Sapporo Travel Guide

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. Daytime highs sometimes climb above 86ºF (30ºC) in summer, which is the season for beer and food festivals.

Sapporo, however, is rightly more famous as a winter sports destination, where skiing is so woven into the culture that locals often enjoy a quick run after work on slopes located within the city limits. Visitors will find a wide variety of slopes and snow types, including plenty of expansive off-piste side-country areas for more dynamic skiing. Many travellers time their visit to coincide with the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri (snow festival), when huge ice and snow sculptures fill the squares of Odori Park in the centre of the city.

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 as its natural setting allows for easy access to mineral spas, mountain hikes, campsites, and superb ski runs. Those who visit will enjoy the outdoor delights of the region, and experiencing the ancient culture of the local Ainu people.