SAPPORO ON A BUDGET: Travel Guide & Itinerary

This Sapporo Travel Guide contains tips on how to get around the city, where to stay, and what places to visit, and a sample itinerary. It covers the Sapporo area only. If you want tips for a multi-city tour in Hokkaido, read this instead: Hokkaido Travel Guide. Last updated: July 2018.

No one was expecting it to arrive that early, but it did. On my last trip to Tokyo, it snowed. It would have been perfectly normal, but it was November and the first snow of the season usually falls in January. It was the first November snow in the Japanese capital in 50 years. And I was there. It was a foreshadowing. I never expected that just two months after the trip, I would be back in Japan. This time, in Sapporo.

Hokkaido has always hugged the top spot on my bucket list, way above other major Japan destinations, mainly for its longer winters and tight embrace of snow. Spending most of my life in the tropics, I’ve been kept hostage by my fascination with snow. Many of us whose roots are planted near the equator once imagined ourselves in that snowglobe we shook dreamily when we were kids. Snow is a reward, something that we could only see if we work hard enough to afford it, after we had been burdened by life’s many responsibilities. While I’m aware that too much of it has a dark side, for the young, naive me, snow is not ice powder but fairy dust, the stuff that magical places are made of. It’s no wonder I had planned on someday being able to join the Sapporo Snow Festival, but like that November snowfall, I never imagined it would come way sooner.

Understanding Sapporo City

This post is brought to you by Sapporo City Tourism Office.
It all began when the tourism bureau of Sapporo invited us to explore their city as part of their strengthened efforts to increase the number of international tourists. The northernmost prefectural capital in Japan, Sapporo requires a bit more effort to reach. Yet, it is the country’s fifth biggest city by population, which has significantly grown only in the past decades. Sapporo is one of the youngest urban areas Japan. According to tourism officials we talked to during our stay, before development began to take over in 1857, there were only 7 people living here. And because it was built not too long ago, the design of the city didn’t come about organically. It was measured and developed according to plan. The city’s blueprint is an almost perfect grid, with the Ekimae Avenue (north to south) and Odori Park (east to west) as the main axes. Much of the public infrastructures, like the subway system, were built in preparation for 1972 Winter Olympics.

Here are a few more facts you need to know:

  • Language: Japanese (Nihongo). English isn’t widely spoken.
  • Currency: Japanese Yen (JPY, ¥). JPY 1000 is roughly USD 8.92, EUR 8.12, PHP 450 (as of Feb 2017).
  • Modes of payment: Cash is preferred.
  • Electricity Info: 100V. Type A sockets. Plugs have two flat pins. Type B is sometimes used but not that common.


Best Time to Visit Sapporo

Winter, of course. Although the weather isn’t always comfortable, much of what Sapporo has to offer is best enjoyed in the cold months. It gets 6m of snow a year, and the first of the season usually falls in October. By December, the entire city is already a winter wonderland, and temperatures continue to drop as the season progresses. Here are more reasons to consider visiting when it’s covered in white blanket. (Warning, though: It can get really cold, with average nighttime temperatures reaching as low as -8C.)

  • Sapporo Snow Festival, an annual week-long event held in early February, showcases giant ice and snow sculptures in many parts of the city, with the one in Odori Park getting the most attention. Last year alone, it attracted almost 2 million visitors.
  • Sapporo International Ski Marathon, a cross-country skiing marathon, starts here.
  • Sapporo White Illumination runs from mid-November to December.
  • Sapporo is a popular choice for skiing and other winter sports.

April is when it gets warmer and snow begins to melt. Have you been dreaming of cherry blossoms but you’re always unable to travel in March or April? Sapporo to the rescue. The first bloom of sakura happens much later in Sapporo than in other major cities, usually in early May.

Autumn is good, too, if you wish to see its landscapes get painted bright red and orange. The Sapporo Autumn Festival happens in September, but make sure to bring a cardigan. If you plan to visit in October, you will need a jacket.


How to Get to Sapporo

By Plane

Sapporo is served by two airports, the new Chitose Airport and the Okadama Airport. If you’re flying to Sapporo from overseas, there’s a big chance you’ll be using Chitose. However, international flights are limited to China, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau, Honolulu, Guam, and Australia. Most journeys make a connection in Tokyo or another major city.

