If you have looked for sweets as a souvenir in Japan or have received them as a gift from someone who has been there, you might have heard of, seen, or even tasted Shiroi Koibito by Ishiya Chocolate Factory. Meaning “white lover” in Japanese and inspired by a walk on a snowy day in Hokkaido, the aptly named butter langues de chat have decadent white chocolate-flavored filling in between and beautiful packaging featuring snowflake patterns and Hokkaido’s snowcapped mountain. Originally the most popular souvenir in this coldest region of Japan, Shiroi Koibito is so beloved that it has become available at a few major airports around the country and established itself as the second bestselling souvenir nationwide. As a big fan of chocolate, I must say that Shiroi Koibito is no. 1 Japanese chocolate for me (a tie with Royce) and one of the top five among all the chocolate I have had in my life.
While the taste of something delicious usually melts away too quickly for our liking, there is a way for us to extend that fleeting moment of happiness for a bit. At Shiroi Koibito Park in Sapporo, Hokkaido, we can experience more than tasting the famous white chocolate biscuits. Albeit not super big, this chocolate entertainment park offers a wide range of chocolate delights and other sweets and merchandise produced by Ishiya that aren’t available elsewhere, as well as fantastical decorations and colorful seasonal flowers.
And one of the greatest things of all: many areas in Shiroi Koibito Park are free to enter.
We often compare climbing hills to overcoming obstacles, but some people get over certain challenges by creating hills. Those people are the world-famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando and the legendary Japanese-American sculptor and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi. And it just so happens that Tadao Ando’s and Isamu Noguchi’s artistic hills are in Sapporo, the capital city of Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido.
When winter comes, Sapporo becomes very cold. In spring and autumn, it still can get chilly. Come summertime, however, the rest of Japan wants to escape to this Northern city’s cool summer.
I didn’t write the paragraph above to discredit Hokkaido’s capital city and Japan’s fifth largest city in other seasons. Sapporo hosts one of the world’s most famous snow festivals every February that will make braving the constant sub-zero temperature and thick snow worth it. The city has some spring and fall colors to offer too. But with summer in other regions being notoriously hot (temperature usually almost reaches 35 °C or even goes over 35 °C for consecutive days) and very humid (the reason why even a Thai person like me finds Japanese summer uncomfortable), it is very tempting to visit Sapporo and other cities in Hokkaido where temperature is usually in the 25-30 °C range or slightly higher sometimes. Apart from being the gateway to Hokkaido with many domestic and international flights and the northernmost region’s hub with all the main train lines to other Hokkaido cities and well-developed facilities, Sapporo itself is brimming with interesting attractions and fresh and delicious food. I both traveled in Sapporo and used it as a base for day trips to nearby cities, thus having chances to try a lot of great food for dinner. I recommend you do this too.
I went to Sapporo for the first time in August 2019 and for the second time in August 2021. The places I visited on my first trip are conveniently in the city center and I will share easy trip ideas from that visit in this post. Despite all these destinations being in the center of Hokkaido’s most populous city and my visit being in the peak tourism month of August, I really like that Sapporo felt generally uncrowded, with comfortable summer weather, reliable transportation, and chill yet joyful vibe on both trips.
Maybe that is why the city inspired by Sapporo in the video games Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum is called Jubilife City, with “City of joy” as its slogan. Without further ado, I will now recommend things to see in Sapporo for first-timers, locations featured in Pokemon and the K-pop group NCT 127’s itinerary during their Sapporo concert that even non-fans might find interesting, and of course, tasty local food.