Square: 1,121 km2 – Population: 1,958 million (2016)
Sapporo, capital of the mountainous northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, is famous for its beer, skiing and annual Sapporo Snow Festival that features enormous ice sculptures. The Sapporo Beer Museum traces the city’s brewing history and has tastings and a beer garden. Ski hills and jumps from the 1972 Winter Olympics are scattered within the city limits, and Niseko, a renowned ski resort, is nearby.
There are various theories on the origin of the word “Sapporo.” The leading theory is that it derivers from the Ainu (indigenous people of Japan) words “Sap (Dry) – Poro (Wide),” but another theory is that it derivers from “Sari (Wetland) -Poro (Wide) -Pe (River)” which describes the downstream basin of the Toyohira River. Until the end of the Edo Period (1603–1868), Sapporo was a trading post with the Ainu. In 1869, it was renamed Hokkaido and the Hokkaido Development Commission was sent and established its head office in Sapporo.
Yoshitake Shima, considered to be the pioneering father of Hokkaido, is said to have stood on the hills of Mt. Maruyama and elaborated on a plan for the city. The Hokkaido Development Commission organized Sapporo into a planned city modeled after Kyoto. Thus, Sapporo becomes known for its functional grid of streets and avenues. With the settlement of the Tondenhei (soldiers for developing and guarding Hokkaido), it became a large agriculture center that produced potatoes and onions. After the railroads were built, the beer, flour milling and paper making industries began to flourish in the area and Sapporo became the political and economic center of Hokkaido. In 1970, the population surpassed 1 million. In 1972, Sapporo was described as Japan’s northernmost city designated by government ordinance, and hosted the Sapporo Olympic Winter Games.
Sapporo in western Hokkaido is divided up in a grid pattern, and is the largest city on the island. Odori Park, stretches more than 1,400 meters from east to west, is located in the center of the city, and is a symbol of the city - full of art objects, fountains, lilac and acacia plants and many types of flowers.
During the summer months Odori Park is full of beer gardens which are enjoyed by locals and visitors until late at night. In the winter the park becomes the location for the Sapporo Snow Festival, the most famous snow festival in Asia. The park is lined with dozes of beautiful ice sculptures as well as magnificent snow statues and tourists from all parts of Japan and Asia visit Sapporo during this time.
To the north of Odori Park stand trading companies, financial institutions and local government offices, while to the south is a large underground shopping mall, which as the city's main shopping center is always busy. It is connected directly to Sapporo Station, which is the transportation hub for all of Hokkaido and the place to board JR lines, the subway, and both local and tourist buses.
The city contains many essential sights: the Sapporo Clock Tower, which has been marking time for over a century; the former Hokkaido government office building, a neo-baroque building known as "Red Brick" that is lit up after dark; and the areas that are adjacent to Hokkaido University (formerly known as the Hokkaido Agricultural College).
Being the fifth largest city in Japan, Sapporo has a wealth of human resources. It also has low office rental costs compared to the Tokyo metropolitan area, and enjoys a safe environment with few natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons and thunder storms.
Sapporo is considered the hub of the economy and logistics in Hokkaido, is home to numerous universities and public research institutions, and an international port and international airport are located in the surrounding areas, making it an ideal location for the accumulation, processing and research & development of Hokkaido farm and marine products.
In the Asia region, “Made in Hokkaido” is widely known as a synonym for good-quality, delicious food. High-value-added Hokkaido farm and marine products have always been popular, but increasing demand for high-quality foodstuffs, brought about by economic growth in the region, has led to Hokkaido farm and marine products attracting even more attention.
Sapporo has a surprisingly wide array of businesses that support the regions economic development. Major industries include information technology, retail, and tourism, as Sapporo is a destination for winter sports and events and summer activities due to its cool climate.
Sapporo is one of Japan’s leading IT industry bases and has developed “world class” enterprises. The city actively promotes academic / government / private-sector partnerships continues to support and promote the IT and digital contents industry. In November 2013, these efforts were recognized when Sapporo became the first Asian city to be recognized as a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in the field of media and arts.