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Planning a 1 week Sapporo winter itinerary? Look no further! Sapporo is a charming city in Hokkaido, perfect for winter adventures and exploring culture. You’ll find plenty of exciting activities and attractions to make your trip unforgettable. From the famous Sapporo Snow Festival, JAPOW-topped slopes, rejuvenating onsens, and tasty local cuisine, here’s a guide to help you enjoy your 7-day stay in Sapporo during winter.

What You’ll Get Out of This Article

  • Day-by-day breakdown of the itinerary
  • Critical details for important activities and sights you won’t find anywhere else such as which locations are cash-only, how to reserve, transit schedules, and more.
  • Valuable insight to help plan your own Sapporo winter itinerary
  • Google Map of all locations on the itinerary
  • Downloadable access to the itinerary spreadsheet

Here’s what we’re covering:

Legendary Sapporo Winters

1 week sapporo winter itinerary during the sapporo snow festival view from sapporo tv tower

Welcome to Sapporo, where winter turns the city into a snowy wonderland that even Frosty the Snowman would envy! Here, chilly weather doesn’t send people running for cover but rather beckons them outdoors to embrace the frosty delights. Forget about hibernating; Sapporo in winter is all about embracing the snow.

What makes Sapporo the jackpot destination for all winter enthusiasts? Well, besides the fact that you can barely see any pavement on city streets with how high snow is piled high, Sapporo boasts the legendary Sapporo Snow Festival. That same powder creates a pillowy paradise that is not only incredible for skiing and snowboarding, but also horseback riding, rafting, tubing, and so much more.

So, pack your coziest snow boots, your warmest mittens, and a sense of wonder, because Sapporo in winter is a chilly adventure for the brave-hearted and the snowflake-obsessed alike.

What brought us to Sapporo

When we visited Hokkaido in the fall, we could tell from people’s responses that they never even thought of going in a non-winter season. We really fell in love with Sapporo during the trip and we kept thinking about how amazing it would if we came back in the winter.

Several months later, an opportunity came up to return and we couldn’t say no!

This week in Sapporo follows our footsteps through the city where we made an effort to include as many unique experiences as possible. It was a whirlwind but we can safely say that Sapporo knows how to do winters.

How to use this Sapporo winter itinerary

We created this itinerary with you, our readers, in mind. Our itineraries are meant to be valuable resources that doesn’t stinge on the details. While we know that it’s unlikely to be exactly what you’re looking for, it has the blueprint for how you should be thinking about building a winter itinerary.

On its own, the itinerary is designed for the independent traveler where we’ve mixed and matched various tour operators and selected our own modes of transportation, restaurants, and accommodations. However, if you’re looking to do something like this but would like the comfort of it being catered and managed to your needs, we highly recommend Hokkaido Treasure Island, a specialist of tailor-made tours.

In this guide, you’ll find day-by-day breakdowns, boxes labelled “What you need to know” which has the critical details you need for main activities with restaurant and accommodation recommendations.

Make sure to get to the end as well where we have the extremely useful trip map for those that are visual planners.

At Going Awesome Places, we are obsessed about building travel itineraries because that’s how we do our trip planning and it’s the kind of detail that is hard to find these days. You’ll see a lot of similarities with other ones we’ve created such as the 6 day Banff in the winter itinerary, 9 day Easter Island itinerary, 3 week New Zealand itinerary, and 2 week Tahiti itinerary.

Special Deal with Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel

hokkaido treasure island promotion free bottle of sake instructions

We’ve also partnered with Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel Inc. where you’ll get a bottle of regional sake if mention us when you book a multi-day custom tour.

How? Select “Going Awesome Places” under “How did you hear about us?” in Step 5 of inquiry form.

Where Is Sapporo?

map of sapporo in japan
Image via Encyclopaedia Britannica

Thanks to the beer brand, Sapporo, there’s often a subliminal connection to the name but not necessarily the place. If you’ve never been, the map above puts a pin on where Sapporo is located.

Something you’ll notice is that the city is on a completely separate island to the rest of mainland Japan. This island’s name is Hokkaido and is the northernmost prefecture, second largest island, and third largest of Japan’s five main islands.

greater sapporo area map
Image courtesy of Visit Sapporo Tourist Map

When you do a deep dive into the city, what you may not realize is that Sapporo is synonymously used as the name of the city (referred to as Sapporo city) but also the collection of wards that make up the larger city. As a result, Sapporo covers a much larger area and includes places like Jozankei and Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort that are featured in this itinerary.

Why Is Sapporo Great For Winter?

With Hokkaido being located in the northern latitudess, it’s obvious that it is cold in the winter but beyond that, there are a couple of interesting characteristics that make Sapporo a great landing spot for winter-lovers.

The winter season spans November to March with January and February being the coldest months where the city takes its place as one of the snowiest cities in the world.

A few key points that make Sapporo the perfect snowy city are:

  • Lots of snow – It snows 130 days a year and 500cm (16 feet 5 inches) of snowfall annually.
  • Dry powder – Because of the combination of the warmer Sea of Japan and cold winds from Siberia, Hokkaido gets amazing dry powder snow which is fluffy as a feather. They call it JAPOW.
  • Mountain proximity – Within 1.5 hours away by bus, you can get to a number of ski resorts such as Kokusai, Teine, Bankei, and more.
  • More than just skiing or snowboarding – If the slopes aren’t your thing, there are a plethora of activities to get you outside, some that you’ve heard of, and others that you didn’t know existed.
  • Snow Festival – Last but certainly not least is the Sapporo Snow Festival. This event ranks as one of the top winter festivals in the world, putting it up with the likes of Quebec’s Carnaval and the Harbin Ice Festival.

7 Day Sapporo Winter Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival in Sapporo

winter streets of sapporo in 1 week itinerary

Your first day is mostly a transit day and if you’re coming from overseas, this is going to be two combined days. The key to getting started off right is to be as comfortable as you can coming in and once you’re in Sapporo, doing what you can to overcome jet lag.

Since Sapporo doesn’t have many direct options for non-Asia destinations, you’ll likely need to connect in Tokyo at either Haneda International Airport (HND) or Narita International Airport (NRT). That said, if you are coming from Asia, there are several airlines that service Sapporo directly.

Connecting from Haneda?

There are a few critical things you need to know if you are connecting through Haneda and will likely apply for Narita as well.

  • Terminal change – Domestic flights out are usually in T2 and international flights come into T3. If that’s the case, you’ll need to either take the free shuttle bus or there’s a secret trick where you can go to the information desk, show your boarding pass and passport, and get a free voucher to take the monorail.
  • Bags don’t go all the way through – Even if your flight to Sapporo is on the same reservation as your one into Haneda, your checked bags will likely not go all the way through.

Once you arrive at New Chitose Airport (CTS) just outside of Sapporo, it’s pretty easy to take the train at the basement level of the terminal.

We recommend that you buy a Kitaca transportation card at the airport station. This IC card is extremely handy for most forms of transportation you’ll encounter in Sapporo. As with most cards of this nature, the advantage is that you can load it with money and simply tap at the gates to use the bus, train, and subway. You can also use this card to pay for things.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

We recommend taking the JR train from the airport to Sapporo Station so we’ll focus on these details but we’ll also provide a few alternatives.

Where to buy: At New Chitose Airport, you can buy a card at the ticket machine or ticket counter at the JR train station in the basement of the terminal.

Time:

  • Frequency – Every 12 minutes during the day.
  • Length – The train ride to Sapporo Station takes 33 minutes if you manage to catch the “Special Rapid” airport train. The regular train, “Rapid”, takes 37 minutes.
  • Schedule – Check the airport schedule page (in Japanese) or use the Japan Transit Planner tool for the updated schedule (changes seasonally). Trains start as early as 6:38AM and the last is at 11:21PM. That said, there’s no real need to plan around train schedules as you’ll typically just get down to the platform, and get on whichever train is waiting which will depart when it’s time.

Price:

  • Buying the Kitaca Card – A deposit of ¥500 is required on top of the amount you’d like to load.
  • Fare from CTS to Sapporo – This route is ¥1,150.

Alternatives:

  • Bus – There are airport limousine bus services that run between the airport and various stops in downtown Sapporo including the Sapporo Station. The advantage of the bus is that it’s slightly cheaper than the train and depending on their stops, could be more convenient. Buses also have dedicated storage space for luggage. The downside is that it takes longer (1 hour and 20 minutes) and is also influenced by weather and traffic. There is a bus counter in the arrival area to buy your tickets. No advanced purchase is required.
    • Hokuto Kotsu – The cost is ¥1,300 for adults and ¥650 for children. Only cash and credit card tap payment accepted. Pay cash when getting off. For credit card tapping, tap when getting on and again when getting off.
    • Hokkaido Chuo Bus – The cost is also ¥1,300 and 650 for children. IC cards (including Kitaca, Suica, and PASMO) and cash accepted but they don’t take credit cards. Pay cash when getting off. Tap your IC card on the way on and again when getting off.
  • Taxi – This is the least recommended option as the distance between New Chitose Airport and Sapporo is quite significant. The metered cost can easily start at 15,000 if you ask them to avoid tolls and if you did, it would take 2 hours. You could book a taxi online for fixed-fare through a company like MK Taxi but it’s in Japanese so your best bet would be to ask your hotel to do this for you. This starts at ¥9,000 but there would be extra costs for tolls depending on time of day.
  • Private transfer – For door-to-door and private service, you can book an airport transfer online. Your driver will wait for your arrival and hold a sign with your name on it.
  • Rental car – If it makes sense to either have a rental car for the whole trip or the first segment of your trip, you can pick yours up right from the airport. These include NipponTimesNissan, and Toyota. Check RentalCars and DiscoverCars for the best rates. Remember you need an international driver’s permit to drive in Japan.

Booking: The Kitaca card doesn’t require advanced purchase but there is a service available to have it ready for pick up. The JR train from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo Station has reserve-able seats in Car 4, called “U Seat”. This is the only car that has a large luggage compartment and seats recline. These tickets cost an extra ¥840. These can be reserved online but it isn’t easy to do for non-Japanese, so you’ll have to do this at the JR information desk.

Website: JR Hokkaido – New Chitose Airport English page but the Japanese page has much more detail.

FAQ:

  • What is the difference between Kitaca and the more popular Suica and PASMO? For visitors, there’s really no discernable difference. These are IC cards issued by different companies but can be interchangeably used anywhere IC cards are accepted. There are exceptions of course but Kitaca can be used all over Japan.
  • If I have a Suica or PASMO, do I need a Kitaca? No, if you already have an IC card, these are interchangeable with the Kitaca card.
  • Do all trains from the airport go to Sapporo Station? Since the airport is the final stop on the line, you can take any train on the platform (either side). All trains lead to Sapporo Station. However, not all terminate at Sapporo as there are some that go all the way to Otaru so make sure to pay attention.
  • Is there a place to stow your luggage on the train? With the exception of reserved U-Seat on the “Rapid” or “Special Rapid” Airport train, these are very much subway cars so you’ll need to stand with your luggage or hold your luggage in front of you while sitting.
  • Can you get a refund for returning the Kitaca card? Yes, you can return the Kitaca card at any ticket counter that accept the card. If your balance is above ¥220, you’ll receive the balance and ¥500 deposit back but a ¥220 service fee is deducted. If it’s lower than ¥220, you only get ¥500 back.
  • When does it make sense to take the bus? Those that are staying at the following hotels (or nearby) will make the most sense: Keio Plaza Hotel Sapporo, Grand Mercure Sapporo Odori Park, Sapporo Prince Hotel, ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Sapporo, Sapporo Grand Hotel, Hotel Resol Trinity Sapporo, Hotel Abest Sapporo, and Premier Hotel Tsubaki.
  • Is there wifi on the train? Yes, there is wifi on the train under SSID “JR_Hokkaido_Free_Wifi”.

