A comprehensive summary of things to do in autumn in Sapporo
Here are some recommendations for Autumn sightseeing in Sapporo
“Autumn sightseeing in Sapporo—what do you recommend?” In response to such queries, we will suggest ways to enjoy autumn within and around the Sapporo area. Long awaited by Sapporo residents is the “Autumn Fest” food festival, which is packed full with Hokkaido appeal—a treasure trove of food ingredients. If you make your way to a famous autumn foliage, salmon run, or migrating bird viewing spot, you can really feel the rich abundance of nature in Sapporo, Hokkaido. What’s more, we’ll introduce our recommended spots for those who want to have their fill of autumn art and autumn sports. Which spot do you want to visit?
- In addition to the events, how about some sightseeing you can do only in Sapporo, such as enjoying the autumn harvest on a farm?
- Cod roe, shishamo smelt, Ezoshika venison! Taste what’s in season in autumn
- Sapporo, where autumn leaves fall sooner than the rest of Japan. Where to take the best autumn snapshot?
- After viewing the salmon run, indulge in local salmon specialties
- Enjoy an international film festival and other art events during autumn sightseeing in Sapporo
- Watch professional sports at Sapporo Dome while enjoying a variety of foods
- To make the most of the lengthening nights of autumn, we recommend gazing at the stars and city lights
- Observe the wild dance of migrating birds at a wetland designated under the Ramsar Convention
Preparing for autumn
Sapporo in autumn has none of the heat that lingers over most of the Japanese archipelago, and is thus extremely refreshing. Even though it is warm in the daytime, it’s essential to bring a light coat because temperatures after the sunset can drop to as low as around 10°C. In October, the morning and evening chill becomes especially strong, so make sure to pack clothes you can wear in layers, like cardigans and sweaters. Having a scarf on hand is a good idea for keeping your neck warm.
In addition to the events, how about some sightseeing you can do only in Sapporo, such as enjoying the autumn harvest on a farm?
Autumn is the peak harvest season in Hokkaido. Not only Sapporo locals, but even fans from all over Japan attend the "Sapporo Autumn Fest” food festival, where they can enjoy Hokkaido’s autumn flavors. There are so many food and drink booths lined up in each area of Odori Park that you’ll be unable to make up your mind. Likewise, going to a farm to enjoy the autumn harvest in an authentic way is another sightseeing option you should experience while in Sapporo. The carrot and onion harvest experiences are popular at the hands-on agricultural facility, Sapporo Satoland located just 30 minutes by car from the center of Sapporo City. The time you spend with your hands sunk in the dirt may even bring back your childhood innocence.
Cod roe, shishamo smelt, Ezoshika venison! Taste what’s in season in autumn
When it comes to food while sightseeing in Sapporo, the most popular item by far is “ikura,” or cod roe. From the start of the salmon run around September to the prime season, you can enjoy freshly harvested cod roe at the markets. The fishing season for shishamo smelt, which can only be caught on the Pacific coast of Hokkaido, also begins in October. Don’t miss this delicious experience you can only get from fresh foods. And since wild game such as Ezoshika deer start storing energy for the winter in autumn, game meat cuisine is also in season. CAMARADE SAPPORO, a French restaurant near Sapporo Station, is directly managed by the meat chef collective ELEZO, which carries out the entire process from hunting and butchering, to aging and processing the meat. Their Ezoshika venison roast, the representative dish of Hokkaido wild game, is highly recommended.
Sapporo, where autumn leaves fall sooner than the rest of Japan. Where to take the best autumn snapshot?
The temperature difference between day and night intensifies during autumn in Sapporo. Locals look forward to the vivid autumn leaves each year, which arrive in Sapporo before anywhere else in Japan. Nakajima Park, Hokkaido University, and Maruyama Park are highly accessible sightseeing spots popular for leisurely enjoying the autumn leaves. If you are able to journey to the outskirts, the magnificent contrast between the exposed rock face and the autumn foliage at the Ishiyama Green Space is also recommended. And Jozankei, Sapporo’s hot-spring town, is a must-see when the valley is dyed in autumn colors. Not only are there hot springs, but there are so many outdoor activities—canoeing, horseback riding—you’ll be sure to have a fulfilling day surrounded by the gorgeous mountains.
