Located 515 mi/830 km northeast of Tokyo, Sapporo, Japan, is familiar to millions of people around the world as the site of the 1972 Winter Olympics—and to millions more as the home of the Sapporo beer brewery.

This Hokkaido island city is one of the most modern in Japan (most buildings are less than 100 years old). It's a must-see if your a visit coincides with the February Snow Festival, which takes place in Odori Park, Susukino entertainment district and the more remote Tsudome site.

At that time, residents make giant ice carvings that last for several weeks (Sapporo is not a place for those with thin blood—it's easily as cold as Montreal in the winter). The festival also includes concerts and other winter-themed events.

Sapporo is a great gateway to the spectacular scenery of Japan's northernmost island, such as the world-class powder snow on Mount Niseko or excellent hiking in Daisetsuzan National Park.

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