Tips:

  • There are a lot of details here but I’d say 90% of people opt for the train into the city.
  • New Chitose Airport has a domestic and international terminal. If you’re flying in from Tokyo, you’ll be arriving in the Domestic Terminal Building. If you’re flying in from Taipei, Singapore, Seoul, Daegu, Busan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, or Bangkok, you’ll be arriving in the International Terminal.

Settle into your hotel for the next 4 nights, the La’gent Stay Sapporo-Odori, and get your gear sorted for the next day.

If you’re feeling hungry or having trouble sleeping, you’re a short walk away at a unique ramen shop that only opens late at night. Isono Kazuo serves up slurp-worthy “Sapporo Black” ramen in a nondescript building.

Day 1 Summary

Where you’ll eat:

  • DinnerIsono Kazuo “Sapporo Black” Ramen – We didn’t get a chance to eat here but if you’re looking for the perfect late night spot, look no further than this popular late-night spot that’s only open from 10PM to 6AM. Come here for their famous for their Sapporo Black Ramen. They are closed on Sundays.

Where you’ll stay:

  • La’gent Stay Sapporo-Odori (Direct/Booking/Agoda) – Having tried a few locations in Sapporo, we really love this hotel because it puts you in between Odori Park and Susukino, a great choice for those coming here for Sapporo Snow Festival. In addition, their Residential rooms are unusually large, complete with kitchenette and laundry machine. Lastly, their breakfast buffet is superb.

Tips:

  • Jet lag will be mild for some and serious for others. To overcome jet lag, there are a few tried-and-true techniques:
    • Prepare at home – You can try to soften the blow by adjusting your sleep to the new time-zone days in advance by increments per day. There’s an app called Timeshifter that does exactly this.
    • Sleep on the plane – As tempting as it is to watch movies, try your best to sleep on the plane by using a travel pillow that works for you, ear plugs, eye masks, noise-cancelling headphones. If your flight is relatively empty, move to an empty row so you can lie down. Lastly, you’ll want to time your sleep based on your destination’s time as best as you can.
    • MelatoninThis supplement triggers sleepiness and can help you sleep to counteract your internal clock.
    • Water – Staying hydrated is often overlooked and a key part in managing jet lag symptoms. When you arrive, continue drinking water.
    • Arrive at night – The good news with this Sapporo itinerary is that you’ll likely arrive in the evening. At this point, you’ll be exhausted to the max so you shouldn’t have any problems falling asleep. This is why you should try to avoid red-eye flights wherever possible.

Japan Trip Planning Essentials

If you’re in the middle of booking your trip to Japan, here are the most important places you need to go to book:

ninjawifi 15 percent off coupon code for pocket wifi in japan
  • JR Pass – The two most reliable places we always check are JRailPass and JRPass. If you are taking long distance Shinkansen across multiple region, get the full JR Pass. If you’re focusing on one specific area, you only need a JR regional pass.
  • Shinkansen – The JR Pass prices have gone up and for many of you, it’ll make more sense to book tickets individually. The secret is that when you buy your Shinkansen tickets through Klook offers special vouchers for Don Quijote and BIC when booking. Their tickets are super easy to redeem as well. Right now, use code SKS10OFF to save $10 USD off.
  • Hotels/Ryokans – In Japan, the best website for accommodations, hands down is Agoda. When we’ve compared them against Booking, Agoda consistently came out cheaper.
  • Pocket Wifi – While we do love eSIMs, having a pocket wifi is great for sharing data with a large group. The most popular is NinjaWifi which is easy to pick up at the airport. Use code AWESOME15 to save 15% (automatically applied). Alternatives are offered by JRPass and JRailPass but they aren’t as cheap. For a more global solution, consider Solis and PokeFi.
  • eSIM – The best one is Airalo. Save money by getting the Japan region eSIM and use referral code WILLIA9500 to get $3 USD credit on your first purchase. From now to Feb 29, the 10GB package is half price as well! Ubigi is another one that we’ve had success with where they uniquely offer 5G coverage. Use code AWESOME10 to save 10% on your first order.
  • Car Rental – Big companies like Budget, Avis, and Enterprise operate in Japan but they’re usually the most expensive. The best companies are the local Japanese ones such as Toyota Rentacar, Nippon Rentacar, Orix Rentacar, Nissan Rentacar, and Times Car Rental. To make things easier, use Rentalcars and Klook to compare prices all in one place. Don’t forget, you need an IDP to drive in Japan!
  • Learn Japanese – It helps to know even a bit of the language before you go. Start your learning with Rosetta Stone Japanese.
  • Cash or credit – Cash is still very important to have in Japan but when you use credit cards, make sure you’re not getting charged those extra exchange rate fees. The best card right now is the Wise Multi-Currency Card which is actually a debit card where you can convert at favorable rates beforehand. This cuts out any sneaky transaction fees.
  • Travel Insurance – Make sure you’re covered in case something happens. Get quotes from Insured Nomads and if you’re from Canada, get quotes from RATESDOTCA.
  • Shopping – Discovering Don Quijote is a quintessential part of the Japan experience. The secret for tax-free shopping is that they have a coupon that can help you save 10% off + additional 5% off if you spend ¥10,000 or more.

Day 2 – Snow and Ice in Sapporo

hill of the buddha in sapporo fisheye lens

Get ready for an action-packed first day in Sapporo! You’ll start with visiting the impressive Hill of the Buddha for breathtaking photo opportunities. Then, head over to Takino Snow World for some serious snow-filled fun. Finally, you’ll get your first taste of the Sapporo Snow Festival and the magical ice sculptures in Susukino. Bundle up and excited for an unforgettable day!

This is the most unusual, yet captivating place in Sapporo that you probably never heard of. On the grounds of the Makomanai Takino Cemetery are spiritually-centered sculptures that bring several icons together – the Buddha, the moai of Easter Island, and Stonehenge.

The Hill of the Buddha is an architectural marvel crafted by Tadao Ando. His vision was to create a harmonious environment for the worship facility, blending the imposing Buddha sculpture seamlessly into the landscape. Drawing inspiration from cave temples, Ando proposed an ingenious concept: enveloping the stone statue with a lavender-filled hill, concealing it up to the base of its head.

While you won’t see the lavenders in the winter, the scene of the Buddha’s head peeking through a mountain of snow from the outside and the shoulders, head, and lap heaped with snow and melted ice captivates the senses.

In close proximity are the 33 moai and replica of Stonehenge. Having done a 9 day Easter Island itinerary as part of our Chile adventure ourselves, this felt a little out of place but they’re still inspiring to be in their presence, as is the Stonehenge.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Time:

  • Duration – Expect to spend 1 hour here.
  • Hours – 10AM – 3PM (November – March), 9AM – 4PM (April – October).

Price:

  • Admission is ¥300 per person and kids under 12 are free. This used to be a donation but is now a mandatory entrance fee.
  • Payment is at the self-service machine which only takes ¥1,000 bills and coins, or credit card.
  • There is no attendant checking for tickets so this is entirely honor system.

Parking: The fee for parking is ¥500 per car and you pay the gated machine on the way out and only accepts ¥1,000 bills or coins, and credit cards. Receipts are issued but you need to press the button.

How to get here without a car:

  • Bus – There are two buses you can take. Use the Japan Transit Planner to find the exact schedules. The starting point is the Makomanai subway station (Green Namboku Line) and the Makomanai Eki{Hokkaido Chuo Bus} stop at Bus Terminal 2. The fare is ¥380 each way.
    • Local Bus 108 (Takino Line for Makomanai Takino Reien) is the most convenient because its stop is inside the cemetery and right next to Buddha on the Hill. However, it is not a frequent bus and in the winter, there are usually only 3 departures on weekdays, and 4 on weekends. The end point to search for is Makomanai Takino Reien{Hokkaido Chuo Bus}. This is a 23 minute ride.
    • Local Bus 106 (Takino Line for Ashiribetsu no Taki) is much more frequent but the slight disadvantage is that its stop is right outside the entrance gate to the cemetery which isn’t too big of a deal. The end point to search for is Takinotoge{Hokkaido Chuo Bus}. This is a 21 minute ride.
  • Taxi – Alternatively, you can also use a taxi. However, it’s worth noting that there isn’t a taxi stand here so you’ll have to make a reservation for a taxi or private transfer in advance who will also wait for you. Expect this to be ¥3,000 if riding from Makomanai station.
  • Book a tourHokkaido Treasure Island offers a half-day tour that includes Hill of the Buddha and Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill and starts at ¥17,000 per person. Make sure to add “Going Awesome Places” under Requests.

Booking: No reservation is necessary.

Website: Hill of the Buddha in Makomanai Takino Cemetery

FAQ:

  • Can you book in advance? There is no way to buy tickets ahead of time and isn’t necessary as it doesn’t get very busy in the winter.
  • Is the Buddha on the Hill heated? This is an open air sculpture that has the same temperature of the exterior. The only protection it provides is from snowfall and rain, except at the opening for the Buddha.
  • Are the moai and Stonehenge nearby? The 33 moai statues line the entrance to the Makomanai Takino Cemetery and Stonehenge can be accessed from the parking lot. Both are a short walking distance from the Hill of the Buddha.
  • Is there admission for the moai and Stonehenge? No, the only area that requires admission is Hill of the Buddha.
  • Are there restroom facilities? Yes, there are restrooms in the Rotunda Café and Store where you’ll also find a variety of souvenirs, snacks, and coffee.
  • How much is it to write on a wooden tablet or read your fortune? It costs ¥800 to write on a wooden tablet (markers provided) and ¥200 to choose your fortune from the box. These are all self-serve and paid by coins or cash.

Tips:

  • In the winter, it’s listed to open at 10AM but we noticed that you could visit the Buddha before that. This is likely because there is no official gate to enter. If you’re on a tighter schedule, arrive earlier than opening time to get a head start.
  • For photographers, 16mm full-frame equivalent is plenty wide to photograph the dome and Buddha in a single frame. However, if you own a fisheye lens like the M.Zuiko 8mm F/1.8 Fisheye PRO, this would be a great opportunity to use it.
  • When visiting in the winter, one feature of the Hill on the Buddha you won’t see are the reflection pools that can be found to the left and right wings of the tunnel entrance. Expect the water garden to be empty from November 4 to late April.
scallop curry lunch at country house in takino snow world

Takino Snow World in Sapporo is a winter wonderland that promises exhilarating adventures for visitors of all ages. This expansive snow park offers a plethora of exciting activities such as a slope for skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing course, and kids sledding.

One of the highlights of Takino Snow World is the snow tubing experience which touts a 200 meter course. Grab an inflatable tube, take the rope, and glide down the slopes, letting your inner child run wild. What still amazes us is that this is completely free.

With a huge grin from ear to ear, head back to the core facility, Country House, for a hearty lunch. We highly recommend that you try their Japanese curry and udon hot pot.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

We’ll be focusing our details on the snow tubing activity at Takino Snow World. It’s also known as Takino Suzuran Hillside Park outside of the winter season.

