Vegan Local Sapporo Treats & Restaurants (Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan)

Recently, I traveled to Sapporo, Hokkaido (the northernmost prefecture of Japan) to see the annual Snow Festival.  While traveling, of course I like to enjoy vegan restaurants, but it’s also important to have a chance to try local foods.  In Japan, every prefecture and most well-known cities have regional speciality foods (and goods) that you are encouraged to try while visiting.  Of course, as a vegan, this can be a bit difficult to do – Japan really, really likes fish, and somehow it finds a way of sneaking into everything.

So, each time I travel, I want to share with you local treats that you (probably) can enjoy!  Of course it’s always good to ASK before trying – even if a recipe usually doesn’t contain butter or fish sauce, certain cooks may vary their recipes.  But, here’s a rough guide of things you may be able to try while visiting!

A.  Local Treats that are Often Vegan:

1. Sapporo Beer

Sapporo Beer is, as you might expect, from Sapporo (at least, originally – now it has several breweries in Japan and Canada).  So, it’s highly recommended to order Sapporo while you’re out, or even try some after doing the Beer Museum tour in Sapporo.

Sapporo at a local restaurant

Sapporo at a local restaurant

Sapporo beer at the Beer Museum (Sapporo)

Sapporo beer at the Beer Museum (Sapporo)

2. Haskap Berry Products (ハスカップ )

The Haskap is a native plant to Hokkaido which produces blue-purple berries, and you can find delicious Haskap products everywhere in Sapporo.  I saw Haskap jam, tea, hard candies, gummy candies, and even wine while I visiting Sapporo.  Many of these products are vegan, so it’s a great opportunity to either try or take home  a local good!

Haskap Hard Candy

Haskap Hard Candy

Haskap Wine (on Mt. Moiwa)

Haskap Wine (on Mt. Moiwa)

3. Royce Dark Chocolate* (read special note)

Royce Chocolate is a chocolate company founded in Sapporo, and in souvenir shops throughout Sapporo, you can purchase large Royce chocolate bars for only about ¥350.  And, from what I can tell, their dark chocolate seems to be vegan!  Most dark chocolate in Japan has whole milk powder, but this doesn’t!

*NOTE: It does, however, contain lecithin, which may or may not be vegan. In the US it always seems to come from soy, but I’m not sure about Japan. Also, at the ingredients it says that there may be traces of milk, which could either be in reference to the lecithin or to the machinery it’s produced on (since Royce produces milk chocolate).

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Royce Chocolate in “Black”

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4.   Imomochi / Potato Mochi (いももち)

Mochi is a Japanese treat traditionally made with rice, and every region seems to have it’s own special way of preparing mochi.  At the Yuki Matsuri, after interrogating the poor shop staff because I was very skeptical of this delicious-looking snack’s vegan-ness, I ended up getting imomochi. And it was AMAZING.  I’m a huge fan of starch products and oil and am I always happy when the two join forces.  It’s apparently a very popular road-side snack in Hokkaido, and while I didn’t see it anywhere besides the festival, if you do see it, please try it!  Of course, with this kind of product, it’s always good to ask the seller to verify the ingredients.  After searching online it seems that it’s almost always vegan (see recipe here), but occasionally people use lard for frying in Japan, and butter is very popular in Hokkaido, so do check!

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5. Grilled Corn (焼きとうきび )

Hokkaido is also famous for corn. In fact, there’s a very popular character I kept seeing around town who appears to be a very adorable, huge-eyed ear of corn.  Butter-and-corn Ramen is popular dish to eat while in Sapporo, and at souvenir shops you can buy vacuum-sealed ears of Hokkaido corn to bring back to your friends and coworkers.  So, if you have a chance, try some!  Festival often sell grilled corn, and while you would think this would involve butter, it seems in Japan then generally use vegetable oil or no oil at all (Of course, always better to ask each griller to be sure).  I ordered this ear of corn at the Yuki Matsuri, and was assured that the only sauce used was soy sauce.  However, it was grilled on the same grill as meat, so if this bothers you, be careful and watch what else they’re grilling.

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きびっち (Kibichi), and adorable corn character from Hokkaido. Because there really is an adorable mascot for everything.

