Best things to do in Sapporo by night
Hokkaido’s largest city is renowned for its gorgeous seafood, miso ramen, and buzzing nightlife. After a day of sightseeing, head to the Suskino district in the centre of Sapporo for some late-night action.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
Craving a perfect Manhattan? If you’re looking for a genuine old-school cocktail-bar in the strictest sense of the word, you can do no wrong with Bar Yamazaki or Proof. Both are small, smoky, and cozy. The vibe is very much 1960s Sinatra so don’t expect gimmicky concoctions. The immaculately dressed bartenders are all about classics that they mix up phenomenally well. The clientele varies from from middle-aged couples to rowdy salarymen. Of the two, Proof is more intimate and run by Mr. Nakagawa who used to work at Bar Yamazaki.
CRAFT BEER REVOLUTIONARY
When it comes to local beer ubiquitous Sapporo lager (est. 1876) is always a good option, but the craft beer revolution has invaded Hokkaido. The best brewers source their ingredients locally, with some even growing their own! Izakaya-style brewpub Moon Sun Brewing near the famous Niji fishmarket has ten different beers on tap – and all are brewed on site in small batches. Try the smoked chocolate porter or the Pilsner-style Saaz. Do reserve a table well in advance – the food alone attracts a steady flow of fans. The brewpub is no smoking, which is a rare treat in Sapporo.
If artsy and edgy is your thing, Provo is for you. This dimly lit bar is decorated with alt-art and the staff behind the counter are cool to the point of reserved. But boy do they love the Grateful Dead and other Prog/Raga greats which are always blaring at full volume. Strangers are tolerated and the vibe is friendly, however it may be too “local of a bar for local people.” Live music is played occasionally.
JAZZY NIGHT OUT
In Japan, you’ll often bump into tiny bars stacked with huge vinyl collections. And there’s usually one dedicated to jazz in every major city. Most of the vinyl bars are extensions of private apartments – due to lack of space, the owner stores all the vinyl and then doubles the lounge as a bar. During the ’50s and ’60s, jazz cafés (kissaten) were where the Japanese bohemians hung out. Chains took over in the ’80s but there are still a few iconic kissaten to be found. Bossa is a genuine jazz kissaten – a place to snack, drink, and most importantly listen to classic jazz from Chet Baker to Miles Davis.
CHALLENGE THE LOCALS
The Izakaya-style I Love Ping Pong Bar (also known as the Nakame Takkyu Lounge) feels more like someone’s living room than the rowdy bar it actually is. Remove your shoes, choose your table, and sit down on the floor. The place of honour is reserved for a ping pong table, which is in heavy use all the time. Be prepared to be challenged by a very noisy and surprisingly talkative crowd of 20-somethings. For drinks try the shochu-based cocktails.
Text Mikko Takala
Photos Tommi Anttonen and iStock