Time:

  • Duration – Expect to spend 2-3 hours here.
  • General Hours (these are from 2023 and may change year to year)
    • April 20 – May 31 – 9AM – 5PM
    • June 1 – August 31 – 9AM – 6PM
    • September 1 – November 10 – 9AM – 5PM
    • December 23 – March 31 – 9AM – 4PM
    • The park is closed April 1 – 19 and November 11 – December 22
  • Winter season – The length of the season will depend on snow accumulation
  • Tubing Hours (December 23 – March 31) – 9:15AM – 3:30PM (the use of their tubes may end earlier if it is extremely crowded)
  • Distance from Sapporo – By car, it takes roughly 50 minutes from Sapporo Station.

Price: In the winter (December 23 – March 31), the park is completely free to enter. Also, while ski lifts require a ticket, the tubing rope tow and use of tubes is completely free. There is also a wide selection of equipment that’s free to rent:

  • Tube sled (your standard donut-shaped tube)
  • Plastic sled (for use on the kid’s sled corner)
  • Snowshoes
  • Binoculars
  • Snow play equipment

Parking: You pay for parking when you enter the park. Each vehicle is ¥450.

How to get here without a car:

  • Bus – The bus that starts from Makomanai subway station (Green Namboku Line) is Local Bus 106. Use the Japan Transit Planner to find the exact schedules. The starting point is Makomanai Eki{Hokkaido Chuo Bus} at Bus Terminal 2. The fare is ¥450 each way and there are 3 bus stops within the park:
    • Suzuran Koen Keiryukuchi{Hokkaido Chuo Bus} (26 minutes)
    • Suzuran Koen Chuokuchi{Hokkaido Chuo Bus} (28 minutes)
    • Suzuran Koen Higashiguchi{Hokkaido Chuo Bus} (32 minutes) – This is the stop you want to get off for closest access to Country House, the main facilities, and tubing lanes.
    • You can also easily connect this with Hill on the Buddha by taking Bus 106 from the Takinotoge{Hokkaido Chuo Bus} stop. This segment will cost ¥200 and will take 11 minutes.
    • The last bus back is at 4:10PM so make sure not to miss this one.
  • Taxi – Alternatively, you can also use a taxi but given the distance and the amount of time you might be spending here, this could prove to be quite costly.
  • Book a tour – There are several half-day tour that takes guests to Takino Snow World on both Viator and Klook and includes rental and private transport.

Booking: No reservation is necessary for snow tubing.

Website: Takino Snow World

FAQ:

  • Can you book in advance? Since entry and tubing is free, there’s no need to book anything in advance.
  • Are there restroom facilities? You’ll find restrooms at the Niji no Su Dome which is right at the base of the tubing lanes. There are also restrooms in Country House and Higashi Guchi Rest Facility right at the park’s entrance.
  • Where is the best place to eat at Takino Snow World? There are several places where you can eat but the largest menu and best food is at Country House where you’ll find everything from ramen, curry, spaghetti, pizza, and more.
  • Are there lockers at the park? For those that are going tubing, the most convenient coin lockers are located at Country House.
  • Are backpacks allowed on the tube? No, backpacks aren’t allowed so you’ll either need to alternate with your travel partner or leave it in a locker.
  • Are cameras allowed on the tube? Yes, they aren’t particularly strict about using your phone, camera, GoPro, or Insta360. They are primarily concerned about how you sit in the tube and making sure your toque/beanie is on tight.
  • Can two people fit on a tube? No, there is only one tube size and it can only fit one person.
  • Can two tubes stay connected and go down the hill at the same time? No, this is not allowed.
  • Can you race down the tube simultaneously on two separate lanes? No, since there is only one attendant at the top of the hill.
  • Are drones allowed? There are sign posts that explicitly say that no drones are allowed in the park.

Tips:

  • Expect to wait in line after every tubing run you take. This is because after you finish a run, you have to pass the tube to the person in front of the line, after which, you get back in line. On an average non-busy day, this can take 5 minutes but on the weekend, we can see this going up to 10 or 15 minutes.
  • The bottom of the tube isn’t open to the ground which means that in a pinch, you can put your camera and/or phone inside without worrying that it’ll fall out.
  • They are strict on where you can take photos and videos at the sides and at the bottom of the hill. You aren’t allowed to film anything when you finish your tubing run. You have to immediately exit the area and can only film from the sides, outside of the fenced-off area.

When you get back to the city, take advantage of the fact that your hotel is so close to the Susukino site of the Sapporo Snow Festival. What makes this area unique is that it has a focus on ice sculptures, which is something you won’t find in the Odori site.

Spanning 4 blocks on Sapporo Ekimae Street and blocked off from car traffic, you’ll be delighted by not only the number of ice sculptures but also the quality of mascots, characters, animals, stories, and brands that they represent.

As the sun dips below the horizon in Susukino, another dimension of the ice sculptures is revealed as the neon lights shine on. You’ll also appreciate the touch of hospitality with their free photo booth service to commemorate the experience.

More details about Sapporo Snow Festival can be found in subsequent days.

uni sea urchin rice bowl at maguro 2nd restaurant in sapporo hokkaido for dinner

There are an endless amount of high quality seafood restaurants in Sapporo. When traveling in Japan, we often resort to using TripAdvisor or Google Maps to figure out what’s popular but that only brings up the ones made popular by tourists. Sometimes the best spots are the hidden gems that you’ll only find locals go to.

That’s why we were particularly excited to dine at Maguro 2nd across from Nijo Fish Market. Located on the second floor, it’s a spot that you wouldn’t blink an eye at but inside, you’ll be blown away by the variety of dishes they offer, decadent bowls of rice brimming with the best seafood from Hokkaido, refreshing glasses of Classic Sapporo, and its overall cozy atmosphere.

Day 2 Summary

What you’ll do:

Where you’ll eat:

  • BreakfastNorthern Restaurant at La’gent Stay Sapporo-Odori – As the most important meal of the day, this buffet breakfast succeeds in providing the most amazing range of dishes.
  • Lunch – Country House – This is the most well-rounded restaurant inside Takino Snow World that feels like your classic ski lodge eatery.
  • Dinner – Maguro 2nd – A hyper-local seafood restaurant across from Nijo Market with tasty seafood and benefit of having a fully translated English menu.

Where you’ll stay:

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Day 3 – Sapporo Snow Festival and More

golden kamuy sapporo snow festival giant sculpture and stage
©Satoru Noda/SHUEISHA, GOLDEN KAMUY Project

Your third day in Sapporo will allow you to get to know the city better, get to see the Snow Festival, and have a dining experience like no other. So grab your winter layers and see the best of Sapporo in one day!

sapporo guided city tour with ms chie moue

Something we always recommend is a great walking tour. In Japan, it’s tricky to find a quality tour with a guide that speaks excellent English and we’ve found one in this half-day city tour that covers some of the main areas including Odori Park, Nijo Fish Market, Hokkaido Shrine Tongu, and Tanukikoji.

Along the way, you’ll learn plenty of facts about the city, Japanese culture, and anecdotes about the smallest things you’ll see on the street that you never would have noticed.

With a guide, you’ll be able to ask all the questions you want and you’ll also come away with answers to these questions and many more.

  • Where does the name Sapporo come from.
  • How many years has it been since the formation of the city.
  • What are the proper etiquette when visiting a Shinto Shrine.
  • Why Odori park is designed the way it is.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

We ended up with a more abbreviated tour because of timing limitations but we got a sense of how the tour is run. Our guide, Ms. Chie Moue is also one of the guides that operates this tour, who runs a similar version of this tour for those wanting to learn English.

Time:

  • Duration – 2.5 hours
  • Tour offered all year round.

Price:

  • 2 people – ¥11,000
  • 3 people – ¥9,500
  • 4 persons or more – ¥8,000

Booking: You need to book this tour before 5PM the previous day.

Website: Sapporo City Tour

FAQ:

  • What’s included with the tour? The tour includes breakfast at Nijo market, 2.5 hours with the local guide, and insurance coverage.
  • Which locations are covered on this Sapporo City Tour? On this tour, you’ll visit Odori Park, Hokkaido Jingu Tongu, Nijo Fish Market, and Kotobuki Coffee.
  • Is there a minimum for this tour to run? A minimum of 2 people are required for this tour to operate.

Tips:

  • If it happens that you are the only people joining this tour and you had a specific request such as visiting Sapporo TV Tower, it’s worth reaching out and asking.

A visit to Sapporo wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Sapporo TV Tower. The observation deck provides a 360-degree view of the city and a perfect line of sight down Odori Park, the Sapporo Snow Festival Below, and all the way to the mountains range where Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium is located.

While we’ve visited the tower in the evening as part of our 1 week in Sapporo in the fall (itinerary coming soon), it was nice to see it in daylight, allowing for stunning aerial-like photos.

shihachi seafood restaurant in tanuki comichi market sapporo

Without much planning, we asked our guide, Chie-san, what she’d recommend for lunch. She said that there are a number of great places on the covered promenade of Tanukikoji Shopping Street. In particular, there’s a food hall called Tanuki Comichi and the seafood specialist, Shihachi Sengyoten.

When here, you absolutely need to have their kaisendon, or bowl of rice topped with a mountain of the fish market’s freshest fish.

massive horse racing sapporo snow festival sculpture
©The Hokkaido Shimbun Press

Fully recharged, it’s now time to dive right into the star attraction for 8 days of the year – the Sapporo Snow Festival, and more specifically, the Odori site. Spend your afternoon going from section to section (numbered by Chome-1, Chome-2, etc.).

Much of the fun of Sapporo Snow Festival can be summed up by the audible gasp you’ll catch yourself exclaiming when you see a character you recognize, or the sheer scale, creativity, and craftsmanship of a snow sculpture.

As you explore, it’s not just the snow sculptures that you’ll see, but you’ll be enticed to visit the food stalls, be tempted buy goodies from the souvenir shops, have your curiosity brought out by brands promoting things that you’ve never heard of, and engaged to interact of some of the sculptures as well.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Keep in mind that the Sapporo Snow Festival changes from year to year so the exact details may differ for the year that you are going. Make sure to check out the official page for the most up-to-date information.

Time:

  • Dates – The exact period of Sapporo Snow Festival can change year to year for the past few years, it’s been held from February 4 – 11.
  • Duration – The festival typically spans 8 days.
  • Hours – The ice sculptures evening illumination lasts until 10PM each evening in Odori and 11PM in Susukino.

Price: All of the Sapporo Snow Festival sites are free. That said, there are costs for some special activities.

curling experience at sapporo snow festival event

Odori Site: This is the primary festival site that spans 1.5 kilometers of the park that goes from 1 all the way to 12-Chome. Some of the ice sculptures are designed with slides built in. Lastly there might be special activities available. In 2024, there was a Curling Experience at 1-Chome where you can do 3short throws of the curling stone for ¥500. In 2024, there were roughly 100 sculptures here.

Susukino Site: This is another secondary site and significantly smaller that focuses on ice sculptures. These are smaller in size but is still very impressive. Spanning 4 blocks on Sapporo Ekimae Street in the heart of Susukino, you’ll see a ton of ice sculptures side-by-side and unique photo opportunities. In 2024, there were 60 ice sculptures here.

Tsudome Site: This is more of a tertiary site for Sapporo Snow Festival designed for children to play in. You’ll find a variety of winter fun here including a giant tube slide, snowball throwing challenge, snow maze, snowman building, ice slides, foot golf, rafting, and photo opportunities. Since the subway doesn’t go here, the festival offers a shuttle that starts from the Sakaemachi Station on the Toho Subway Line for ¥100 (cash only).

