Places to visit in Sapporo, Otaru and Furano?

Sapporo at a glance

Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido Prefecture, is in the northernmost part of Japan. This peaceful city is attracting travelers more and more, though it’s not as famous compared to Tokyo or Osaka. Sapporo is famous for three things: ramen, beer and snow. But after my visit, they should consider one more thing; flowers. I’m going to show you how beautiful the flowers here later on.

I visited during summer, so everything was dry. But I still think the city is very appealing in summer and not just during winter for everyone’s snow gaming. Sapporo is also famous for their own version of local beer. I ordered Sapporo beer at every meal I had here because why not? I liked it a lot! And lastly, the city is the home of ramen, and I definitely agree with that. Though I have never experienced snow myself, if ever I have a chance, this city will be my top pick for sure as it is very famous for its winter season. 

Getting a Visa

Philippine passport holders need to secure a visit visa before entering Japan. If you don’t have a visa yet, you need to apply for a Japan Tourist visa in the Philippines through accredited travel agencies. Click here for the complete list. 

Getting a Japan Tourist Visa is very quick and easy. Just make sure you submit all of the required documents. The Japanese embassy in the Philippines is very lenient in giving one so fret not. Usually, it takes less than a week for the visa to be approved. I got approved after the day I passed all the requirement to the agency that processed it. I was able to get single entry visa valid for 15 days of stay in Japan. 

On the other hand, a multiple entry visa can allow you to stay up to 30 days in the country. It’s said that usually the Japanese embassy will give you single entry first on your first application but might get multiple on your second. Again, it depends on person to person and what is your purpose of travel. 

Just a tip, wait for travel agencies at travel expos because usually visa fees are on sale. I got mine for Php 500 only though travel agencies typically have fees from Php 1,500-2,500 depending on where you are going to apply.

How to get to Sapporo in Hokkaido, Japan

Since its located in the northernmost part of Japan, there a no direct flight from Manila to Sapporo until Philippine Airlines introduces the route. Jetstar Airways is more convenient for many Filipinos and offers good deals and cheaper options when traveling to the land of the rising sun. You fly to Narita before flying to Sapporo. ANA, a Japanese carrier, has daily flights to New Chitose Airport in Sapporo. 

Japan really amazes me: my early flight from Manila to Narita was delayed, and I missed the connecting flight to Sapporo (only an hour later). However, my flight to Sapporo was already rebooked and arranged right after my arrival at Narita. Though I was anxious about what was going to happen, the staff in Narita airport were very polite and helpful in informing me about the rebooking. 

Where to stay

I can recommend to stay in the central Sapporo. Usually, I choose a hotels near train or subway stations for my convenience. This time, I chose to stay in Sapporo View Hotel Oodori Kouen, strategically located just in front of Odori Park, one of the famous parks where you can relax and chill.

Do a lot of research when choosing a hotel or place to stay in. Generally, Japan is well organized and has a good subway system. This gives everyone the convenience to travel around – so staying almost anywhere can be good and easy.

Famous landmark

The city itself is very quiet and calm, and I saw a lot of old Japanese people here freely enjoying themselves in a park and in tourist spots. I did not see a lot of foreign tourists here – so different from Tokyo and Osaka.  But you will definitely enjoy here as well as it also has a lot to offer. 

When applying for Japan visa, Filipinos need to have itinerary on where you going to stay and for how long, including on what places you want to visit. My itinerary was actually influenced by the movie “Kita Kita”. After watching that movie, I wanted to visit the great places shown in the movie. I’m glad was able to see a lot of these landmarks in Sapporo. 

Odori Park, located right in the middle of Sapporo business district. This park spreads over a space of more than 15 blocks and is also a place for the Snow Festival and other events. No doubt, this quiet park with lush vegetations all over the place is really a good venue for big events. Along with it, you will find locals and tourists relaxing, children playing, and couples taking strolls in the park – everyone taking a break from the hustle of the city. 

At the end of Odori Park, you will see Sapporo TV Tower. Here, you have a chance to get a perfect view of the whole park and nearby places at the observation deck with a 360 degree stunning view. You will be able to see clearly how well-planned Sapporo is because it built on a grid pattern. The Tower has a minimal fee and comes with a free ice cream cone when you get down. Nice freebie right?