Manila to Sapporo by Plane

Starting September 10, 2018, Philippine Airlines will be flying nonstop from Manila to Sapporo! Their introductory price for a round-trip ticket is USD 399, inclusive of baggage allowance, meals, and other surcharges. This is great for those who also value their time. Flying directly will cut short the total travel time and skip the layover at another airport, which will give you more time to actually enjoy the destination. The fare is also not far from the fares of flights with stops, so you might as well consider PAL.

For example, the lowest regular, year-round fares are often offered by Taiwan’s flag-carrier China Airlines, and the price is close to PAL’s fares.

Manila to Sapporo

If you’re on a budget, you can find much much cheaper promo tickets if you book the legs of your trip separately. For example, JetStar is known to sell roundtrip Manila-Tokyo promo tickets for as low as P7000. If you’re able to snag that and then book a Tokyo-Sapporo flight for P5000, then you’ll only be spending P12,000 for your full journey.

Tokyo to Sapporo by Plane

The flight from Tokyo to Sapporo usually takes 1 hour and 40 minutes. JetStar offers round-trip flights for less than USD 100 (PHP 5000).

Skyscanner

Osaka to Sapporo by Plane

Flights from Osaka takes around 2 hours but usually costs just a tad higher.

Skyscanner

By Train

Taking the train to Sapporo from other major cities outside Hokkaido is both time-consuming and expensive, which is why I don’t recommend it unless you’re on a multi-city tour around Japan.

Tokyo to Sapporo by Train

  1. Take the Shinkansen Hayabusa to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station. Travel time: 4.5 hours. Reserved seat fee: ¥11,130 ($100, P5000).
  2. Switch to Limited Express Hokuto Line and alight at Sapporo Station. Travel time: 3 hours, 40 minutes. Reserved seat fee: ¥1550 ($14, P700); Unreserved seat ¥1290 ($11.5, P580).

The whole journey takes over 8 hours, not counting the layover time. The total fare for 2 legs is ¥14,140. That’s on top of the seat fees. So the whole journey would cost you around ¥26,820 ($240, P12,000). That’s just one way!

Osaka to Sapporo by Train

To get to Sapporo from Osaka, you will need to make a transfer in Tokyo.

  1. From Shin-Osaka Station (not to be confused with Osaka Station), take the Shinkansen Nozomi to Tokyo Station. Travel time: 2 hours, 33 minutes. Reserved seat fee: ¥5700 ($51, P2550); Unreserved seat fee: ¥4870 ($44, P2180).
  2. Take the Shinkansen Hayabusa to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station. Travel time: 4.5 hours. Reserved seat fee: ¥11,130 ($100, P5000).
  3. Switch to Limited Express Hokuto Line and alight at Sapporo Station. Travel time: 3 hours, 40 minutes. Reserved seat fee: ¥1550 ($14, P700); Unreserved seat ¥1290 ($11.5, P580).

Total travel time is 10.5 hours, excluding the layovers. The total fare from Osaka to Sapporo is ¥18,140. Add the seat fees and you’ll have to shell out around ¥36,520 ($326, P16,400).

See now why we advise against it? Flying is faster and much, much cheaper.

But if you’re visiting multiple cities, then you will get great savings if you just book a JR Pass. This makes sense if you want to explore not just one or two cities. For example, if your itinerary includes Osaka, Tokyo, and Sapporo in 7 days.

Also, riding the bullet train across the Japanese countryside is quite an experience too.

Where to Book JR Pass

Japan JR Pass

If you’re visiting multiple cities in Japan and you’re staying for 7 days, you can save A LOT OF MONEY by getting a Train Pass. Klook offers the cheapest JR Passes available. If you live in the Philippines, the pass will be delivered to you in 7 days.

CHECK JR PASS RATES HERE


How to Get from the New Chitose Airport to Sapporo City Center

  1. From the New Chitose Airport, travel on foot to the New Chitose Airport Station (train).
  2. Take the JR Rapid Airport Line headed for Otaru or Sapporo.
  3. Get off at Sapporo Station.

Fare is ¥1070 ($9.6, P480). You may reserve a seat for ¥520 if you want, but you can simply hop on to the cars with unreserved seats (FREE).

Travel time: 37 minutes.

Jozankei Shrine
Jozankei Shrine.