Adjacent Events: These aren’t officially part of Sapporo Snow Festival but coincide with it.

smile rink sapporo during sapporo snow festival
  • Sapporo Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill runs a special snow sculpture making experience. In 2024, they offered 3 tiers of snow making ranging in size and time required. They also had Snow Art Forest’s Illumination Event. All activities require reservations. Lastly, they offered free shuttle buses between between Fukuzumi Station (Toho Subway Line) and Sapporo Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill during the event period.
  • Smile Rink Sapporo is located in front of the red brick government building in the courtyard of Akapura. In 2024 this ran from February 1 – 14 where they had various winter activities alongside a big skating rink. Tickets for adults were ¥1200 and included skate rentals. Hopefully it’ll come back in future years as a proper skating rink is one thing missing from Sapporo Snow Festival.
  • Sapporo International Art Festival (SIAF) – This event only happens every 3 years and not always in the winter. In 2024, the festival overlapped with the Snow Festival.

Booking: No reservations are required to see the snow festivals. However, if you’d like to do one of the special activities, such as those at Sapporo Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill, you’ll need to plan ahead of time.

Website: Sapporo Snow Festival

FAQ:

  • What type of temperatures can I expect at Snow Festival? February is the coldest month of the year in Sapporo and expect the daily average to be below freezing. In the evening, this can be easily -10°C (14°F).
  • What type of clothing is recommend for Sapporo Snow Festival? Be prepared for cold weather, especially at night when the wind can really bite. Start with good footwear that can grip on snow and icy surfaces such as these snow boots for men and women. You’ll want to layer up elsewhere because it gets really hot indoors so ideally run a set up with a good base layer, active fleece, mid-layer jacket, and shell. For pants, you’ll want something waterproof especially if you’re going to be on the snow/ice for sliding. Below, you’ll want at least one base layer, if not two. Lastly, a quality glove system, buff, and toque/beanie are also key.
  • Is it better to see the Sapporo Snow Festival in the day or at night? It’s worth seeing the snow festival in both times of the day because during the day, you can see the sculptures more clearly, more of the activities are available, and there’s better light for photos. At night, it’s quite magical to see the sculptures illuminated by light, giving them a different depth to them. There are also the special light projections that should not be missed.
  • Are there specific days that you need to be there for? Not specifically as the Sapporo Snow Festival is the same throughout the festival. The only exception would be if you’re hoping to catch specific performances such as the opening ceremony. To help deciding on dates to visit, weekends are typically busier because there are more locals that visit and sculptures features start fading towards the end of the festival because they melt over time.
  • Who makes the snow and ice sculptures? A majority of them are made by the Self Defense Force, staff from Sapporo City Hall, locals, citizen groups, private organizations, and the teams involved in the International Snow Sculpture Contest.
  • How long does it take to see the two main sites? The Susukino site can be seen in 1-2 hours. You can walk the entire Odori site in 2-3 hours.
  • Are there places to warm up at the Snow Festival? At the Odori site, most sections (broken down by each Chome) have rest stations that are radiator heated with a mix of bar-tables, regular tables, and chairs.
  • Are there Sapporo Snow Festival-specific souvenirs? Yes, there are gift shops scattered around the Odori-site that sell official souvenirs that range from shirts, buttons, pens, document folders, keychains, and more.
  • Are drones allowed? No, drones are not allowed.

Tips:

food options at sapporo snow festival
  • It’s hard to predict the weather during the festival but don’t make the mistake of underestimate how cold it’ll be. It’s always to pack more layers than to leave them behind.
  • As with much of Sapporo in the winter, most of the pavement is layered with hard-packed snow which becomes incredibly slippery on festival grounds because of how much traffic they get. The surface is also quite uneven. They try their best to even things out and lay down gravel but that only improves the conditions marginally. Be very careful when walking around the Odori site and on very icy days, it might be worth having ice cleat crampons with you.
  • All of the food opportunities are at the Odori site. In 2024, there were food stalls in Chome-1, 4, and 5. Keep in mind that these food stalls don’t stay open late so don’t plan to eat dinner here unless it’s in the late afternoon.
  • There are some giveaways but not that many. As an example, in 2024, Asahi was offering two free cans of beer and Suntory was selling their beer for ¥100 per can.
  • Pay attention to the snow sculptures at the Odori site that have projection mapping as these are the highlights of any night viewing of Sapporo Snow Sculpture.
  • Special activities and snow sculpture slides don’t run late into the evening so if you want to do those, make sure to go during the day and expect to have to queue up for them.
  • Look out for the Coca Cola Pavilion as they make a custom Coke can for Sapporo Film Festival that you can only find in vending machines inside it and nearby.
  • As you’ll see with this Sapporo winter itinerary, the Sapporo Snow Festival is the kind of thing you don’t really do all in one day. You can if you’re in a rush, but we think it makes a lot of sense to break it up into several days, allowing you to mix in other winter activities.
elm garden ice robata station and salmon ruibe dish
Ruibe sushi in Ice Robata Lounge

As if that wasn’t enough to fill your third day in this 1 week Sapporo winter itinerary, you’re in for a treat at the Elm Garden restaurant.

Nestled in an upscale neighbourhood of the city, this is one of the city’s premier culinary institutions that is centered by an expansive Japanese garden and focused on delivering the best kaiseki cuisine.

When coming in the winter, there’s an exclusive, limited-time availability of something they call the Snow Light Experience. It’s a dining experience like no other where they weave together, light projections on the table with the food that’s being served.

It starts with a visit to their Ice Robata Lounge, an ice bar where hot soup and shavings of frozen salmon are prepared like sushi. From there you walk through the elegant snow-capped Japanese garden and to your table where each course in the kaiseki is beautifully synchronized with a projection of various motifs that truly stimulate a symphony of senses.

Day 3 Summary

What you’ll do:

Where you’ll eat:

  • BreakfastNijo Fish Market – The first stop on the Sapporo City Tour is Nijo Fish Market and the guide will choose a restaurant that fits your interests.
  • LunchShihachi Sengyoten – Adjoining to their in-house fish market is a restaurant made for the seafood-lover and are best known for their kaisendon. As a heads up, they take reservations but from 4PM onwards only.
  • DinnerElm Garden and the Snow Light Experience – A one-of-a-kind kaiseki dinner that is combined with light projections. The winter experience typically runs from January and February. They have versions of this for other seasons as well. To get here, you can take a taxi or use the city’s tram. Reservations required (closed on Tuesday).

Where you’ll stay:

Day 4 – Embracing Winter in Sapporo

snow shoeing and crossing a bridge at asahiyama memorial park in sapporo hokkaido japan

Continue to deepen your connection with what winter in Sapporo is all about with a day that’s a well-balanced mix of outdoor fun, city icons, delicious foods, and the animated snow sculptures.

snow angel making during snowshoeing sapporo in the winter

The best way to experience Sapporo’s winter wonderland is to go out in nature and hearing the crunching, feeling the fluffy powder, and seeing the snow clinging onto the branches.

Snowshoeing in Asahiyama Memorial Park is an awesome activity to consider for your week in Sapporo. Not only do you get to weave through the trees of the forest on snowshoe, you also get a glorious view of the city from the top of the hill.

We also can’t say enough about Hokkaido Great Adventure and how they run their tours. On top of being expertly guided in Japanese and English with the best equipment, they know how to have fun too. In the span of our 3 hours, we got to make snow angels, run a 2-person snowshoe race, laugh deliriously under a snow shower, and slide down a steep hill like daredevils.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Time:

  • Tour start time – 9AM
  • Duration – 3 hours (including 20 minutes drive to and from central Sapporo)

Price:

  • 2 people or more – ¥7,500
  • 1 person – ¥12,000

Booking: It’s a good idea to book this snowshoeing adventure 3-4 weeks in advance because it can get busy during Sapporo Snow Festival.

Website: Hokkaido Great Adventure and Asahiyama Memorial Park Snowshoe Trekking

FAQ:

  • Is transportation included with this snowshoeing tour? Yes, pick up and drop off from central Sapporo is included.
  • What equipment is included? Only snowshoes are included. If you require clothing, individual items can be rented for ¥500 or the full set for ¥2,000 (top and bottom outer wear, toque/beanie, goggles, buff, gloves, and boots).
  • Is pre-payment required? No, you can pay on the day with cash or credit card.
  • What type of clothing is recommend for snowshoeing? Using the recommendations for the Sapporo Snow Festival, keep in mind that you’ll heat up quickly so you may want to have one less layer. However, you’ll definitely want waterproof layers.
  • Is the tour in English? As an English-speaking customer, they will make sure to have an English guide for your tour.

Tips:

  • Instead of returning back to your hotel after your morning snowshoeing tour, you can ask them to drop you off somewhere else in the city.
  • Depending on snow and other conditions, Maruyama Park (where Hokkaido Shrine is located) is another option for snowshoeing that they will often use.

After snowshoeing, ask to be dropped off at Rojuira Curry SAMURAI and their Sakura branch. Soup curry is another type of dish that uniquely originates from Sapporo. Unlike its standard curry counterpart, this features vibrant chunky vegetables and light-curry-flavored soup that’s best had with rice that has a slice of slightly-charred cheese on top.

The afternoon is yours to see more of the city. Depending on what you’re interested in, this’ll be your chance to visit the iconic Sapporo Clock Tower, one of the remaining Western-style buildings from the 1870s as part of the city’s rapid development.

Sapporo is the home to Japan’s oldest beer of the same name and it’s become the inspiration for a whole new generation of micro breweries that aren’t often talked about.

A great way to blend your journey through a new age of hoppy suds is with either a private pub crawl tour or you can visit two local micro-brewery bars (both are marked on our trip map below) on your own:

  • Trans Brewing Beer Stand
  • Susukino Ale Stand

For dinner, inside the food hall, Tanukikoji Yokocho, where Trans Brewing Beer Stand is located, has several options including Kobutaya which specializes in grilled meat, and Kentys Kitchen, known for their award-winning fried chicken.

Another culinary highlight in Sapporo is Shime parfait, a trend that’s really taken off in Japan. The closest comparison to it is sundae, but in Japan, it’s less about the ice cream and more focused on fruit and whipped cream.

The word shime means “conclusion” and is meant to be had as a cold and sweet way to end the night.

Enjoy your evening the Hokkaido way by walking over to a nearby Shime parfait shop that has a cute tapir as its mascot. Parfaiteria PaL is very popular amongst locals and is an incredible showcase of how a Shime parfait can be both artistic and delicious at the same time.

projection mapping of the old sapporo station sculpture at sapporo snow festival 2024
©HTB・Prism
airship orchestra in the evening at sapporo snow festival

You’ve been able to see the Sapporo Snow Festival and the Odori site during the day but you’d be missing out half of the experience if you don’t see it at night.

When illuminated, the snow sculptures truly come to life. Beyond lights, they’ve taken it to the next level with their projection mapping technology where images are rendered onto the story-high snow sculpture, bringing another dimension to them.

Day 4 Summary

What you’ll do:

Where you’ll eat:

  • BreakfastNorthern Kitchen at La’gent Stay Sapporo-Odori – This breakfast is something that we looked forward to everyday.
  • LunchRojiura Curry Samurai Sakura – One of the top soup curry franchises. With its popularity amongst tourists, expect to line up for a table. It moves quite quickly so it’s worth sticking with it.
  • Dinner – Kobutaya and Kentys Kitchen – A grilled meat and fried chicken specialist that’s in the same food hall (Tanukikoji Yokocho) where you find Trans Brewing Beer Stand. No reservations required.
  • DessertParfaiteria PaL – Shime parfait is one of the hottest trends in Sapporo where the idea of parfait turns into a work of art with their creative combination of fruit, ice cream, pastries, and chocolate. They don’t take reservations.

