Most travelers to Japan tend to focus on Tokyo and the Kansai area, but there is so much more to food in Japan. For intrepid food travelers, heading north to the Hokkaido region can offer so many different types of food experiences.
Food in Sapporo is influenced by the sea, the cold winters, and even dairy. Because the region is so different from the rest of Japan, we wanted to put together our top tips for what to eat in Sapporo, Japan.
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No matter where you travel in Japan, you will eat well. The Japanese take their eating seriously. But the food in the north is so different from the rest of Japan. Sure, you can find soba and udon and tempura, but there are a handful of must-eat dishes in Sapporo that are unique to the region.
Sapporo cuisine is based on what is produced locally in Hokkaido. This means seafood and, somewhat surprisingly, dairy. Hokkaido is one of the main farming regions of the country. They produce loads of vegetables, corn, and even Japanese fruits like melon.
There are wineries in Hokkaido and dairy producers making milk, yogurt, ice cream, and even cheese. Because Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido, it’s possible to find all the best foods in Hokkaido right in the center of Sapporo.
In this Sapporo food guide, I will share our top dishes you must eat in Sapporo, along with some recommendations on where to find them.
If you need help planning your trip to Japan, check out our sample itineraries:
How To Book Hotels In Sapporo
In the 10+ years of traveling to Japan, we’ve learned a thing or two about booking a hotel in Sapporo. We’ve stayed at some great hotels like the Mercure Hotel Sapporo and St. Fairfield by Marriott Sapporo. And we’ve stayed at some not-so-great hotels.
When planning a trip to Sapporo, we use Booking.com for our accommodations. In addition to booking hotels, we’ve used them for booking apartments for longer stays. You can use them to book villas and ryokans in Sapporo when you want something special. We’ve even found some charming and less expensive guest houses in Sapporo on Booking.com.
Sapporo Food Tour
If you don’t want to do it on your own, or you want to learn more about Hokkaido cuisine, think about booking a food tour in Sapporo. One of the best places to learn about the local fish and seafood is the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market.
A guided tour of the Sapporo fish market is a great way to learn about the food and to make sure you are eating the best seafood and fish available.
Book this Sapporo Seafood Market Tour on Klook.
Where To Stay In Sapporo
I recommend staying in the Susukino neighborhood of Sapporo. It’s centrally located near all of the best places to eat. We stayed at the Mercure Sapporo and couldn’t have been happier with our decision. The Mercure Sapporo is a 15-story contemporary high-rise hotel with French influences and is part of the Accor family of hotels.
The Mercure Sapporo is close to all of the best places to eat in Sapporo. It’s right in the heart of Susukino and only a few blocks away from ramen alley and Nijo Market.
This was perfect for us, and really anyone who visits Sapporo, particularly in the winter. You can eat all of the best foods in Sapporo without traveling more than a few blocks from the hotel.
Book the Mercure Sapporo here.
What To Eat In Sapporo Japan
Hokkaido Seafood And Crab
If Hokkaido specialty food can be summed up in one word, it would have to be seafood. Between multiple species of crab to prawns and scallops to sashimi, if you are a seafood lover Sapporo is for you.
When it comes to crab, we didn’t dive in because, well, I’m allergic to crab. It’s a recent intolerance that has developed over the last 10 years. That means I know what crab tastes like and I love it. And, Eric loves me too much to indulge in front of me.
That said it doesn’t mean that other food travelers can’t indulge in some of the best crab and best seafood in the world. Hokkaido specializes in Horsehair crab (Kegani), which actually looks hairy, along with Snow Crab, which has super long legs (this is the crab that I know I have an intolerance to).
There’s also a Red King Crab, which is simply beautiful – with a price to match. Then there is the Hanasaki Crab, which is red and spiky with super meaty legs.
Where To Find The Best Crab In Sapporo
This is the magic question. Crab is not cheap in Sapporo. If you want to eat crab in Sapporo, it’s going to be high quality but high priced as well. Some of the best crab restaurants in Sapporo will charge one to two hundred dollars for some of the largest crabs.
So, how can you eat crab on a budget? Check out Nijo Market or the Sapporo Wholesale Market (the Curb Market Sapporo). Both are touristy, but you can try crab at a decent price. Sapporo crab is accessible and tasty, but it’s not cheap.
Around the markets, you can find small crab bowls for ¥1000 or ¥2000 yen. It gets you to taste the crab, but it is not necessarily the best crab in Sapporo.
Kaisen Don And Donburi
If you can’t afford a full giant crab for a hundred dollars or more, a great way to eat Sapporo seafood and fish is in a Kaisen Don or Donburi. Donbori is a Japanese rice bowl. Kaisen Don is a rice bowl with fresh fish and sashimi on top.
You can eat prawns, scallops, crab, roe, unagi, and more all over rice. Bowls cost anywhere from ¥1500-3000, which makes them a pretty good way to eat fresh fish and seafood at a good price.
