Hokkaido is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination. If you’ve read A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance, you’ll likely want to explore not just the capital of Sapporo but farther up north as well. Depending on what town you’re in, the accommodation options can differ greatly. First, let’s take a look at the island’s main hub of Sapporo:
HOTEL OR RENTAL APARTMENT?
Sapporo has an abundance of both regular hotels and vacation rental apartments. As with Tokyo and other major Japanese cities, rental apartments are going to be much better deals than most hotels, as they’re often both much larger and cheaper. As the industry is still relatively new in the city, however, the standards may not be quite as high as in the Kanto region. As always, be sure to carefully go through reviews before confirming a booking and message your host to make sure they can adequately communicate in English.
Some visitors may be interested in staying at a hotel reminiscent of the Dolphin Hotel which appears in both novels. While the actual hotel does not exist, The Murakami Pilgrimage provides some examples of some real-life hotels relatively similar to the one described in the books.
WHERE TO STAY
Sapporo is not a very large city and the metro system is efficient. Therefore, as long as you’re near a train station you’ll be able to get around the city without much trouble. The most convenient station to be around, of course, would be Sapporo Station. This is where you can access other interesting cities nearby such as Otaru.
Staying nearby the long rectangular Odori Park would also be very convenient, especially the area near Odori Station and the Sapporo TV Tower. The park is close to most of the Sapporo locations mentioned in the guide book and it’s also home to various beer gardens in the summer time.
Most of the cheaper hotels are in the Susukino/Nakajimakoen area, which is a popular place to stay. Susukino is the epicenter of Sapporo nightlife and is also an easy train ride or walk from the city’s other well-known destinations.
When traveling to Bifuka, the far northern town which inspired Junitaki-cho, the accommodation itself is the main attraction. There you’ll have the chance to stay at a place incredibly reminiscent of the house that the Sheep Professor built and that the Rat’s father later purchased. Farm Inn Tonto, as it’s called, has been attracting a lot of media attention in recent years for its stark similarity to the setting of the novel.
Be sure to contact them via email or phone in advance before your arrival in Hokkaido. You surely don’t want to make the long journey up there to find out they’re fully booked. With that said, there are a couple of other options in town.
Next to the station is Shirabashou, with rates of around ¥4,000 per night. There’s also Guest House Bifuka, about a ten minute walk from the station, with the cheapest room going for ¥5,500. However, you may have difficulty managing the reservations if you don’t speak Japanese.
AROUND THE ISLAND
While you may happen to come across a gem, generally speaking, vacation rental apartment options are incredibly limited outside of Sapporo. During your travels throughout Hokkaido, you may consider spending a few nights in Asahikawa (RELATED: Three Nights in Asahikawa). In that case, you’ll want to use a site like Booking.com or Agoda to find accommodation.
If you’re traveling to Hokkaido in summer, which is highly recommended, you may also want to visit the towns of Biei and Furano. While not mentioned at all in any of the Murakami novels, they’re worth a visit for their large lavender fields, colorful flower beds and rolling hills. Again, a hotel aggregator like Booking.com is going to be your best bet here as vacation rental apartments have yet to take off in the region.