Where you’ll stay:

Day 5 – Saddle and Paddle in Jozankei

wild mustangs horseback riding near jozankei

It’s a saddle and paddle kind of day as it’s finally time to leave downtown Sapporo and head to the onsen town of Jozankei. Everybody better watch out because there’s a new sheriff in town!

The last thing you’d expect to find in Hokkaido is a saloon filled with wild west memorabilia, cowboy hats, and leather jackets with tassels. WILD MUSTANG’S brings Western horseback riding to the Sapporo region, with fun that’ll surely make you go “yeehaw!”.

From the start, you’ll be made comfortable with your horse. Start with a few laps in the pen, getting used to the Western-style reins, and weaving between large cones. Once you’re all warmed up, you’ll head into the forest to patrol the land while taking in the spectacular views of the countryside and surrounding 8-peak mountain.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Time:

  • Time slots – 9:40AM, 10:40AM, 11:40AM, 12:40PM, and 1:40PM
  • Drive time – Sapporo to the Wild Mustangs ranch is 40 minutes.
  • Tour duration (total time) – 50 minutes (3 hours) or 80 minutes (3.5 hours)

Price:

  • 50 minute – $31,924 for one person, ¥23,411per person for 2 people, and further discounts with larger groups (with Viator).
  • 80 minute – ¥40,224 for one person, ¥31,711 per person for 2 people, and further discounts with larger groups (with Viator).
  • You’ll notice a difference in price from booking directly because Wild Mustangs prices don’t include private transportation.

Booking: It’s a good idea to book Wild Mustangs at least 1 month in advance because it can get busy during Sapporo Snow Festival. Their website also shows the days that they are closed due to private events.

Website: WILD MUSTANG’S

FAQ:

  • Is transportation included in this horseback riding experience? Yes, if you book with Viator or KKDay, private taxi transfers to and from Sapporo are included. If you book directly with them, they offer pick up from Toyotaki bus stop (you must request it in the reservation form).
  • How much horseback riding experience is required? No experience is required as they accept everyone from complete beginners to advanced riders.
  • Are cameras allowed? You are allowed to carry your smartphone with you but you want to make sure you have an accessible and zip-able pocket. If not, they can provide a handy side bag. Any larger camera is not allowed even if you have a neck strap for it and backpacks are certainly not allowed while riding.
  • What is the style of riding they do at Wild Mustangs? They do the Western style of riding.
  • Is pre-payment required? Through Viator and KKDay, prepayment is required with credit card.
  • Is there a rental fee for the cowboy hat and jacket? No, you can freely choose any of the pieces you’d like to wear from their ranch.
  • What type of clothing is recommend for Wild Mustangs? You’ll want to wear similar layers to Sapporo Snow Festival. While you won’t necessarily need waterproof layers, having durable pants will be helpful for being on the saddle and using the stirrups. You’ll also want warm boots and ideally gloves with fingers for dexterity when holding the reins. If you intend of wearing a cowboy jacket and hat to match the theme, you might want a bandana or buff to keep your ears warm. You’ll also lose some warmth in the jacket so you might also want to add another base layer.
  • Are there lockers available? Yes, there are 9 medium-sized lockers available (for free) to store your bags and extra clothing.
  • Can children go horseback riding? You must be 7 or above for this activity. That said, they do offer an experience for children 4 and up where the instructor holds the reins. One parent and child can also ride together for this (2 and up).
  • Is the tour in English? They don’t have English-speaking guides, however, they are extremely friendly and will use basic English to explain what you need to know.
  • Are these private tours? No, this is a public tour and it’s possible that you’ll be in a larger group with others.

Tips:

  • If you’d like to go onwards to Jozankei after horseback riding, ask if the taxi can drop you off there instead of back in Sapporo. There may be an additional cost for this.
  • The only area you are allowed on and off the horses are at the ranch (for safety reasons). Keep this in mind if are hoping to take your own camera photos from the ground.
  • If you’d like to feed the horses, a cup filled with carrots are available for purchase.
  • For those that opt for the package with transportation, note that the taxi driver will stay at the ranch.
  • To set expectations, this is a gentle ride where the horses will be walking in a line so it’s beginner-friendly but may be a bit too tame for those wanting to really go for a proper gallop.
free jozankei foot onsen

For lunch, you’ll head to the adventure center in Jozankei known as nono-terrace. Inside is the restaurant, Nonoyama Kitchen Haruranna, known for their pork stew braised in white wine and tomato. Don’t miss out on their Jozankei-original pudding either while you’re there!

Afterwards, take some time to walk around the small town. You’ll start noticing the billows of smoke rising from the Toyohira River. This gives you the first indication that there’s significant geothermal activity here.

Fittingly, when you head into Jozankei Gensen Park, you’ll find a free foot onsen. Take off your shoes and socks, and dip your feet into the soothingly hot waters.

friluftsliv snow rafting experience in jozankei sapporo

The second major activity you’ll do today is snow rafting with Friluftsliv, the adventure operator at nono-terrace. This a unique experience that has you paddling from a traditional rubber raft on the Toyohira River, except you’ll be doing it with a winter landscape around you.

It’s the perfect combination for nature lovers and adventure-seekers where you’ll get to see up-close, pristine white surroundings, waterfalls turned into ice, and wildlife.

This is also a well-rounded trip with hot tea, s’mores around a fire, and tons of photo-taking opportunities.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Frlifutsliv is a Norwegian philosophy that believes in getting outdoors and the value of coexisting with nature without destroying or disturbing it.

Time:

  • Time slots – 9:30AM, and 2:00PM
  • Tour duration – 2 hours
  • Activity season – Early December to late March.

Price:

  • Per person – ¥7,000
  • Boots are available to rent for ¥500.
  • If paying in person, only cash is accepted.
  • They also offer a drone photography and videography package for ¥10,000. GoPros are also available for rent for ¥3,000.

Booking: It’s a good idea to book at Friluftsliv at least 1-2 weeks ahead of time. It currently isn’t a well-known winter activity so there is a possibility of joining late or on the day of.

Website: Friluftsliv

FAQ:

  • Is transportation included? No, you are responsible for your own transportation.
  • Is paddling experience required for snow rafting? No experience is required as this is certainly more of a gentle paddle and float experience. Water levels are quite low in this part of the year so the water is very calm and gentle.
  • Are cameras allowed? Yes, you are allowed to bring cameras onboard the raft but you are responsible for your own equipment. It’s still a good idea to keep larger equipment in a dry bag in case there is splashing from paddling or initial entry into the water.
  • Is pre-payment required? Through Viator, prepayment is required with credit card.
  • What type of clothing is recommend for snow rafting? You’ll want all of your best winter gear including your waterproof upper and lower shells, and quality socks. Good gloves are also key for this activity and ideally ones with fingers so you can use your paddles effectively.
  • What type of equipment is provided? Included as part of the tour are life jackets. Boot rentals cost ¥500.
  • Is the tour in English? Yes, all tours are offered in English and Japanese.
  • How early should you arrive ahead of time? You will need to arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of time so that you can change into boots and put on your lifejacket.
  • What is the minimum age for this paddle? The minimum age is 3.

Tips:

  • While you can pay via credit card prepayment on Viator, it may be more expensive than paying the company directly.
  • There aren’t any lockers at the outdoor center (in nono-terrace) but you can ask to have your things in the office.
  • Make sure to use the bathroom in nono-terrace before heading out.
  • Have your camera equipment set up and ready to go. Once you head out, things move pretty quickly so you won’t have a lot of time to get things sorted.
  • Nono-terrace is a building that includes Friluftsliv’s adventure center and Nonoyama Kitchen Haruranna. If snow rafting isn’t your thing, they also offer a Snow Outside Cafe Experience where you can make your own baumkuchen and popcorn.
feet up in private onsen of jozankei suizantei suite

If you did all of these winter thrills as day trips, you’d be completely missing the biggest draw of Jozankei. At Jozankei Dai-ichi Hotel Suizantei, you’ll be treated to the opulence of a traditional onsen hotel where they not only have a huge public onsen facility but they also have rooms outfitted with their own onsens.

This is a true getaway within a getaway. In the comforts of our huge suite with living room and Western-style beds, you can soak in your own onsen, while taking in the glorious view of the snow-capped town and mountains before your eyes.

Further immerse yourself in Japanese culture by putting on the yukata in your room and have dinner at the Shōan Restaurant in the hotel for a 10-course kaiseki.

For the rest of the evening, get some well-deserved R&R by using your choice of the onsen that’s in your room, the public one, or booking one of the private onsens on the 6th and 7th floor.

Day 5 Summary

What you’ll do:

Where you’ll eat:

  • BreakfastNorthern Restaurant at La’gent Stay Sapporo-Odori – Enjoy your last opportunity to have their epic buffet breakfast.
  • LunchNonoyama Kitchen Haruranna – A restaurant with carefree vibes with its natural surroundings and use of light and wood. That connection to nature is heightened with its comfort dishes that uses ingredients from local farms.
  • DinnerJozankei Dai-ichi Hotel Suizantei “Shōan Restaurant” – The hotel’s highest-level restaurant that serves traditional kaiseki meals. Each dish on the menu is a delight both in presentation and taste.

Where you’ll stay:

  • Jozankei Dai-ichi Hotel Suizantei (Direct/Booking/Agoda) – They are consistently rated as one of the top 3 onsen ryokans in Jozankei. The hotel has a traditional atmosphere, the staff are extremely friendly, and the rooms are very clean and comfy. If you have the budget, we definitely recommend that you book a room with a built-in onsen. The public onsen is also superb with several baths, sauna, and cold pool. They also have reserve-able private onsens (one is on the rooftop). Lastly, main floor lounge has free drinks and food throughout the day.

Tip:

  • Remember to pack an onsen towel with you for the foot onsen.
  • When booking the Jozankei Dai-ichi Hotel Suizantei, make sure to immediately call (they have English-speaking staff at the front desk) to book their free shuttle, meal times, and private onsen. For each night’s stay, you get one free booking of the private onsen.

Day 6 – JAPOW in Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort

sapporo kokusai ski resort snowboarding

A trip to Sapporo and Hokkaido in the winter just wouldn’t be complete without some time on the mountain. A big reason for being based on Jozankei for a few nights is so that you can get onto the slopes more easily. Today, you’ll find out what all that JAPOW is about at Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort.

suizantei shoan traditional japanese breakfast

But first…breakfast! You’ll be back at the familiar Shōan Restaurant in your ryokan for delectable small plate after small plate of goodies to start your day off right.

gondola view downhill at kokusai ski resort

Catching a bus up to Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort, you’ll get a chance to see what skiing or snowboarding is like and experience the fluffy powder and sheer amounts of snow that Hokkaido is known for.

While certainly not as famous or as large as the mountains in Niseko in Hokkaido, what you’ll appreciate about coming here is how it is authentically Japanese. You don’t come to Japan to find the exact same style of resort you could get in Whistler or Utah and that’s what you’ll find here. You won’t see a lot of English signage, there’s amazing soft-serve and ramen to be had, the lines are orderly and efficient, and best of all, it’s quiet.

This is a mountain that’s made for intermediate skiiers and snowboarders. You’ll love how much space there is to carve and predominantly groomed so you can pick up speed if you want.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Note: The dates may change year to year.

