More than Just Snow: The Famous Odori Park of Sapporo

About the Odori Park in Japan

Odori Park Map and Location

The Odori Park is a 79,000 square meter park which is located at the center of the city of Sapporo in the Hokkaido prefecture in Japan. This place is located on the northernmost island of Japan which is why these cities are known to be the best winter destinations in Japan. The total length of the park is about 105 meters and it has a width of about 65 meters. It has a total of 13 blocks which are connected by pedestrian lanes.

This particular park was actually intended to become a large highway during the time when Sapporo was still being planned and developed. In fact, the word “odori” literally means large street. The point of this street was to divide the city from its north and south sections. As earlier planned, the north section shall house all public and government offices while the south section shall be the residential area. The park served as a firebreak or a large piece of vacant lot which will prevent the spread of fire.

Access to Odori Park

This park can be accessed via the Odori Subway Station. The tourism of Sapporo almost centers around the Odori park which is why it is accessible from the majority of commuter lines in the city. Most of the lines which are routed around Sapporo passes by the Odori park including the Japan Railways, the Toho Subway line, The Nanboku Subway line, and the Tozai subway line. The only line that does not cross the park is the Susukino streetcar line. For those who are staying at hotels near the area, there are information desks available for guided sightseeing tours all over the park.

The Thirteen Chome (or blocks) of the Odori Park of Sapporo

Odori park has become a flower garden with a potato farm to a garbage dump through the decades. It was only in the late 50s that the entire park has been developed into what it is today. What is interesting is that each block has been assigned to garden design companies for them to care of. This shall serve as free advertisement for the companies.

The Nishi 1 Chome is home to the Sapporo TV tower and the Odori station of the Sapporo Municipal Subway. It is one of the smallest blocks in the entire park. There is children’s play area in the 9th Nishi Chome. There is a rose garden in Nishi 12 Chome. All over the park are different monuments dedicated to different iconic individuals in Japan’s history. Near the Odori park is the Sapporo clock tower which his also a popular tourist destination in the area. There is also the Nijo Market, the Sapporo Factory, and the Sapporo botanical garden.

Best time to Visit Odori Park

Odori Park in Spring

Parks are great during springtime because of the wide expanse of greenery and local flora which blooms beautifully. The colorful flowers are relaxing and enjoyable to look at. It is quite relaxing to stay underneath the shade of trees while enjoying their blooms. With the warmer weather coming in, more and more people start to enjoy going out again to enjoy some sun. This is why the Odori park is quite busy during this time.

Sure stunners from the Odori park are the lilac trees which is known to be the designated tree of the city of Sapporo. In total, there are about 97 species of trees located in the 100-kilometer park. There are lilacs and elms lining up the edges of the park. There are colorful flowerbeds made up of mumps, lavenders, and more. There are even tulips, roses, and irises.

Odori Park in Summer

For a cold region, residents usually enjoy frolicking in the sun while the short summer lasted. This is why summer festivals in Sapporo are quite extravagant and huge. There are tents set up all over the park to welcome guests and visitors while they enjoy the string of celebrations and events held in the area.

One of the popular celebrations is the Hokkai Bon Odori Dance which happens early August. It is a traditional dance performed to commemorate the spirits of loved ones who have passed. Usually, there is a large float or pagoda carrying traditional drum performers. There are stringed lighting and lanterns everywhere as a pathway to guide the spirits towards to human world. This is an extravagant means for them to welcome the spirits of their ancestors.

Other than this, there are other events like fireworks displays and firefly hunting which are enjoyable for both young and older guests. The best and probably the favorite, event out of all would be the beer festival held every year for a whole month.

Odori Park in Autumn

Since the Odori park is home to a great amount of greenery which is enjoyable during the spring and summer time, the changing colors of early autumn is a sure stunner. Contrary to most belief, there are still flowers that bloom in late summer to early autumn. Usually, these have green, yellow, and red glows – a warm color in contrast to the increasingly cold weather. It is also quite enjoyable to see the leaves of the trees turn into brown hues.

Autumn in Sapporo is a celebration of bounty as many of the crops in the area are harvested in early fall. This is in preparation for the coming harsh winters – locals fill their granaries with crops and grains to keep them well during the cold season. This is why the park is usually quite lively during the autumn time as it serves as a marketplace for local farmers and sellers.

Odori Park in Winter

The coldest month in Sapporo happens in late December to early January and this is the time when Odori park becomes a winter wonderland. The entire park is completely white while the ponds and fountains slightly freeze over creating crystals of ice which are elegant to look at. To top it all off, the park is filled with an exhibition of ice sculptures which have been created by artists from all over the world. It is said that Sapporo is one of the best winter destinations in all of Japan.

