Many nightlife lovers cite Sapporo as a more laid-back and relaxed destination than equivalent-sized cities in Japan. The main nightlife centre is Susukino, the largest north of Tokyo, with its many 24-hour bars, restaurants, pubs and seedy venues totaling some 4,000 – all in a loosely-defined city area. Here you’ll find the most popular joint in town, the three-storey King Xmhu with its themed party nights and spectacular décor, both inside and out.
Drinking can be expensive in Japan if taken to extremes and non-beer lovers can get frustrated with the lack of alcohol choices as wine is expensive and not everyone goes for heavy spirits, sake or shochu, a sweet local wine. Be warned that ‘gaijin’ or foreigners are not always welcome in every establishment so stay sensitive to the issue.
King Xmhu is the Big Daddy of nightclubs in Sapporo and is tremendously popular. Outside features a huge carved face, of the eponymous king one supposes, while inside is no less impressive on each of its three floors. Day-glo makeup and crazy outfits are de rigueur amongst punters. The huge intimidating statue of an African face looms over the entire street, the mouth being the entrance. Inside is fitted out like a tribal temple with a scary looking demon firing lasers from its eyes over the crowd.
Location: S7W4-424-10, Susukino
Simply put, this is the best place to go on a Saturday night if you're looking to hook up. It’s very busy with plenty of nice looking and none too shy girls on the dance floor. There's no entrance fee and the place is quite spacious with a second floor where you can sit and chat. Music is R&B and hip-hop and the dance floor gets packed around 12:30. The club is well organised and has regular ‘special nights’.
Opening Hours: Late – Late
Location: South 7 – West 4 Susukino
This is a busy Western-style (gaijin) bar with a good dance floor and a cash-on-delivery style of paying for drinks as well as a largely English-speaking clientele. Rad is the place to meet people from just about every walk of life and the atmosphere is ‘anything goes’ and anything assuredly does here. It’s been said that ‘there’s no crazier place to be in Sapporo than Rads on a Friday night past 11 o’clock.’
Location: Mituswa Building 1F, Minami 7, Nishi 3
Gaijin means ‘foreigner’ in Japanese and seeing there’s safety in numbers head for the Gaijin Bar when in Sapporo. In business since 1995, this foreigner-friendly hangout stocks a wide variety of international and Japanese bottled beers and serves BBQs, grilled meats, burritos, burgers and Aussie meat pies. Free internet and cable TV.
Opening Hours: Weekdays 18:00 – 01:00; Weekends 18:00 – 03:00. Closed on Sun
Location: South 2 West 7 (2F)
Face it – who can resist the prospect of drinking in the cheapest bar in town? Because that’s what 350 Bar is: The cheapest joint around. Understandably, it attracts an early-twenties crowd and gets rocking later on. 350 serves food but doesn’t major in it.
Location: Minami 4, Nishi 3
Another bar with a simple concept, 500 Bar is so named because every drink costs
¥ 500 there. Now what part of that can’t you understand? It’s not only cheap in comparison with other Sapporo bars but it also has a bit of a reputation as a pick-up joint. Keep an eye out for other 500 bars in town – this is just one of a few.
Location: Minami 3 Nishi 4, Urban Building
Nightlife in Japan wouldn’t be the same without its most famous export – karaoke. On weekdays this place is packed with young office girls belting out favourites, for better or for worse, as every night here is ladies’ night. Karaoke Super PIA has 24 rooms in which to live out your rock star fantasies and they (the rooms that is) come in every size, meaning you can take your lover or the entire office along to delve into a truly impressive catalogue of songs.
Location: Minami 6 Nishi 6, Lions Beer Taiyo Kan 9 F
For a meaty experience with lots of beer to swill it down with try the Sapporo Beer Hall. Handsome on the outside with its red bricks, the inside is imposing and cavern-like. More of a group experience than a fine-dining event, things tend to get a little boisterous once the beer starts flowing. There are several ‘Genghis Khan’ establishments in Sapporo, so-named after the bowl the meat is served in which resembles the infamous warrior’s helmet. It’s an all-you-can-eat affair with beef and pork. Subtle, it’s not.
Location: North 7 Jo 9 Chome 2-10 Higashi-ku
This bar claims to have the largest selection of beer in Asia and with a stock of more than 300 brands from over 50 countries, who is to argue? There is also a pretty good food selection featuring old favourites, such as burgers with all the trimmings, Australian meat pies, and fish and chips.
Location: Onda Building B1, South 9 West 5
Football fans visiting Sapporo should make a point of dropping by this café, devoted to the world's most popular spectator sport. Open late, SSC shows real-time live English Premiership games as well as games from other European and South American leagues. One wall is entirely covered with large TV screens and soccer memorabilia. The bar stocks imported and local draft and bottled beers, cocktails and spirits and also serves sandwiches, pizzas, and salads. Roast chicken is a house specialty.
Location: Minami 5 Nishi 2 Chome Woodshop Building 2F
Pub/bar downtown Sapporo where you can see and be seen with the trendy set. Be prepared to mingle with people who don’t mind paying a little more – just so long as they’re looking cool.
Location: Apr 1F, Minami 7 Nishi 1, Chuo-ku