Early winter season

  • Hours – 9AM – 3:20PM
  • Season – November 17 – 30
  • One-day pass – Adults (¥4,500), Seniors 60-64 (¥4,000), Seniors 65+ (¥3,700), Junior high and high school students (¥3,000), Children 6-12 (¥1,800), and Preschool and younger (free)
  • Lunch combo – Day ticket and ¥980 meal ticket for ¥5,000

Main winter season

  • Hours – Weekdays 9AM-5PM, Weekends and Holidays 8:30AM-5PM
  • Season – December 1 – March 31
  • One-day pass – Adults (¥5,000), Seniors 60-64 (¥4,000), Seniors 65+ (¥3,700), Junior high and high school students (¥3,000), Children 6-12 (¥1,800), and Preschool and younger (free)
  • Lunch combo – Day ticket and ¥980 meal ticket for ¥5,500

Spring season

  • Hours – 9AM – 4:30PM
  • Season – April 1 – May 12
  • One-day pass – Adults (¥4,500), Seniors 60-64 (¥4,000), Seniors 65+ (¥3,700), Junior high and high school students (¥3,000), Children 6-12 (¥1,800), and Preschool and younger (free)
  • Lunch combo – Day ticket and ¥980 meal ticket for ¥5,000

Equipment rental: The rates are quite extensive and vary depending on ski or snowboard, and the type of package you’re looking for. Review the equipment rental rates. Note that goggles and helmets are a-la-carte. While the only platform, WebKet isn’t the most intuitive, it’s worth getting through it as filling out the form manually takes a long time.

IC Card Deposit: You need to pay a ¥500 for the lift ticket IC card. You can receive this deposit back by returning the IC card at the end of the day.

Parking: At the base of the resort is a large parking lot where attendants will guide you to your spot. Parking is free.

How to get here by public bus: There is one main bus that runs from Sapporo. Check the schedule for the Sapporo bus line (in English) for the most accurate information. This bus doesn’t take reservations so it’s first-come first-serve. Payment is cash-only. If you’re bringing your own board/skis, they need to be in a case. You also can’t wear ski/board boots when on the bus.

  • From Downtown Sapporo – There are multiple stops in the city including Sapporo Station, Chuo Bus Sapporo Terminal, and Susukino. The one-way fare is ¥1,300 for adults and ¥650 for children. It takes 90 minutes.
  • From Makomanai Station – If you’re not downtown, it may be easier to go to this subway station. The one-way fare is ¥1,100 for adults and ¥550 for children. It takes 60 minutes.
  • From Jozankei – If you’re staying in Jozankei, there are several stops in town, including the recommended hotel. The one-way fare is ¥640 for adults and ¥320 for children. It takes 30 minutes.
  • Bus/Lift Package – Onboard the bus, you can also buy a combo ticket that includes the round-trip bus tickets and lift tickets. Adults (¥6,000), Seniors 60-64 (¥5,500), Seniors 65+ (¥5,500), Junior high and high school students (¥4,500), and Children 6-12 (¥2,500). This prints out a receipt that you’ll need to use to redeem the tickets. At that point, the ¥500 IC card deposit is required.

How to get here by chartered bus: There are also reservation-based buses. The main one for Kokusai is Hokkaido Resort Liner. The prices are higher than the public bus but you get the advantage of a guaranteed seat. They do pick up and drop off in Sapporo and Jozankei. Note that the Jozankei stop isn’t directly in front of the recommended hotel so walking is required.

How to get here by taxi: Taxi is also possible and we recommend Daiichi Koutsu Taxi. From Jozankei, one-way is roughly ¥5,000. From Makomanai Station, it’s roughly ¥10,000.

Booking: You can purchase lift tickets and apply for equipment rental online. This is highly recommended as you’ll save a lot of time and it’s cheaper to purchase lift tickets online if you’re going during the main winter season. You’ll also save time filling out the form for equipment rental by doing it ahead of time.

Website: Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort

FAQ:

  • Are there lockers available at Kokusai Ski Resort? Yes, there are lockers on the main floor (small ¥300 & ¥400) and change rooms in the basement of the ski center (large – ¥400). Most lockers are one-time use but on the main floor, the ¥400 lockers have a small service door that allows you to access your things multiple times. They also have free luggage storage on the second floor but keep in mind that these are open cubbies.
  • Are there change rooms at Kokusai Ski Resort? Yes, there are men and women change rooms on the basement level of the ski center.
  • How do you redeem online-purchased lift tickets? There is a machine on the main floor of the ski center where you can scan your QR code to get your IC card. There is no need to go to the ticket office outside.
  • Where can you eat at Kokusai Ski Resort? There are 6 restaurants at the resort ranging from burgers, pizza, cafe, ramen, and other Japanese comfort foods. At the peak there is a small Mountaintop Cafe that serves simple hot foods and soft-serve ice cream.
  • How early should you reserve equipment rentals? If you want to avoid the rush, you want to make it to the rental center in the basement right when it opens.
  • How early should you reserve the bus? If you’re interested in a confirmed seat on a bus with Hokkaido Resort Liner, book 2-3 weeks ahead of time.
  • Are backpacks allowed on chair lifts? Yes, you are allowed to have a backpack on but when boarding, have it in front of you and with one strap on the shoulder.
  • Is there wifi? Yes, there is free wifi in the main ski center and also at the mountaintop cafe.
  • Do you need to bring locks for ski/snowboard? No, it is incredibly safe at this resort and in fact, you won’t find the standard ski/snowboard racks. Most people just lean them against the railing or stick them in the snow.

Tips:

  • When taking the bus, remember to bring enough cash because they do not take credit cards or IC cards. Also make sure to have ¥100 coins ready if you need to use the lockers.
  • When taking the gondola, snowboards can’t be slotted outside like skis because of wind. As a result, you need to put a sleeve for the top of the snowboard and carried inside the gondola.
  • If you booked your rental online, you’ll get a bunch of QR codes. It’ll be a bit disorienting when you get to the basement first. Look for the reception counter of the basement rental center that is labelled as #1. To the left is #3 where you’ll find an inconspicuous scanner and printer. One by one, scan your code and it’ll print out 2 paper tickets for each (one for you to keep and the other for the rental assistant). Get in line for rentals and when it’s your turn, provide all of the tickets. Skis and snowboards is first. Around the corner is another line you’ll have to get into for accessories like helmets and goggles. The assistants keep one receipt and you keep the other one. Don’t lose this receipt as you’ll need to give it back to them upon return. They’ll also ask you to snap a picture of the identifying sticker on your snowboard/ski in case you get your rental mixed up with others.
  • Don’t forget to return the IC card at the end of your day to get back your ¥500.
  • The online portal (powered by WebKet) is the same as the one used for Shibuya Sky so you won’t have to create a new account.
  • When you log into WebKet, it takes you to the Ticket History page if you’ve created an account before. To book your lift ticket and/or equipment rental, click on “WebKet” in the top navigation bar to take you to the Kokusai shop.

Alternative packages:

If you’re looking to go straight from the city to Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort, there are other ways to do it. By using Klook you get the benefit of having English customer service.

  • Shuttle Bus – This simplifies the shuttle bus ticket purchasing although we suspect this is the same as booking the Kappa Liner directly.
  • Lift and Equipment Bundles – There are several bundles available including rental only, rentals with lift tickets, and bus with lift and meal.
  • Klook Pass Hokkaido – This allows you to mix and match multiple activities and save money. Kokusai Ski Resort is included as one of the options so you can easily combine it with Hokkaido Asahiyama Zoo, Aquarium Park AOAO Sapporo, JR Passes, and more.
  • Otaru City Tour and Kokusai Ski Resort – This also offers several bundle choices but the main one is the ability to combine a visit to Otaru with half day on the mountain.
jozankei bridge night view

After your day out on the mountain, it’s time to come back to your hotel for a proper Japanese-style apres-ski which consists of soaking your muscles in properly hot and mineral-rich waters.

For the photographers here, you might also want to try to catch sunset at the Jozankei Bridge, the most photogenic view of town.

TIP: When using the public onsen, don’t miss out on the popsicles in the fridge that are located in the change rooms. These are meant to help cool you down after your onsen session. Better yet, have this while using the free-to-use massage chairs.

jozankei matsuo jingisukan dinner

For dinner, let’s change things up. While there aren’t that many non-ryokan restaurants in Jozankei, there is the popular Genghis Khan BBQ franchise, Matsuo Jingisukan. This is another must-have Hokkaido meal, where you get to cook high quality pieces of mutton, bean sprouts, and cabbage on a hot plate.

Day 6 Summary

What you’ll do:

Where you’ll eat:

  • Breakfast – Traditional Japanese breakfast at Dai-ichi Hotel Suizantei – Located in the same Shōan Restaurant in the hotel, they serve an elegant traditional Japanese breakfast.
  • Lunch – Mountaintop Cafe – There’s a small portable-like building at the top of the mountain where you’ll be able to refuel with sandwiches, pie, coffee, and ice cream.
  • DinnerMatsuo Jingisukan – A traditional Genghis Khan BBQ restaurant where you’ll be able to cook your own mutton.

Where you’ll stay:

Want to see more of Hokkaido?

The true hidden gem of Hokkaido is in the far east where you’ll encounter bears, whales, near-extinct red-crown cranes, volcanoes, and more. Make sure to check out our full itinerary

9 Day Far East Hokkaido Itinerary

Day 7 – Sushi Finale in Sapporo

sushi making class at sushiya no saito

When you get to this point in the 1 week Sapporo winter itinerary, you won’t believe it’s your last full day already. With how packed it’s been so far, you’ll appreciate how it has some flexibility and free time built in before you have the most epic of food experience.

open air rooftop private onsen at jozankei dai-ichi hotel suizantei

While you might be in a grumbly mood when waking up this early, something that we highly recommend for guests of Jozankei Dai-ichi Hotel Suizantei is their bookable private onsen on the 7th floor rooftop. Surrounded by the snow-covered trees of the mountain and surrounding the deck, watch the sky come to life while you enjoy your onsen.

You’ll again have breakfast at Shōan Restaurant in the hotel before packing your things up and checking out before 11AM.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Here are a few key things you should know about how to take a bus back Sapporo from Jozankei.

Dai-ichi Hotel Suizantei Shuttle

jozankei dai-ichi hotel suizantei shuttle bus

If you are a guest of this hotel, they offer a free shuttle from Sapporo to the hotel and vice versa. If you end up staying at another hotel in Jozankei, others may offer shuttle service as well.

  • Sapporo to Jozankei: There are two departures (2:20PM and 5PM) that leave from Odori Park (Nishi 5-chome near Odori Subway Station Exit 1)
  • Jozankei to Sapporo: There are two departures (10:30AM and 1PM) and drop you back off at Odori Park.
  • Reservations: Reservations are required which can be done either through the phone or online. Bookings should be made at least 2 weeks in advance. As you can imagine, these shuttles are quite popular because they are free and fill up quickly. We recommend that you do this immediately after booking.
  • Price: Free
  • Time: See timetable and map.
  • Note: This is a minibus that has an under-carriage for luggage and equipment.

Local Bus

jozankei local bus

This is the local bus run by company Jotetsu.

  • Boarding instructions: When you board, take a ticket from the machine. When you’re ready to get off, look at the screen at the front of the bus and find your ticket number. This indicates how much you need to pay since fares are distance-based. Pay with cash or IC card. If you need change, they have a money changing machine at the front but it only accepts ¥1,000 bills.
  • Reservations: They don’t take reservations and is first-come first-serve.
  • Price: The fare from Sapporo to Jozankei is ¥790.
  • Time: See timetable and map.
  • Duration: Roughly 1 hour 15 minutes from Sapporo Station to Daiichi hotel mae (directly in front of Dai-ichi Hotel Suizantei).
  • Note: These buses are standard local buses which means they don’t have a storage compartment for equipment so you’ll have to have your ski/snowboard with you.