It’s pretty easy to find these fish and seafood bowls all over Sapporo. For food travelers, it’s also pretty easy to find at the local markets.
We tried the Donburi at Donburi Chaya in the Nijo Market, which had some pretty decent pricing. Rather than doing the typical fish or sashimi style, we went full-on Hokkaido and ordered our bowls with scallops, corn, and butter for ¥1500. I did not regret my decision.
Sashimi And Sushi In Sapporo
Fresh fish in Sapporo doesn’t mean giant bowls of fish over rice. There are loads of options to eat traditional sushi in Sapporo as well. And, if you love sushi this is the place.
A Sapporo sushi menu will have local fish but will also offer a good selection of uni, or sea urchins. Even if you are not a sea urchin fan and don’t eat it at home, try it in Sapporo. It’s some of the best uni in the world.
Even more traditional sushi is amazing in Sapporo. I ate a simple plate of maguro tuna sashimi at Nijo Market for only ¥1000 and it was the most red and the most tender tuna I’ve ever eaten. It felt more like eating carpaccio than fish.
If looking for a deal, check out the packaged sushi and sashimi at the market or at a local supermarket for an amazing steal. The same goes for uni, where it is possible to purchase a package of uni for only ¥1000.
Corn In Sapporo
Yes, corn is a food to eat in Sapporo. In the warmer months, it can be found streetside. In the colder months, it can be found in convenience stores. And, yes, it can even be found in the ramen.
There are so many different types of ramen across Japan. So it’s important to try at least one bowl of ramen in the local style. In Sapporo, there are some pretty unique types of ramen on offer.
While in Sapporo be sure to track down the local Sapporo miso ramen, this means it is made with a soybean-based broth. But, don’t let the word soybean deter you. The miso-broth I ate in Sapporo was some of the best we ate in Japan.
Another difference in the local ramen is the type of noodles used. Sapporo ramen noodles are egg-based, which gives them a nice yellow color.
The best way to enjoy ramen in Sapporo is to look for big bowls of miso ramen with egg noodles topped with pork, corn, and butter.
See our guide on how to find the best ramen in Sapporo.
Genghis Khan Sapporo
When it comes to unique things to eat in Sapporo, we received non-stop recommendations for one particular dish – Jingisukan Sapporo, or what translates to Genghis Khan.
In fact, when researching Sapporo cuisine, this was the one dish that kept coming up, and considering its name, I was intrigued.
Genghis Khan was a Mongolian warlord. How he got a dish named after him in Sapporo Japan is beyond me. Apparently, the dish is inspired by how Mongolian soldiers would cook lamb on top of their helmets on an open fire. The name in Japan comes from the use of lamb, which is more popular in Mongolia than in Japan.
This is a Hokkaido version of Korean BBQ, although I am sure the Japanese would not be thrilled with my calling it that. It’s a personal convex grill, with onions, giant scallions, and lamb. It’s unique to eat in Japan because lamb is virtually nonexistent elsewhere in the country.
Where To Eat Genghis Khan In Sapporo
The most well-known place for genghis khan is Daruma Sapporo, which has a couple of locations in Susukino. They’ve been making this dish for over 60 years. Our meal for two with drinks costs about ¥5000, which is probably about average.
The Sapporo Beer Garden is also a great place for Genghis Khan in Sapporo. It’s a perfect way to spend a day, visiting the Sapporo Beer Museum and then finishing off with a Sapporo Classic Beer and a smoky Genghis Khan.
Sapporo Cuisine Pro Tip
Ordering Genghis Khan in Sapporo can be a little intimidating. They will place the onions and vegetables on the grill along with a slab of fat that is used to grease the pan. Order some meat, which comes in varying levels and prices.
Place a few pieces on the grill with the metal thongs. When the meat is done, dip it into your sauce, which you can flavor with chili and garlic.
Then, enjoy. Feel free to order some kimchi, rice, and multiple orders of beef to make an evening out of it. Also, they may offer you a giant plastic bag or a locker for your coat to keep it from smelling like the grill.
Soup Curry In Sapporo
I wasn’t sure what to expect from soup curry, even after researching it and seeing loads of photos ahead of time. Eric was particularly skeptical even though it is a famous food to eat in Sapporo.
It’s a curry broth filled with various seasonal vegetables along with pork, chicken, or even a meatball. You receive a bowl of rice on the side as well to dip into the broth.
Most soup curry restaurants will offer different options for broth, including chicken, seafood, or even coconut. You can choose your level of spiciness as well. Just a note, ordering larger rice or extra spiciness may be considered an upgrade.
The menu we reviewed laid everything out in English, so it was pretty clear what we ordered and how much we were going to be paying. Prices range between ¥1500-2500 per bowl depending on what is inside.
