Things to do in Sapporo for the Rugby World Cup 2019

By Armstrong Ngolo, a sports mad Angolan studying in the northern city of Sapporo

Edited by Matthew Wears


The Japan Rugby World cup 2019 is set to be the sporting event of the year, as a country with relatively little experience with the sport hosts the biggest event on the international stage. For many people in Japan, this is going to be something completely new, but that’s not to say we’re not all very excited to see what our country can do! I live in the city of Sapporo on Hokkaido island, the most northerly of the Rugby World Cup locations. I moved here two years ago from Angola (quite a change I know!) to study at Hokkaido University, and I’ve been discovering the rich Japanese culture in this part of the country ever since, getting to know the city as well as it’s very friendly people! So, now that you’ve ordered your Japan Rugby World Cup tickets, it’s time to decide exactly where you want to go in Sapporo so that you can spend your time as wisely as possible! Without any further explanation, let’s begin my Japan Rugby World Cup guide, which will include a selection of my favourite things to do in Sapporo that I’ve discovered on my journey so far!

Tips for the city

I think that many people who visit Japan will not have travelled to the island of Hokkaido, instead staying in central (but still amazing) areas such as the hectic Tokyo or the historic centre of Kyoto. Of course, I think this is a great shame, and I’m very excited for the Rugby World Cup 2019 to bring more tourists up to the north of the country. All of Hokkaido’s Rugby World Cup 2019 Fixtures will be played in the Sapporo Dome, an impressive all-weather stadium that that has a huge 40,000 people capacity! It’s very easy to find the stadium, just get on the Toho line Metro and get off at the last stop, Fukuzumi, then walk just a short distance to the dome. I’d say the Metro is the best way of getting around the city in general, and if you look on their website you will see many different options for one day passes and weekend passes which can be very useful for tourists!  

Getting around

Despite being far from central Japan, Sapporo is also well connected to other cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. To get to the city you have two options, either by Bullet Train or flying, although I would definitely recommend flying because it is much cheaper and faster than taking the train. The Sapporo Rugby World Cup officially begins on the 21st of September with a match that looks like it could be one of the best in the entire competition; Australia vs. Fiji. Although the Sapporo Dome will see just two games during the competition, I still believe the city is the best in Japan and well worth the trip to the Northern island of Hokkaido. The weather at this time of year will change quite a lot too, because whilst September is still quite warm from the summer, November will begin to feel very wintery so be prepared from it to be quite cold in the city.

Sapporo Beer Museum

The island of Hokkaido is very famous for its beer production, and what could be a better idea than visiting the Sapporo Beer Museum during your trip to Japan Rugby World Cup. It is located just a twenty-minute walk from the JR Sapporo Metro station, in a building that was a former brewery for the Sapporo Beer company, one of the most popular beers in Japan. Inside you can learn about the detailed history of beer production and the processes behind it, as well as having the option of a tasting session at the end, which I’m sure for many is the main reason to come! Even if you do not drink, this still remains one of the most interesting things to do in Sapporo because it gives you a good insight into an important part of Hokkaido’s history. What’s more is that it’s completely free! Although you will have to pay to taste the beer.

Climb Mt. Miowa

Maybe during the Rugby World Cup 2019 you will need to escape the city when the sporting action gets a little bit too intense. If that happens, I think the best place to go would be Mt. Miowa, a small mountain to the south-west of the city that is one of my favourite natural areas surrounding Sapporo. It’s a great spot for hiking around, and in the autumn, it will be especially picturesque because of all the changing colours on the trees. You must walk up the first half of the mountain yourself, but then catch a cable car to the top where there is an observation deck and even a restaurant where you can recharge after your climb. The observation deck has views of the city that are very beautiful, especially during the night when all of the lights come on! Buses and trains all travel to the foot of the mountain, but if you find it difficult to reach you can book a tour too.

Explore the Susukino District

Of course, when you come to Sapporo you will want to find some really cool places to eat and drink, and I think the best place for this would be the Susukino District, the biggest entertainment area in the whole of Hokkaido! The area is very typically Japanese, with huge neon advertisements lining the streets where karaoke bars and ramen restaurants can be found, very similar to the beautiful Osaka. As well as this, there is a huge selection of cinemas, shops and games arcades that should provide you with enough entertainment! For the Sapporo Rugby World Cup, this area will be even more alive with people, especially popular areas such as the Ganso Sapporo Ramen Street, a narrow alleyway that features many traditional Sapporo Ramen restaurants. A visit to this street is one of the best things to do in Sapporo if you want to discover the real taste of the city!

Visit Shiroi Koibito Park

For anyone who loves chocolate, a trip to Sapporo would be incomplete without seeing the Shiroi Koibito Park, a mix between museum and theme park based around the Ishiya chocolate company. Free of charge, you may enter the shop and restaurant area, although you will have to pay to get access to the exhibits and the factory area. It’s a very interesting experience to be able to view the production process of the Shiroi Koibito cookie, which is the company’s most famous chocolate. If you’re attending the Japan Rugby world Cup 2019 with a family or kids, then this is definitely an attraction you don’t want to miss. To get there, take the Tozai Metro line to the Miyanosawa station and then walk for just ten minutes. Some features in the park are currently unavailable due to construction but should be open on 11th July 2019.

Spend some time in the JR Sapporo Train Station

You might think this is a little bit strange, but the JR Sapporo Train Station has a few interesting things that I really think that tourists would enjoy. The first is an observation deck named T38, that stands on the 38th floor of the JR Tower, the tallest building in both Sapporo and Hokkaido. This is quite a bit higher than the viewing platform in Odori Park and I think you get better views out across the city from here too. The building is also home to one of my favourite things to do in Sapporo; Ramen Republic! This is a selection of eight small Ramen restaurants, which in my opinion serves some of the best authentic ramen that you can find anywhere in Sapporo. They serve traditional local favourites such as miso ramen, which I’d really recommend you try during your stay for the Sapporo Rugby World Cup.

Rent a Bicycle

Sure, the Metro is great, but my favourite way to get around the city is to use my bicycle, and I would say that about ninety-nine percent of my friends use this option too! The city is very bike friendly, so you don’t have to worry about riding along busy roads or footpaths, and there are many places to rent them from as well. Porocle is the city’s community bike rental service which allows you to see many of the main tourist attractions just by purchasing a one-day pass from a Porocle registration counter. If you’re not sure where to go, they can offer you a guide who will show you all the best spots, but it will cost you five-thousand Yen. During the Rugby World Cup 2019, the weather in Sapporo will still be quite warm, particularly in September, so it will make for very mellow cycling weather!  

Explore Odori park

In the centre of the city stands one of the must see things to do in Sapporo; Odori Park. This is the location for the famous Sapporo Snow Festival that takes place during February, a celebration where illuminated ice structures take over the city streets for a whole week. There won’t be any snow for the Japan Rugby World Cup though (hopefully anyway), but you will be able to see the beautiful autumn colours as the tree-lined walkways begin to change for winter. At one end of the park stands the Sapporo TV Tower, a one-hundred and fifty-meter-high metal structure that has an observation deck with amazing views out over the city. You can see everything from up here, such as the Sapporo Dome, Odori Park below and even beautiful Mt. Moiwa as it looks over the city. Access to the tower costs seven-hundred and twenty Yen for an adult whilst children get reduced fares depending on their age.

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