I’d never been to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island, before. My husband Ken organised a two-night stay in Sapporo and a bunch of activities for us to do. Hokkaido is much cooler than the rest of Japan, and its largest city, Sapporo, is home to the annual Snow Festival in February and the nationally popular Sapporo beer.
We went in September, of course, so no snow for us, but at an average of around 21 degrees Celsius every day, it was a gorgeous break from Tokyo’s scorching summer.
We got a free KitKat on the plane!
What struck me about Hokkaido the most was how friendly the people are! Everyone had a big smile on their faces and went out of their way to help us out. In contrast to Tokyo, where people sort of keep to themselves and blanch at the thought of talking to strangers, I felt welcome in Sapporo.
The First Day
We started with some miso ramen in Chitose Airport, since our flight was in the morning and we arrived at lunchtime. Lucky me, they thought the piece of pork I got was too small so I got one extra!
We ventured into the city, Ken taking care of everything so I could just stroll and enjoy the sights. Of course, the train station didn’t look much different from Tokyo’s, but in a way that was nice. I felt safe while at the same time exploring a new place.
Our hotel was a business hotel, simple and cute, but in a fantastic location – within walking distance of Sapporo Station and all the fun nightlife things to do there.
In our first day alone, we managed to visit the famous Clock Tower…
Take a peek at the park and its Autumn Festival…
The Second Day
On the second day, we took a train up to Otaru and rented a car to Shimomui Kaigan, a pretty cape on Hokkaido’s west coast. Though we bumped into a tour group, it was still quite quiet compared to the madness of Tokyo’s crowds, and we could enjoy the rocky beach comfortably.
After getting back, we felt we needed to explore more, so we took a side path up a hill and came across a lighthouse. Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of it.
I liked the lighthouse so much that I decided to draw it!
We wanted to go farther, but the sign was somewhat off-putting…
After, we went to the Nikka Whisky Factory.
The story of Nikka Whisky is really cute; Masataka Taketsuru visited Scotland to learn about how whisky was made. While living there, he met a shy Scottish girl called Rita who he ultimately married. She joined him in Japan and supported his dream of becoming a whisky producer. She settled into her life in Japan and made friends with the people there. Eventually, they found success in Hokkaido. Their love story is inspiring.
The factory itself also had a lot of information on Scotland, which was wonderfully nostalgic. We got our share of souvenirs from the shop there, too.
The Third Day
Our flight wasn’t until 9:00pm on our last day, so we still had plenty of time to look around before we had to fly back to reality. We visited Hitsujigaoka, or “Sheep Hill,” to find a statue of William Smith Clark, an American professor and colonel in the American Civil War, who coined the phrase “Boys, be ambitious.”
There was a small Snow Festival museum where we could see past designs for the festival. It’s really amazing that they could make such intricate shapes with just snow.
Though we only arrived an hour before closing time, there was still time to have a look around. The outside area was very pretty, inspired by Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. We got souvenirs, of course, and even managed to see some of the workers producing the famous little biscuits.