6.  Hangan-Sama (はんがんさま ) – Warm Sweet Bean-Filled Rice Cake

I actually have no idea if this is something native to Hokkaido – a cursory google search provided me with next to no information on it’s origins or really much of anything about it. However, at Hokkaido Jingu Shrine (which I highly recommend visiting), there’s a shop calle Rokkatei which serves free tea and offers a number of Hokkaido food goods, mainly sweets.  There, you can purchase Hangan-sama Rice Cakes, and watch them heat them on the grill in front of you.  They also served them pre-packaged, so I checked the ingredients first to make sure they were vegan, and they were!

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Hangansama at Hokkaido Jingu

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Hangansama mid-grilling

I also got this manjyuu sweet at the cafe, and it was quite good!

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B.  Things that Usually Aren’t Vegan (but are Very Sapporo):

1. Soup Curry

Soup Curry is a much soupier version of Japanese curry, and was developed in Sapporo.  There are lots of restaurants that serve it, but I generally assumed that it wasn’t vegan – most soups in Japan have a fish base.  However, please ask!  It’s possible that some restaurants have a vegan or vegetarian version!

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If you are unable to order some, though, I recommend making some of your own!  You can make it with curry roux (which isn’t highly recommended, and is also hard to find vegan), or from scratch (easier to make vegan).  Here’s a recipe for a version with curry roux and here’s a recipe for one from scratch.  Just substitute what you need to make it vegan!  I made my own with prepackaged curry roux, but I’d like to try making it from scratch soon.

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2. Corn & Butter Ramen

Another famous Sapporo dish is corn & butter ramen.  For obvious this reasons, you’re probably never going to find a vegan version of this in a restaurant.  However, I’m going to try to make it soon, since it seems like a such a delicious option!

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Kappybara -san Socks from New Chitose Airport (Sapporo)

C. Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants in Sapporo

  1. Aoi Sora Organic Cafe (all vegan) – my review, Happy Cow page
  2. Cafe Chienoki (all vegetarian, vegan-friendly) – Happy Cow page
  3. Cocoon Nest (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
  4. Heureuse Vie (all vegan) – Happy Cow page
  5. Hiro Vegetarian Cafe (all vegan) – Vegi-Navi Page
  6. Itadakizen (all vegan) – my review, Happy Cow page
  7. Lohas Raw Food Cafe (omnivore, vegan friendly) – my review, Happy Cow page
  8. Natural Food Holo (all vegetarian, vegan friendly) – HappyCow Page
  9. Shindo Fuji (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
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Itadakizen (Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan) – ★★★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality:  ★★★★ – Delicious!
  • Type: All Vegan, Japanese
  • Location: Maruyamakoen, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
  • Price: $$-$$$ – Moderate to Expensive (Lunch Sets ~¥1400, Dinner sets up to ¥4000)
  • Hours:
    • Tue-Fri : 11:30 am – 3:00 pm, 5-9 pm (Last Order 8:30)
    • Sat: 11:30 am – 9 pm (Last Order 8:30)
    • Sun: 11:30 am – 6 pm (Last Order 5:30)
    • Regular Holidays: Mondays (call ahead for national holidays)
  • Website: Restaurant WebsiteHappyCow Page
  • Language Barrier: English menu

About & Location:

Itadakizen is a vegan Japanese restaurant with locations in Tokyo, Sapporo (Japan), Toyama (Japan), Oban (England), and London.  In spite of it’s many locations, it has a very small-restaurant feel – you would never guess they were an international restaurant.  The Sapporo restaurant is located near the Maruyamakoen Subway Station, in Sapporo, Hokkaido.  Maruyamakoen Station can be reached by taking the Tozai line towards Miyanosawa Station.  It’s about 5-15 minutes from Sapporo station. From Sapporo Station (Subway), you will need to take the Namboku Line to Odori station, then switch onto the Tozai Line.

Address, Train Access & Contact:

  • English Address: 23 Chome-2-1 Minami 2 Jonishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido, Japan
  • Japanese Address:  〒064−0802 札幌市中央区南2条西23丁目2−1
  • Train Access: Near Maruyama-Koen Station
  • Phone Number: 011-676-8436

Google Map:

Walking Directions:

Once you arrive at Maruyamakoen station, take Exit 6.  Exit 6 will take you into the basement floor of a shopping center.  Take the elevators to the first floor.  There, you will see a Daiei grocery store on your right and a Starbucks on your left.  Exit through the glass doors between these two shops.  Then, turn LEFT.

