The “musts” of Sapporo sightseeing in the spring
Here are some recommendations for spring sightseeing in Sapporo
In response to requests for springtime Sapporo sightseeing recommendations, here we will take a closer look at how to enjoy spring in and around Sapporo. Check out the flowering cherry and plum trees that bloom as the snow melts, enjoy famous events with the added bonus of good weather (without a hint of the rainy season taking place elsewhere), or experience a number of traditional festivals with dazzling mikoshi processions and food stalls. Each of these is much-anticipated by the people of Sapporo. Let’s not forget about seasonal spring dishes, either. We will also take a look at springtime sports unique to Sapporo. What are you waiting for? Which activity do you want to try?
- Flowers in the parks herald spring’s arrival. Spring foliage is another recommended “must see”
- Check out the water fountains from the end of April to make a walk in the park even more exciting!
- Taste the flavors of spring—edible wild plants, asparagus, and sea urchin
- At their best from the end of April to late May, cherry blossoms are a must see for any Sapporo sightseeing adventure in the spring
- Enjoy famous outdoor events under Sapporo’s clear skies
- Dazzling mikoshi processions and countless food stalls at traditional festivals that Sapporo locals look forward to each year
- Check out recommended spring sports in Sapporo including spring skiing, rafting and cycling
Preparing for spring
The average temperature in Sapporo during April is around 7.1 degrees Celsius. Although it’s still rather cold, the spring sunshine brings out the excitement and energy of Sapporoites. Downtown the snow melts on the roads and you will see people begin to ride bicycles here and there. The temperature gradually rises in May and the following months. Unlike Honshu (the main Japanese island), Hokkaido does not go through the muggy and dreary rainy season, so the skies are typically clear and the weather is good. However, the temperature can fall to around a chilly 10 degrees Celsius in the morning and evening. Be sure to pack a lightweight cardigan or a scarf to keep your neck warm.
Flowers in the parks herald spring’s arrival. Spring foliage is another recommended “must see”
Flowers like adonis and crocus sprout from the ground as the snow melts, telling of spring’s much-anticipated arrival. Sapporoites like to head outdoors to discover spring as it appears here and there. Late April is when park flower beds come to life in vivid colors. The city’s parks are abuzz with people at this time, including Odori Park in downtown Sapporo, Yurigahara Park, popular for its unique flower beds and garden, and Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park, which boasts an entire hillside covered with tulips. The Tokibi Wagon (food wagon serving corn and other local items) that appears in Odori Park is also a favorite springtime stop for Sapporoites. Jozankei Onsen, about 40-minutes by car from downtown, is popular for its “spring foliage” that includes the pale colors of newly appearing buds and the dark green of evergreen trees. Such a sight can only be enjoyed during the short season of new greenery. Don’t miss out.
Check out the water fountains from the end of April to make a walk in the park even more exciting!
When you want to go outside and soak in the spring sunshine, the city’s many water fountains will help you get in a relaxed mood. Water fountains in Sapporo are turned on from the end of April. The water fountain located at Nishi 3/4-chome of the easily accessible Odori Park is a favorite spot for Sapporoites to relax and unwind. The massive 48-meter diameter Sea Fountain located in Moerenuma Park is a recommended must see, too. The fountain features a long 40-minute program and a short 15-minute program that runs between three and four times a day. The highlight of the long program is when the fountain shoots water 25 meters into the sky and mimics a storm at sea with huge undulating splashes of water. Don’t forget to check the timetable before you go. Asahiyama Memorial Park, which is a popular night viewing spot, offers commanding views of downtown Sapporo and a water fountain all at the same location.
Taste the flavors of spring—edible wild plants, asparagus, and sea urchin
Fuki (bog rhubarb), bamboo shoots, and other edible wild plants are known as the tastes of spring. Their somewhat bitter taste helps to awaken the body from its wintertime slumber and also forms an important part of Japan’s gastronomic culture. They can be prepared as tempura, ohitashi (blanched and marinated in broth), or in other ways. Asparagus cultivated outdoors that is available around May is another popular item among Sapporoites. The plump and soft texture of freshly picked asparagus is like no other. If you see asparagus on the menu at a restaurant, definitely give it a try. In June the sea urchin season opens in Shakotan, which is about a two-hour drive from Sapporo. Many Sapporoites get in their cars and flock to the area to savor in the creamy texture and rich sweetness of freshly harvested saltwater sea urchin. Enjoy this delicacy together with the view of beautifully blue and transparent coastal waters known as “Shakotan Blue.”
