The vast prefecture of Hokkaido is home to an abundance of natural resources and one of Japan's top producers of fresh seafood, which is why you'll find a mind-boggling amount of specialty foods to choose from in Hokkaido's largest city, Sapporo.
We're talking about interesting cuisine like sumptuous crab hotpot, warm and homely soup curry, succulent jingisukan barbeque, and other things that defy convention in the best way possible.
So, where does one even start? How about right here? You can't go wrong with our detailed strategy that includes comprehensive details on what to eat in Sapporo, where to dine, and restaurants near major landmarks and attractions that are worth checking out on your next visit!
Checklist of must-try Sapporo specialties
1. Sapporo ramen, miso ramen
Did you know that miso ramen originated from Sapporo?
Each bowl of this local delight is usually served with noodles of medium thickness to allow them to absorb as much soup stock as possible. Bean sprouts and spring onions are standard toppings, creating a tasty blend of sweet, aromatic vegetables and rich, savory broth.
Newer recipes of this all-time favorite come with other exciting toppings like corn, butter, and even chili peppers, which are popular despite the break from tradition.
It's easy to find miso ramen in Sapporo - it's likely on the menu of most eateries here. There's even a special ramen-only zone in the commercial building connected to Susukino and Sapporo Stations. You can try out each restaurant's take on this Sapporo staple and see which one you enjoy the most! More on that later!
2. Jingisukan Barbeque
A Hokkaido local specialty where lamb meat and vegetables are cooked on a unique grill before being served.
The grill is special in that instead of being completely flat, it protrudes out at the center, and meat is grilled at the top part of this protrusion while vegetables are grilled inside the grooves at the bottom. This way, when the meat stock drips down from the top into the grooves below, the vegetables benefit from this extra seasoning, enhancing the entire meal's flavor.
The meat used in jingisukan can be either lamb meat, known to be more tender and give off less odor, or mutton from adult sheep with a more gamey flavor. Also, if you happen to see the rare and exotic Hokkaido-raised Suffolk sheep meat on the menu, get it before it's gone!
The meat from this breed of sheep doesn't have the characteristic odor, and there's even a slightly sweet taste to the fats, which is why it comes highly recommended even to those who don't usually eat lamb or mutton.
Once again, because it's really that good: Don't miss out on this treat if you see it available on the menu!
3. Sushi, seafood rice bowls (kaisendon)
The best way to appreciate Hokkaido's treasure trove of fresh seafood is also the simplest: sushi!
You may be immediately thinking about high-end restaurants with chefs preparing the food for you behind a bar and serving you each carefully crafted piece directly. Still, there's also much joy and satisfaction in a more common revolving sushi restaurant setting, and even more so in Hokkaido, where the seafood is cheap, and ingredients are used quite generously.
For the full local experience, walk into a market for a bowl of seafood rice filled to the brim with all sorts of freshly-caught seafood served with tasty Japanese rice.
Besides seafood specialty stores, high-quality sushi and seafood rice bowls are usually also available in Japanese-style bars known as izakaya as well. But if you're only looking to try the freshest seafood, a specialty store would be more likely to offer what you need. In contrast, an izakaya is perfect for a night out with pals because of the wide variety of food offerings available.
4. Soup curry
Those who have tried this dish often remember how addicting the thick and spicy broth can be, how it brings out the taste in the large chunks of vegetables inside, and how the chicken meat is so tender that a spoon can slice right through it.
This is the epitome of a traditional bowl of soup curry in Hokkaido. Other popular combinations of this soup feature meats with a chewier texture, like braised pork or Hamburg patties.
Many restaurants offering this dish insist on using local ingredients, so it's not a stretch to say that a single bowl of soup curry can be a complete sensory experience of all that Hokkaido has to offer in terms of tastiness!
Besides that, since every shop has a different way of preparing food, each soup curry will have a unique flavor that you can compare with each other to find the one that strikes your fancy the most.
5. Yakiniku (grilled meat)
Since the dairy industry is flourishing in Hokkaido, the prefecture rears plenty of cows in addition to pigs, chicken, and other livestock for meat, which means the barbeque shops in Sapporo will have fresh slices of tasty meat for grilling available all year round.
Restaurant types also run the gamut. Some shops are highly selective about where they acquire stock, whereas others want their customers to have as hearty a meal for as reasonable a price as possible.
One thing for sure is that the meat provided by all of these shops will be of high quality. They will also likely be served with unique sauces made with a recipe uniquely developed by each restaurant. Match all that premium meat with a bowl of bibimbap and soup for a complete meal!
The king of all Hokkaido seafood, crabs can be caught almost anywhere in the prefecture and are thus enjoyed all year round.
