Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Australian airline Qantas to launch a seasonal service to Sapporo - Japan's most beautiful city

Photo Qantas
The Australian airline Qantas has confirmed it will launch new direct seasonal flights between Sydney and Sapporo, to meet the growing demand from Australians wanting to travel to the popular Japanese ski holiday destination.

To coincide with the peak ski season, Qantas will fly three times per week to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport between 16 December 2019 and 28 March 2020. subject to government approval. Qantas will be the first airline to fly direct between Sydney and Sapporo and the service will be the national carrier’s fifth route between Australia and Japan. The flights are scheduled to be operated with the carriers recently upgraded Airbus A330 aircraft. 

Qantas International Acting CEO Naren Kumar said Sapporo was a highly sought-after holiday destination for Australian travellers.  "Travel between Australia and Japan is booming. These new flights make it easier for Australians to reach Hokkaido’s popular ski resorts like Niseko and Rusutsu. The number of Australians travelling to Japan has more than doubled over the past five years, with almost 500,000 Australians visiting Japan in the last 12 months alone. We expect Japan’s popularity to continue with the country hosting a number of major international sporting events in the next two years.

Domestic connections with Jetstar Japan will also open up new options for customers who want to travel beyond the Hokkaido region for both business and leisure. In the past two years, we’ve expanded our network by adding two new destinations in Japan to meet this growing demand: a year-round service to Osaka, and now seasonal services to Sapporo. We’ll continue to look for opportunities to meet customer demand." said Naren Kumar.

The new service is also expected to drive tourism by creating a new option for travellers from the Hokkaido region to experience summer in Australia. Qantas will be working with the Hokkaido Government to promote the new service to travellers from across Australia and Japan.

The Qantas Group operates the largest Australia-Japan network and through Jetstar Japan, the Group also operates the largest low-cost domestic network across Japan. The new Sapporo service adds to Qantas’ flights from Sydney to Tokyo (Haneda) and Osaka, Melbourne-Tokyo (Narita) and Brisbane-Tokyo (Narita) and Jetstar’s flights from Cairns to Tokyo (Narita) and Osaka, and Gold Coast to Tokyo (Narita).

Exploring Sapporo

Sapporo, which means "important river flowing through a plain" is the capital of Hokkaido Prefecture, located in Japan’s scenic Northern Island, with a population of almost 2 million its Japan’s fifth-largest city. It is often called Japan's most beautiful of all its cities with picture-postcard landscapes and a vibrant downtown precinct. It is a popular destination for tourists from elsewhere in Japan and from around the world and has a rich reputation for welcoming visitors from overseas - it was the home of the 1972 Winter Olympics.

Sapporo is nestled between breathtaking mountain ranges and amazing coastlines and is perhaps probably the perfect base for exploring the entire island. Hokkaido’s colourful capital offers great access to some of Japan’s most beautiful destinations including Daisetsuzan National Park, Akan and Rishiri Island. Other highlights well worth a visit are the famous Sapporo Beer Museum, amazing Okurayama Observatory, and the magical Moerenuma Park

Moerenuma Park                                                                                      Photo Japan Guide
The Historic Village of Hokkaido is another wonderful place to visit, its an open-air museum on the outskirts of the city that has around 60 historical buildings, dating back to the Meiji and Taisho periods. There are four distinct areas, a farm village, a fishing village, a town and a mountain village.

Odori Park (Pictured left) is a park located in the heart of Sapporo, it's rather hard not to find it on any exploration of the city as it runs a long way through the city.  It was once designed to be a main street and that much is obvious when looking at its long and straight form, indeed I'm told that Odori translates as  "large street".
The park divides the city into north and south sections and is a great place to explore and relax in fine weather. During the year you'll find many celebrations, ceremonies and events taking place in the park, which are always fun to watch. It can be nice to take a walk up one side,  stop for a picnic and walk back down the other - if you've got the stamina!

Shop till you drop

Wanting to spend some money doing shopping? Then Sapporo has got more than you'll ever need,  there are a number of shopping centres or malls in which you'll find thousands of stores and eateries that will help you part with your money.   Here are just a few that we think are most definitely worth a visit, even if you are not a shopaholic!

