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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Little Known Japan: Sapporo Outings Moerenuma and Art Park

Sapporo is Japan’s fourth largest city after Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. It is the northernmost of these cities and you’re gonna have to travel a ways to get here, but it’s a fantastic city. I’ve been all over Japan, and there’s nothing quite like it. The people are very friendly and interested in you, the food is amazing, and the area around it is beautiful. It’s famous for skiing, having hosted a winter Olympics way back when, and has a relatively mild summer for Japan. You can get a roundtrip ticket from Tokyo for under $100 in the off-season and it will only take you two hours to fly here. Not to mention the ferry you can take or the train (though those will eat up a day of your time).

Sapporo has a lot to offer, mostly in terms of unique outdoor experiences. And here I would like to highlight two of them. This year I have visited two of Sapporo’s more famous parks, the architecture park of Moerenuma and the Sapporo Art Park.

Both are a bit out of the way, requiring you to travel to the end of the line on different subway lines and take a bus for the better part of thirty minutes, but they are both places you won’t find anywhere else in the world, and are worth a visit.

Moerenuma is north of the city, you’ll need to take the Toho line to Shindo Higashi station and then the Chuo Bus numbered Higashi 76. There’s other ways to get there but this is the route I took. Total travel time from Sapporo Station will be about 50 minutes.

You’ll get off the bus and think “where’s the park, there’s only farm?” but if you head across the street you’ll find the entrance, when you walk over a bridge you’ll be greeted with lush green and interesting looking manmade mountains.

The park opened in 1998 after nearly twenty years of construction. The park was designed by Isamu Noguchi, who was a Japanese-American sculptor. The park is perfect for a picnic with many trees to sit under and enjoy the huge sculptures that surround you.

You’ll find a glass pyramid on the eastern side of the park that houses a small museum to Noguchi as well as a great view of the surrounding neighborhood.

Secondly is Sapporo’s Art Park. A twenty minute bus ride from platform two at Makomanai station on the Namboku Line will get you to this art gallery art park hybrid. The day I went was to see the Star Wars: Visions exhibit with some friends. The art gallery hosts random exhibits throughout the year and entry fees vary. The constant attraction is the sculpture garden, which was only an extra 100 yen added onto the fee of the Star Wars exhibit. Just entry to the sculpture garden will cost under 1,000 yen.

There was also a small gathering of local artists selling their goods outside the art gallery, where you can find some unique Japanese souvenirs and support local art. The park has a number of other attractions, but I didn’t have a chance to see them as it closed around 5:30.

The sculpture park will take you at least twenty minutes to get around, and you can easily spend an hour wandering around the dozens of pieces.

While much of the year Sapporo is covered in snow and very, very cold. The few months we get of warm weather are generally jam packed trying to enjoy all the city has to offer before the cold sets in again. The people of Sapporo really appreciate the summer, and you can see that value in the events that happen this time of year that try to get the most out of their few months free of snow.

July and August are my favorite Sapporo months, and I am glad they will be my last. Go out on the best note possible.

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