Fountains, flowers and festivals abound at the centrally located Odori Park in Sapporo. Natural and architectural worlds collide – and there’s plenty to see and do – in this oasis in the city. Try to time your visit when the flowers are in full bloom or during one of Japan’s celebratory seasonal festivals, when the park transforms into a beer garden or a winter wonderland.
Whether you’ve been shopping in the south of the city or touring around the northern business district, Odori Park is easy to reach. Originally constructed in 1871 as a firebreak between the two areas, the 1.5-kilometre-long stretch now serves as a vibrant parkland brimming with blooming flowers and water features. In 1909, the Tokyo government sent in Nagaoka Yasubi, a landscaping master, to plan a promenade. And another little-known fact in Odori Park’s history? The Japanese used this area for potato farming during the difficult times of World War II.
The best time to go is in Japan’s late spring and early summer, when the lilac trees – the official trees of Sapporo – are in full bloom. They dominate the gardens with their perfumed purple buds. Once you’ve stopped to smell the flowers, turn your attention to the fountains. The most impressive is at Nishi 3-chome (one of the park’s 12 city blocks), where, for 15 minutes, it spouts no fewer than 16 water patterns. Water-watching is also a good excuse to rest your legs on a nearby bench as you snack on one of the seasonal specialties from the on-site food carts. By then, you’ll be ready to climb to the Sapporo TV Tower’s observation deck for a bird’s-eye view across the park and the city. The tower, which resembles the Eiffel Tower in Paris, reaches for the clouds at almost 150 metres tall. Don’t miss it at night, when lighting really brings it to life.
With 4,700 trees across 92 species, there’s always something to catch your eye here. But Odori Park truly comes alive when there’s a festival on. Savour a beer or two with the locals during the summer months, when the park fills with benches, tents, lagers and the thirsty masses for the Sapporo Odori Beer Garden. In Japan’s winter, feast your eyes on the massive snow statues and ice sculptures and lace up some ice skates for a few figure eights during the more than 60-year-old Sapporo Snow Festival. It takes place over seven days every February.