Things to do in Odori Park

Festivals and Other Odori Park Events

What makes the Odori park special is that the 13-block open space is put to great use throughout the year. The locals of Sapporo make sure that it is well-utilized to host events, festivals, and celebrations for every season. There are events for the summertime, springtime, and of course its most popular wintertime celebration.

Odori Park Beer Festival

One particular festival which is held annually in Odori Park would be the beer festival. This is a month long celebration which starts in the first few days of July and is done by creating beer gardens all over the park. Although it will not occupy all the thirteen blocks of the Odori Park, several of these blocks are surely turned into beer gardens.

Similar to an Oktoberfest but celebrated in July, the beer festival is a pretty relaxed event. It is a commencement of the month-long Yosakoi Soran Festival and is pretty much known as the second summer festival of Sapporo. During this event, breweries from all over Japan set up their stalls to sell samples of their brand-name products to guests in the beer garden. Even though Sapporo brand beer is the most popular in the area, it is a good way to introduce new names to the market. Oftentimes, they use this as an opportunity as well to introduce their new goods.

There is also a section of the beer garden which is solely intended for international flavors. This means that there is a part of the beer garden which serves foreign beer brands. The beer gardens start to close down by the end of August. This is a sign that autumn is finally here.

Odori Park Autumn Festival

The park’s fall matsuri, also known as the Sapporo Autumn Fest, is a celebration of good food and good friends. This is the time when seasonal delicacies from all over the Hokkaido Prefecture are brought together in one place. There are unique dishes that use rare local ingredients that could not be found in other parts of Japan. The park becomes a venue for the exchange of delicious and yummy goodies from all over the prefecture.

It is said that the autumn season is a delicious season and it is the time of the year when most of the produce in Hokkaido is in full bounty. Harvest time is a busy time of the year and it is in the best interest of the locals to share their bountiful harvest with others.

This event is usually held from mid-September until mid-October. Several blocks are utilized so there is enough space for multiple stalls. The reason why it is held only a few weeks at a time is the fact that both October and November can be quite rainy and cold. Although there will be a good food to warm the tummy, it may not be strong enough to fight the freezing Autumn cool.

Compared to the summer festival, the autumn fest is pretty much family friendly. There is something for each family member to enjoy. During the weekends, visitors can enjoy the music played by bands, Disc Jockeys, and even orchestras.

For those who wish to go to the Sapporo Autumn Fest for some enjoyable food trip, it will be best to bring enough money. Portions are sold small but can be a bit expensive. So, trying out a few items can total to an incredible amount.

Odori Park Snow Festival

This particular event is probably what shot Sapporo to fame as one of the best winter destinations in the world. It is a celebration of the beauty of ice, snow, and winter in general. The highlight of this event are the ice sculptures displayed all around Odori Park by artists and amateurs not only from Japan but from all over the world. On top of that, the Sapporo Snow Festival is also quite popular for its winter illumination where the entire Odori park is decorated with twinkling LED lights that change color and shape along with Christmas music.

The Sapporo Snow Festival started in the early 1950s when a group of young students displayed snow sculptures in Odori Park. Since then it has become a popular trend as more and more people started to exhibit their artwork for free in Odori Park. After a few decades, these free exhibits became competitions where professional sculptors are invited from different parts of the world.

Each block is intended for a specific set of contestants. For instance, the 11-home site is specifically for international participants. Some blocks are for district competitions, school competitions, and other local competitions. Some blocks also have themes while others have restaurants and bars. The most interesting would be the ice bar where everything from the tables, chairs to the glasses are sculpted out of ice instead of glass!

Odori Park Lilac Festival

All over Japan, it is a popular activity to enjoy Cherry blossoms and Plum blossoms during springtime. However, it is a little bit different in Sapporo as they celebrate Lilacs instead of Sakura. What is special about the lilac is the fact that it is the designated tree of Sapporo beginning the 1960s. For the locals, since Hokkaido can experience some severe winter temperatures, the bloom of the lilacs is a sign that warmer temperatures are about to come.

Odori Park alone has a total of 400 lilac trees and its full bloom comes in late May. The beautiful colors and the delicious smell of lilac flowers fill the entire park. The celebration of the lilac festival is comprised of a specific itinerary. There is an outdoor tea ceremony, a stamp rally, a music festival, and more. There are also stalls that sell local delicacies, wines, and other goodies. Guests are also given lilac seedlings as a take away after the celebrations.