Kappa Liner Bus

jozankei kappa liner bus

This is also run by Jotetsu but this is the reservation-only version of it.

  • Boarding instructions: When boarding, someone will come out of the bus with a clipboard to check for reservation names. Once you’re checked off, you can load your gear under the bus and then head up.
  • Reservations: You can make reservations online up to 4 weeks ahead of time. These buses also fill up quickly so if you want a guaranteed spot, you should book this 3-4 weeks ahead of time. You can also book up to 5PM the previous day but you should not count on this being possible.
  • Price: The fare from Sapporo to Jozankei is ¥960. Payment is through the online reservation system with credit cards only.
  • Time: See timetable. When reading the chart, look for the green columns on the left side.
  • Duration: Roughly 1 hour from Sapporo Station to Daiichi hotel mae (directly in front of Dai-ichi Hotel Suizantei).
  • Note: This is a large coach bus that has an under-carriage for luggage and equipment.

Taxi

In a pinch, a taxi is always possible but it will be the most expensive option.

  • Reservations: You need to make reservations for the taxi. Ask your hotel for recommendations or try Daiichi Koutsu Taxi.
  • Price: The one-way price from Sapporo Station to Jozankei is roughly $6,000.
  • Note: If you plan to try the public bus and it’s full, the taxi won’t be a viable back up option because reservations are needed.

Car

Of course, if you have a rental car, this is the easiest way back into the city. The drive back to Sapporo is roughly 40 minutes.

Tips:

  • If you’re relying on the bus, don’t underestimate how early you need to book. Do it right away if possible.
  • There is a bit of a gamble involved when it comes to taking the local bus because you just don’t know how busy it’ll be on any given day. That’s why we would recommend booking the Kappa Liner bus or leveraging your hotel’s shuttle if one’s available.
  • When reading the bus schedules, pay close attention to the direction of travel and also whether it’s for weekdays or the weekend.
  • It’s not the most clear which side of the street you should wait for your bus when you’re looking at the bus stops in person. Your best bet is to study the timetable and map, the pink line is in the direction of Sapporo and the blue line is in the direction of Jozankei.
  • If you’d like to take the local bus and want an increased chance of getting on, walk to the first 2 or 3 stops to have a better chance.

Once you’ve arrived in Sapporo, head to the brand-spanking-new Sapporo Stream Hotel in the heart of Susukino. If it’s around 3PM, your room should be ready, but if not, you can always drop off your bags.

The afternoon is yours to do some last-minute exploration of Sapporo. For us, this meant heading to Ramen Alley to have corn miso ramen at Tokuichi Tomiya and seriously the best Hokkaido-milk soft-serve on the planet, Kinotoya.

sushiya no saito omakase sapporo hokkaido

Leaving the best for last is Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel’s exclusive sushi-making class at Sushiya no Saito (available starting March 2024) where you’ll learn from Saito-san, a true sushi master in every sense of the word.

Unlike their basic omakase, you’ll come in before the dinner service and have the opportunity to learn how to make sushi in an actual restaurant from the master with the help of an English translator.

You immediately understand that this isn’t your normal cooking class when you feel the emphasis that Saito-san puts into his work, whether it’s the preparation, quality, presentation, or performance. That’s further elevated when he shares stories about how he was one of the few chefs selected from around Japan to prepare sushi for a shrine offering in association with the Emperor.

Donning your freshly pressed and pristine white sushi jacket, apron, and hat, you’ll learn how sushi-rice is made and proceed to make 8 pieces of sushi. You’ll feel a real sense of accomplishment when Saito-san applauds your efforts.

If that wasn’t enough, following your sushi-making class, you’ll have a full-blown omakase course featuring the finest seasonal fish and other delicacies. Without giving it all away, you’re guaranteed to walk away feeling full, something that’s not usually the case with these type of meals.

To wrap up your 7 winter days in Sapporo, make use of the spa one more time as Sapporo Stream Hotel conveniently has one on the top floor for premium guests.

The next day will depend on where you’re headed to next but in all likelihood, you’ll be either catching a flight out from New Chitose Airport or taking the JR train to another part of Japan.

Day 7 Summary

What you’ll do:

  • Sushi-making class
  • Daiso
  • Mega Don Quijote

Where you’ll eat:

  • Breakfast – Traditional Japanese breakfast at Dai-ichi Hotel Suizantei – Each morning is a different set menu for breakfast so there’s no worry about having the same thing twice.
  • Lunch – Tokuichitomiya in Ramen Alley – While this is certainly not as popular as Haruka and Teshikaga Ramen, you’ll appreciate being able to get seated right away and have equally as good corn miso ramen.
  • DessertKinotoya Pole Town Store – Simply the best soft-serve ice cream and cheese tarts.
  • DinnerSushiya no Saito – In addition to the incredible sushi making class, you’ll also have an epic omakase dinner, featuring the freshest Hokkaido seafood and delicacies.

Where you’ll stay:

  • Sapporo Stream Hotel (Direct/Booking/Hotels) – Newly opened smack in the middle of Susukino, this hotel boasts a lounge, fitness center, outdoor terrace, onsen, an awesome breakfast, and rooms that offer great views of the city and is outfitted with a record player paired with several vinyl discs for you to try.

Special Deal with Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel

hokkaido treasure island promotion free bottle of sake instructions

We’ve also partnered with Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel Inc. where you’ll get a bottle of regional sake if mention us when you book a multi-day custom tour.

How? Select “Going Awesome Places” under “How did you hear about us?” in Step 5 of inquiry form.

Map of Sapporo Winter Itinerary

More than any other country in the world, maps are a critical tool for getting around in Japan. The reason is because there are many places that aren’t labelled in English, making them difficult to find.

HOW TO USE THE MAP: You can use the Sapporo winter itinerary map as is but if you’d like to do more with it, expand the map and create a copy in your logged-in Google account. With this copy, you’ll be able to access it in your Google Maps app under the Saved tab. Scroll to the bottom and look for the “Maps” circle.

Alternative Winter Ideas in Sapporo

In these 7 days in Sapporo in winter, we managed to pack a ton in, but there’s still quite a bit that we missed.

We skipped several key places because we saw a lot of it in our week in Sapporo in the fall (itinerary coming soon) but we’d be remiss to mention these alongside other locations.

  • Sapporo Beer Museum – This is the home of the iconic Japanese beer brand. It’s easy to get here by subway. Learn about it’s humble beginnings, sample their various beers, buy souvenirs, and eat at their restaurants.
  • Shiroi Koibito Park – A theme park inspired by the famous square cookies from Hokkaido. It’s a magical wonderland that’s worth visiting all-year round. We highly recommend that you do their cooking making and decorating class (reservations required).
  • Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival – This isn’t tied to Sapporo Snow Festival but it overlaps with it. South of Sapporo and closer to Chitose is Lake Shikotsu where giant ice sculptures turn the space into an ice palace.
  • Mt. Moiwa – For the best views of the city, take the ropeway up to the top of the mountain and its observation deck. This is great during the day but night views are amazing as well so consider an evening tour like this one.
  • Maruyama Park and Hokkaido Shrine – This is located in the heart of the city is a great spot to take a break, go for a walk, go snowshoeing, wildlife viewing, and it’s also where you’ll find the sacred grounds of Hokkaido Shrine.
  • Maruyama Zoo – Adjoining Maruyama Park is the city’s zoo with over 170 animal species.
  • Nakajima Park – Covering 23 hectares, this is one of the main parks in Sapporo. What most people don’t know is that in the winter, the park offers cross-country ski rentals for free.
  • AOAO SAPPORO – This is a newly opened aquarium of “wonder” and “discovery” that is highlighted by penguins, mesmerizing jellyfish, digital projections, and beautifully laid out viewing spaces.

For alternative winter adventure activities, here are a few that you could potentially swap in.

  • Snowmobiling and Snow Park Bundle – This is a full day trip that includes snowmobiling, time in a snow park, Genghis Khan BBQ, and ice cream making.
  • Snowmobiling Exclusive – Choose between 60 or 90 minute snowmobiling sessions with the option of a Genghis Khan BBQ for lunch.
  • Fat Biking – Private tour where you’ll be able to ride a fat bike in the Shinshinotsu area of Sapporo.
  • Smelt Fishing – Go on an ice fishing excursion where you’ll learn how to drill a hole in the ice, fish for smelt, have them as tempura, and go sledding/tubing at Kairaku Park. As a bonus, you’ll also get a free ticket to the Sapporo TV Tower.

There are of course a number of day-trip options from Sapporo as well.

Renting A Car in Sapporo

For the winter itinerary that we’ve put together, everything can be done without a car but if you are comfortable renting a car and would like more autonomy, here are a few tidbits that you should consider and know about.

Why it’s a good idea to rent a car:

  • Downtown Sapporo is easy to to get around by walking and public transportation but once you venture out further to say Hill on the Buddha, Jozankei, Kokusai Ski Resort, and others, you’ll be relying on buses which means working around their schedule. Having a car will give you the freedom to go according to your schedule.
  • Potential money savings compared to booking private transfers between locations.
  • Allows for more spontaneity in terms of adding new stops or changing itinerary last-minute.

Why it’s a bad idea to rent a car:

  • Driving in the winter in Sapporo can be quite nerve racking and challenging because there is considerably snow cover on the road which some may not be used to.
  • On heavy snowfall days where visibility is very low, driving conditions can be quite dangerous.
  • You don’t necessarily save that much time by driving a car as you won’t be able to drive much faster in the snow.

Tips:

  • Parking isn’t something that you want to deal with when you’re in downtown Sapporo so you’ll want to build your itinerary around grouping all of the driving days together.
  • You need an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) to rent cars in Japan. Make sure you get one from your home country before you come here. In Canada, that means dropping by a CAA and in the United States, AAA.
  • In Japan, you drive on the left side of the road so keep that in mind. This might take some time to get used to at first but the good news is that there aren’t many cars in Hokkaido and Japanese drivers, in general, are not aggressive.
  • There may be an option to rent an ETC card with your vehicle. This is an IC card that’ll allow you to use the ETC (Electronic Toll Collection) lane on expressways that have tolls. For this itinerary, you will not need one but if you plan on extending your trip out to say, Otaru, Noboribetsu, Furano, and Asahikawa, you’ll need it.
  • Expect the check-in process to be extremely thorough and slow. From our experience, almost every single car rental check-in took 40 minutes.
  • Booking through third-party platforms is perfectly safe and reliable. In fact, you can often find discounted rates through something like Klook.
  • We tested RentalCars and DiscoverCars and they unfortunately don’t show Japanese car rental agencies. This is why Klook is your best bet.

How to save money:

  • Car rental coupon codes are not commonplace in Japan and since the big companies such as Avis, Hertz, National, and Enterprise can’t be found in this part of Hokkaido, you won’t be able to use them.
  • It’s worth checking out the Times Car deals page which is the only company that offers seasonal deals.
  • Anecdotally, I found the best prices when searching through Klook or booking direct with Nippon, Times, and Toyota with car rentals all over Japan.

5 Sapporo Winter Travel Tips

It’s easy to get away with a lot of things when you travel in the summer but winter is a whole other beast especially if you build your trip around the Sapporo Snow Festival which not-so-coincidentally is the coldest time of the year (to keep those sculptures intact of course!)

