Hokkaido 1 - Sapporo
I beginned my trip to Hokkaido with Sapporo. You may have heard that name...indeed, apart from being the fifth largest city in Japan (nearly two million people, a remarkable feat considering its construction only began in 1868 and only a handful of people lived there then) and the largest by far in Hokkaido, it is also famous for its beer.
I have visited quite a few cities in Japan and so far, the only two where I could live are Nagoya (where, thankfully, I am!...) and Sapporo. Both have in common a very relaxed atmosphere (some will say "boring"...), while having all the facilities of a major city, with large and spacious avenues. In other words, they are very enjoyable and easy to live. I would tend to say that Nagoya has a better overall location, with fast and easy access to all famous Japanese cities (Kyoto, Nara etc.), as well as a flourishing economy. On the other hand, Sapporo has more greenery and easier access to real nature. Furthermore, its inhabitants are particularly friendly and welcoming, contrasting with its colder climate. Here are some shots of the city:
Sapporo features an exception when it comes to the addressing system. While the rest of the country uses the "block" thing (please read this post again), they just use streets. Every main street is numbered from a reference point, for instance N5W4 means "north 5-west 4". It has no character, but on the other hand this system is really functional:
Sapporo's most famous culinary specialties are the crab, particularly tasty, and the ramen (noodle soop, originally from China). I tend not to trust Japanese rankings without actually trying myself, as everyone says that things are good just because everyone says they are good. But in this case I tried and yes, they are definitely up to the reputation! One can eat those specialties anywhere in Sapporo but there are recommended places. For the crab, the best place is the fish market:
And for the ramen, "ramen yokocho", a passage that has nothing but ramen stalls:
Here is the best "chashumen" (ramen with pork slices) I have ever had, even if it doesn't really look tasty on the picture:
Apart from that, there's not much to do in Sapporo. It seems very nice to live but when it comes to tourism, one day is largely enough. If I really had to mention something, then it would be the local "Eiffel tower":
And the clock, built in 1879 and symbol of the city:
Those are about the only sightseeing spots...Sapporo is perfect to get some rest the first day after traveling as well as tasting the local dishes and experience the atmosphere, and of course prepare an itinerary if not done yet. It was necessary in my case because I had done nothing, just arriving with my backpack with no information on Hokkaido whatsoever, and no reservation anywhere.
The city is also famous for an event that occurs every year in february: the snow festival, where lots of artists built huge and amazing snow sculptures. You might have heard of/and seen pictures of it. Otherwise, I am planning to go there next year, I'll write a post then. In the meantime, you can check out this site.
I'll conclude this post with a couple night pictures: