Food & Drink
Sapporo is well-known for Sapporo Beer, however many other beer companies also have breweries in Hokkaido (near Chitose Airport) because of natural springs. From mid-June, there are many beer festivals you can enjoy in Sapporo.
- Sapporo Classic Beer Garden at Odori Park – “Sapporo Classic” is German-style pilsner only available in Hokkaido. It is made in smaller baches with great care. There are two kinds; regular and summer limited version.
- Ginza Lion Beer Garden at Sapporo JR Station South Exit
- Sapporo Beer Terrace at Sapporo Beer Garden
- Sapporo Bier Keller Kaitakushi (meaning “Hokkaido Development Commission“) at Sapporo Factory
Also the tasty water is the most important ingredients for Sake, and there are many sake breweries in Sapporo and elsewhere in Hokkaido. You may have heard of Otokoyama sake brewery, located in Asahikawa, approximately 2-hour train ride from Sapporo.
Hokkaido is known for great food. Enjoy fresh seafood and produce. There are many types of Japanese cuisine.
- Kaiseki – elegant traditional multiple-plate course menu. The menu has to be very seasonal and has to utilize various cooking methods and types of dish, raw, stewed, grilled, deep fried, steamed, etc. Can be pricey, but probably the best way to experience traditional Japanese cuisine.
- Sushi – Mostly raw fish with sweet vinegar rice, but there are many cooked-seafood or vegetarian sushi. If you do not like raw seafood, try cooked shrimp, octopus, or crabmeat, grilled/steamed sea eel, egg omelet sushi; and vegetarian rolls such as cucumber, plum&shiso, natto, pickles rolls. Sushi restaurants often have cooked/vegetarian appetizers as well. There are two kinds of Sushi restaurants in Japan, Kaiten (meaning “go around”) and non-Kaiten.
- Kaiten (conveyor belt sushi) – tend to be inexpensive and casual. Sushi goes around the restaurant on conveyor belt, and you pick whatever you like. The color of plates on which sushi is served indicates the price. If you do not see what you like on the belt or you prefer to have fresher sushi, you can order separately. In addition to sushi, appetizers and desserts go around on the belt as well. Not the highest quality sushi you can get (think a little better than fast-food or grocery store sushi), but it is fun to give it a try.
- Non-Kaiten (regular) – more expensive than Kaiten. Quality varies significantly. Ask locals (especially, if you can get hold of local organizers) for suggestions. Some sushi restaurants mainly cater to tourists. Good sushi restaurants will try to accommodate your requests, especially if you sit at the bar. Ask for what’s special that day.
- Kaisen-Don/Chirashi – sushi bowls. Japanese people like these very much, especially for lunch, since they tend to be reasonable and you can adjust how much you want to eat rice with your fish. (Bowls tend to be reasonable because at a sushi restaurant, we pay partly for highly trained labor and bowls take less time & skills to make.)
- Tempura – deep fried seafood & vegetables. Sit at a Tempura bar at a high-quality restaurant: it will be completely different form Tempura you’ve had outside of Japan. Going vegan may be difficult since the batter contains eggs, but you can go vegetarian very easily.
- Shabu-Shabu – one of traditional Nabe (“hot pot”) dishes. You gently cook thinly sliced premium Japanese beef (such as Kobe beef) and vegetables in clear broth at your table. Kobe beef is not the only 0r even the best Japanese premium beef. In Hokkaido, Ikeda, Shiraoi, and Hakodate beef are some examples of truly high quality beef. More generic “Hokkaido beef” may be from non-Japanese breeds. In general, ask for “kuro-ge wagyu” (= Japanese cattle with black body) or “aka-ge wagyu” (= Japanese cattle with black body). (“ge” should be pronounced as in “get”) if you like premium beef and willing to pay for the experience.
- Sukiyaki – it is another representative Nabe dish. Thinly sliced premium beef and vegetables cooked in sweet soy based sauce. Japanese people tend to dip the cooked meat and vegetables in raw egg. Japanese eggs are quite safe as they are often cooked raw. But, if you do not feel comfortable, you can decline. See above for info about premium beef.
- Tonkatsu – port cutlet with ‘panko’ bread crumbs, served with tasty vegetable based sweet & sour sauce, and comes with all-you-can-eat miso soup, rice, and shredded cabbage. Just like we have premium beef, we also have premium pork. Again, asking for “kuro-ge” pork will ensure you have good meal. Premium pork is no-where near as expensive as premium beef.