How to Get Around Sapporo

Thanks to grid design, it is easy to explore the city center of Sapporo even on foot. You can simply divide the map into four quadrants with the Ekimae Avenue (north to south) and Odori Park (east to west) as the main axes. Each block in the city measures 100 meters so it’s not difficult to keep track how far you are from where you came from. I thoroughly enjoyed walking around even in the cold, cold evenings. And if you’re walking along Odori, it’s literally a walk in the park!

For not-so-short distances, there’s always the subway. To make it even easier, go to Hyperdia.com on your web browser. Enter your origin and the station where you’re going. It will then display possible route options including how much the ride costs and transfers needed to get there. At the train station, you can double check the price. Just look at the route map, usually above the ticket machines. The map displays the price based on distance. Sometimes, the map is in Japanese characters only, which is why Hyperdia is useful.

Internet Connection in Sapporo

There are a lot of FREE wi-fi spots throughout Japan, but if you want to stay connected 24/7, you can rent a mobile wi-fi or get a local 4G SIM.

Pocket Wifi Rental

Japan Pocket Wifi The cheapest way of getting connected to the Internet in Japan is renting a mobile wi-fi. It can accommodate multiple users so if you’re a group, you just need one and split the cost. You’ll find a lot of them around, even at the airport. However, based on experience, they are so in demand that every time I try to get one, there’s always none left. Fortunately, with Klook, you can reserve one and just pick it up at the airport!

For 4G Wifi Rental: CHECK RATES OR RESERVE HERE

Local 4G SIM

Japan 4G SIM If you opt with a 4G Data SIM, you can choose between two packages: unlimited 4G data for 8 days (around P1500) and 3GB data for 8 days (around P1100). If you’re a heavy data user, best to go with the Unlimited Plan. You can pick up the SIM card at Chitose Airport.

For 4G SIM Card: CHECK RATES OR RESERVE HERE


Places to Visit in Sapporo

Below is a list of Sapporo tourist spots. To see what they look like, check out this video:

  • Historical Village of Hokkaido (aka Kaitaku no Mura), an open-air museum that showcases 60 Meiji- and Taisho-era buildings that were moved from different parts of the prefecture. Admission: ¥830.
  • Hokkaido Shrine, built in 1869 in honor of the three pioneering gods of Hokkaido. Admission: FREE.
  • Odori Park, at the heart of the city, offers a natural respite from the sprawling metropolis. It also hosts the Snow Festival in February. At the end of it stands the Sapporo Clock Tower.
  • Moerenuma Park, a great destination for snow activities like sledding and snowboarding in winter. It’s a beautifully manicured park for the rest of the year. Admission: FREE.
  • Ishiya Chocolate Factory, where a guided tour will let you see how they make the famous Hokkaido white chocolate.
  • Jozankei, which is an hour drive from the city center. Famous for its hot springs (onsen) and shrine.
  • Sapporo Beer Museum and Beer Garden, where you can take a free guided tour on Japan’s beer culture. Afterward, you may sample the beers or have what locals call the Genghis Khan, a dish composed of grilled lamb meat and vegetables.
  • Sapporo Dome, where the biggest baseball and soccer (football) games are held. There’s also a small exhibit inside.
  • Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium, which was the site of the 90m jump competition at the 1972 Olympics. A double lift system takes passengers to a viewing deck atop, for a wonderful vista. Fee: ¥500
  • Mt. Teine (Teineyawa). Another 1972 Winter Olympics venue with slopes perfect for skiing for beginners and professionals alike. 7-hr lift access + Bus fares: ¥6700. Ski set rental: ¥4900

Mt. Moiwa (Moiwayama) provides one of the most spectacular city lights views in Japan. Accessible via cable car. Fee: ¥1700

Mt. Moiwa

CHECK RATES OR RESERVE HERE

Sapporo TV Tower

Sapporo TV Tower
Photo provided by Klook

BOOK TICKETS HERE


Day Tours around Sapporo

We often advocate traveling DIY-style, but if for whatever reason you can’t do it on your own, you can also join a group or private tour of Sapporo. Klook offers two city tours: one in the morning and another in the afternoon. They have different stops and itineraries, although both tours stop at the Clock Tower and Government Building.

Aside from the city tours, we also listed down below some tours around Hokkaido. The links below will take you to Klook, where you will find information about the tour.

