Sapporo - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Sapporo


The most remarkable thing about the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, and its capital city Sapporo, is the contrast in temperatures between winter and summer. Sapporo, site of the 1972 Winter Olympics, is a favourite ski destination with temperatures plummeting well below freezing in December and January - the lowest ever recorded was in January 1945, when the mercury dropped to -11ºF (-24ºC). Summer time, however, sees daytime highs of above 86ºF (30ºC), although evenings and mornings remain cool and pleasant.

Because of its thick snows that turn the city into a winter wonderland Sapporo is favoured more as a winter sports destination than a spring or summer resort. There are ski-slopes within the city limits and residents often enjoy a quick run after work. Sapporo is one of Japan's newest cities, having been constructed almost from scratch as the capital of Hokkaido in 1871. Japan imported foreign technicians (including 46 Americans) to aid in the development of the city, formerly a small settlement of the native Ainu people, which has now grown to accommodate 1.8 million inhabitants. Despite a large population, Sapporo is not as crowded or densely packed as other Japanese cities. A national survey ranked it as one of the country's most desirable places to live, which is not surprising because its natural setting allows for easy access to mineral spas, mountain hikes, campsites, and superb ski runs.

Information & Facts


Sapporo has a humid continental climate with hot and rainy summer weather (June to September) and cold, snowy winters (December to March). Sapporo's snowfall is higher than most cities in the world and can reach up to 72 inches (1828mm) in January.

Japanese is the official language. Most Japanese people will have studied English at school, but few can speak it well or understand what is said to them.

The currency is the Japanese Yen (JPY), which is equal to 100 sen. Major credit cards are accepted in the larger hotels and stores, but most Japanese operate with cash. Cash and travellers cheques can be exchanged in banks, post offices and currency exchange bureaux. Banks are usually open Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm. Travellers cheques offer the best exchange rate and are best taken in US dollars. ATMs do not accept all credit and debit cards; only the international ATMs in post offices, airports and some major stores.

Local time is GMT +9.

The impressive and entertaining outdoor museum village, depicting Hokkaido life in days of old, is situated in Sapporo at Atsubetsu Ward in a corner of the Hokkaido Nopporo Forest Park. The site features restored or recreated buildings from the Meiji and Taisho periods, and includes edifices like the old Sapporo railway station, old Otaru newspaper company buildings, fishermen's cottages, mountain villas and the like. Horse-drawn trolleys run through the village and in winter horse-drawn sleighs carry visitors around the site.

The Ainu people with their unique culture have lived on the island of Hokkaido for hundreds of generations. The Ainu Centre in Sapporo details the history and culture of the island's indigenous people using interesting exhibits and demonstrations.

Fondly known as Sapporo's 'backyard ski resort' Mt Moiwa offers 11 different courses for all grades of skiers from beginners to advanced. Most are well lit to enable visitors and locals alike to enjoy the fun of night skiing, taking in the breathtaking view of the city as they fly down the sparkling slopes under the stars. The mountain will be closed to visitors until Autumn of 2011.

The famous hot-spring resort of Noboribetsu Onsen is situated inside the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. The spa is one of many found in Hokkaido, but being closest to Sapporo is very popular. Hot mineral springs gush out about 10,000 tons of water a day, said to have healing properties for a range of disorders. The resort is also known for its 2,000 cherry trees that make a stunning sight in spring.

If you are here for the beer, which is possible because Sapporo beer is known throughout the world, then a visit to the beer museum in the historic Sapporo Brewery building is a must, together with a tour of the brewery itself, which, of course, ends with a tasting. The red brick brewery building has been home to the Sapporo Beer Company, third-largest beer producer in Japan, since 1876. One-hour tours are conducted at 15-minute intervals every day throughout the year; however these are in Japanese only. It is possible to book in advance and request an English interpreter.

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