At their best from the end of April to late May, cherry blossoms are a must see for any Sapporo sightseeing adventure in the spring
Although the cherry blossom season comes to a close on Honshu as blossoms start to fall in April, they reach a peak in Sapporo around Golden Week—late April to early May. The main varieties of cherry tree that bloom in Sapporo are the Ezoyama cherry, Some-Yoshino cherry, and Yaezakura cherry. Each variety blooms at a different time, so at some places you can enjoy the blossoms until the end of May. Unlike Honshu, Hokkaido’s ume plum (also known as Japanese apricot) and cherry trees bloom at the same time. One of Sapporo’s most famous flower viewing spots is Hokkaido Shrine, which is a major sightseeing spot in its own right. During Golden Week you can enjoy flower viewing in a festival-like atmosphere with rows of food stalls. The cherry tree forest at Moerenuma Park with its large collection of play equipment is recommended if you are traveling with children. At Hiraoka Park, home to Sapporo’s largest ume tree grove, you can purchase ume-related products only available during the flower viewing season, including ume-flavored soft serve ice cream. Sapporoites also regularly bring their take-out coffee or sandwiches along with them to view the blossoms at downtown Nakajima Park and the Former Hokkaido Government Office.
Enjoy famous outdoor events under Sapporo’s clear skies
The Jozankei Keiryu Koinobori(*), a month-long event that begins in mid-April, is the most famous event held in Jozankei Onsen, a favorite driving trip stop-over for Sapporo locals. Once Golden Week begins, a huge number of outdoor events take place in Sapporo. Sapporo Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill, a top sightseeing destination, hosts a sheep shearing show that is quite popular. The Sapporo Lilac Festival held at Odori Park in mid-May ushers in the season of outdoor eating and outdoor walking. Once June arrives, there is an outdoor event held just about every weekend, including the YOSAKOI Soran Festival featuring dynamic dance performances, and the flower petal carpet laid out at Sapporo Kita 3-jo Plaza (“Akapla”). This is the season when parks and plazas come alive with people.
*Koinobori: Koinobori are colorful carp-shaped wind socks, flown since the mid-Edo period to celebrate Tango no Sekku (now May 5), a traditional event to pray for the healthy development of children.
Dazzling mikoshi processions and countless food stalls at traditional festivals that Sapporo locals look forward to each year
The Miyoshi Shrine Festival held on May 14 and 15 is the kick-off to Sapporo’s summer festival season. Miyoshi Shrine (located at Minami 1-jo Nishi 8-chome) is a small shrine affectionately known as “Sankichi-san” by locals (the Japanese characters for “miyoshi” can also be read as “sankichi”). The shrine plays host to live music performances during the festival, and many people stop here on their way home from work. The Hokkaido Shrine Festival (also called the Sapporo Festival), which has been around for over a century, is held from June 14 to 16. On the final day Sapporo locals line the streets to catch a glimpse of the mikoshi (portable shrines) and festival cars that file through downtown. At Hokkaido Shrine, you will find food stalls set up and traditional offering ceremonies taking place. Food stalls also line Nakajima Park, while the plaza plays host to a haunted house and motorcycle circus. These are definitely must-see events.
Check out recommended spring sports in Sapporo including spring skiing, rafting and cycling
Sapporo Teine and Sapporo Kokusai Skiing Resort, which are located about 40 to 60 minutes by car from downtown, are typically open until early May. Here, you can enjoy skiing under warm sunshine with only light outerwear required. Rafting in Jozankei, where you can take in the beauty of the Toyohira River gorge, is also quite thrilling in the springtime because of the increased water flow from the snow melt. Rafting tours depart from central Sapporo, making the trip easy and convenient. Mid-April marks the beginning of cycling season. In addition to the routes around Sapporo City introduced in the Bicycle special feature article, cyclists who want to challenge longer cycling routes should check out “Hokkaido Cycle Tourism,” which showcases recommended courses around Hokkaido.