However, the specific type of crab has certain periods when they are more abundant than usual. For king crabs, this would be the period between autumn and winter, snow crabs and Hanasaki crabs are more likely to be caught between spring and summer, whereas the horsehair crab is available throughout the year.
This delicacy can be eaten in a number of ways - steamed, shabu shabu hotpot, or raw. The nutrient-dense and lusciously rich crab roe is a must-try as well, as its ever-increasing popularity indicates.
You can find crab cuisine in specialty shops and izakaya. If you want to try it all without having to keep tabs on the price of each dish, there's always the option of walking into one of the many buffet restaurants in town.
7. Ice-cream sundaes & parfaits
Sapporo's unique after-meal culture involves finishing the meal with a mug of beer and an ice cream sundae. That's why you'll find quite a number of sundae shops in Susukino that stay open until quite late. Don't be too surprised to find ice-cream sundaes on the menu of a drinking bar as well because that's just how they roll in Sapporo!
As you would expect of a region known for its quality dairy products, the ice-cream sundaes of Hokkaido are simply in a class of their own, made from fresh and delicious dairy and seasonal ingredients that have been locally sourced.
If you've always thought of ice cream as a child's treat, well, think again after trying one of the sundaes here specifically designed to go well with a glass of nice wine! Taste and see for yourself how this versatile dessert is quite suitable for all ages.
Since ingredients for dessert-making are so easy to find in Hokkaido, there is unsurprisingly a large number of confectionery manufacturers in this dessert paradise.
One of the most popular dessert visitors buy here is the humble chocolate, whether in raw form or made into chocolate-based sweets like cat tongues.
Here, you will find high-end dessert shops that painstakingly craft every piece of their chocolates like art pieces, casual chocolate specialty cafes that offer great-tasting products at inviting prices, and everything in between.
Pro-tip: If you see unique chocolates that can only be found in Sapporo, don't hesitate to grab them before they're gone because you may never get another chance to buy them again!
Where to eat around popular Sapporo attractions
1. Sapporo Station Area
This refers to the area around the city center of Sapporo Station on the JR Lines and Sapporo Station on the Sapporo Municipal Subway, both of which are well-connected to virtually anywhere else in the city.
JR Tower is a commercial complex directly connected to Sapporo Station on the JR Lines, and like almost every other large commercial building in Japan, there are areas dedicated explicitly to restaurants and eateries.
For example, in Stellar Place, you'll find Nemuro Hanamaru, a revolving sushi bar that has long queues no matter which branch in Japan you visit.
On the 10th floor of Esta, there's Ramen Republic, where eight popular ramen stores battle for the hearts and mouths of potential customers.
One of the more popular stores among locals in the Ramen Republic is Shirakanba Sanso. There's also a Shodai Ramen branch here, selling the ramen that once won second place in a famous Japanese TV program. You're not a true ramen fan if you don't visit this place at least once during your trip here!
Sapporo Station is just brimming with restaurants waiting to satisfy your taste buds with sushi, seafood rice bowls, set meals, and more! Don't forget to finish your meal with a nice dessert from Kitakaro Sapporo Honkan before you end the day!
Famous attractions near Sapporo Station are almost always accompanied by a good restaurant either in the attraction itself or within its vicinity.
Enjoy a mug of locally brewed Sapporo beer while chomping down on delicious jingisukan grilled meat while visiting Sapporo Beer Garden or Sapporo Beer Museum.
The old structure of the Former Hokkaido Government Office Building is also quite a marvel, and don't forget to drop by the Sapporo Clock Tower as well!
After a good meal, take a relaxing walk around the serene environment of Hokkaido University, which is only 10 minutes from the station on foot. It's a great way to empty your stomach for the next round of delicious food just around the corner.
2. Odori / Tanukikoji / Susukino Area
This area is between Odori Station, Tanukikoji Station, and Susukino Station on the Sapporo Municipal Subway. It is also considered one of Sapporo's most prosperous downtown areas.
Susukino, in particular, is known to be home to a variety of reputable restaurants, especially premium jingisukan grill specialty stores like the famous Daruma.
If you're feeling soup curry, crab cuisine, seafood, or just want to chill in an izakaya, there is no end of options for you to pick from.
Rise early and walk for about 8 minutes from Tanukikoji Station to Nijo Market for an energizing bowl of luxurious seafood rice to start your day at full tank and ready to take on whatever comes next.
Odori Park is also found in this area, and this is the main venue for the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. Other places of interest are Sapporo TV Tower, the bustling Tanukikoji Shopping Street, and the comparatively restful Nakajima Park.
