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CityTips Guide to Sapporo

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Home to the 1972 Winter Olympics and Japan's most succulent crab, tasty noodles and refreshing beer, Hokkaido's northern metropolis beckons visitors to its wide boulevards, challenging ski slopes and boundless opportunities for business development.

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Local Overview

Sapporo is one of the easiest Japanese cities to navigate because of its street system of wide boulevards connected to a compass-oriented grid of minor streets, which are numbered according to their order in relation to the major thoroughfares. Since this is one of Japan's largest cities, distances between places on the map can be quite far, but the transportation network in the city is excellent.

Chūō-ku

This district contains most of the city's entertainment and administrative buildings. City Hall and the police headquarters can be found here, but there are also many landmarks, restaurants and shops for visitors to explore. One popular attraction, Sapporo TV Tower, a major draw for those looking to snap some stunning pictures, is located at the eastern end of Odori Park, a notable destination in and of itself that hosts many local events throughout the year, including the Sapporo Snow Festival and the Sapporo Summer Festival.

To the west of Odori Park, you'll find Maruyama Park, a popular year-round recreational spot that is home to the Maruyama Zoo and a sports stadium. Hokkaido Jingu, the most important shrine in Hokkaido, is also located within the park.

A few other sights not to miss in Chūō-ku include the Sapporo Race Course for sports fans, and the Wan Nyan Fureai Park for those traveling with kids. The Stanley Market is also a must-see, with its many opportunities to experience fresh, traditional cuisine.

South of Sapporo Station

Part of Chūō-ku, some of the most interesting parts of the city can be found here in the part of downtown that stretches from the station to Susukino. If you head directly south, you will enter the main administrative area. The Hokkaido Government Buildings, including the Old Hokkaido Government Building, are on the west side. Further west are the Botanical Gardens, which hold almost 5,000 varieties of plants, and if you continue west, you will come to the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art.

Retrace your steps and you will come across the offices of the major airline companies, banks and other financial institutions, and just to the east of the main thoroughfare you will find most of the major department stores and a number of top-class hotels. Turn south and you will come to Sapporo City Hall, where you will see the Tokei-dai, one of the major symbols of Sapporo. This majestic clock tower has been tolling the hour for more than a century.

Located south of Odori Park, Susukino is one of the largest entertainment districts in Japan. It is said that there are more than 4000 establishments operating in an area of about one square kilometer. As the sun goes down, the lights turn on at restaurants, bars, cafes, discos, saunas, pool halls, peep shows, soaplands (a Japanese euphemism for brothel), and massage parlors. There are also numerous reasonably priced hotels in this area.

Further south you will come to Nakajima Park, the oldest park in Sapporo. This vast park is a superb recreational area that blends nature with culture. The excellent Sapporo Winter Sports Museum and the Hokkaido Museum of Literature are located here, as is Sapporo Concert Hall (Kitaro), the city's premier concert venue, and home of the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra.

Minami-ku

For those looking to escape the city center for a while, Sapporo's mountainous southern ward offers a number of great ways to fill the day and make it a memorable one at that.  Ishiyama Park, located on the site of Sapporo's oldest rock quarry, has both panoramic views and an impressive outdoor sculpture gallery, while even further from the city center, Hoheikyo Gorge offers year-round hiking in a breathtakingly beautiful environment, particularly in Winter when everything is blanketed in snow. Once you've finished enjoying the scenery, the nearby Jozankei Onsen is the perfect place for a soak in one of Japan's famous natural hot springs, or for something more active, you can hit the slopes at the Sapporo Kokusai Ski Area.

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