Where To Eat Sapporo Soup Curry
The best soup curry we found in Sapporo was near the Sapporo Station. Okushiba Shoten Ekimaesoseiji Soup Curry came highly recommended by a few people. It’s a little hard to find and easier to find from the street than from the station. It’s not located in the main part of Sapporo Station.
Instead, it’s in a hidden corridor of restaurants above a metro stop on the ST Toho Line. Look for it on Google Maps and follow the signs for restaurants below street level.
I ordered the fried bacon and mushroom soup curry for ¥1580 with no extra toppings. Eric ordered the fried chicken soup curry, but they ran out.
He settled for the Genghis Khan soup curry – a true Sapporo fusion. The soup was nicely spicy, with a black pepper flavoring to it. It was loaded with various vegetables and cabbage too.
Hokkaido Pork Yakitori
During our stay in Japan Eric kept harping on why yakitori was always chicken. He thought the entire idea of indoor grilling over charcoal would transfer well to pork products.
On our last night in Sapporo, I delivered by finding a pork yakitori restaurant in Susukino. Not only was it pork-based, but it is a special way of grilling a particular type of pork from an area of Hokkaido called Muroran.
Yakitori of Ippei Sapporo Chuo specializes in pork yakitori from Muroran, either prepared with salt (dry) or with a sweet sauce. Each order includes two skewers served with spicy mustard.
We tried the pork loin and pork cheek, both of which were very good. I wouldn’t suggest that yakitori in general is a Sapporo must-eat. It’s available in Sapporo just like it is everywhere else in the country. But, definitely try to find this unique type of yakitori.
And, Yakitori of Ippei Sapporo Chuo was just a pretty cool place, with smooth jazz playing in classic decor. It felt a little more hip than we are used to, but very chill.
Hokkaido Milk Ice Cream
Eating Hokkaido Ice Cream at the Sapporo Airport
Because Hokkaido is known for its dairy, eating ice cream in Sapporo is a must. Even when we visited Sapporo in winter, we managed to eat a bit of ice cream. Expect to pay between ¥300-500 for a Hokkaido ice cream cone.
Ice cream in Hokkaido is made with high-quality milk, often times real vanilla bean, and has the perfect level of creaminess and sweetness.
We even indulged in some hard ice cream at breakfast at the Mercure Sapporo. We poured a little espresso over it and made it an affogato, which was a perfect winter treat.
There are loads of shops around the city serving Hokkaido soft-serve ice cream. Or, if flying out of Sapporo, there are some great places for soft serve in the Domestic Terminal and in the walkway between the Domestic and International Terminal at the Sapporo airport.
Being a Jersey girl at heart, I chose Jersey Brown for my final Hokkaido ice cream and it did not disappoint.
At Nijo Market in Sapporo
Where To Eat In Sapporo
Much like elsewhere in Japan, it’s hard to find a bad meal in Sapporo. In addition to the specific recommendations above, definitely look for food in Sapporo in the Susukino neighborhood.
This is where Ramen Alley is located. Nijo Market is also located nearby and is a great option for fish and seafood.
Throughout Japan, always check out the train stations to try to find some of the best foods. There are loads of restaurants in and around the JR (Japan Rail) Station in Sapporo.
Even the Sapporo New Chitose Airport has amazing food (before security and immigration). There’s a ramen alley, a gourmet food court, and a street dedicated to sweets all within the airport.
FAQs – Sapporo Food Guide & Tips
Not really. Traditionally, much of Japan’s cuisine was eaten on the street or curbside. Over the decades, food production cleaned up and moved indoors. The best place to try a few street foods, though, are at the markets where you can order a single grilled scallop on the side of the road or a takeaway box of sushi.
Yes, this is common throughout Japan. In Sapporo, some restaurants and bars charge between ¥250-350 per person. In exchange, they serve a small snack, but unfortunately, you can’t decline the snack and leave without the charge. This is unfortunate for food travelers who want to hop around bars and restaurants to try to eat as many of Sapporo’s famous foods as possible. But, if settling into a restaurant or an izakaya it is an investment.
The Sapporo Autumn Festival is a great time to visit for food. The festival is held in Odori Park in the city center. Food producers from around Hokkaido are there to show off their local products.
Being a city so focused on Hokkaido seafood and fish, the sky’s the limit. You can eat a major crab feast for several hundred dollars. A typical night of yakitori or an evening at an izakaya with drinks will cost about ¥5000 for two people. For cheap eats, try the convenience stores (known as konbini) and grocery stores. It’s possible to have some rice cakes, egg salad sandwiches, and even some fab fried chicken for only a few hundred yen. Drinks, including beer, sochu, and sake cost about ¥400-500.
Located on its own island, Sapporo is best reached by flying. Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport has dozens of flights each day from all of Japan’s major cities including Tokyo. The main airlines, ANA and Japan Airlines along with several low-cost airlines like Peach service the airport.