In this list of Sapporo winter tips, we’ll cover a mix of the essentials that’ll ensure you don’t miss the small and big details that not only relate to winter travel in Hokkaido but also, general things that are easy to miss if you haven’t been to Japan before (or in awhile).

1 – It’s colder than you think

Don’t underestimate the cold in Sapporo. While you might get lucky with milder days, it’s better to be over-prepared than freezing when that windy chill cuts like a knife.

We were most cozy when we had this layer system set up. At the same time, dressing in layers helps regulate your temperature because they also blast the heat indoors.

These are recommendation for men but can be easily replicated for women as well as Chantelle wore something quite similar.

Top

  • Base layer – Your first layer on top should be a comfy, warm, and ventilating piece like the Arc’teryx Rho Hybrid Crew.
  • Active fleece – These can be zip up or crew style but these give you additional warmth while staying quite breatheable. An example of this is the Patagonia R1 Air Crewneck.
  • Mid-layer jacket – Our trusted mid-layer jacket is the Arc’teryx Atom Hoody that is great on its own in milder temperatures but also gives you that insulation you need in cold weather.
  • Shell jacket – Your final layer on top should be waterproof and your shield against wind. We’re big fans of the Arc’teryx Beta that’s great for everyday use but also on the mountain as well.

Bottom

  • Base layer bottom – On top of underwear, add something like an Arc’teryx Rho Hybrid.
  • Fleece bottom layer – This is effectively a second base layer but for those that get cold easily, the Rho Heavy Bottom gives superior warmth.
  • Pant shell – Pairing with your shell jacket, the Arc’teryx Beta Pant is also a versatile piece that works great for skiing and snowboarding as well.
  • Boots – The most underrated piece of winter kit are a good pair of boots. Sorel makes some of the best winter boots on the market. Look for one that can handle heavy snow, is waterproof, and insulated.

Accessories

  • Polar buff – I’m a big fan of the regular buff in other seasons but the fleece added in the polar buff is as sweet addition.
  • Gloves – You could go with regular shell gloves but as a photography, I’ve need to invest in versatile gloves from The Heat Company that turn into super-warm mittens but can also flip open to use my fingers when I need to operate my phone or camera.
  • Toque/beanie – Don’t let your ears get cold. I love rocking the the Grotto Toque.
  • Ice cleats crampons – It was no joke how slippery the Sapporo Snow Festival was and wish we had these crampons with us.

2 – Sapporo Snow Festival is the busiest time of the winter

The Sapporo Snow Festival draws a big crowd, both domestically and internationally, so you definitely don’t want to procrastinate when it comes to making reservations.

Even more important are the easy-to-miss small details of this trip. Make sure to get ahead of these bookings to avoid disappointment:

  • Winter activities (i.e. snowshoeing and horseback riding)
  • Free shuttle service if there’s one availble (i.e. Jozankei Dai-ichi Hotel Suizantei)
  • Bus reservations (i.e. Kappa Bus Liner)
  • Private onsen
  • Ryokan meal time slots
  • Restaurant reservations

3 – Onsens and winter are the perfect match

Even more-so than other times of the year, you should really consider booking hotels that have onsens. In Downtown Sapporo, that’s harder to do as not all have onsens.

Here are a few hotels that you should consider booking that are also in great locations.

If it’s your first time going to an onsen, make sure to read this guide on how to take an onsen bath.

4 – Expect to use more cash than you think

A common question that comes up when planning a trip to Japan is how much cash you should exchange.

While in the city, credit cards are widely accepted, there are still a ton of instances that are cash-only. Here are just a few examples:

  • General vending machines – In general vending machines only take coins and ¥1,000 bills.
  • Ramen vending machine – Most ramen shops use self-serve machines and they only take cash.
  • Bus fare – There are buses that don’t take IC cards or have credit card tap. In these cases, you’ll need to have cash on you or it’ll be a very awkward situation getting off the bus.
  • Lockers – Lockers in ski resorts only take coins.
  • Shrines – You always want to have ¥100 coins on hand in case you’d like to make a prayer at a shrine or pay for a paper fortune.
  • Capsule toys – These vending machines are called gashpon and they dispense mystery ball capsules. These are coin-operated.
  • Cash-only businesses – This is a general catch all for many businesses that decided to not take credit card. This can include tour operators or smaller food vendors.

A note about the ¥2,000 bill – Issued to commemorate the millennium and the G8 summit, it’s still legal tender but are no longer in circulation in Japan. However, the note is commonly part of foreign exchange in countries like Canada and the UK. As a result, you’ll get a lot of long stares when you use them as it’s quite rare. Most places will accept them (sometimes only after discussion with the manager) but where you’ll run into an issue is with vending machines as not all accept them.

A note about contactless credit cards – From personal experience, we found that not all machines accepted international contactless payment methods for both physical and digital wallet cards.

5 – It’s very dry in Hokkaido

We experienced the dry-ness first-hand with our time in Eastern Hokkaido and Sapporo in September and October. It’s even more noticeable in the winter.

Everyone has their own remedy for dry weather conditions but taking what we also learned in the Atacama Desert of Chile, you’ll want to make sure you have these handy:

  • Lip Balm – Have this in your pocket at all times as we felt like we had to be pretty diligent about applying this throughout the day.
  • Body cream – Hotels and onsens will have this but Chantelle swears by La Roche-Posay’s Lipikar AP+ which is ultra moisturizing.
  • Hand cream – Your hands will definitely feel the dryness the most because you’ll be taking your gloves on and off and typically be the most exposed so also make sure you have this with you.
  • Eye drops – Everyone is a little different here but we certainly felt that our eyes were significantly drier in Sapporo. The ones that do the best are the preservative-free drops and these days, we’ve found that the HYLO ones are the most effective.

How Much Did This Trip Cost

A common question we get from our itineraries is how much does trip cost so it’s always a worthwhile exercise to diligently track expenses and break it down by categories.

Below is a table of our trip costs for two people, converted to USD.

Category Amount (USD)
Accommodations $2,657
Activity $1,516
eSIM (Airalo) $8
Flight $4,622
Food $762
Souvenir $35
Transportation $108
TOTAL $9,708

Average cost of the trip per person, per day:

  • Including flights: $607 USD
  • Without flights: $318 USD

To put this in perspective these are examples of other daily averages (USD/person/day) without book-end flights:

Closing Thoughts On Winter In Sapporo

godzilla snow sculpture sapporo snow festival

We were lucky enough to spend a week in Sapporo in the fall (itinerary coming soon) but there was always the lingering voice in our heads saying “this place must be amazing in the winter!”. Indeed it is.

If we were to distill our 1 week Sapporo winter itinerary into a few key thoughts, these are the lasting feelings we left with.

There is a lot of snow here – We naively thought that the winter in Sapporo would be similar to Toronto as the latitude is pretty similar. Boy, were we wrong. When you get to Sapporo and see how high the snowbanks are on the side of city streets, you realize why this is an awesome major city for winter outdoor pursuits, why it makes sense that the Sapporo Snow Festival can be held here, and why the mountains are perfect for skiing and snowboarding.

Sapporo Snow Festival is incredible – We thought we’ve seen snow and ice sculptures before with the likes of the Banff SnowDays in our 6 day winter itinerary and Winter Carnaval in Quebec City but this is a whole other level. With 100+ snow sculptures and 60 ice sculptures, we were at awe with the scope and scale of the whole event.

More than just a winter adventure – I think it’s natural to think that a lot of what’s in this itinerary can be done anywhere else but what makes Sapporo special is that you can pair all of the winter activities with what Japan does best – their hospitality, culture, and food. For us, it was the onsen at every hotel we had, especially at Suizantei, mountainous bowls of fresh seafood on rice, and the waves goodbye that made this trip more than just your average snowboarding getaway.

That about sums up our thoughts on our winter edition trip to Sapporo. It was Godzilla-level epic 🙂

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to go to Sapporo in the winter time?

If you’re seeking snow, Sapporo gets heavy snow in January and February. The best time to visit is during the Sapporo Snow Festival which occurs in the first half of February where you can combine the event with other winter activities.

When is the Sapporo Snow Festival?

Sapporo Snow Festival lands on the first part of February and for the past few years has landed on February 4-11, spanning 8 days. The exact date may change year to year.

How cold is the winter in Sapporo?

At the peak of winter, the average minimum is -8.4°C (17°F) and a maximum of -1.2°C (30°C).

Which month gets the most snow in Sapporo?

The months of January and February get the most snowfall in Sapporo.

Can you go skiing and snowboarding from Sapporo?

Yes, Sapporo has 3 mountains within 1 hours available – Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort, Sapporo Teine, Bankei Ski Area, Sapporo Moiwayama Ski Area, Fu’s Snow Area, and Takino Snow World. There are also 30 mountains surrounding Sapporo that are suitable for backcountry skiing.

What type of winter activities are popular in Sapporo?

There are a variety of outdoor winter activities visitors can enjoy including skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snow rafting, tubing, horseback riding, smelt fishing, and snowmobiling to name a few.

How many days do you need for a winter trip to Sapporo?

7 days is the perfect amount of time to build a Sapporo winter itinerary that can include a balanced mix of outdoor activities, time at the Sapporo Snow Festival, a visit to the onsen town of Jozankei, skiing or snowboarding, and opportunities to try a wide range of Japanese food.

Read More Japan Travel Content

Where To Book Hotels in Japan

  • After considerable testing between Booking.com, Expedia, and Agoda, we learned that Agoda has not only an advantage in terms of having more inventory of hotels in Japan, but it is almost always cheaper as well.

Travel Resources For Your Next Trip

If you’re in the process of planning your trip and putting together your itinerary, these are genuinely the best resources that the Going Awesome Places team stands by 100%.

Flights: Of all the booking search engines, Skyscanner is the most helpful and easy to use thanks to their Everywhere feature.

Car Rental: If you’re looking to save money, these car rental coupon codes will be a true game-changer. Otherwise, DiscoverCars and RentalCars are great places to start.

park sleep fly airport parking discount code

Airport Parking: You’ll need a spot to leave your car at the airport so why not book a spot at a discount. Use code AWESOME7 to get at least $5 off at Airport Parking Reservations or Park Sleep Fly packages.

Data: We’ve been a huge fan of wifi hotspot devices like PokeFi because their rates are so good and you can use it globally but recently, we’ve really loved using eSIMs. The best one is Airalo. Save money by getting region-specific eSIMs and use referral code WILLIA9500 to get $3 USD credit on your first purchase. Ubigi is another one that we’ve had success with where they uniquely offer 5G coverage. Use code AWESOME10 to save 10% on your first order.

Hotels: Our go-to is Booking.com because they have the best inventory of properties including hotels and B&Bs plus they have their Genius tier discounts. The exception is Asia where Agoda always has the best prices. TripAdvisor is also useful for reviews and bookings.

Vacation Rentals: Your first instinct will be to check Airbnb but we always recommend checking VRBO as well if you’re looking for a vacation rental.

Travel Insurance: Learn how to buy the best travel insurance for you. This isn’t something you want to travel without.

  • Insured Nomads – Popular insurance provider for frequent travelers and comes with great coverage and special perks.
  • RATESDOTCA – Search engine Canadians looking for the cheapest insurance including multi-trip annual policies.
  • SafetyWing – A perfect fit for long-term nomads.
  • Medjet – Global air medical transportation.
  • InsureMyTrip – Best for seniors, families, and those with pre-existing conditions.

If you need more help planning your trip, make sure to check out our Travel Toolbox where we highlight all of the gear, resources, and tools we use when traveling.