JR Sapporo Station is a layer-cake of shopping. The station can be divided into a core of three shopping sectors, with outer orbitals of notable shops.
Spanish for “passage”, this is Sapporo Station’s oldest shopping sector. Stores in the northern half of the station go under- and aboveground for several stories. The northeast sector (visible from the East Concourse of JR Station) offers several floors of boutiques and designer goods appealing to the trendy and upscale. They lead into the big-spender zone at JR Tower Hotel Nikko Sapporo.
On the other hand, the northwest sector of Paseo (visible from the West Concourse of JR Station) is more practical. Drugstores, cheap restaurants, and even tourist information on the ground floor will tempt you to walk a full block west, exit the station below the train overpass, and cross the street to the cheapest (but busily hectic) electronic-goods and multimedia shopping in town: Yodobashi Camera Sapporo. If you’ve never been to a Yodobashi, now’s your chance.
The southern half of Sapporo Station is a transition zone of stores between all the other shopping zones. Its main selling point is the several floors of shops with balconies overlooking an enclosed open-air piazza, topped off by a world-class movie theater on the seventh floor. There isn’t a distinguishable border between Paseo and Stellar Place, but it’s worth spending an hour or so strolling from floor to floor, enjoying the natural light filtering in and the flurry of Sapporo’s commuters and consumers. Watch the young negotiate paths with the elderly as both make their way to the shopping sector of their choice.
Located in the southeast sector of the station, this separate free-standing building (the former Sogo Department Store) also offers goods on the cheaper side. This includes a 100-yen store in the basement, Uniqlo’s reasonably-priced high-quality clothing, and Bic Camera, Yodobashi’s earnest competitor.
Typical of Japanese department-store blocks, there is a fancy restaurant floor at the top and a thriving food-stall marketplace belowground. Aficionados of Japanese calligraphy and high-quality household goods (scented multicolor pens, bento lunch boxes with calorie-control menus, and stationery embossed with actual flowers) should check out Loft on the 6th floor.
Daimaru Department Store
Located in the southwest sector of the station, this is another free-standing building opposite of ESTA, framing Sapporo Station’s impressive outdoor plaza.
For many Sapporo shoppers, bored with Odori’s dominating Marui Imai and Mitsukoshi department stores, the advent of opulent Daimaru signified that Sapporo (a city of nearly two million people) was finally being taken seriously. Indeed, the ground floors offer opulent boutiques (Hermes, Bulgari, Gucci, Tiffany’s etc.) commensurate to Sapporo’s size, and it’s worth an escalator ride to browse Daimaru’s upper levels.
There is, naturally, a gourmet restaurant floor at the top. But the must-see is Daimaru’s basement floors. Bustling designer-sweets booths and freshly-made food stalls may tempt you into foregoing any restaurant in Sapporo, and just taking a freshly-wrapped hot boxed dinner back to your hotel room.
This underground mall is south of the station, and runs parallel to the rail lines for about two blocks east and west. Head for Sapporo’s station subway stop and you will cross it. It is another place for cheaper eats and goods with a hint of the kitsch (for example, Sanrio’s Hello Kitty store is here).
West of the station just beyond Daimaru Department Store, and next to the Century Royal Hotel, Kinokuniya is the Mitsukoshi of Japan’s bookshops. They do have a floor devoted to “foreign books” and magazines in English, German, and French, but they are a bit overpriced. In an era where brick-and-mortar bookstores are closing worldwide, this multistory literary emporium is still going strong. Worth a look to see how many books and magazines Japanese customers tachiyomi (stand around and read), and get an idea of how just powerful Japan’s media is.
Tokyu Department Store Food Court
One last must-see is further south of ESTA in the southeast sector, connected to the station by a zig-zagging underground passageway (if you get lost, surface and get your bearings). Tokyu Department Store is trying to be another Daimaru with its own fancy boutiques (it proudly features Japanese goods with the quality of Gucci and Hermes). But its basement-level food stalls are amazing and quite reasonably priced. (There has to be something special to tempt those people through all the winding corridors!) Listen for the bustle and follow the aroma.
Finally, if you’re looking to buy something in particular but can’t find it, stop by the JR Tourist Information Center in northwest JR Sapporo Station. Their dedicated staff will do their best to seek it out for you, even if that means phoning around from store to store.
Article by Dr. Debito Arudou. All rights reserved.