Many people who travel to Hokkaido will often not see much more than Chitose Airport and the resort area of Niseko. While this is in fact more than enough adventure for most and makes for an incredible ski holiday, with just a little deviation from the more well trodden path there is a whole island of adventures to embark on. Just an hour and a half by car lies Sapporo, the largest city in Hokkaido and 5th largest in Japan. This vibrant metropolis is of course a detsination of its own full of fantastic eatieries, restaurants and shopping opportunities. It also has plenty of open spaces to enjoy with some fantastic hiking trails and beautiful parks dotted through out.
Incredibly depite freezing temperatures and meters of snowfall every year the city barely bats an eyelid at a climate that could be described as siberian. The snow or the temperatures don't slow the city down a bit and many parks including are maintained year round for the city folk and tourists a like to enjoy. One such park is Maruyama Park or Maruyama Koen in Japanese.
The park is home to the largest shrine in Hokkaido, the Hokkaido Jingu. The shrine area of the park is dotted with statues, shrines and tori gates and if you have never experienced this side of Japan it is a unique way to do so amongst the snowy surrounds. You can wander freely through out the park, sharing it with commuters, photographers and sightseers alike. Crows will caw in the trees waiting for a passerby to drop some crumbs and you will often see squirells darting accross the path. School kids also shuffle their way through the snow on their way to class.
Maruyama park stretches over 70 hectares and also includes a zoo and sports facilities. In the spring it is one of the most popular spots in the city for Hanami, a celebration of the annual cherry blossom bloom, these aspects of the park are an adventure in themselves and best saved for another story. If you happen to be in Sapporo during the winter and are loking for a unique and easily accessed experience why not take a look at the winter wonders Maruyama Koen has to offer.
Getting there is easy and the city's excellent subway system will have you there in minutes. You will need to first make your way to Sapporo station or any subway station on the Tozai line and from there simply jump on the subway on the Tozai line and head to Maruyama, all fare information and stops are clearly sign posted in English. You can buy a day pass for just ¥830 giving you the freedon to explore more of the city too. If you do stop by Sapporo on your way to or from Niseko Maruyma makes for a quick change of pace from the busy city and in the winter is a unique experience fusing culture and the outdoors. Once you've done a lap of the park and shrine area you will have worked up an appetite and one of the best lunches you will find is a steaming bowl of world famous Sapporo ramen but that too is another story..
Once you've done a lap of the park and explored shrine area you will have worked up an appetite and one of the best lunches you will find is a steaming bowl of world famous Sapporo ramen but that too is another story..