Good food, sights, shopping, and accommodations can all be found nearby! Since many of the grill shops and izakaya in this area are open until quite late, it's easy to hop into one for a quick drink before heading back to rest up for the night.
・Grilled meat (yakiniku)
・Crab & Seafood
New Restaurants for 2022
This brand new restaurant complex located in Tanukikoji Shopping Street opened on August 30, 2022 and features great local specialties like seafood rice bowls, sushi, jingisukan grill, and robatayaki (charcoal grill), as well as evergreen favorites such as skewered meat, ramen, waffles, American hamburgers, and cafe and izakaya food. Basically a convenient one-stop station for Hokkaido food, the building's distinctly Japanese outdoor food cart-style decor also adds to the experience and makes everything more photogenic than usual.
- Address 2-5 Minami-2-jo Nishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0062
Hours: Restaurants 11:00AM - 11:00PM, Shops 11:00AM - 8:00PM
Official website: https://tanukicomichi.com/
3. Maruyama / Moiwa Area
This area is on the outskirts of Sapporo, and the environment is peaceful and serene. You can take a nice nature walk in the massive Maruyama Park or hike up Mount Moiwa for a bit of a graceful break in your busy itinerary.
Perhaps this tranquility contributed to the relatively larger number of Michelin-starred restaurants serving food such as sushi a la carte or in kaiseki (traditional multi-course meal) or kappo (spontaneous multi-course meal) style. If your budget permits, this is a great way to experience Hokkaido food culture as well!
About 15 minutes from Soen Station is the Sapporo Curb Market, a marketplace that sells many of Sapporo's famous local specialties like fresh seafood and Hami melon.
A branch of Atelier Morihiko, one of the top cafes of Hokkaido, can be found near Maruyama Park as well. If enjoying a sip of Sapporo coffee in an old wooden townhouse sounds like your kind of thing, this would be a must-visit destination!
Other than what's already been mentioned, Maruyama Park also contains other must-visit hotspots like Hokkaido Shrine, Sapporo City Maruyama Zoo, and Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art.
After having your fill of the park, take a cable car up Mount Moiwa in the evening to see the breathtaking night view from atop its summit for a spectacular end to a productive day of food and sightseeing.
・Kaiseki / Japanese Cuisine
4. Jozankei Onsen Area
Jozankei Onsen can be reached via bus service from Sapporo Station. Because this hot spring resort is very popular with local residents, there are plenty of hot spring hotels and Japanese-style inns available for overnight stays here.
The more important part, though, is that these hotels offer food to their guests Japanese banquet-style, meaning you'll be able to enjoy fantastic seafood delicacies like Hokkaido snow crabs, sea urchins, and fish roes in the convenience and comfort of your own accommodations.
Pick the two-meals option when booking a room if you're willing to spare the budget and experience what it's like to eat and bathe like a king for a day!
A few shops may warrant your attention along the street of Jozankei Onsen. Daikokuya, for instance, is an old and established shop that sells simple but comforting sweet onsen manju (steamed buns).
Popular cafe Amenohi to Yukinohi is also worth a visit. If you like apple pies, run to J・glacée as soon as you can for their amazing pies made with fresh ingredients from Hokkaido. And after all that running around, rest your weary feet at the foot bath in Kokorono Sato Jozan while having a snack and some relaxing tea. Sounds like a foodie's dream holiday, indeed!
Food and Spa! Hotel and restaurant recommendations
5. Shin-Sapporo Area
This area is where Shin-Sapporo Station on the JR Lines and Sapporo Municipal Subway is located. It takes about 9 minutes to reach via JR Lines and 21 minutes via municipal subway.
If you've rented a car for your Hokkaido trip, the place is in between Shin-Chitose Airport and Sapporo City, making it an ideal pit stop between destinations for food and sightseeing.
As the area is slated to become the second city center of Sapporo, it's constantly being developed, and there are already quite a number of large-scale commercial buildings already in operation for shopping and eating. Within and around the station are shops selling popular Japanese cuisine like ramen, sushi, izakaya food, and fried chicken, all at reasonable prices.
You may be interested to know that the Historical Village of Hokkaido is only a 10-minute ride away, and the scenic Sapporo Hitsujigaoka Observation Deck can be reached in about 20 minutes as well.
Shin-Sapporo is not as well-known as Susukino or Odori, but the station is very accessible, and the area is well-equipped with all the necessary amenities for a good time. Not convinced yet? Plan to stay overnight here on your first or last day in Sapporo and see for yourself!
*This article is an article originally published in February 2021 and edited in October 2022. Please check official websites for details and the latest information.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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