The most remarkable thing about the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and its capital city Sapporo, is the contrast in temperatures between winter and summer. Sapporo, site of the 1972 Winter Olympics, is a favourite ski destination with temperatures plummeting well below freezing in December and January - the lowest ever recorded was in January 1945, when the mercury dropped to -11ºF (-24ºC). Summer, however, sees daytime highs of above 86ºF (30ºC), although evenings and mornings are cooler.
Because of the thick snows that turns the city into a winter wonderland, Sapporo is favoured more as a winter sports destination than a spring or summer resort. There are ski slopes within the city limits and residents often enjoy a quick run after work.
Sapporo is one of Japan's newest cities, having been constructed almost from scratch as the capital of Hokkaido in 1871. Japan imported foreign technicians (including 46 Americans) to aid in the development of the city, formerly a small settlement of the native Ainu people, which has now grown to accommodate about two million inhabitants. Despite a large population, Sapporo is not as crowded or densely packed as other Japanese cities.
A national survey ranked it as one of the country's most desirable places to live, which is not surprising because its natural setting allows for easy access to mineral spas, mountain hikes, campsites, and superb ski runs. Tourists enjoy the outdoor delights of the region and experiencing the ancient culture of the local Ainu people.