After viewing the salmon run, indulge in local salmon specialties
From autumn to winter, salmon journey upstream to spawn in the river where they were hatched. One recommended sightseeing spot within Sapporo from October to November is the downstream area of the Noshi Park Bridge (10-minute walk from Hassamu-Chuo Station, 3 stations from JR Sapporo Station), which spans the Kotoni-hassamu River. The Chitose Salmon Aquarium, located a 10-minute drive from New Chitose Airport, is popular for its underwater observation room that offers an up-close view of salmon swimming upstream, and its fish wheel, where salmon are caught. After viewing the salmon run, how about taking a 40-minute drive from central Sapporo to the salmon-specialty restaurant Kindaitei, where you can relish Ishikari-nabe (Ishikari stew) and other course meals featuring salmon prepared in various ways? You can look forward to the Ainu traditional dish of frozen salmon sashimi known as “"rui-be”, and other Hokkaido local dishes.
Enjoy an international film festival and other art events during autumn sightseeing in Sapporo
The Sapporo Plaza 2.5, located in the Tanukikoji 5-chome area, is the main venue for the Sapporo International Short Film Festival. Documentary, drama, animation, and other films gathered from across the globe are shown one after another at this festival. Another event, which starts in November and lasts for one month, is the Sapporo Art Stage, where exhibitions and live music performances are held, for the most part, in the Sapporo Ekimae-dori underground walkway. There are plenty of free activities to enjoy, so definitely stop by. The Hokkaido Museum and Sapporo Art Park surrounded by nature are also recommended spots to enjoy both art and autumn leaves.
Watch professional sports at Sapporo Dome while enjoying a variety of foods
Professional soccer team Consadole Sapporo and professional baseball team Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters are two teams that call Sapporo Dome their home turf. The all-weather indoor dome keeps spectators comfortable rain or shine, and on game days, comes alive with the excitement of Sapporo locals of all ages. Of all the things to look forward to at Sapporo Dome, in addition to “Genghis Khan” grill and other popular fresh seafood items to try while sightseeing in Sapporo, the selection of food and drink shops that serve things like lunch boxes you can easily eat in the bleachers is especially good. Why not watch some professional sports with your favorite stadium meal in one hand, and a beer in the other? You’re sure to feel as though you were born and raised in Sapporo when you shout and cheer along with the crowd of supporters.
To make the most of the lengthening nights of autumn, we recommend gazing at the stars and city lights
Did you know there is an observatory in Nakajima Park, located right next to the sightseeing spot Susukino? The Sapporo Astronomical Observatory is a public observatory that opened in 1958. The nighttime observing sessions held for six days every month, with a focus on Friday to Sunday, are always bustling with kids and their parents. The moon and seasonal stars can be observed in autumn. As you peer into the telescope with the sounds of night insects echoing in the quiet park, you’ll forget that you’re in the middle of the city. Enjoy the lengthening nights in autumn together with our "Night View” guide, where we introduce our recommended spots to view Sapporo’s city lights.
*Please visit the Sapporo Astronomical Observatory’s official website for information about opening hours and nighttime observation days. (Japanese)
Observe the wild dance of migrating birds at a wetland designated under the Ramsar Convention
Miyajima-numa is a Ramsar Convention designated site located in the city of Bibai, around an hour away from Sapporo by car. It is famous as a gathering site for migrating birds in the spring and autumn, such as white-fronted geese and tundra swan. Why not observe these birds burst into the sky all at once right before sunrise, to travel from the wetland to their feeding grounds, or watch as they return to the wetland in a V formation in the evening? They take residence here every year from late September to early October, and the view of white-fronted geese dancing in the open sky is magnificent, especially during crowded times when there can be tens of thousands of birds gathered. Their morning take-off occurs at around 5 a.m., and they return from around 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the evening. To observe these events at the Miyajima-numa wetlands, we recommend staying at the Tsukigata Onsen Hotel, located 10 minutes by car from Miyajima-numa. Swans also make a stopover in Kairaku Park, where the hotel is located. When observing the birds, make sure not to surprise them with loud noises or camera flashes.
Check the official blog for information about the birds’ stopover period in Miyajima-numa.(Japanese)