I waited three years for this. The last time I went was in 2019.
I’m very happy I went, of course, but I ended up being drenched and cold the whole day.
After a very long absence, my favorite festival finally came back. Starting September 9 and up to October 1, the city is holding the annual Sapporo Autumn Fest. The year 2022 will be the first time it will be held during a pandemic.
I went in the middle of Silver Week, on a Sunday, and in the second weekend since it started. As expected, it was very crowded despite the terrible weather. The festival is held mostly outdoors throughout Odori Park and the weather reports had predicted rain for the weekend. I was expecting the area to be less crowded because I thought a lot of people wouldn’t want to go out in the rain just to attend a festival. I was wrong. I guess everybody else had the same idea because it seemed that the park was swarming with visitors, both local and national.
Oh, well. The weather didn’t help, but at least I got to go this year after a long time of not attending the event.
I’m hoping this post will be timely for others interested in attending the event since there’s about a week left to go explore, eat, and see what it’s all about. If not, it’s something to look forward to for next year.
Here’s your basic rundown: starting from 4-chome (4丁目) and ending at 11-chome (11丁目) each block is themed with a particular food or event. I recommend picking up a flyer from the fourth block to see if there’s a particular cuisine you’re interested in. You can also pick up these things at Sapporo Station or check out the website here. The website has English information while the pamphlet only has Japanese—or I didn’t see any English versions when I went.
I recommend looking at the menus and the type of food available because there are so many to choose from. Since the Autumn Fest is basically a food festival, looking online in advance gives you an idea of where to eat if you have certain dietary requirements, especially if you’re vegetarian or if you have certain allergies. Also, if you’re not interested in food but want to spend most of your time drinking, then the seventh block is your best bet for wine, sake, and beer. Of course, the other blocks would have alcoholic beverages available, but this block is basically a big open bar.
These photos are all at the seventh block. There’s a variety of drinks available, even for those who don’t really like to drink. The two photos below are sweet alcoholic cocktails. One is matcha milk and the one on the right is a mojito.
If you’re there to pick up or check out cuisine from different areas of Hokkaido, I recommend going to the 8-chome because this is the “marketplace” featuring cuisine from east, south, north, and central Hokkaido. Bring a big bag to haul your food because I ended up buying some packable food that I brought home.
If you’re a meat-lover, start your day at 10-chome because that’s where it’s concentrated. If you love ramen and curry, then start off at Block 5 because that’s where the event features different types and styles of ramen and curry.
Just be aware that restaurants/food/menus change every week or every few days, though. That’s the whole concept of the event. You can basically go every week and each time, something new is featured. The food comes to you but you just have to be careful with your timing if there’s a particular food you’re hoping to sample. Again, this is why looking ahead of time at the menu and the schedule is highly recommended. The best way to do that is to check online.
Some other things to consider:
Check the weather because even though there’s ample seating, the weather can change pretty quickly. It can start warm and end up freezing a few hours later. Bring an umbrella or jacket if rain is predicted. Some of the seating areas are right out in the open with no overhead awning to protect you from the sun or the rain.
Wear comfortable walking shoes if you plan on checking out the entire venue. That’s seven blocks of walking if you do.
There’s a lot of waiting in lines, especially for restaurants and stalls that are extremely popular.
The pandemic is still going on, so there are designated entrances and exits at each block—something that didn’t exist before. Previously, you could just go enter from anywhere, but that’s changed this year. Basically, the entrance is where you’re required to sanitize your hands and they check your temperature for a fever. Some areas give you a sticker to say you’ve gone through the checkpoints, others don’t. When you go to throw away your garbage or return your trays, they’re conveniently located by the exits.
Me, personally, I just wanted to go to the event again, so I didn’t really care what was there. As expected, I ate, I walked, I bought, and I drank the entire day away. All in all, it was a good way to spend the start of the fall season. It also helped that the afternoon weather cleared enough that I was able to enjoy sharing a meal and a drink with some very good friends.
Hope you go out and enjoy it.