When it comes to holidaying in Japan, the first place that jumps to mind is usually Tokyo, with its bustling city streets and colourful fashion. But if you’re after some chill moments amongst nature, Sapporo is the perfect destination. Chock full of spectacular scenes from Mother Nature, this underrated city in Hokkaido is basically landscapes of Spirited Away come to life.
Craving a break from fast-paced city life, we hopped aboard Scoot’s inaugural flight to Sapporo for a 6-day trip to uncover the most beautiful sights in and around it:
Almost no one visits Sapporo without a day trip to Otaru, a little town just 45-minutes away from the city. Lined with rows of trinket shops, quaint cafes, and the scenic Otaru Canal, this rustic port town looks like something straight out of a storybook.
Instead of jumping on the tourist bandwagon and taking a slow-moving ride down the Canal, we ventured to Otaru’s best kept secret – a mystical-looking Blue Cave out at sea. Although the cave itself isn’t actually blue, the waters surrounding – and in it – are a brilliant aquamarine hue.
The 2-hour speedboat round trip cost us about S$70 each, but it’s a price totally worth paying.
Disney-esque vibes are strong with this one! Entering Shiroi Koibito Park’s wrought-iron gates is akin to stepping into the set of Beauty and the Beast. With European-inspired structures like fountains and curlicue arches, this gives stark contrast from the main city’s skyscrapers.
Also known as White Lover Park, this magical compound houses the factory of everyone’s favourite Japanese white chocolate biscuit, Shiroi Koibito. But hold up – while there is a minor educational portion on the production line, what you’ll experience here is a far cry from typical food factory tours. A main draw is a beautiful outdoor area styled like an English garden.
If Willy Wonka were Japanese, this is exactly what we’d imagine his chocolate factory to look like!
Matching the fairytale quality of the garden area is the grandiose interior of the building itself, with chandeliers, red carpets, and intricate embossing on its walls. Experience a blast from the past as you wander rooms filled with vintage Japanese toys that were popular back in the day.
Shiroi Koibito Park
Address: Miyanosawa 2-jo 2-chome, Nishi-ku, Sapporo 063-0052
Opening hours: Daily; 9am – 7pm
Admission fees: 600 YEN
You see them in Vines, spitting at the camera mid-chew. You see them in memes. You see them lined up on shelves in stuffed toy form. At Ecorin Village’s Green Pasture, you can meet and pet adorable alpacas IRL! It was raining when we visited, so the alpacas were brought from the spacious pastures into the stable, along with pygmy horses and goats.
Later on, we were treated to a tractor ride around the farm, before enjoying a sheep race and sheep feeding session.
Time to get crafty! DIY your very own finger puppet as a keepsake to remember your time here, using felted sheep’s and alpaca’s wool. Not good with your hands? Don’t worry, because the helpful staff will patiently guide you step by step.
The technology of teleportation isn’t available to us (yet), but exploring the 30 mini themed gardens at Ecorin Village’s Galaxy Garden comes pretty close. From a treehouse to castle-like structures and even a hut similar to Frodo’s Shire in LOTR, each one will transport you to a different world!
This treehouse was furnished with miniature tables and chairs, and filled with picture books!
Pictures don’t do justice to how enchanting this eco-garden is! Other areas to frolic at include an apple plantation, pumpkin patch, and grand Roman-esque columns – there’s just so much to discover. We can only imagine how much more charming it’ll be during Spring or Summer when all the flowers are in full bloom!
Address: Japan, 〒061-1421 Hokkaido Prefecture, Eniwa, 牧場277-4
Opening hours: Daily; 9.30am – 5pm
Admission fees: 1200 YEN
For any h8ers who’ve ever told me to “go to hell”, guess what? Been there, done that – and it’s hauntingly beautiful. Directly translated to “Hell Valley” in English, Noboribetsu Jigokudani’s barren rocky landscape is what people imagine the netherworld to be like.
Relax – this isn’t an apocalyptic fire-and-brimstone wasteland. But do prepare to be amazed by spewing geysers and sulphurous streams – a scene refreshingly different from the usual floral landscapes of Hokkaido. With waters at piping hot temperatures of over 80 degrees celsius, Jigokudani is also the source of Noboribetsu’s hot springs.
Address: Japan, 〒059-0551 Hokkaido Prefecture, Noboribetsu, 登別温泉町無番地
Country Inn Milky House is the cosiest homestay you could ever hope for. With the fluffiest beds, country-style log furniture, and even a karaoke room with a selection of popular English songs, we fell in love right away!
Just ‘cause it’s a rural area, doesn’t mean you’ll be short of fun. There’s plenty to do here, such as horse trekking, fruit-picking, and taking a hot-air balloon ride against the scenic backdrop of Mount Yotei.
Country Inn Milky House
Address: Japan, Yubinbango 048-1511 Hokkaido Prefecture, Abuta District, Niseko-cho Niseko 482-1
Cost: from 8800 YEN per person per night (with meals)
As recommended by our host, we took a hike to Shinsen-Numa Marsh. Snaking through a lush forest, the 30-minute trail to the marsh was paved with wooden planks and dotted with helpful sign boards, so it was pretty easy making our way. We were lucky enough to catch the beginnings of Autumn’s warm colours along the way.
