Honshu is already in the midst of spring from March to May, but reminders of winter still abound in Hokkaido. The sunlight grows stronger, melting the snow, while trees and vegetation begin to sprout slowly. The cherry blossoms that travel up the Japanese archipelago from the south don’t appear in Sapporo until around Golden Week (late April–early May) on an average year. Once the cherry blossoms bloom, other trees along the streets follow suit, budding and flowering all at once, marking the start of a truly beautiful season. Thrilling white water rafting adventures atop rivers swollen with snowmelt begin around the end of April. Although the snow is gone, the wind is still cold, so be sure to bring a light coat or shawl, or a light down jacket for those who chill easily.
From June to August, events for enjoying Sapporo’s short summer are packed with people. The Hokkaido Shrine Festival and Yosakoi Soran Festival in June mark the arrival of early summer, while in July there are music-related events including the Pacific Music Festival (PMF) and Sapporo City Jazz. Beer gardens, another favorite summertime tradition in Odori, also appear at this time. These events and more ensure that Sapporo locals get out and enjoy the summer to the fullest. Hokkaido has no sticky and humid rainy season like the main island of Honshu, so one of Sapporo’s draws is its comfortable summertime weather. While on some days it can be hot during the daytime even in a t-shirt, the wind at night can be chilly, so be sure to bring a thin long sleeve shirt.
Fall arrives in Sapporo after the start of September. The Sapporo Autumn Fest takes place in mid-September and showcases seasonal tastes from across Hokkaido in Odori Park. It also marks the start of the fall foliage season in the mountains and around town. After the fall foliage peaks, the trees begin to shed their leaves, and it is local knowledge that the first snowfall of the season is near when white fluffy snow bugs begin to fly around. Sapporoites know that winter is soon to follow once they view the snow-dusted summit of Mt. Teine from downtown. Although with each passing day it only grows colder, autumn is also known as the most “delicious” season, when Hokkaido-grown produce is the most bountiful. This is the time to get out and enjoy an outdoor hot spring bath and meal at a nearby hot springs spa or head to a popular restaurant serving seasonal favorites.
Snowfall picks up from the end of December, and if luck has it, the city will be covered in a beautiful layer of snow in time for a white Christmas. Winter activities abound, including skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling, to name but a few. During the peak of the cold in January and February, a number of snow-themed events take place throughout the region, including the famous Sapporo Snow Festival. Taking a dip in an outdoor hot springs bath amidst the snowy scenery is a truly special way to warm your body after a cold day outside. Heaters are hard at work inside commercial facilities and JR trains, but if you head outdoors, in addition to your coat be sure to have winter boots, a hat, gloves, a scarf and ear warmers on hand.