Beer, baths and blizzards in Sapporo

Sapporo is a popular tourist destination for travellers into winter sports. With an annual cumulative snowfall of about 5m and plenty of ski resorts to choose from, many people are putting Sapporo on their ski-circuit.

Mr Iced Vovo and I visited there this March, not for skiing, both of us have never set foot on a ski field, but to visit my sister, nephew and brother-in-law.  On the day we were to fly from Kyoto unbeknown to us half the country was being hit by a severe weather storm and we were lucky to get our flight out of Osaka to Sapporo when we did. While we were at first a little shocked by the amount of snow, waking up the next day to see a beautiful blanket of white and large snowflakes falling, we quickly embraced the experience. My sister soon had us out making snow-people (I’m being politically correct!), snow angels and, with borrowed snow boots and jackets, we got used to shuffling around looking like two Michelin-men!

Another great experience we had was visiting Jozankei, a hot-spring area about 50 minutes by bus from Sapporo central.  Jozankei is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery and is also a popular destination in spring and summer for bushwalking.  Look out for strange little statues called Kappa, who is the local mascot. Legend has it that a little boy was once taken by a goblin and turned into a water imp and he now protects people from drowning or falling in to the river.

We stayed at Nukumorino-yado Furukawa and booked the Congratulations Onsen Anniversary plan. And while we weren’t having any real kind of celebration we thought this plan best suited what we wanted. We had the most sensational time relaxing in a hot rock room (we added this 50mins in the hot rock room on to our plan) – and boy was it hot! We also used the separated male/female bathing areas – each containing a number of baths to try (outside, hot, superhot, a bath containing special herbs and minerals etc) and we had our own private couples only bath – in a beautifully handmade cypress bath (included in the plan).

As part of the package we were also treated to about a nine course kaiseki style dinner – each dish was made from seasonal and local produce and was impeccably presented. Our waitress did her best to explain the dishes and management even went to the trouble to print out a menu translated as best they could to describe each dish. At the end we were also given a celebration cake that we boxed up and took home to share with the family. We also got a delicious buffet style breakfast, with a mixture of Japanese and Western food and late 12 noon checkout.

We opted for the traditional tatami style room and it was beautifully presented, clean and very comfortable. There were Yukata to pop on when we arrived with accompanying slippers and Whilst at dinner our futons were set up and there are all kinds of little treats left in the room upon arrival and when you come back from dinner.

The Onsen also had a gift shop and gallery were we bought a few souvenirs and some gorgeous ceramics from local artists. Overall the service, staff, experience was flawless and I would certainly go back again anytime of the year. (If you follow the link make sure to explore the Japanese sections and not just the English button as it has more information and pictures)

Another wonderful place to visit in Sapporo is the iconic Sapporo Beer Garden. Set in beautiful surrounds you will find the historic Genghis Khan Beer Hall – an ivy covered red brick building that has been carefully restored with a great vibe and atmosphere. Inside you will find a giant copper brewing kettle dating back to the Taisho Period. There is also a beer museum, gift shop and the more modern Garden Grill restaurant. We ate at the Garden Grill on this visit and had the Genghis Khan bbq amongst other tasty treats – not to mention sampling a number of the delicious beers they have on offer.

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