Category Archives: sapporo

Shiroi Koibito Park: Chocolate Museum and Factory

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Chocolate (or cocoa) is produced since thousands of years. It has been used in religious events, as a currency and even a medicine. Early cultures in South America called it the food of god. While considerably shorter, chocolate has a history in Japan too. Ishiya is a Sapporo-based chocolate company famous for Shiroi Koibito (White Lover), a butter cookie with white chocolate in between. The Shiroi Koibito Park is the place where you can learn more about the history of chocolate, make your own cookies and take a look at the Ishiya factory. There’s actually even more to see there.

There’s not much to do during Winter outside (the park). One booth was open and selling drinks. You can take pictures of the seasonal decoration and illumination. Access to the park and the Ishiya shop is free. The actual museum and factory costs 600 Yen and includes a Shiroi Koibito Passport (in Japanese) and one cookie. If you like to save money, eat the cookie in safe distance from the chocolate factory!

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The first stop is the Aurora Fountain, built by a British company in 1870. A few exhibits are shown around the fountain, more can be seen in the second part of the factory walk.

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This second part shows you cups from the 18th to early 19th century which were used to drink chocolate. Elaborate designs and the famous Meissen porcelain can be seen and show how much richer people appreciated their chocolate. A gallery displays the packaging labels.

Visitors continue to the time tunnel and the chocolate factory. Read the rest of this entry

Sapporo Station

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JR Sapporo Station is a central transportation hub in Sapporo and the station itself is connected to multiple shopping malls. Two of the subway lines (Toho and Namboku) also stop there.

One of the shopping areas is the Stellar Place Center which was decorated for christmas and wished everyone a “very xmas”. The JR Tower has an observation deck which is higher than the one of the TV tower. But after having already been to the TV tower, I didn’t feel like paying again.

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The regional JR transportation card is the Kitaca which is similar to the Suica in Tokyo. You charge the card and can then use the local transportation more conveniently. I think the Kitaca animal is cute, but it looks like it loves to jump at you from behind! I thought about getting the card just because of the animal but in Sapporo I wouldn’t use it much anyway. The subway is more convenient and for visitors, the day pass for the subway (800 Yen on weekdays, 1000 Yen for subway+bus) is a better deal. I did use my JR Rail Pass at the JR busses, when I went to the Historical Village.

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Talking about cute stuff, Kiddy Land has a small shop at the station as well. They used to have a big store at Tokyo’s Omotesando Street. The Sapporo store featured lots of “girly bears” – but really, most of Kiddy Land’s toys can be considered girly. Read the rest of this entry

Maruyama Zoo in Sapporo

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The zoo of Sapporo is in Maruyama Park near the station of the same name. Maruyama has both local and foreign animals and since many of the latter ones aren’t accustomed to the cold temperatures, the zoo has a large number of houses where they are kept.

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One of the local species is the Japanese macaques. They probably had the largest space of all species. Of course the most famous sight is seeing them in the wild, warming themselves up in a hot spring.

Tigers, lions, hyenas, giraffes, snow leopards and other animals were kept in small cages. I’ve not been to this zoo in the summer so I’m not sure whether some or all of them can go outside.

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Of course, they have penguins as well 🙂 Read the rest of this entry

Winter in Sapporo

P1160065There is rarely snow in Tokyo. Winters are dry and not as cold as in Seoul. Usually when it snowed it ended up as a snow mud and never lasted more than a few days. I still took many snow pictures however. Still, I would say that I experienced my first Japanese winter here in Sapporo!

On the day I arrived, the streets and sidewalks were already covered in snow. The streets were very slippery and even the locals had trouble going from one side to the other. Between Sapporo and Tokyo there is a temperature difference of about 10 degrees celsius.

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Obviously people living in Sapporo are well prepared for the season and while it was cold, there was no chilly wind. So I was fine in my layered clothes during my stay. Read the rest of this entry

Sapporo White Illumination Festival

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This holiday I try to visit as many illumination festivals as possible and the Sapporo White Illumination Festival was first on my list. Illumination festivals are usually held from the end of November until christmas although some are longer. Small parts of the one in Sapporo are held until the start of the snow festival when snow and ice sculptures will be built at Odori Park.

The illumination festival has different sections. The first one is on the same square as the TV tower and is the “Love Tree”.

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Love Tree with Space Tree in the background

The second one is the more futuristic “Space Tree”, a kind of modern interpretation of the christmas tree. During the Munich Christmas Market (until December 24) the tree will be in the center of the market.

The main part of the festival is located on the next two squares. Read the rest of this entry

Organic Cafe in Sapporo

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Life is not easy for vegans in Japan, but on the other hand they are usually excellent cooks (at least I assume they are). While there are quite a few vegetarian/vegan places in Tokyo (including the international Loving Hut chain), there are almost none in Sapporo. But there is one near the Maruyama Park where I ate after visiting Hokkaido Shrine and the Maruyama Zoo.

It’s a bio-organic cafe which sells cakes and cookies but also has two dishes. There is a group table and a couple of smaller ones. The drinks are a bit on the pricy side but like at every other Japanese restaurant, (tap) water is free.

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My meal consisted of six small dishes, including rice, salad and soup. I like variety and smaller portions so I liked it. The cafe reminded me a bit of Govinda’s, a vegan restaurant in Nakano I wrote about before. Comparing them further makes not much sense I guess, but the Bio Organic Cafe is a place I can recommend. Surprisingly there was also free wifi service (limited to 30 minutes) although I don’t know if it was offered by the cafe. Read the rest of this entry

Sapporo TV Tower – a tower with a moustache

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If Tom Sellek were to be reborn as a television tower, what would he look like? Maybe like the Sapporo TV Tower at Odori Park. This tower is likely a tourist trap, but there are two good reasons to visit the tower: you can see down Odori Park from the observation deck and this tower has probably the weirdest tower mascot.

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Instead of creating some animal to promote the tower, the Japanese just made the tower look more cute. “Television Daddy” (テレビ父さん) was born, a male tower with a moustache. Despite looking like a 70’s porno actor, they managed to create an awful lot of character variations. You will see more of them if you take the steps from the first (base) floor to the third one instead of using the elevator. Tickets for the observatory (700 Yen) are bought on the third floor. Read the rest of this entry

Sapporo Clock Tower

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Sapporo is a young city by Japanese standards and that’s why the Sapporo Clock Tower which was built in 1878 is a major tourist attraction. Sapporo was designed in the 70’s of the 19th century with help from the American government. Two of the remains of that era are the grid-like street system and the Clock Tower.

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Almost every tourist makes a stop at the tower either by choice or because their bus dropped them off there. Without knowing its history, it doesn’t look remarkable from the outside. Some therefore call the tower a tourist trap although I think that it has to be more expensive to count as one. Read the rest of this entry

Munich Christmas Market in Sapporo/ミュンヘンクリスマス市

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Yesterday I arrived in Sapporo which is also the first time I’m on Japan’s northernmost island Hokkaido. December is the season for illumination festivals in Japan and just next to Sapporo’s illumination festival is the Munich Christmas Market (ミュンヘンクリスマス市) in Odori Park.

With the shiny television tower in the background – which itself looks much like a christmas tree (or a shrunken Eiffel Tower) – and snow, this is the perfect place for a christmas market. Unlike Seoul’s European Christmas Market, they got everything right in Sapporo. The shops are typical for what you see in Germany and all of them are decorated in some way. There’s much attention paid to details there. The bland white booths at Seoul’s market were disappointing.

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Surprisingly, the size of the market was also alright. I’ve seen smaller christmas markets in Germany. This allows for some variety in what each booth will offer. Read the rest of this entry