Sapporo Factory is a good choice, it is a big shopping/entertainment complex in central Sapporo. Lots of shops, stores, cafes and a cinema all spread over five floors. There are some great bargains to be had and there is a genuinely happy atmosphere that makes shopping far less of a chore!

Stellar Place is linked to Sapporo's JR train station and is a fine example of a modern shopping mall, with lots of shops and eating places - some offering great sushi. Underground walkways keep you out of the cold as well, which is always a bonus.

Paseo JR Tower is another shopping citadel linked to the station and the underground walkways and is a busy place to explore and shop and eat. It is like a labyrinth of mostly small stores in which it is easy to get lost and almost find yourself in a shopping vortex.

Sapporo Esta also at the JR Tower complex and attached to the JR station and is also another warren of shops and food places. It's nice, it's fresh, it's clean but by now you may well have had your fill of shopping malls.

Ario Sapporo is big and brash and full of shops and places to grab a bite to eat, oh and next door is the beer museum, which is a joy.

Akarenga Terrace is another popular place to go, perhaps more for eating and hanging out than shopping as there are a great many varieties of cuisine on offer, including French!  It has a lovely spacious feel and they often light up the trees in such a beautiful way that you'll be reaching for the phone to snap a shot to post to your chosen social media platform of choice.

Up up and away....

One of the greatest vantage points in Sapporo is the observation deck at the JT Tower, tower three eight. From here you'll be able to enjoy the best panoramic view of Sapporo City from a height of 160meters or in other words, 38 floors above the ground.  Yep, that high and there is a cafe and souvenir shop that sells original merchandise - if you haven't already done enough shipping by now.  It is open from 10 in the morning until 10 or 11 at night, so plenty of time to make this place a stop on even the tightest of schedules and itineraries.  The entrance fee is just under £5 - depending on the exchange rate, so you'll not have to fork out a lot for the chance of gazing out over a city that is a lot bigger than you probably thought it was going to be!

Sapporo TV Tower In about a minute the elevator will whisk you up from the third floor to the deck, which is around 90 metres high. As you would expect, from this height you have a great vantage point to view the city and of course Odori Park, which is where the tower is situated. It's even cheaper than the JT Tower experience which is good, but it is not as high or as modern. Indeed when looking at the tower itself from a distance, it looks oddly out of place among the modern architecture,  to me it seemed like a temporary addition from the '70s that has just hung around waiting to be dismantled. I'm told it looks better at night!

Okurayama Lookout / Mt Okuru The view from this look out at the top of this winter sports ski jump is absolutely amazing - on a clear day. If it is a little cloudy or overcast or indeed rainy then you'll not enjoy the far reaching views, you'll get cold and miserable and wet and wonder why the hell you bothered coming here.  Yet on a clear day, it's worth making a mission to get here and ride up on the chair lift!

Places to visit

Photo Sapporo Beer Museum 
Sapporo Beer Museum is a must-see destination on most peoples tourist itineraries, especially with those who love the golden liquid refreshment. The museum opened in July 1987 and is located in a beautiful red brick building which dates back to 1890.

The museum offers an overview of beer making now and yesterday in Japan, obviously focusing on the famous Sapporo brand, which is one of the top three brands in Japan as well as being brewed in around a dozen other countries. One of the best things about the tours is the tasting session at the end and the beer garden is also worth a visit.

Photo JNTO
The Clock Tower is in the heart of Sapporo, close to Odori Park and the train station and is a taste of bygone days. It dates back to the late 1870's and looks like it might have been picked up from one of the southern states of America and plopped down in Sapporo. It isn't perhaps the most exciting of places on the tourist trail, nor is it the most beautiful plus it really isn't a 'tower' yet it is worth a spending half an hour or so here. Plus you get to hear it chime on the hour.

In fine weather, a visit to the Sapporo campus of Hokkaido University is a great idea as there is plenty of open spaces that both students and non-students seem to love.  There is a relaxed and friendly atmosphere there which almost soothes the soul. There are various walking tours of the campus, which are for the tourists - be they from elsewhere in Japan or overseas, which can be interesting, yet just hanging out and wandering about is perhaps as much, if not more fun.

A clear, bright autumn day is the ideal time to go for the golden ginkgo trees along Ginkgo Avenue, which are a sight to be seen and popular among the locals, or so I'm told, as I was there in at the start of the year I didn't see dancing golden beauty!

Sapporo Dome is amazing and well worth taking a trip out to see with a really clever duel pitch system that slides in and out depending on whether it is being used for baseball or football.  It has been used in the past to host matches for the football world cup of 2002 and in 2019 it will host games during the 2019 rugby world cup in September and then in 2020 preliminary matches for the 2020 Olympics will be played there.

There's also a small observation deck which offers some good views and tours run when there are no matches scheduled -it is worth looking at mutual discount tickets that give reduced entry to the Dome and other tourist attractions including: Okurayama Lookout / Mt Okuru, Sapporo TV tower and Hokkaido Museum.

Hokkaido Museum Morino Charenga is another top choice destination for the international visitor, it is a pretty comprehensive and somewhat interactive museum travelling back to prehistoric times. You can learn all about the Ainu people and culture as you progress through the museum and I found it way more enjoyable with the audio tour, although there are enough signs in English to help you understand what it is all about.

Food glorious food...

Sapporo is awash with all kinds of restaurants, cafes and eateries that you'll never be lost for somewhere to eat, regardless of how deep your pockets are.  Of course, there is a focus on Japenese, seafood and sushi all of which will delight your senses. Ramen noodle soups are also popular here and don't think they are the same as you normally get over in the US, or Europe,  here it really is much much better!

Some of the most popular eating places include Sapporo Ramen Haruka which is perhaps the best ramen restaurant in the city. It's friendly, accommodating and not all that expensive, so definitely worth going, at least once during every trip.

Teshikaga Ramen (the one in Sapporo's ramen alley) is also high up on the recommendations list from a number of travel bloggers and reviewers and at first sight, you might not think this little place is worthy of such high praise, but once you taste the food on offer, you'll understand why this place is so highly thought of.

One of the top sushi eating places is at Stellar Place on floor 6, under the JR Tower is Nemuro Hanamaru, always tasty, always fresh and always busy - yes very busy, waiting times are often more than an hour, so perhaps bet not to go at peak times.

Rojiura Curry Samurai Sakura is a great place to have a curry if you don't mind a bit of a wait and it isn't the cheapest place in town, but the food is good and that is really what you are there for.

Rest your head

ANA Holiday Inn Sapporo Susukino.
3-7 Nishi, 5 Jo Minami, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido.

The 178 room hotel is in the lively local entertainment area of Susukino, the vibrant heart of downtown and about a five-minute walk from Odori Park. It is close to all the major tourist attractions and a good base to be for your explorations as its not far from Susukino Subway station. A surprisingly good restaurant serves meals all day long.
Comfortable rooms at reasonable prices
More details can be found here

ANA Crowne Plaza Sapporo.
1-2-9 Nishi, Kita 3-jo, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido.

The ANA Crowne Plaza Sapporo has been a landmark for luxury and relaxation coupled with the best of Japanese hospitality for quite some time. The restaurants at ANA Crowne Plaza Sapporo are topnotch with five different offerings, from Japanese cuisine to Teppanyaki to Sushi, and more besides. Cafe Minamo, Kiyohira, Unkai and Kiyohira are all worth visiting. Another enjoyable venue at the ANA Crowne Plaza Sapporo is the Skylounge Sapporo View up on the 26th floor where you can have a cocktail or two whilst enjoying the view from the big windows on the east and west.

ANA Crowne Plaza Sapporo is just a minute’s walk from the Sapporo Subway Station and an additional six minutes from JR Sapporo Station. The airport bus shuttling to and from the hotel and the New Chitose Airport takes about an hour.

Nice comfortable spacious rooms in a restful neutral decor and nice views of the city surround the hotel.

More details can be found here.

ibis Styles Sapporo Hotel.
10 10 Nishi 3chome Minami 8jo Chuo ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido.

 The ibis Styles Sapporo Hotel is a step above the usual three-star style hotels, the stylish rooms are spacious and decorated on four distinct concepts The Earth, Snow Drop, Atelier and Lavender. Each room includes wide beds, 130cm for Twin beds and 180cm for King beds, for maximum comfort.