Tip: It’s best not to attempt the trail any later than 4pm, because the sun sets at 5pm. Not only will you have difficulty making your way back in the dark, you won’t get to take in the sights properly.
Hidden in the forest lies a secret onsen, Koikawa Onsen Ryokan. Opened over 100 years ago, it’s hailed as the best in the area as it’s quieter and at a higher altitude than the rest – which means higher water temperatures and quality.
Even many locals are unaware of this hidden haven, so the body-conscious ones among us can feel more at ease here. But don’t be too mortified if you do run into others basking in their naked glory – the Japanese have a very polite culture and will spare you the roving eyes and awkwardness.
Talk about being truly one with nature – it’s a liberating experience soaking au naturel in the great outdoors here among rocks and plants.
Do refrain from taking any cameras or phones into the onsen as a form of respect to fellow patrons. We cluelessly snapped the above picture before being gently told off.
Koikawa Onsen Ryokan
Address: 048-1321 Hokkaido, Niseko, Yunosato 592, Japan
Admission fees: 600 YEN
Waking up at the crack of dawn for a farm tour, we expected the usual animals like cows and sheep. Imagine our surprise when we came face to face with a herd of ostriches, and were given an opportunity to feed them!
Let me warn you though, ostriches bite the hands that feed them – literally. When they pecked at the grain and grass in my palm, they pecked hard, and my skin was a little raw afterwards. But this experience was golden – everyone should put ostrich-feeding down on their bucket lists.
When it comes to food, Sapporo is synonymous with ramen – specifically, miso ramen. In fact, there’s a whole alley of ramen restaurants dedicated to it at Sapporo’s famous Ramen Alley. Smack in the middle of the red-light district, the unassuming alley with 17 restaurants will be easy to miss if you’re not actively looking for it.
Spoiled for choice, we randomly picked an eatery at the end of the alley and enjoyed a piping bowl of miso corn ramen for 1000 YEN. The generous portion of sweet corn, thick slices of cha shu, and springy noodles left our tummies warm and happy.
Another Sapporo specialty, soup curry is best enjoyed on a cold night. Don’t confuse it with the curry in Japanese curry rice – soup curry is thinner in texture and more like a broth. We had ours at Ouchi, a restaurant recommended by Sapporo locals.
Anything with bacon and cheese is a win for me, and this Hokkaido Broiled Caciocavallo and Bacon Soup Curry (1480 YEN) certainly didn’t disappoint! You can select your desired spiciness level, from Mild to Regular and Hot 1 to Hot 10. Hot 2 was just nice for us – not too overwhelming, but with a good kick.
Address: Japan, 〒060-0063 Hokkaido Prefecture, Sapporo, Chuo Ward, 南3条西7丁目7-26
Opening hours: Mon – Sat: 11.30am – 11pm | Sun: 11.30am – 8pm
Can’t decide on just one flavour when it comes to Hokkaido’s delicious soft serve? Deliberate no more, ‘cause you can have ‘em all at one go. This 7-flavoured Rainbow Tower soft serve (550 YEN) from Otaru is what dreams are made of – the best of grape, strawberry, matcha, melon, vanilla, chocolate, and lavender soft serve coiled into a tower of bliss.
Behold the biggest tako ball (450 YEN) you’ve ever laid eyes on. Each one is packed with corn, mushrooms, dango, quail’s egg, squid, scallop, and more – a truly awakening explosion of flavours.
You could have this as a complete meal if not too ravenous – though we’d advise you to share it with a friend to leave space for other goodies as Otaru’s streetside stores are perfect for food trails.
You know how people always say Japanese fruits are a notch above the rest? They’re not lying. This was hands down the best rockmelon that’s touched my tongue, and the azuki beans with creamy soft serve just heightened the entire experience. Heaven on earth for just 700 YEN.
If you’d like to explore Hokkaido but are not sure where exactly to go, Sapporo is a good place to start. Relatively close to New Chitose Airport and other neighbouring cities like Otaru and Noboribetsu, you’ll be in for a refreshing getaway filled with amazing sights from nature.
You’re probably thinking that a trip to Sapporo with your crew will break your bank account, given the airfares involved. It’s time to throw that misconception out of the window, as Scoot now offers flights to Sapporo at super affordable prices from just $219 (one-way). That’s even cheaper than the cost of many staycations in Singapore!
We hopped onto Scoot’s inaugural flight to Sapporo with a 45-minute stopover in Taipei, and were pleasantly surprised to find that seats were reasonably spacious. To further increase comfort levels, the friendly cabin crew will spring to help should you have any difficulties storing your bulky hand-carry items in the roomy overhead bins.
Scoot’s selection of light meals are perfect for the beginning leg of layover flights and for flights under 5 hours. For flights with durations longer than 5 hours, we recommend pre-ordering one of their hot meals or premium selections.
Featuring Scoot’s Chicken Ham & Cheese Croissants (left) and Teriyaki Chicken Wrap (right)
Scoot’s Premium Selection – Teriyaki Chicken
Scoot’s vegetarian Pomodoro Fusilli
With Scoot now offering flights to Sapporo 3 times a week at affordable prices, a vacation to the land of miso ramen and creamy soft serve isn’t that out of reach after all. Time to start planning your itinerary – or just follow ours! The last we checked, flights are priced at about $500 SGD!
This post was brought to you by Scoot.
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