POST Online Media Lite Edition


From seven to 1972 Olympic Winter Games

Johnny Rochette |
In 1972 Sapporo was a host of the Olympic Winter Games. At the second half of the 19th century just seven persons lived in that small fishing town.

Article continues below

Situated on the island of Hokkaido, Sapporo is the fifth biggest city in Japan. That small coastal town, with the name that means "Important river flowing through a plain" in language of old Ainu people, is organized in a very unusual way comparing to other eastern cities: Japanese government wanted to create a metropolis like those in the USA and the result is a geometrical city with streets crossing at 90 degrees.

Although the city has been built under American influence, that's still a Japanese city which means that you can't miss the parks. "Park of the large street", Odori Park, is indeed a park of large street: it stretches from the south to the north of Sapporo, in the length of 12 blocks. This is the most beautiful part of the city along which you can see old buildings from 19th century and tall skyscrapers of the modern architecture.

Odori Park is also the place where many annual festivals take place, such as the Bon, Yosakoi Soran and Snow Festival, one of the most famous winter festivals in Japan. The festival began in 1950, when six local high school students built six snow statues in Odori Park. From then Sapporo hosts more than 300 huge ice sculptures and snow statues every year in early February. Satoland, and Susukino areas are also sites where sculptures can be seen, but Odori Park is one of the best of them.

At the east side of the park there is TV Tower, a kind of Sapporo's Eiffel Tower with a beautiful view on the city and surrounding area. A double pleasure at one place.

However, the first thing you must visit or you'll make your host angry is the Winter Sports Museum. The memory of Olympic Games in 1972 is still very alive and kicking and you simply must allow your host to get you back in time and live through all games again even if you say that you are from Olympic Committee. But that's no wonder, Sapporo games were the first Olympic Winter Games organised in Asia.

Famous Sapporo Dome still reminds of Games as the venue where both indoor and nighttime ski races took place for the first time on Winter Olympic Games.

To feel more of the Japanese spirit visit Ramen Yokocho. Ramen, meaning "side street", is a small neighbourhood with small shops that offer traditional Japanese food, soy sauce, crabs, corn and butter, prepared in a unique way and you can't find that food anywhere else in Japan. Ramen is the place where local people come to talk with their friends after a long working day and to drink one (often more than one) sake and their famous beer.

The city hosts Sapporo Breweries, one of the biggest beer companies in Japan and, of course, they turned their Beer Museum to a tourist attraction. In Sapporo Breweries nearby you can taste beer which can't be tasted anywhere else in the world.

The Clock Tower built in 1878, got its USA-made clock three years later, and at that time it was the tallest building in the city. It is the true symbol of the city, an Important Cultural Property, with a history museum inside. In the tower students from the Sapporo Agricultural College have learned and that college later became famous Hokkaido University.

While we are at university, we must not miss Hokkaido University Museum with some four million items collected 120 years. Beautiful ceramics can be seen at the Meissen Museum, Art Nouveau glassworks at the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art will leave you breathless, as well as great sculptures in the Sapporo Art Park.

Sapporo is a city full of tourist attractions and you could spend months wandering around and find something new every day. From Jozankei Onsen, a hot spring where locals warm themselves up during cold winters, to Mount Moiwa Ropeway, a combination of gondola rides and beautiful scenery, to Hitsujigaoka, or sheep hill, which offers a beautiful panoramic view over Sapporo, the Olympic city founded by seven.

What to read next

Places to go (31)
Planning the weekend around the globe (23)
Postcard from Brum, the heart of England