Hokkaido Day 8: Sapporo
We were sad to leave beautiful Furano, but we had to drive to Sapporo to return the rental car. It started raining as we drove closer to Sapporo, and by the time we returned the rental car, it was pouring! We took a cab to the Asahi Brewery, and were lucky to catch the last tour of the day (3 PM).
The tour was given in Japanese, but we were given headphones and an audioguide (which I could not listen to, because a certain someone kept yanking the headphones off and trying to eat it…) and our tour guide, who spoke perfect English, answered questions. We went on a Saturday, so unfortunately, the factory wasn’t running. (When Alex and I went to Dublin, our favorite part of the Guinness tour — besides the beer at the end — was the packaging… I could watch the automated assembly line all day. Yup, I’m a nerd!)
At the end of the hour-long tour, we went to a tasting room and were seated at tables while the tour guide introduced the three types of beer on offer: Asahi Dry, Asahi Premium, and Asahi Dark. There were also assorted non-alcoholic beverages available, since the Asahi Group also owns soft drink factories (… and also whisky distilleries, including the Nikka Whisky distillery we went to in Yoichi… unfortunately, whisky was not available for sampling!). Because you’re only allowed ~ 30 minutes in the tasting room before they “close the taps,” I recommend gauging your time. Alex didn’t get to try the Premium because he waited too long!
I definitely recommend doing this tour on a weekday, so that you can see everything up and running! It’s a free tour and you get beer at the end. What more could you want? 😉
Since it was still raining, we took a cab to Sapporo station. Besides the train station, it’s actually a giant shopping plaza. We walked around for a bit before taking the subway back to our Airbnb apartment. After we put Baby M to bed, Alex and I wandered out to Ramen Alley (close to Susukino station). The place with the longest line was, surprise surprise, the one endorsed by Anthony Bourdain. We chose one that was visible from the main street. All of these ramen shops are tiny, with only a few seats and a small, open kitchen. Our bowls of ramen were very tasty, as were the dumplings and the complimentary hard boiled eggs (how do they manage to boil the eggs where the yolk is still soft AND it’s easy to peel?!). We then went to a bar with dozens of beer on tap (I think it was called The Craft, but I don’t remember…). The beer was good, but the pours were small, and they charged us a “seat surcharge,” which wasn’t disclosed when we sat down. Needless to say, I was a little pissed! 😡
And, very early the next morning, we took the airport limousine to CTS. We had a wonderful time in Hokkaido, but honestly eight days wasn’t enough! There is just so much to explore. I think two to three weeks would have been a decent amount of time! And, even though it was extremely expensive, I definitely recommend renting a car, especially if you’re traveling with kids. It’s not easy to get around without a car, and having the flexibility to explore without being tied to a train/bus/tour group timetable is invaluable, especially with a limited amount of time!
Summary of our Hokkaido self drive: Whirlwind Tour around Hokkaido
This covered street has tons of stores and restaurants. We ate lunch at an Indian restaurant (average).
We rented from Honda Rental Car and chose to pick up the car at CTS Sapporo Airport, and return the car in downtown Sapporo. There was just a minor surcharge on returning to a different location, but it was worth it because a). we saved on time, b). three adult bus or subway tickets from CTS to downtown would have cost the same amount.
Airport limousine bus from downtown to CTS:
We took the bus from Susukino station to CTS, which took an hour and 10 minutes, and cost 1,030 yen per adult. There were quite a few stops along the way, which is why it took so long. There are direct buses (same fare) but they run less frequently and start later in the day.
Asahi Brewery: https://www.asahibeer.co.jp/brewery/language/english/
Tours given from 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM — reserve ahead for an English speaking guide, otherwise you’ll end up with the audioguide, like us.