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Walk down this street for 4-5 blocks (some of the blocks aren’t through streets).  You will pass a block with a Sunkus and a store called LAND USA.  Keep walking. After about 10 minutes of walking, you will reach this intersection.  On your right, there will be a small parking area.   Take a right here.

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Itadakizen will be on you right, about halfway down the street!

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Itadakizen surrounded in February Snow

Food Review:

The food at Itadakizen was very good, as was the presentation.  I had the choice between several lunch sets (which were in the 1000-1500) category, or a gorgeous-looking vegetable sushi set (which was 4000).  As the sushi was a bit out of my price range, I opted for the Kanseihan Tanno Set (for ¥1380).  The set came with black rice porridge, mixed grain rice, a tofu dish, marinated peanuts, marinated seaweed, and a tray of small vegetables side-dishes.

The rice porridge, which I was a bit skeptical of, ended up being delicious.  It had a thick consistency and a very nutty flavor, and its warmth helped to heat me up after my long trek in the snow.

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The other dishes were each exceptional.  Unfortunately, because of the low lighting, it was difficult to get good close-up photos of each of the small dishes (they all turned out really dark or blurry).  But it was exceptional. I imagine the dishes vary by season, but mine came with a spicy shredded daikon salad (top right), marinated peanuts (top center), some marinated root vegetables (top left), marinated burdock root & other veggies (bottom right, a small seaweed salad, and another small greens dish (I can’t actually remember what it was exactly, perhaps spinach?).  My favorite part was the marinated peanuts (top center), which I didn’t expect to be so good.  They were incredibly soft and clearly had been soaked for a long time, so that they tasted rich but not quite like peanuts at all anymore.  I was really surprised!  I’ve never eaten anything that tasted quite like it.

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I was also served a side-dish of tofu balls in a sweet glaze, which weren’t chock-full of flavor but tasted great when eaten along with some of the other dishes.

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For dessert, I got a sort of tofu-y cake with some sort of fluffy topping.  I actually wasn’t that much of a fan of this, but then, I like desserts that promise to harm your body irreversibly.  The cake bit was presumably made of silken tofu, but had a light sweet flavor.  It was still good and had a very interesting flavor, so I would still recommend ordering it.  But it probably won’t sate your need for sweets if you lust for sugar like  I do.

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Atmosphere and Location:

I really enjoyed Itadakizen because it felt much more Japanese then some of the other vegan cafes I’ve visited.  The food itself, of course, was Japanese, but also the arrangement of dishes, the types of dishes used, and the quiet atmosphere contributed to a sort of zen-esque feeling of simplicity and peace (surely this is intentional, give their name).  The restaurant itself was a bit snug and, at night, dimly lit.  This wasn’t very conducive to good photos but it was very warm and comfortable feeling – it almost felt like the room was lit by candlelight.

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The service was exceptional.  I arrived about 20 minutes before closing (after getting thoroughly lost trying to find it), only to find that last order was 30 minutes before closing.  However, they didn’t even mention it to me.  I apologized for arriving so late and they still served me happily. I was the only one in the restaurant at that time, and they served me very quickly.  They even let me order off of the lunch menu, in spite of the fact that it was after 6.  The waitress asked me where I was from, and when she realized I spoke a little Japanese asked me simple Japanese questions (which was wonderful practice).  Overall I thought the service was wonderful and the atmosphere very cozy.

Lohas Raw Food Cafe (Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan) – ★★★

Lohas Raw Food Cafe (自然食&ローフードLOHAS)

 

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★ – Good
  • Type: All Vegan EDIT 10/14, NOT VEGETARIAN, but vegetarian & vegan friendly
  • Location: Susukino, Sapporo, Hokkaido
  • Hours: 
    • Mon-Fri: 11:00-19:00 (Last Order 18:00)
    • Sat : 11:30-15:30 (Last Order 14:30) (Note: It used to be closed some Saturdays, but now it’s open every Saturday)
    • Holiday: Every Sunday & National Holidays
  • Price: $-$$ – Cheap to Moderate (Lunch ¥500-¥1200)
  • Website: Restaurant Website, HappyCow Page
  • Language Barrier: English Menu available

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About & Location:

Lohas is a Raw Food café and health food store located in the Tanuki Koji Shopping Arcade, Sapporo’s oldest shopping district, in the Susukino district of Sapporo, Hokkaido.  It’s located at the very end of the shopping arcade, in the block marked 7 (each block of the shopping arcade is marked with a number).