Sapporo Morning Bus Tour

Sapporo Morning Bus Tour
Image provided by Klook

RESERVE A SEAT

Sapporo Afternoon Bus Tour

Sapporo Afternoon Bus Tour
Image provided by Klook

RESERVE A SLOT HERE

Hokkaido Otaru Rickshaw Tour

Hokkaido Otaru Rickshaw Tour
Image provided by Klook

CHECK RATES OR RESERVE HERE

Tea Ceremony in Hokkaido

Tea Ceremony in Hokkaido
Photo provided by Klook

CHECK RATES OR RESERVE HERE

Lake Shikotsu and Lake Toya Tour

Lake Shikotsu and Lake Toya Tour
Photo provided by Klook

CHECK RATES OR RESERVE HERE

Otaru Bay Story Tour

Otaru Bay Story Tour
Photo provided by Klook

CHECK RATES OR RESERVE HERE


Interesting Events in Sapporo

Here are some of the biggest happenings in Sapporo that can help you decide when to visit.

  • Sapporo Snow Festival, February
  • Sapporo International Ski Marathon
  • Jozankei Yukitouro (Snow Lanterns), a few days in winter (dates change)
  • Sapporo White Illumination, mid-November to December
  • Cherry Blossoms, late April to early May
  • Sapporo Autumn Festival, September.

Where to Stay in Sapporo

Top Budget Hotels Under $60

Below is the highest rated budget hotel in Traveloka as of writing.

Daiwa Roynet Hotel Sapporo-Susukino

Daiwa Roynet Hotel Sapporo-Susukino
2-1 Nishi-1-Chome, Minami-4-jo, Chuo-ku, Susukino, Sapporo

Check Rates & Availability

Other Top Budget Hotels in Sapporo:

Top Sapporo Hostel

Ten to Ten Hokkaido Hostel and Kitchen

Ten to Ten Hokkaido Hostel and Kitchen
5-288-5 Minami 8jo Nishi, Chuo-ku, Susukino, Sapporo

Check Rates & Availability

Other Top Sapporo Hostels:

Search for more: Sapporo Hotels


What to Eat in Sapporo

  • Crabs! Hokkaido is famous for its crabs including King Crabs, Hairy Crabs, and Snow Crabs.
  • Kaisen Don (assorted sashimi on rice). Although widely popular all over Japan, Hokkaido’s specialty is seafood!
  • Miso Ramen. Every city in Japan has its own signature ramen. For Sapporo, that’s the miso variety.
  • Genghis Khan (grilled lamb with vegetables)
  • Soup curry is also wildly popular in Hokkaido!
  • Seafood hot pot

Sample Sapporo Itinerary

Here’s a sample 5-day 3-night itinerary. As always, make the necessary adjustments to match your preferences.

Day 1: ARRIVAL
Arrival in Sapporo
Hotel Check-in
Jozankei Onsen and Shrine

Day 2: Snow Fun Option A
If you want to ski: go to Mt. Teine.

Day 2: Snow Fun Option B
If you don’t want to ski, you can still enjoy other snow activities at Moerenuma Park
Lunch and shopping at JR Sapporo station complex
Mt. Moiwa at night

Day 3: History and Beer
Hokkaido Historical Village
Lunch
Hokkaido Shrine
Sapporo Beer Museum
Dinner at Sapporo Beer Garden

Day 4: Food Trip and Shopping
Shop at Sapporo Central Wholesale Fish Market
Seafood Lunch
Odori Park (Snow Festival, if happening)
Shopping

