Travel in Japan

Weekend In Hokkaido: Sapporo, Otaru, And Asahiyama Zoo

Last Updated on 2021-07-04 by Teni

I recently spent the weekend in Hokkaido (Sapporo, Otaru, and Asahiyama Zoo) with my little monster.
My trip was inspired by the charming lovelykidjapan channel on Youtube hosted by Slovakian mom Tina. And, it was my second visit to the capital of Japan’s northern frontier. Here’s how it all went down.


Day 1: Haneda – Sapporo – Otaru

Our day began with an early morning flight out of Haneda airport. With Sapporo being only 90 minutes away from Tokyo, the idea was to arrive early, drop off our luggage, change clothes, then picnic/eat lunch.
Unfortunately, it was a very grey day and the ground was damp from the previous day’s rainfall.

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Lunch ended up being at the underground mall at JR Sapporo Station before heading to the port city Otaru.

It rained as soon as we arrived so we spent an hour or so in Nagasakiya, right in front of JR Otaru Station.

Travel Tip: there’s a Daiso and a Don Quixote inside, so you’ll find nearly everything you could possibly need: clothes for the entire family, snacks, chargers, food, umbrellas, diapers… everything but toddler shoes.

Afterwards, we hopped on a bus bound for the canal district. 

Otaru is famous for its canal, lined with brick warehouses and iron lamps that make it look more like Victorian Era England than Japan.

It’s a fantastically photogenic spot and perfect for strolling solo, as a couple or family.

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Travel Tip: Grab some hot drinks at the info center before you start strolling!

See that fountain? Don’t let yourself or your kids get close. Otherwise…

Remember what I said about Don Quixote not having toddler shoes? I found out this crucial piece of information when little Kaiju fell into the fountain and her shoes got soaking wet! Unable to buy shoes, I dried her feet, put on clean socks, wrapped her feet in plastic bags and another layer of socks to tide her over until until ride back to Sapporo. I ended up buying a pair of Mickey Mouse Converse shoes from ABC Mart in Sapporo Station for 6,000 yen!

We also planned to take a boat cruise but the rain started and with no shoes we returned to Sapporo. Maybe next time!

Day 2: Asahiyama Zoo

Following up Otaru with a trip to Asahiyama Zoo seems to be a popular tour route when visiting Sapporo. We actually encountered a few people from the day before, including the couple who took our photo at the canal!
Our day at Asahiyama Zoo had the potential to be a disappointment as it rained most of the day. On top of that, mid-November in Asahikawa City is basically early winter so there were no pretty fall colors to see.

READ: Inokashira Sports Land, The Mini Theme Park Inside Inokashira Park Zoo

Still, we made the most of it by relaxing (and eating and people watching) at the Garden Terrace Lion restaurant before and after seeing the animals.

There’s a free shuttle bus that goes around the zoo which helps when going to/from at the East Gate (東門).

Unfortunately there are no rental strollers at the East Gate (plenty of umbrellas to borrow though!). The information desk seemed to not know about rental strollers as they deal primarily with wheelchairs.

To get from the East Gate to the Main Gate means you pretty much see the entire zoo, so I didn’t bother with a stroller. It’s not like my monster would have rode in it anyway!

Day 3: Sapporo & Shopping

I chose a Sapporo hotel next to Nakajima Park so we could spend the final day at Odori Park and Sapporo Tower. But the weather derailed our plans.

Instead, we had a late breakfast at the hotel and headed to the airport to explore, shop for souvenirs, and meet Tina!

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Transportation & Accommodation


My girl loves trains, but we headed north via airplane (ANA, to be exact, because I love their services and I had some miles to be used).

Shin Chitose Airport – Sapporo

Once we landed at Shin Chitose Airport (新千歳空港), we boarded the Chitose Line (千歳線) to Sapporo Station (札幌駅); then transferred to the Namboku Line (南北線) to head to our hotel at Nakajima Koen Station (中島公園).

Sapporo is wonderfully compact and extremely easy to navigate.  However, there is plenty of walking when transferring between JR and subway lines, especially if you need to use the elevator. Give yourself plenty of time to make those transfers!

Note: if you have an IC card with an auto-charge function, your card will not charge when entering or leaving the ticket gates at Shin Chitose Airport Station. You will have to purchase a ticket by cash or by credit card at the ticket counter (みどりの窓口 | midori no madoguchi). Ask me how I know this.

Sapporo – Otaru

This route also used the Chitose Line.

To get to the canal district, we took a bus from JR Otaru Station and got off at Otaru Canal Terminal (小樽運河ターミナル | Otaru Unga Ta-minaru).

Sapporo – Asahiyama Zoo

This tour bus service was complimentary thanks to booking a tour package with ANA. However, buses to Asahiyama Zoo depart at 9 a.m. daily from the Bus Terminal at JR Sapporo Station. Tickets are sold on the second floor and buses board from the ground level. We barely made it to our bus so I didn’t have time for photos.


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We booked a double room at MyStays Premeir Sapporo Park. If Mystays rings a bell, it’s because we stayed at a MyStays in Kanazawa.

READ: Kanazawa, Japan’s El Dorado

I chose this MyStays because of its location next to a park, breakfast was included in the price and because I have a MyStays point card. (Never come between me and my quest to earn points!)

We at breakfast at two of its restaurants, both featuring buffets. But Farm to Table Terra was just AMAZING:

Despite the early winter gloom, we had a fantastic time in Hokkaido. Next time, we’ll have to go by train and do some onsen hopping as well!

Read about our 2019 Hokkaido Trip: Fall in Hokkaido: Exploring Otaru, Sapporo and Chitose

Weekend In Hokkaido: Sapporo, Otaru, And Asahiyama Zoo

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