By Plane -- Flights take 1 1/2 hours from Tokyo's Haneda Airport, 2 hours from Hiroshima, and 2 1/4 hours from Fukuoka. Sapporo's New Chitose Airport (tel. 0123/23-0111; www.new-chitose-airport.jp), located about 43km (27 miles) southeast of the capital, is connected to downtown by either Airport Limousine Bus, which delivers passengers to a few major hotels in about 70 minutes for ¥1,000; or by JR trains that operate every 15 minutes between Chitose Airport Station and Sapporo Station, with the 36-minute trip costing ¥1,040.
By JR Train -- Trains from Tohoku and other regions on Honshu arrive in Hakodate, where you'll transfer to a train departing every hour or so for Sapporo. The fare from Tokyo to Sapporo costs ¥22,780, with trips averaging 10 hours including transfers. Trains from Hakodate take about 3 1/2 hours and cost ¥8,590 for a reserved seat (the LEX Hokuto and Super Hokuto have only reserved seats). Otherwise, overnight trains also depart from Ueno Station in Tokyo and arrive in Sapporo the next morning, taking about 16 hours and costing from ¥25,270. In addition, an overnight train from Osaka departs around noon and arrives in Sapporo the next day at 9:52am, with fares starting at ¥25,620.
Be sure to pick up the useful leaflet "Sapporo and Shikotsu-Toya National Park" at a Tourist Information Center in Tokyo or international airports in Tokyo or Osaka (or download it at www.jnto.go.jp). In JR Sapporo Station, the excellent Hokkaido-Sapporo Tourist Information Center (tel. 011/213-5088; daily 8:30am-8pm), located opposite the west ticket gate, offers a wealth of information not only on Sapporo but all of Hokkaido, making it a must stop for travelers to other destinations on the island. Here, too, is a JR information counter (daily 8:30am-7pm), where you can pick up JR train and bus schedules or get rail passes validated. Additionally, the Sapporo International Communications Plaza, on the third floor of the MN Building across from the Clock Towerat N1 W3, Chuo-ku (tel. 011/211-3678; Mon-Sat 9am-5:30pm; closed holidays), provides maps and information on tourist attractions, daily life, and transportation. Online, you can check www.welcome.city.sapporo.jp or www.sta.or.jp.
Internet Access -- Inside the Hokkaido-Sapporo Tourist Information Center is Café Norte, open daily 8:30am to 8pm with five coin-operated computers (¥100 per 10 min.). Also, on the first floor of the Century Royal Hotel (1 min. west of Sapporo station's south exit), i-café (tel. 011/221-3440) charges ¥180 for 30 minutes and is open 24 hours a day.
Post Office & ATMs -- Sapporo Central Post Office, N6 E1 (tel. 011/748-2380), 2 blocks east of Sapporo Station, has a 24-hour window for stamps and mail and ATMs for international credit cards (weekdays 7am-11pm; Sat 9am-9pm; Sun and holidays 9am-7pm). Otherwise, there's a smaller post office in the east end of Sapporo Station's Paseo shopping mall, also with ATMs.
Orientation & Getting Around
After the jumble of most Japanese cities with their incomprehensible address systems, Sapporo will come as a welcome surprise. Its streets are laid out in a grid pattern, making the city easy to navigate. Addresses in Sapporo refer to blocks that follow one another in logical, numerical order.
Sapporo Station lies at the north end of the city, with downtown and many of its attractions, hotels, and restaurants spreading to the south. The center of Sapporo is Odori (Main St.), a tree-lined avenue south of Sapporo Station that runs east and west and bisects the city into north and south sections. North 1st Street, therefore, refers to the street 1 block north of Odori. The other determinant landmark is the Soseigawa River, which marks addresses east and west. West 1st Street runs along the west bank of the Soseigawa River, while East 1st Street runs along the east bank.
Addresses in Sapporo are generally given by block. N1 W4, for example, the address for the Sapporo Grand Hotel, means it's located in the first block north of Odori and 4 blocks west of West 1st Street. If you want to be more technical about it, the entire, formal address of the hotel would read N1-jo W4-chome. "Jo" refers to blocks north and south of Odori, while "chome" refers to blocks east and west of the river. Better yet, street signs in Sapporo are in English.
Central Sapporo is easy to cover on foot. You can walk south from Sapporo Station to Odori Park in less than 10 minutes (an underground passage btw. the two will open in 2011) and on to Susukino, Sapporo's nightlife district, in another 7 or 8 minutes. For longer distances, transportation in Sapporo is via bus, three subway lines (which interchange at Odori Station), and one streetcar line. Fares begin at ¥200 for buses and subways and ¥170 for streetcars, but easier are prepaid cards available in denominations beginning at ¥1,000 and valid for all conveyances. One-day cards, allowing unlimited rides on all modes of transport in 1 day, are also available for ¥1,000. A 1-day card for subways only costs ¥800, except on weekends and holidays when they're discounted to ¥500. Children pay half fare. Cards can be purchased at subway stations and on buses and streetcars.
Finally, the white-colored Sapporo Stroll Bus (Burari Sapporo Kanko Bus), operating early May to early November, and the blue- or orange-colored Sapporo Walk Bus (operating year-round) are tourist buses that travel in a loop to tourist sites around the city (unfortunately, neither goes to Nopporo Forest Park). Single fares are ¥200 for adults, half-price for children. A 1-day pass (available only when the Sapporo Stroll Bus is in operation), ¥750 for adults and ¥380 for children, allows you to get on and off as many times as you want between 9am and 7pm. Stops are announced in English and bus stops are clearly marked. Pick up a map showing stops and routes at the Tourist Information Center.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.