When you think of the Hokkaido city of Sapporo, you probably think of winter. After all, this is the city that hosts the annual Yuki Matsuri snow festival where massive ice sculptures line its bustling streets, and millions of people stop by the city every year while en route to Niseko for some ski or snowboarding fun.
But when Japanese people think of Sapporo, they tend to think summer, when the far-north metropolis boasts cool, mild weather and abundant nature in a season where much of Honshu is blanketed in oppressive heat and humidity; the kind that makes you physically angry every time you step out the door.
Anticipating an influx of Japanese tourists to the area, our Japanese sister site recently put together its top picks for the best conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Sapporo, and we thought we’d share, since, honestly, Sapporo is a really, really nice place to visit this time of year and their seafood is to die for.
On average, a Tokyo-area train sushi restaurant is going to feature sub-par sushi at reasonable rates – usually in the 100 yen/plate ballpark (approx. US$.85). In Tokyo, you don’t go out for train sushi expecting an amazing culinary experience. But, the waters around Sapporo are perfect for acquiring fresh fish by the (and we’re speaking in scientific terms here) veritable buttload, so if you pick your restaurant correctly, you’re in for some very high quality sushi despite cut-rate prices. Let’s take a look at the list:
It’s a bit off the beaten path, but our Japanese team insists it’s worth the trek to Toriton for the amazing quality sushi. Specifically, the Pacific Saury (sanma) is of particular note and you can get it year-round at this establishment.
2) Nemuro Hanamaru
Directly connected to Sapporo Station, this is one of the easiest places on the list to get to – a definite plus if you’re visiting in the bitterly cold winter. We recommend the Japanese scallop (hotate), which is perfectly prepared and has that signature plumpness of a great scallop without the chewiness you sometimes get in cheaper Tokyo restaurants.
Okay, so this one is almost impossible to get to without a driver’s license and a rental car, so unless you’re willing to drop a load on taxi fare, this one might be tough, but it’s definitely worth the trip if you can swing it. At just 248 yen, the mini chirashizushi (shown above) is a fabulous deal packed with a large variety of fresh sashimi on a bed of rice.
The big draw here is the kobore-zushi (“spilling-over sushi”), which features enough ikura salmon roe in a gunkan sushi roll as to tumble over onto the plate. Unfortunately, this place, too, is a bit tough for those without a car or the means to drop some bank on a taxi. But, with periodical taiko drum performances as part of the restaurant’s charm, this is a great place to take the whole family for a bit of spectacle on the side.
Now here’s one with great access for those without a vehicle. Just a few minutes’ walk from Susukino Station (where a lot of Sapporo’s nightlife is also located), Katsuichi-sen features some artfully crafted sushi rolls – such as our recommended oyako-salmon, which combines ikura roe and salmon in one mouthful. Our Japanese team note that, despite the location being out-of-this-world good, this restaurant never seems to be all that crowded.
(A quick warning, though: When we ran our Japanese sister site’s address for this place through Google Maps, a different restaurant popped up, so go with caution; there’s a possibility this place has shut down.)
6) Sakana Isshin
One more with excellent access from Susukino Station, this one is located in Susukino’s underground shopping mall and apparently never draws overly large crowds. This one is a must for visitors not planning to stray far from Sapporo’s major train stations. The kakushu-sankan set is our recommendation, featuring one each of Sakana Isshin’s best nigiri zushi.
The kaiseki-don rice bowl here is to die for. It features a mix of various seafood ingredients, not least of which is the anago eel, grilled to melt-in-your-mouth perfection. Oogi is not particularly easy to get to, but with steep discounts for lunch bowls, it’s a cost-effective, delicious distraction from Sapporo’s bustling streets.
In conclusion, our Japanese site recommends, if you only have time for one of these locations, Toriton is easily the best bet. Still, any of these locations serves up mouth-watering sushi for a fraction of the price of Tokyo’s upper crust parlors. Besides these train sushi locations, if you do happen to find yourself in Sapporo this summer, you also owe it to yourself to check out the miso ramen and one of any number of reasonably priced crab restaurants lining the city’s streets.