
Why not try out some of the local brews while you're in Otaru?
The Otaru Beer Warehouse is situated along the famous canal. The inside is decked out in typical German beer hall fashion, complete with a German inspired food menu. The inside was a little dark and gloomy, and a little cramped, so I suggest sitting outside if the weather's nice on the day of your visit.
For those who don't have time to sit down and enjoy a brew, the Otaru Beer Warehouse has a small bottle shop at the entrance, so feel free to buy a couple of beers to take out. Otherwise, the convenience stores in Hokkaido often stock a beer or two from Otaru Beer.
Address in English: 〒047-0007 Hokkaido, Otaru, Minatomachi, 5−4 小樽運河倉庫群
Name in Japanese: 小樽ビール醸造所 小樽倉庫No.1
Address in Japanese: 〒047-0007 北海道小樽市港町５−4 小樽運河倉庫群
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Other popular day trips from Sapporo
There are many other places to explore from Sapporo, although some will require a little more travel time. Read about some other popular day trips below.
Jozankei Onsen first opened in 1866, and is a popular spot for a day trip from Sapporo, and also as an overnight trip. Enjoy the beauty of Shikotsu-Toya National Park in all seasons while relaxing in the sodium chloride rich hot springs. Jozankei Onsen can be accessed by car or bus from Sapporo station in around one hour.
Furano flower fields
Furano is one of the best places in Hokkaido to enjoy fields of colorful flowers. The Furano flower fields can be visited in a day trip from Sapporo, but be prepared to spend around 3-4 hours travelling one way. It's a popular day trip from Sapporo but I'd recommend staying somewhere a little closer, like Asahikawa if you plan to spend some time at the flower fields.
A well-known place in Hokkaido for viewing bubbling hot springs and blow holes exploding with hot spring water. Popular attractions in the area include Noboribetsu Jigokudani and Oyunuma, Entering the water (or mud) at both of these places is forbidden, so be sure to read the signs. Best visited by car, otherwise be prepared to do a lot of walking.
There is also a hot spring town in the area where you can safely enter the water.
Mount Tarumae is open to hikers from Spring to Autumn. It's best accessed by car, otherwise be sure to do your research on how to get to Mount Tarumae by public transport/taxi. Recommended for experienced hikers, as the surface can be slippery and uneven, and inhaling fumes from the active volcano can be fatal. Many websites highly recommend visiting or hiking Mount Tarumae with a guide.
Recommendations for booking accommodation, day trip tours and travel related needs.
Accommodation: Agoda, Booking.com, HostelWorld
Short tours, activities and day trips: Get Your Guide, Viator
Reviews (restaurants, accommodation, local attractions etc.): Trip Advisor
Travel Insurance: Visitors Coverage
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