Visiting Sapporo will not be complete without trying their very famous Sapporo beer? Sapporo Beer Museum is the perfect place to be. You can go for a break and have a taste of it directly from the factory. Here you have a chance to taste different variations of freshly brewed draft beer. 

Aside from the beer tasting, there is a tour through the museum and distillery; learning the history of beer making in Japan, such as the most popular brand named after the city, Sapporo.

Diving into Sapporo history will be real through this iconic landmark – Sapporo Clock Tower. It only about 8-10 mins walk from Odori Park. Built long time ago, it looks positively quaint among the city’s head-turning facades. It holds different types of clocks from the old times until now. 

I saw this eye-catching building because it is red and located right in front of a huge park lined with trees, not really knowing that it is the Hokkaido Government Office Building. You can take a visit outside the compound composed with lush trees and fauna as well, and with a mini lagoon beside it. This is very perfect for photo shoot or just wander around.

Side trip to Otaru

Less than an hour ride by train from Sapporo, you will see this picturesque place that used to be a port – it was the base of trade in Hokkaido. Through times and development of the harbor, it became a popular tourist attraction later on. 

It is only 10 mins walk away from Otaru JR Station, where you will walk to cobblestone walkway, retro designed road lamps and stone warehouses that add charm to this scenic canal.

The Otaru Canal really attracts local and foreign travelers alike. This canal adds to the popularity of Otaru: there are a lot of local and foreign tourists who come here. 

Sakaimachi Shopping Street – located not too far from Otaru canal is this famous street lined with tons of restaurants, souvenir shops, retail and even an ice cream shop. I think everything is here when speaking of a tourist spot. 

Meet yourself with most of these shops because this street offers all forms of shopping and food unique to Otaru. 

Wander around and see some of the museums in the area is one of good options. By the way, I tried one cone of ice cream in a random shop and it’s really good! I forgot my name for a moment.

Music Box Museum – another cool museum for millennials. This music box museum holds and display many music box varieties from different materials and shapes – from wood, glass and ceramic. Or in shape of stuffed dolls or animal and the like. 

Have a look through the whole store and you might find a perfect music box that catches your attention. A good way to end your trip and get as a souvenir. 

Furano and Biei scenic lookouts

About 2 and half hour bus drive from Sapporo, you will reach another location ideal for a great escape from the bustle of the city life of Sapporo. I did all of the itinerary myself and ticked everything off by searching online – which is how I found this magnificent location. 

Furano, a city abundant with nature, surrounded by mountain ranges of Hokkaido and a well known for its scenic rural landscapes. Most of this quiet place is occupied by flower farms, rice and vegetable fields. It is said to be the major source of rice in the whole country because of the great climate and location.

One main purpose that travelers will visit this place would be to visit the ski area during winter and the flower farms of Furano during summer.

Farm Tomita is the most suggested spot for lavender hunting here. Lavender is famous and is becoming synonymous with Furano. This farm holds not just lavender but other colorful flowers like poppies and sage as well. Enjoyed yourself with the carpets of flowers in the farm and wander around the shop nearby. 

Souvenir shops are also available if you want something. Though it was summer and most of the lavender wasn’t in full bloom yet, I enjoyed myself in the scene. 

Most local tourists come here for a visit and bunch of them are old Japanese people. A bus tour is recommended if you are planning to see this magical place. To tell you honestly, half of my photos in this trip was from this flower farm.

Moving on, Biei which is located not too far from Farm Tomita, is another scenic place you don’t need to miss. 

Another favorite location with lush terrain comprises the famous Blue Pond. The wilted tree branches in the pond adds to the magical atmosphere in this mysterious pond with water that is blue. I was mesmerized with its superb scenery and its beauty. I’m pretty sure local tourists keeps on coming back here because of its nice view.

Just take note of the weather, as they say, it is ideal to visit during sunny to enjoy and get a perfect shot for its blue-colored water. June to July would be perfect for flora spotting or during summer. If you want snowy landscapes though, winter would be perfect.

Whatever your plans in visiting Japan are, Sapporo in Hokkaido can be a good start to your whole journey. It’s a young with vibrant domain that attracts so many attentions through these past decades.

Undoubtably, it is a good, sweet escape place for anyone who is looking relaxation. It was definitely a good start for my Japan trip as I visited Kyoto and Tokyo after. Another blog entry for these new adventures. 

Do you prefer to visit Sapporo to see snow during winter or to see flowers in summer? What do you think?

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