First snow experience!
Gab and I went to Sapporo with his sister and brother-in-law (both our close friends and high school batchmates), Kris and Fil. We timed the trip so we can be there for the Sapporo Snow Festival. There were supposed to be five of us in the trip but our friend, who is a doctor at a government hospital, opted to stay due to the coronavirus threat. She supplied us with masks and sterillium to protect us from infection especially inside the airport and crowded places, and during the flight.
Hotel Sunroute New Sapporo
We got lucky in picking a hotel that was right by Tanukikoji Shopping Street (which had two Don Quijote mega stores) and close to Odori and Susukino subway stations where we took most of the rides to our destinations.
Sapporo’s chocolate factory in Shiroikoibito Park was our first stop. It was a short 30-minute trip from Odori Station to Miyanosawa Station by Tozai subway line. A tour inside the chocolate factory costs ¥600 per person.
We booked our Snowmobile Experience via KKDay weeks before the trip (Php 5,100 per person). Glad we did since slots were limited per day. Our reservation included a shuttle pickup at 10am at one of the nearby hotels. The trip to Snowmobile Land took around 45 minutes with a nice, scenic view up the mountains. We suited up as soon as we got to the resort and were given instructions on how to use the snowmobiles. Each group had dedicated instructors guiding them throughout the course. Halfway before we headed back to the cabins, we stopped for photos where we also got play a little bit in the powdery snow. We were done by 12:30pm and were dropped off in Odori Park by the same shuttle bus.
P.S. I was so scared that I requested if I could ride with my husband. The instructor told me to try it first. Had much difficulty at first especially during practice round, but I got the hang of it and finished the entire course!
With our guide, Umeru.
At the end of the course, we were given a 5-minute treat – Gab and I did snow rafting, while Kris and Fil did banana boat.
We took the streetcar (tram) from Susukino to get to the get in point for the ropeway that took us to Mt. Moiwa. A free shuttle took us to the Moiwa get in point after alighting at Ropeway Iriguchi Shiden Station. We bought tickets (¥1,700) that included ride to Morris Car (small cable car) to get to the summit.We tried to catch the sunset once we got to the summit, but it was cloudy due to the snowfall earlier in the day. Nevertheless, the view going up was spectacular. It was dark by 5pm so we were able to also get a magnificent night view overlooking the city.
Northwest of Sapporo is Otaru which is a port city known for its glassworks, music boxes and distilleries. It took about an hour from Sapporo Station via JR train to get to Otaru.A short 13-minute walk from Otaru Station is the picturesque Otaru Canal.
Right by the canal is the Visitor Information Center where we got a map and some recommendations to visit in the city.
By this time we were already used to snowfall, but it was the first time it snowed hard after we had lunch. We did not mind it, though, and walked in snow while waiting to get a taxi.
We went to the Music Boxes shop next. It was an impressive three storeys of music boxes and gift items.
We were treated to this mini spectacle outside the shop.
The Kitaichi Glass Shop with equally impressive glass items was just a few meters away.
Otaru was such a pretty city to visit.
Historical Village of Hokkaido
We took a taxi from Shin Sapporo Station to the Historical Village of Hokkaido. We were welcomed with an amazing view at the entrance.
We got tickets that included a visit to the Hokkaido Museum (¥1,200 per person). By noon, we got the place almost to ourselves.
The snow festival was celebrated in three sites: Tsudome (opened last January 31), Susukino (opened on February 4) and Odori Park (opened on February 4). It took us several days (and nights) to visit all sites. The festival ran for a week.
Tsudome had various ice activities mostly for kids and snow sculptures. It was 38 minutes from Odori Station to Sakaemachi Station via Toho subway line. A shuttle was available outside the train station to take visitors to Tsudome.
Susukino had varied and intricate ice sculptures. We were able to go back to this area a few times since it was only 750 meters away from our hotel.
Odori Park had snow sculptures that stretched for over a kilometer. Each section featured various themes.
These International entries were among the best in the festival. Can you guess which country won as champion?
For me, the trip is not complete without visiting some of the known, iconic locations in the city. We made it a point to visit the Clock Tower on our last day in the city.
Some Travel Tips
IC Icoca Card. We were able to reuse the IC Icoca card we bought during our Kansai trip in 2018. We had it loaded with ¥10,000 at the Odori Station. We used it in the subway trains, streetcar/tram (also called shiden) and JR trains. We had over ¥3,000 left which we were able to use for shopping and food.
Pocket-sized body warmers can be bought in convenience stores to keep you warm during heavy snow.
Having a light umbrella to shield the face against falling snow would help.
Sapporo had lots of wifi hotspots around the city. However, we opted to bring 2 Flytpack wifi-routers rented via Travel Recommends so we can easily communicate when we had to split and to go to different places.
Sapporo Shiden Local (streetcar/tram for Mt. Moiwa)
Hokkaido JR Train (for Otaru)