- Yakitori – skewed lightly salted or teriyaki char-grilled chicken and vegetables. Vegetable skews are usually just salted. Great option for vegetarian meal.
- Unagi – eel, though may not look pretty is very tasty white fish. In eastern part of Japan, unagi is grilled, steamed, and grilled again with sweet soy sauce. In the west, unagi is just grilled once. Unagi is served over rice. The sauce tastes similar to Teriyaki.
- Soba – buckwheat noodles served either hot (in soup) or cold (with dipping sauce). 80% buckwheat and 20% wheat is the most typical mixture of flour: but some restaurants offer 100% buckwheat noodles. Whole buckwheat noodles tend to have slightly darker color than refined soba-noodles.
- Udon – thick wheat noodles, also served hot or cold. Along with soba, udon is great option for light meal.
- Ramen – Sapporo is extremely famous for ramen, Japanese style soup noodle dish. Unlike soba or udon, ramen soup is quite rich and typically offered in three flavors, salt, soy sauce, or miso. Sapporo ramen is traditionally based on miso-based soup. At JR sapporo station, there is Ramen Republic, where there are many well-known ramen restaurants.
- Jingiskan (meaning “Genghis Khan”) – Hokkaido style BBQ with lamb/mutton and vegetables cooked in soy-based sauce.
- Izakaya (meaning “Sake place”) is casual Japanese restaurants. Plates are usually small and tend to be seasonal. In Sapporo, izakayas tend to offer many seafood dish, but they also serve meat and vegetable dishes.
- Okonomi-yaki – savory cabbage pancake served on table-top teppan. Light and casual meal. Typically contains meat and seafood, but I think you can ask for a vegetarian version. Contains eggs.
- Sake Tasting Places – some izakaya is owned by sake breweries and they offer a few sake flight options. Also, some sake shops allow customers to taste their sake.
- Take-out Deli – basement floors of department stores are amazing. Even if you do not buy any food, it is worth a walk through. If you are too tired to eat out or want to buy some food in case you get hungry at odd times due to jet lag, you pretty much can get any kind of food (ok, maybe exaggerating a little). You can purchase savory dishes (sushi, sandwiches, bento box, etc) and desserts (cookies, chocolates, cakes, etc….), some are cooked hot/cold right in front of your eyes.
There also are great Italian, French, American, Chinese… restaurants, using fresh Hokkaido ingredients. (We will add more info above)
Food items in season (late June – early July)
- sea urchin
- sea eel
- asparagus (purple ones are especially tasty)
- tomato (sweet variety)
- haskap honeysuckle berry
- Convenience Stores
- Department Stores
- Grocery Stores
- Authentic Japanese Tea (loose leaf, tea bag, powdered) – green tea is not the only kind of Japanese tea. Toasted rice tea is quite popular. Roasted tea is extremely low in caffeine, practically caffeine-free. Powdered tea is very convenient and surprisingly good. Find your favorite. Fukuju-en, located on B1F of Sappor Esta, is a well-known tea retailer. Shin-cha (new crop) comes out in May every year.
- Easy to make gourmet Ramen – not the awful stuff college kids eat. You can find hundreds of different kinds of instant ramen in Japanese grocery stores. Ramen connoisseurs sware by noodles manufactured by Fujiwara Seimen (noodle company) located in Hokkaido. My recommendations: Kuma Shutsubotsu Chui (meaning “beware of grizzlies”) miso ramen, that comes with slightly spicy miso-flavored soup; and Shirokuma (“polar bear”, a mascot of Maruyama zoo in Sapporo) ramen.
- Office supplies – Japanese pens (inexpensive kinds) write very well. Erasable pens, markers, colored pencils; sushi erasers; or cute post-its may make a great stocking stuffer.
- Kaki-no-Tane rice crackers, spicy rice-crackers traditionally flavored with soy sauce and chili peppers, come in many flavors these days. Wasabi flavored Kaki-no-Tane is very popular. They all go very well with beer or wine. They often come with peanuts, but you can buy without them, too, if you are taking them outside of Japan. Rice crackers are generally gluten-free. Soy sauce is a fermented product and contains only a trace of gluten, if any.
Food & Shopping Map: One of the local organizers created a Google map of her favorite restaurants & shops. The map also has information about ATM machines accepting foreign credit cards. (Please open the legend window to select/deselect the categories you would/would not like to see.)