More than 1100km north of Tokyo lies the cool capital of Hokkaido, Japan’s fifth largest city. While things begin to heat up during the East Asian summer, Japan’s northernmost island often experiences a much cooler climate, where the days are breezy and the nights are even better. Thanks to the extension of the Shinkansen earlier in 2016, the city is now more accessible than ever. Whether you’re flying in for a weekend getaway or adding it into to your travel itinerary, here’s how to spend 24 hours in the northern capital.
9am: Grab life by the bars
Regardless of where you are in Japan, you’ll always see people out and about, zooming around on their bikes. In fact, 85% of the 13 million Tokyoites own a bike — a pretty incredible stat. So why not jump on the Nihon bandwagon and grab yourself a set of wheels for the day? You can buzz around the city in no time at all, and have a little Japanese experience of your own. Get bike hire service Porocle to sort you out.
11am: Get a kick from your local
Good coffee goes a long way, and Shirayuki’s hole-in-the-wall is the perfect place to grab that cup. This small shop is one of only two in Japan, and the friendly staff will make you smile with a morning welcome and some warm joe. If you’d like somewhere to sit and enjoy your coffee, Ordori Park is very close by — or you could always sip it slowly as you pedal your way around the city.
1pm: Two words: Abura Soba
You’ve built up quite the appetite riding around — why not replenish yourself with a local specialty? Abura Soba is the name, and soup-less noodle is the game. There’s no English menu, so just ask for the Abura Soba and they’ll know exactly what you mean. A little tip: Without the soup it’s not so filling, so we recommend grabbing the supersized bowl if you’re up for it. P.s. Here you can also enjoy a Sapporo Classic: the 100% malt version of the Sapporo original reserved only for the lucky locals in Hokkaido.
3pm: Shop till you drop
Park up your wheels and head for a stroll down the kilometer-long arcade that is Tanukikoji. Here you can spend time in different types of stores, from secondhand shops to some of the latest Japanese fashion boutiques. Or spend a a couple of hours in the game arcade. If you’re in need of another pick-me-up and a quiet break, there’s a beautiful little spot that goes by the name Otta Cafe, and it is definitely worth checking out.
5pm: Dinner time
If Abura Soba didn’t satisfy your cravings, then be sure to indulge in a bowl of miso ramen — a tonkotsu-broth ramen that originated from Sapporo. Ramen and Hokkaido go hand in hand, so there’s no fooling around when it comes to this local dish.
7pm: Drinks with a view
The view from Sapporo Ferris Wheel and TV Tower are cool, but if you’re after something next-level you can head up to the JR 38 Observation Tower. Located on the 38th floor of JR Tower, above the train station and shopping mall, the 160-meter-tall view point is one Japan’s best, and offers a quiet space to grab a G&T and a bite to eat while you soak up the views of the capital of Hokkaido.
9pm: The night is yours
Sapporo is home to Susukino, Northern Japan’s largest entertainment district and one of the largest redlight districts in the country. This means the city comes to life at night, providing you with no shortage of karaoke bars, cocktail buffets, and night clubs. Take a stroll, pick a bar and enjoy a night out in Sapporo.