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Big in Japan: Sapporo isn't just about beer!
The island of Hokkaid? (???, literally North Sea Circuit) is firmly centered on the capital city of Sapporo (??).
Famous for liquid lager, miso ramen, the 1972 Winter Olympics and the annual Snow Festival, Sapporo is just as much a destination as it is a springboard for Hokkaid?'s vast wilds.
Voted one of Japan's most livable cities, Sapporo was designed by European and American architects in the late 19th century, and proudly boasts a wide grid of tree-lined streets and plenty of public parks.
You've got to be able to withstand the cold if you want to make through the Siberian winters up here, though fortunately Sapporites have plenty of tricks for staying warm, most of which involve copious amount of frothy brew.
Of course, Sapporo isn't just about beer, and there are a surprising number of tourist sights in the city.
Keep reading to find out...
While you're certainly encouraged to down a few pints once the sun sets, avoid hangovers and do a bit of exploring during the day.
Here are some sights worth checking out:
Hokudai Shokubutsuen Although this botanical garden lies in the city center, it boasts no less than 4000 species of plants spread over 14 hectares.
The grounds are also home to a wonderful red brick Natural History Museum that dates from 1882, as well as an Ainu Museum dedicated to the island's indiginous population.
Clock Tower An obligatory stop on the tourist trail, this Sapporo landmark hasn't missed the hourly toll in more than 130 years - proof positive that the Japanese were perfectionists even in the 19th century!
Nijō Fish Market Hokkaidō is famous for having some of the freshest sushi and sashimi in all of Japan.
If you want a taste of northern specialties, such as squid, sea urchin roe, crab and salmon, look no further than this expansive fish market.
Yuki Matsuri If it's February in Sapporo, it's likely that you're one of two million visitors to the annual Snow Festival. Most of the action takes place in the Odori Park, where you can snap pics of massive ice sculptures.
After all, Hello Kitty is a lot more impressive when she's 10 feet tall and frozen solid!!!
Sappor Beer-En No visit to Hokkaidō's capital is complete without a round (or four) of Sapporo lager, especially if it's served straight from the source.
Here, at the Sapporo Beer Garden, you can feel free to indulge in a liquid lunch.
For all of those purists out there, Sapporo's signature brew is best served alongside a steamy bowl of miso ramen, or a plate of sizzling lamb and onions. Delicious.
Want to learn more about Hokkaidō? Sure you do!
Tune in all this month as Big in Japan heads north and blogs from the road.
** All images courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons Project **