Day 5: DEPARTURE


Other Useful Tips

  • Snow can be dangerously slippery. A good sign that the snow is good to be stepped on is if it’s white and powdery. If it’s gray or blackish and looks compact because a lot of people have stepped on it, there’s a big chance they’re slippery. So be careful. You can also buy those anti-slip… uhm… things (I don’t know what they’re called, haha) that you can attach to your shoes, just not the metal ones. (The metal ones have to be removed when you go inside an establishment.)
  • Make time allowance for the traffic. Sapporo’s best attractions are so far apart, and while the subway is there, some can only be reached by bus or by car. If that’s the case, consider the time you’re gonna spend in traffic.
  • Japanese chocolates and biscuits are a bit cheaper at the New Chitose Airport than in Haneda or Narita. For example, Royce’s Nama Chocolate costs ¥720 per box in Chitose and ¥780 in Haneda. I know that’s not much, but savings are savings.
  • If you have low cold tolerance, purchase a heat pack from a convenience store and keep it near your body (inside your jacket). This will make your trip more comfortable.
  • Tipping is not common in Sapporo. To settle your bill, you are expected to approach the cashier on your way out. The cashier is usually stationed by the entrance/exit.
  • Many vending machines serve both cold and hot drinks. Most people are surprised to learn about the hot options. Really helpful when you’re out in the cold.
  • Japanese bills look alike (same color). What varies is the size of the bill. The ¥1000 and ¥10,000 can be confusing so be careful. However, the Japanese are highly UNLIKELY to take advantage. They will even be the first to tell you.
  • When using the escalator, keep left if you’re not moving.
  • Learn a few Japanese phrases. The most useful would be Sumimasen (Excuse me, sorry) and Arigatoo gozaimasu (Thank you).

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Yoshke Dimen

Yoshke Dimen

Storyteller at Yoshke.com
Yoshke is a part-time digital marketing consultant, part-time travel blogger, and full-time dreamer. He has three passions in life: social media, travel, and --- wait for it --- world peace. Yoshke has won 3 PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS and received 9 nominations. Learn more about his personal journeys at Yoshke.com.
Yoshke Dimen

Comments

  1. Rochelle says:

    Awesome job! You covered the information quite well–practical and useful for travelers. Keep up the great work!

  2. Grace Sabado says:

    Hi. Very useful guide, thanks for compiling info from your travels. Would you recommend the same itinerary for May or June travel? Our group plans to go around that time. Also, are there travel guides whom we can hire to help us around? Thank you!

    • Yoshke Dimen says:

      Hi Grace, yes, except maybe the ski jump and Mt. Teine. Also try to visit a flower farm since you’ll be there in spring/summer. We didn’t get to see any coz they were covered in snow haha

  3. jeffrey says:

    hi! this is a very nice and detailed blog about hokkaido.. im trying to check for flights on china airlines, but cant seem to make it work, when i type manila as my origin city, sapporo won’t come out as a destination city. thanks!

  4. Benes says:

    Hi! Nice post very helpful since we’re also planning to visit Japan next year! We’re planning on doing Winter/Spring itinerary by going to Sapporo first then Tokyo. What would be the best dates to that? We initially plan on Feb 26 up until March 4. Hoping to get the best of both the winter wonderland in Sapporo and the cherry blossoms in Tokyo.

    • Yoshke Dimen says:

      Hi Benes, okay sana if maexperience nyo ung snow festival in Sapporo, but it’s usually Feb Week 1, which is too far from Tokyo cherry blossoms na usually late March/early April.

      So depende ano mas gusto nyo maexperience. For me though, mas maganda yung cherry blossoms than snow festival, so I would suggest na late March kayo mag-start,

  5. Jaime says:

    Hi! I’m planning a trip to Sapporo via plane only. I just wanted to know if I need to indicate both flights (Manila-Tokyo and Tokyo-Sapporo) in my Japan Visa application form? Or do I only put the international flight (Manila-Tokyo)? Thanks!

    • Yoshke Dimen says:

      Hi Jaime, ako I just put the Manila-Tokyo flight number when I applied. Not sure if that’s the right thing to do, but that’s what I did. haha. Naapprove naman.

  6. Jaime says:

    Thanks! Should I already be prepared for snow around late November? What are the chances of snowfall during my trip?

    • Yoshke Dimen says:

      I dunno how long your stay is gonna be, but there is a good chance. Sapporo is said to have at least 10 snow days in November.

  7. jeni says:

    Hi! Thank you so much for this article. I think it’s the most helpful & complete i found so far. I’m planning to visit last week of November for just about 4-5 days so you. Think it’s best to go via plane?

  8. Arnel A. says:

    Hi! Thanks for another informative post. I have not seen you recommend going to Sapporo in July. How’s the weather there pag ganung time? We plan to hike Mt. Fuji kasi kaya July-Sep ang target dates namin.

    • Yoshke Dimen says:

      Hi Arnel, I haven’t been to Sapporo in July because I dislike traveling in summer in general. haha. But according to climate websites, summer in Sapporo is mild and it doesn’t get too hot, so it should be fine.

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