Leaving the South Island of Kyushu, I flew up to Sapporo in Hokkaido – The North Island where weather fronts from Siberia bring cooler weather and some of the best skiing in the world in the winter months. My destination is Sapporo, home to the 1972 Winter Olympics and my favourite beer!
It is Autumn but the temperature drop from southern Japan is instantly noticeable. A short connection from the airport by express train / subway and I arrived at the nicest and funkiest hotels of my travels in Japan – The Unwind Hotel. This is a hotel which aims to be a relaxing ski cabin in the city – wood stove in reception, massive bed with winter throws in the room, all topped off with an open fire and blankets on the roof terrace, situated beside a trendy bar with free wine nightly. Who also knew soup was a thing for breakfast – each morning a thermos of freshly prepared varieties accompanied by warm baked bread. All this for £57 a night. Loved it!
Next morning, I made the pilgrimage to the Sapporo Beer Museum across the city. The museum takes you through the history of Sapporo beer and its marketing evolution. It was not long before I was in the tasting-room soaking up the atmosphere and the liquid gold. Having made the trip, I decided to have lunch in the connected ‘Biergarten Halls’– the on-table hotplate allowing you to cook all the thinly sliced Lamb, Pork, Chicken and vegetables you can eat in an hour, all accompanied by the Sapporo secret sauce as much beer as you can also drink – quite a bargain for about £25! Delicious and a great experience into the bargain.
I spent the afternoon shopping in the various markets and stores, seeking out my souvenirs/gifts for my return home.
I had hoped to visit Mount Moiwa, the home to the Olympics, to take in the views over the city but unfortunately the weather closed in badly with low cloud and rain, so I did not get the chance. I will save that for the next time when I come back to ski both here and in the other famous ski resorts dotted across the island where the powder is famed.
I instead spent aleisurely day working my way between the underground shopping areas and the city’s malls, taking in coffees and some great food. Sapporo, like everywhere else I visited, is a large city which is easily navigated through the excellent public transport systems.
Friday came quickly and I checked out before making my way to the airport for my flight to Tokyo Haneda in readiness for my early flight home the next morning. What struck me again was the scale of Japan with flights between the two cities running hourly at peak and planes capable of holding 350 passengers operating the route – there was not a seat to be had on my flight!
I stayed at the Royal Park Hotel, connected to the terminal. The terminal offering before Departures in terms of shopping and eating was phenomenal – much different than anything I had seen elsewhere in the world. After Security, the choice is somewhat limited to duty free and luxury brands.
It was not long before we were wheels up and I was saying ‘Sayonara’ to Japan. My language skills are limited … I wish I knew the Japanese term for ‘Au Revoir’ – until the next time… I am hooked and will definitely be back to experience more of the beauty of this country, the people, and their culture.