Sapporo is the capital city of Hokkaido. A cosmopolitan urban center with great shopping, dining and entertainment facilities, the city also has a rich cultural heritage with many art museums and historic Meiji era buildings. Sapporo is also a convenient base for trips into Hokkaido’s countryside with its ski slopes, hot spring resorts, and mountain hiking trails.
From Osaka you can access Sapporo by plane, train, and ferry. Traveling by air is probably the easiest way to travel, but you may be able to save some money by taking the longer rail journey. Ferry trips take much longer, but will add a sense of adventure to your trip. In this article we will look at the main attractions in Sapporo before introducing the best routes to get there.
The Main Attractions
No trip to Sapporo would be complete without a quick trip to see Sapporo Clock Tower; a quaint Meiji era building dating from 1878 that is the symbol of the city. A short walk from the clock tower is the Former Hokkaido Government Office, another Meiji era building dating from 1888. This red brick building now houses a museum and is surrounded by a colorful garden. Further south in Nakajima Park is the Hoheikan, a graceful wooden building dating from 1880, that was originally a guest house for high-level guests such as members of the Imperial family, or important people from overseas. The interior can be viewed for an entry fee of 300 yen, and there is a café on site.
Sapporo Beer Museum & Garden
Sapporo Beer is the oldest beer brand in Japan, and the Sapporo brewery was first founded here in 1876. A visit to this historic location is a must when visiting Sapporo. Now the brewery site is home to the red brick Sapporo Beer Museum where you can learn all about the history of this beer and also the Sapporo Beer Garden where you can enjoy all-you-can eat barbecues of lamb and seafood while tasting the local specialty brews.
Mount Moiwa Ropeway & Cable Car
The view over Sapporo from the top of Mount Moiwa is particularly spectacular at night when all the city lights are sparkling. To get to the observation point at the top, first take the ropeway and then transfer to the cable car. The full trip costs 1,700 yen for adults and 850 yen for children. There is also a French Restaurant at the top of the mountain called Jewels which has glass walls to take full advantage of the romantic setting.
The Historical Village of Hokkaido is an open air architectural museum on the outskirts of the city. Here are preserved 52 historical structures dating from Hokkaido’s pioneering era in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The buildings reveal the old way of life in town, farm, and fishing communities. Two highlights of this establishment are the old Sapporo Station building which was reconstructed at the village entrance and the horse-drawn trams which take visitors on rides along the main thoroughfare.
The Sapporo Snow Festival is a major event which has been held in Sapporo for over 70 years. The festival takes place over seven days each February with giant snow sculptures and ice statues on display in Odori Park and the Susukino and Tsudome districts.
Traveling by Air
Flying to New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido is probably the easiest and quickest way to travel between Osaka and Sapporo. The major airlines JAL and ANA operate flights from Osaka International (Itami) Airport. Kansai International Airport also has flights operated by JAL, ANA, and low-cost airlines Peach and Jetstar. Which airport you decide to fly from may depend on the cost of tickets, or your location in Osaka. Flight times range between 2 hours and 40 minutes and 3 hours. Air tickets can range in price from 6,000 to 60,000 yen depending on which airline you fly with and when you travel. Of course you should also factor in the time it takes to get to your airport in Osaka and the price of your train or bus fee. From New Chitose Airport you can catch a rapid train that will get you to Sapporo Station in 37 minutes for 1,590 yen. There is also a limousine bus service which runs between the airport and the ANA Crowne Plaza Sapporo Hotel (which is 5 minutes from Sapporo Station). These buses take 1 hour and 8 minutes for a fare of 1,100 yen.
Traveling by Train
Most of the route between Osaka and Sapporo can be traveled by high speed bullet trains on Japan’s shinkansen network. Traveling this way will take about 11 hours and cost around 36,520 yen with reserved seats. From Shin-Osaka Station you can take a Tokaido Shinkansen service as far as Tokyo Station. Journey times between Osaka and Tokyo vary between 2 hours and 20 minutes and 3 hours depending on the service.
At Tokyo Station you can transfer to a Hokkaido Shinkansen Service which will take you to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station in Hokkaido in a little over 4 hours.
At Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station you can then board a Super Hokuto Limited Express train which will get you to Sapporo Station in around 3 hours and 40 minutes. Although the Japan Rail Pass will cover most services on this route, it does not cover Nozomi services in the Tokaido Shinkansen.
Traveling by Ferry
Regular ferry services run between Maizuru Port in Kyoto Prefecture and Otaru Port in Hokkaido. The ferry trip lasts for around 21 hours, but the price varies greatly depending on the season and the type of room that you book on the ferry. Traveling without a car can cost between 9,970 and 54,400 yen. Traveling with a car the price varies between 38,540 and 103,540 yen.
On board the ferry there are plenty of facilities including two restaurants, a cafeteria, a public bath with a sauna, a games room, a children’s play area, a self-service laundry with coin-operated machines, a cinema room, massage chairs, and vending machines with soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. Rooms vary between simple bunks in rooms for larger groups to suites with twin beds, a private bathroom, and living room. For more details please visit the English language website of Shin Nihonkai Ferry.
There are a number of different ways to travel between Osaka and Maizuru Port, and also between Otaru Port and Sapporo. These are listed below.
From Osaka to Maizuru by Car
Traveling by car you can get to Maizuru from Osaka in 1 hour and 50 minutes via the following route:
Hanshin Expressway Route 11 (Ikeda Line) > Chugoku Expressway > Maizuru-Wakasa Expressway
This route will cost you 4160 yen in toll fees. Of course you will also have to pay for gasoline and car rental. For more information on renting a car please see our article Car Rental in Osaka.
From Osaka to Maizuru by Train
You can get from Osaka Station to Maizuru by regular JR trains in around 2 hours and 20 minutes for 4,510 yen plus an extra 1,000 yen to take a taxi to the port. From Osaka Station take a Special Rapid to Kyoto Station. This takes around 30 minutes. Then transfer to a Limited Express Maizuru service bound for Higashi-Maizuru Station. This takes around 1 hour and 36 minutes. From Higashi-Maizuru Station you can take a taxi to Maizuru Port in about 7 minutes.
If you travel from Shin-Osaka Station you can take the shinkansen to Kyoto Station and then change to the Limited Express Maizuru. This is a little quicker and will get you to Maizuru in about 2 hours and 10 minutes for a full fare of 5,800 yen (or more depending on which shinkansen service you take). All the fares listed here include seat reservations on the shinkansen on limited express services.
From Osaka to Maizuru by Bus
Nihon Kotsu run highway buses directly between Osaka and Maizuru. There are seven services each day running from the OCAT bus terminal in Namba, Osaka. There are also two services running from the Hankyu Sanbangai Bus Terminal in Umeda. These buses take around 2 hours and 10 minutes and cost 2,400 yen. As the final bus stop is at Higashi-Maizuru Station, you will also need to pay for a taxi to the port. Bus tickets can be reserved online. However, the Nihon Kotsu website is only available in Japanese so you may need to ask a friend to help you.
From Otaru to Sapporo by Car
Traveling via the Sasson Expressway you can get from Otaru to Sapporo by car in just 45 minutes for toll fees of 810 yen.
From Otaru to Sapporo by Bus
From Otaru Port you can either take a taxi or bus as far as Otaru Station. A taxi will cost about 1,000 yen for a 10 minute drive, while the bus will cost just 220 yen for a 30 minute journey. From the bus terminal at Otaru Station you can then take an intercity express bus to Sapporo. The travel time from Otaru Station is 610 yen for a travel time of around 1 hour and 5 minutes. Both Chuo Bus and JR Hokkaido Bus run services between Otaru and Sapporo for the same fare, but the Chuo Bus service is quicker.
From Otaru to Sapporo by Train
From the Otaru Port you should take a taxi or a bus to Otaru Station. There you can catch the Rapid Airport service and be in Sapporo in 32 minutes for a fare of 1,160 yen.
Article by Michael Lambe. Photos by matya1234/pixta (1), M_SORA/pixta (2), T2/pixta (3). All rights reserved.