After studying international relations with a focus on Japanese culture at Florida State University, Kaley Portier knew she had to spend more than just a vacation in the Asian island nation.
So when the company she worked for asked her to move to Sapporo, on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, she jumped at the chance. “The native Floridian in me was scared at the prospect of living in one of the snowiest places on Earth,” she says. “But this city showed me that the best things in life are those that you don’t expect.” Plus, she adds, “the people are the nicest you’ll meet in Japan.”
Here are a few of Kaley’s favorite things about the city she’s proud to call home.
Sapporo Is My City
When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is to 19th-century Odori Park in Sapporo’s city center.
Summer is the best time to visit my city because that’s when Sapporo’s beer gardens are in full swing.
You can see my city best from the JR Tower.
Chi-Ka-Ho, Sapporo’s underground walkway, is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.
My city’s best museum is the Sapporo Art Park because you can visit a museum, encounter local artists selling their goods, and experience a large sculpture garden for a reasonable price.
If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that you should buy a Donichika day pass on the weekends for subway and streetcar fare.
The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is Moerenuma Park, designed by Isamu Noguchi.
My city really knows how to celebrate spring and summer. Because winter is so long, locals really appreciate it when the snow melts.
You can tell if someone is from my city if they eat their ramen with corn and butter.
For a fancy night out, I go to a nice yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurant in Susukino, Sapporo’s red-light district.
Just outside my city, you can visit the Lavender Furano flower farms.
The best outdoor market in my city is the Nijo Fish Market, which occupies an entire block of downtown Sapporo.
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read What’s On In Sapporo.
Walking home at 4 a.m. with the sun fully risen could only happen in my city.
In the spring you should see the Yosakoi Soran dance festival in Odori.
In the summer you should visit every beer garden in the city, or simply stop by the Sapporo Odori Beer Garden, a huge beer-garden extravaganza held annually as part of the city’s summer festival in Odori Park.
In the fall you should go to Nakajima Park to see the leaves change colors.
In the winter you should go skiing or snowboarding at the Teine resort.
If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Esta shopping arcade in Sapporo Station.