For those of us living in more equatorial parts, Sapporo’s notorious winter can be downright frightful. First snowfall comes in October, and you can count on the city sporting a thick snow blanket until April. While Kyoto is seeing cherry blossoms, Sapporo is seeing snow banks. But when that long awaited spring and summer comes, the joy is palpable, the vibe electric, and the food delicious.
Start in Susukino for the classic spectacle
Susukino is the main entertainment district of Sapporo. If you were to visit in winter, you would be forgiven for not realizing it, but in summertime those streets are teeming with warm weather revelers. And, as well all know, revelers need food. From refined and resplendent to down and dirty, the city’s got what you need. Start hungry, because this is going to be a bender.
A crab feast may be just what the doctor ordered
Arguably the region’s most famous food, crabs are indisputably on parade. The crabs in Japan tend to be smaller than Dungeness or King crabs, and a bit more challenging to eat, but also sweet and with the potential to be slightly euphoria inducing. You will not be dipping the meat into cocktail sauces of any sort, and even butter is humbly discouraged. Try the delicate meat with a bit of ponzu (a Japanese, citrus based sauce), possibly with a bit of soy sauce in the mix. Check out Sapporo Jougai Ichiba (Sapporo’s seafood wet market) for shops selling live and cooked crabs. Many shops have places to eat them, and there’s a plethora of restaurants interspersed as well.
Ramen proves how the sum can be so much more than its parts
The joy of balance through contrasts in Asian culture may be most familiar to you in the yin and yang dichotomy, but for foodies, the concrete nature of flavor and texture contrasts is much more fun. After the “sappari” (slightly astringent, crisp flavors), you may be in the mood for something more “kotteri” (fatty), and Sapporo’s famous miso ramen will happily take you there. There’s rich broth ramen gracing bowls across the country, but it is here in Sapporo where the miso paste infused version was invented, perfected, and continues to be elevated on to an albeit slightly greasy pedestal. Tender pork, slightly chewy noodles, crispy bean sprouts, and a half-boiled egg if you do up your ramen right. Textures galore, flavor even more. Sanpachi Ramen is highly recommended as a place to receive a delicious education in miso ramen.
Tofu done sublime with sea urchin
With crab and the comfort food of Japan, ramen, under your now loosened belt, it’s time to get just a little highbrow. How does Shusaiya Asari restaurant’s sea urchin infused tofu sound for a starting bell? Creamy, and with just the right amount of sea urchin, it will virtually melt in your mouth (melting texture, rich flavor). It also pairs well with sake (especially if it is that crisp, “sappari” taste), which will elegantly bridge you to some chicken wings stuffed with Chinese dumpling filling. These generously impregnated wings are crispy on the outside, with a bounty of dumpling filling on the inside. The textures and flavors continue to yin, yang, and wow at Shusaiya Isari restaurant.
Street food also in Full Effect
Nighttime in early July is still light sweater or at least over shirt weather, so come prepared as to not miss out on all the nighttime fun on the street in the Susukino district. Friends old and new can be found eating street food, laughing, and even singing. Whether it be dim sum or cotton candy, a variety of eat-on-the-stroll foods are readily available.
Come for the weather, stay for the food
With pleasant summer weather, Sapporo’s allure is clear. But don’t stop with deep breaths of clean air and a smiling face. Get into the trenches with the flavors of the North. There’s so much more than this primer can proffer. A host of culinary treasures quite different from other parts of Japan await your discovery.
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