Is this the most sustainable city in Japan?Start Your Green Journey in Sapporo

AMost incredible of all, the curry soup tasted as good as it smelled. It’s something I didn’t think was possible because of the tantalizing aroma of masala stewed vegetables – I’m drooling before I even pick up a spoon.

Creative soul food Served by the handful of Sapporo restaurants that have been serving these bowls since the 1970s, the soup curry is fresh when the food arrives, with as much spiciness as you request. “Are these vegetables from Hokkaido?” I asked my waiter at Soup Curry Treasure, and he smiled kindly. “Yes, all our ingredients come from Hokkaido.” A few days later, I realized what an innocent question this was; Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island, has embraced the farm-to-table food philosophy from the beginning— — The city is surrounded by agriculture and mountains, and the sea is within easy reach.

Getting here by train from Tokyo is a great option for my Japan Rail Pass – a handy ticket that makes traveling by train in Japan cheaper for tourists – and the route is surprisingly easy.this Shinkansen As the bullet train roared through the Seikan Tunnel to Hokkaido (the 33-mile underwater tunnel is the second-longest in the world), I reappeared with unmelted snow on the ground and Japan’s frigid Kitashima . Time to start cooling off.

Horomi Pass Lavender Garden

(Lucy Grace)

The Sapporo station is adorned with giant wooden sculptures of Ainu master carvers, the region’s indigenous people, and posters on the platform advertise that the next G7 meeting will be held in the city on April 15. This is a fitting destination for global ministers to discuss the environment, as I discovered over the course of the next few days.

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“Sapporo has a lot of like-minded people,” says Noriko Shiokawa, manager of Royal Park Canvas Sapporo Odori Park, an offshoot of the trendy Japanese boutique hotel chain. “Because of the climate here, people respect the environment – we are in awe of nature, it makes us humble”. This particular branch is entirely ecological in design and is dedicated to complementing the city. With books and LPs in the library, and a rooftop event space with a fire pit, the vibe is stylish, but there’s more to it than the cool credentials.

“It’s actually the first building in Japan to be built using hybrid architecture; the top three floors are made entirely of wood, with 80% of the wood coming from Hokkaido,” explains Noriko. “The building stands for sustainability.” Everything inside is recycled, including the record collection in each bedroom and the interior wood paneling—but you can borrow records from the bar in the lobby. From the flat top terrace overlooking the iconic Sapporo TV Tower, I looked south, hoping to spot my next destination, the city’s rooftop beehives.

Soup curry ‘tastes as good as it smells’

(Lucy Grace)

Sappachi, Sapporo’s bee project, maintains an apiary of eight hives on the roof of Odori, supporting the 250,000 bees that live in the city during spring and summer. Secondary and college students aged 12+ volunteer with community retirees and meet weekly to support each other and raise bees.

I said, this sounds like a generational project to me. “That’s exactly it,” said Sappachi chairman Sakai Shuji, who is an architect but does not support the city’s ecosystem. “Our team is diverse and we encourage people with a variety of physical and mental health needs to work with bees. It’s a healing experience; they feel better over time, supporting each other and helping the local environment.” Hive Now Covered tarpaulins to protect the bee colonies from the snow, but Mr Sakai and manager Makoto Honda have plans for the future. As well as currently stocking the city with locally collected nectar, they are also in talks with hotels and cafes to run bee and honey tours.

Due to the climate here, people respect the environment – we are in awe of nature, it makes us humble

Whether it’s beekeeping, taking young people to forest school, or learning about permaculture in the neighboring eco-village, community development is ingrained in Sapporo’s ecologically woven DNA. There are huge art parks and green spaces throughout the city, and the wilderness of Hokkaido is just a stone’s throw away, which is as green and outdoors as the city itself.

The team at vibey, the timber-framed guesthouse at SappoLodge, fully embraced this; the owner, Wataru Nara, is a seasoned adventure travel guide with two long-distance tours to Antarctica. His guests are invited to enjoy the great outdoors year-round – Hokkaido has more to offer than just skiing – and his team leads hiking, mountain biking and sea kayaking in spring, summer and fall. Eight years ago, Sapporo was close to mountains and nature, so he built this mountain hut in the city center, but what he really built was community. “Guests from all over the world come back year after year,” he smiles as he shows me photos from his weekend trek. This is a guy who loves what he does.

Nakajima Park, one of the many green spaces in Sapporo

(Lucy Grace)

While the adventure travel business is booming in Sapporo (Adventure Travel World Summit will even host its inaugural Asian conference in Sapporo in September 2023), Wataru and his team are giving back to the island.

“I was born in Hokkaido, live in Hokkaido, and work in Hokkaido,” he says enthusiastically, “and I want to see the small towns on the island prosper.” He’s serious; A delicious local range from the nearby sparsely populated coastal town of Shakotan—meaning summer town in Ainu. SappoLodge runs sea kayaking excursions there – “the water is crystal blue” – and Wataru’s friends open a gin distillery with a shared desire to revitalize the town.

(Lucy Grace)

“There are a lot of good people in Sapporo,” Hoko told me when I first arrived. “We love nature, we respect it, and we are protecting the island for future generations.” As I boarded the train back to Tokyo and watched the mountains roar past, I took her word for it.

travel essentials

reach there

British Airways and ANA offer direct flights from London to Tokyo; from there take the bullet train to Sapporo, changing at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto.

live there

Double rooms at Royal Park Canvas Sapporo Odori Park start from £57.

Double rooms at SappoLodge from £29.

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