It is located in a quiet neighbourhood between Susukino dining and entertainment area and Nakajima Park. The hotel is also located close to public transport links to tourist attractions. It's breakfast restaurant, the Sapporo Kitchen, serves a wide selection of Japanese and Western breakfast buffet items which will fill you up and set you on your way to explore the city.

The lovely rooms with wide comfortable beds make this hotel a good choice for both business and leisure stays. Rooms also have coffee and tea making facilities, free WIFI Internet access and a good selection of essential amenities.

More details can be found here.


Mercure Sapporo.
2-4 Minami 4-jo, Nishi 2-chome Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido

The Mercure Sapporo enjoys a location in the popular entertainment district of Susukino, renowned for its many bars and restaurants. Offering easy access to the Sapporo ski resorts and attractions such as the Clock Tower and Sapporo TV Tower, this hotel has it all, including a shopping mall within the building. It has 285 rooms equipped with complimentary Internet access, plus a French restaurant and conferencing facilities, the Mercure Hotel Sapporo is ideal for both business and leisure.

Royton Sapporo Hotel.
060-0001 Nishi 11-1 Chuo Kita 1, Sapporo, Hokkaido.

A 3-minute walk from Nishi 11-Chome Subway Station, a 5-minute drive from JR Train Station and a 3-minute walk from Odori Park. It is a popular luxury hotel that features spacious rooms in a convenient location.

More details can be found here.

APA Hotel TKP Sapporo Eki-Kitaguchi Excellent.
Kita-ku Kita 10-jo Nishi 3-7, Sapporo, Hokkaido.

This is a conveniently located three-star hotel that is just a 5-minute walk from JR Sapporo Station, the hotel is a 5-minute walk from Hokkaido University. Kita 12-jo Subway Station is located a 4-minute walk, and lively Susukino area can be reached within a 10-minute subway ride. Shin Chitose Airport is a 40-minute train ride from Sapporo Station.

The APA Hotel TKP Sapporo Eki-Kitaguchi Excellent features free WiFi and a public hot tub on the rooftop. Each room comes with a flat-screen satellite TV, a fridge, a desk, a hairdryer, free toiletries are included in the en suite bathroom.

Guests can enjoy a breakfast buffet with both Western and Japanese meals at the on-site San Remo restaurant.

Sapporo Prince Hotel.
060-8615 Chuo-ku Minami 2 Jo, Nishi 11, Sapporo, Hokkaido.

This five-star hotel in a circular tower just a 3-minute walk from Odori Park and the  Nishi 11-chome Subway Station, is a great base from which to explore the city. 
Sapporo Prince Hotel offers rooms with city views and free WiFi, satellite flat-screen TV, a refrigerator and electric kettle are also provided plus hot-spring baths,  The hotel also has a top-class 28th-floor French restaurant- Le Trianon Restaurant, which has a great reputation. Also on the top floor is the Katsura Steak House serves teppanyaki with panoramic city views. Fuyo-Jyo serves traditional Japanese cuisine. Plus guests can enjoy a relaxing drink at Sky Lounge.

Some people think the hotel looks a little giant penis! That might cause a few sniggers, although it makes it a lot easier to find after a day shopping and being touristy. 

Other hotels worth considering for your trip include:

Basic rooms, but have all you need, the on-site cafe serves basic breakfasts. 

Hotel Leopalace Sapporo -  3 stars     
Nice sleek minimalist styled rooms,  basic breakfasts, central location. 

Fully equipped rooms, buffet breakfasts, good location, cheap prices. 

Karaksa hotel - 3 stars
Basic but nice rooms, good spread for the buffet breakfast, super location. 

First class hotel in a great location with super rooms and 2 restaurants on 35th floor.

Something a little different - a capsule type hotel which are basically beds inside little capsules usually stacked on top of each other with shared facilities, often with lockers, public lounges or baths. They are often very cheap in the city centre and ideal of those on a super tight budget or those just wanting to sample something a little different for a night.

City Cabin by Nikoh Refre (Male Only)  

Capsule Inn Sapporo (Male Only)

Comicap Sapporo  - (An interesting little capsule hotel and comics with free refreshments.)

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