Chuo (中央) in Japanese means central. With that logic, you’d think the Municipal Central Library would then be located right in the middle of the city, maybe in downtown Odori or somewhere close to Sapporo Station.
Nope. For reasons that boggle the mind, the Chuo library is located on the outskirts of town. You’ll find it right on the city tram line. I guess you can make the argument that since it’s located in Chuo Ward, that makes it “central.”
But since I love books and libraries in general, I’m not going to complain. Like I said, public transportation access to the library is good. You just hop on the tram/street car and get off the stop that says Chuo Toshokan Mae (中央図書館前) in Japanese, which literally translates as “In Front of The Central Library.” 🙂
I highly recommend using public transportation because the library parking lot is small and you can only park for an hour. If you’re planning a marathon study session or need a longer amount of time to work or do research, the best thing would be to use the street car. However, if you have a car, you can park it at the Tokou Supermarket down the street then walk to the library. I’m not sure if that’s a good idea, but I’ll leave that information on here if that’s something that you’d be willing to do. Again, park at your own risk.
If you live, work, or study in Sapporo, you’re allowed to take out books and other materials. You just have to prove it with some kind of document. For me, I live in Kitahiroshima and work in Sapporo, so I had to show them a pay stub that says my company is in Sapporo. If you’re a long-time resident, you have to keep doing this every two or three years.
The library obviously has mostly Japanese books, but they have a very good selection of English books, magazines, and newspapers. There’s lots of audio and video media that you can borrow, too. Tables and chairs do get crowded, even on weekdays, so try to get there early if you really want to be comfortable. Weekends are super super crowded.
The English section is located on the second floor. You should be able to see lots of fiction and nonfiction books: some are new, but it’s mostly classics. You’re only allowed to take them out for two weeks. You can take them out at the library but you can return them at any other drop off points located more centrally in the city, like the one in the Underground Walkway in Odori. I believe that you can even request to have the books available at these drop off points, but I’m not sure how that works. I haven’t tried it out yet because I can’t navigate the site in Japanese. But again, I’m not sure if that works.
In the basement level, there’s a decent cafeteria with some cheap food. You can eat lunch there or you can even bring your own bento. At the same area, there’s an eating space set out for you. There’s a small cafe that sells some bread on the first floor. Right across from this, and from the entrance of the library is a small museum dedicated to the history of Sapporo. You can check it out if you’re board.
However, one of the things I love is the area behind the library. There’s a small park where you can stretch your legs if you’re tired of sitting or reading. It’s a good place to take a break and get some fresh air. You look out into the mountains and some wooded areas. On a nice sunny day, you can even eat your lunch outside.
If you’re interested in the library, do go for a visit. It’s the stop right after the entrance to the Mt. Moiwa Ropeway.