As luck would have it, we chose the briskest day of our trip up North thus far to explore Maruyama Park. Luckily along with the cold came mostly blue skies, with the odd wisp of cloud bringing light flurries. Maruyama Park is vast with lots to offer. What attracted us to the park was Hokkaido Shrine, erected on orders of Emperor Meiji to enshrine the 3 kami of the Hokkaido reclamation.
Episode 5: https://youtu.be/ozd0AutqBhc
The park was a short subway ride from Odori Park station on the Tozai Line. Navigating the subway system in Sapporo is very easy and we give a short introduction to it in this episode.
Maruyamakoen Station is only 3 stops away, and once there it is a short walk to the park. At the entrance to the park closest to this station there is an information booth where you can get some details on the park and it’s attractions. We outlined some of the bigger attractions with the help of a map of the park’s entrance. Something that looked like fun was a hike up Sankakuyama, but we didn’t have time on this visit to the park. We came to explore Hokkaido Shrine and decided to visit Maruyama Zoo. We’re suckers for zoos!
Hokkaido Shrine is a larger complex of several buildings. I am not entirely sure if the whole complex is referred to as Hokkaido Shrine, or just the primary shrine building. But either way there are several buildings to visit. Along with the 3 kami of the Hokkaido reclamation, there is a forth kami, the soul of Emperor Meiji. Each kami have their own shrine and you are able to visit each. I found it a rather calming experience exploring this complex. It was very quiet and peaceful, and the weather added a lot to the atmosphere for me. Compared to other more historic shrines in Japan, such as those found in Kyoto, this one is fairly recent. Not only because Hokkaido didn’t start to be developed until the 1800s, but also because a fire took the primary building in 1974 and it was restored in 1978.
After the shrine we walked over to Maruyama Zoo. The zoo is a relatively small one, and could easily be visited in a morning or afternoon. It had a good mix of animals from various continents. In true Japanese form, it had a 7-eleven inside the zoo! We popped into the store to warm up a bit, it was quite cold. We had a fun time strolling through the zoo, visiting most of the animals they had to offer.
One funny thing that didn’t make into the video was the constant repeating of an announcement over the loud speakers in the zoo. We eventually learnt what it was saying, or rather warning. They were warning not to walk around with plastic shopping bags because the ravens had learnt they often contained food and were known to attack anyone carrying them. I tried to get Nicole to walk around with a plastic bag for video footage, but she didn’t go for it. 🙂
After working up an appetite, and a chill, a hot bowl of ramen was exactly what we needed, and had a place in mind we wanted to try. We learnt about a ramen shop, Nitori no Keyaki, on another YouTube channel we follow. It looked amazing, and we were dying to give it a try. We arrived at an odd time, right between lunch and dinner, which was perfect because the little shop was empty. The waitress happily helped us navigate the vending machine where we bought our tickets and the crack team of three went to work on our 2 bowls of ramen. It seemed that one of the three was perhaps an apprentice because both the chef and waitress were guiding him along as he helped lay down elements of the ramen. Nicole ordered the garlic ramen and I tried the corn butter ramen. The ramen I ordered is a specialty of Sapporo, chewy noodles submerged in a rich miso based broth, topped with corn and butter. Both were insanely good, and if I wasn’t completely stuffed, I would likely have had another bowl.
Back at the hotel we tried a new snack, rice crackers in a tubular shape filled with Hokkaido cheese. They reminded me of combos, which are crackers in a tubular shape stuffed with cheese. They went perfectly with a beer, I tried another Sapporo special beer. All finished off with some Hokkaido chewy candies.
We were feeling a tad jet lagged and decided to rest on the bed for a bit. That proved a mistake, as full of ramen and snacks we easily dozed off and awoke several hours later. Oops! Despite not wanting to get up from our warm bed, we forced ourselves out, as we had one more sight we wanted to visit for the day.
It was a complete fluke that we happened to be in Sapporo after their White Illumination event had started. This event sees Odori Park, along with a few other locations, totally decked out in lights. We didn’t know anything about the event before arriving in Sapporo, but were very glad find out it had started a few days prior to our arrival. It was beautiful and well worth venturing back out into the cold to see. We strolled along Odori Park taking in the sights, ending up at a temporary dome in which dazzling light shows were being put on. After enjoying the (non-heated) dome for a bit, we scurried back down into the underground and headed back to the hotel. We were leaving Sapporo the next day and needed to get a good sleep. We wanted to see a few more sights in the morning before catching a train to our next destination.
There were several locations featured in this episode
- JR Tower Hotel Nikko Sapporo – Our home for 5 nights as we explored Sapporo and a couple of close by towns. Our room was very comfortable and spacious (we had a corner room), and the view South over Sapporo was amazing. I think our favourite part of this hotel was the ridiculously good breakfast buffet.
- Odori Station – We walked down to Odori Station from Sapporo Station via the underground. Once there we gave a quick overview of how to purchase tickets for the subway.
- Maruyamakoen Station – We took the subway to this station on our way to Maruyama Park. We showed how to use the maps and station legends to navigate a subway station.
- Hokkaido Shrine – A beautiful shrine complex right in Maruyama Park.
- Maruyama Zoo – Nice little zoo we visited after the shrine. Can easily see the zoo in an afternoon.
- Nitori no Keyaki (Ramen) – The ramen shop we were dying to try. We highly recommend this place!
- Lawson – Hot canned coffee anyone? Quick stop after our ramen for a hot drink.
- Odori Park – Odori Park runs East-West and is home to the Sapporo TV Tower. It was one of the key locations for Sapporo’s White Illumination event.
Thanks for watching/reading!