Address, Train Access & Contact:

  • English Address: I-Hotel 1st Floor, 7 Chome -6-1, Minami 2 Jonishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido, Japan
  • Japanese Address: 北海道札幌市中央区南2条西7-6-1 イーホテル札幌 1F
  • Train Access: Near Nishi 8 Chome (西8丁目) Stop on the Sapporo Tram, or between Odori and Susukino Stations
  • Phone Number: 050-5890-1713

Google Map:

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Food Review:

10/14 EDIT:  Apparently, Lohas isn’t vegetarian, much less vegan as HappyCow originally said.    So, the items I ate may or may not have been vegan! However, it does offer vegan and vegetarian options.  So please ask your server which items are vegan/vegetarian.

I really enjoyed café Lohas. They don’t have a particularly expansive menu (they mainly provide a range of soba dishes as well as some vegan sushi), but it was exactly what I was looking for.  They have a soba lunch set which is very cheap (at ¥500), but I ended opting for the larger soba set for ¥1200.  My lunch set included Soba, dipping sauce, a bowl of rice with red beans, a side salad, a very small sampling of cake, and a cup of tea.  I would highly recommend this set, as it offered a bit of everything.

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The soba and dipping sauce were quite good, and I really enjoyed it because I never get to order soba while eating out (the soba itself is generally vegan, but the dipping sauce usually isn’t, and ordering with only soy sauce seems a bit disappointing).  The dipping sauce was served with a side of green onions and wasabi to customize the flavor of the sauce, as well as hot water, so I could make a “soup” of the remaining sauce after I was finished with my meal.

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The salad had a mix of bean sprouts, mixed greens, tomatoes, corn, yellow peppers, and purple and green cabbage, and was topped with sunflower seeds and a light soy sauce dressing.  Unfortunately, because the dressing was thin it pooled up at the bottom of the bowl, which mean there was too much at the bottom.  But otherwise the salad was delicious and much more interesting than the typical just-lettuce side-salads that I’ve received at other restaurants.

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The tiny piece of cake ended up being amazing.  I didn’t order a full dessert because I’ve been disappointed by “raw” desserts in the past – I’ve found the texture is often to dry or too nutty, or the fillings to obviously of soy origin (I hate that soy aftertaste).  I now wish I’d ordered a full slice, because the bit I got was amazing.  I got a sample of Lohas’ Marble Tart, which was a mixed vanilla and chocolate tart with a nutty crust.  The filling was icy cold but very smooth and melted in my mouth, and it was quite sweet with no soy aftertaste.  It really was perfect.

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My meal also came with a choice of coffee or herb tea, and I opted for the herb tea.  It was sweet and had a very subtle flavor that I couldn’t quite place (since I don’t generally opt for herb teas, as I’m a fan of caffeine).  I really enjoyed it though, as it added to the overall relaxing atmosphere of the café and the meal itself.

Atmosphere & Service:

I absolutely loved the atmosphere at Lohas. It was freezing outside (and snowing quite heavily), but the restaurant itself was toasty warm and offered a wonderful shelter from the elements. It’s a bit small and narrow, but very tidy and well-organized so you don’t have to worry about running into others.  My favorite part was the music: while I was visiting, they had a tape of what might be called “forest sounds,” complete with birds chirping and the rustle of leaves. It made me feel very relaxed, like I was picnicking in the forest.

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The service was equally exceptional.  The staff were very attentive and offered me an English-language menu.  I ended up not being able to finish my meal, and asked if I could take my food to go (something which can’t always be done in Japanese restaurants, as it’s not as common of a practice here).  Clearly this was not a common request, but the staff bustled around to look for containers for my food and sauce.  They ended up giving me a plastic sauce container (a sturdy, permanent one) just so I could take my sauce home.  I was so amazed at their generosity and kindness.

 Overall:

I genuinely enjoyed my visit to Lohas Raw Food Cafe, and found the food to be tasty, the atmosphere relaxing and comfortable, and the service exceptional.  If I’m ever in Sapporo again, this will be the first restaurant I visit again!

That’s all for now!  More Sapporo reviews to come!

 

Organic Cafe Aoi Sora Nagareru-kumo – ★★★ (Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan)

Organic Cafe Aoi Sora Nagareru-kumo (オーガニック カフェ 青い空 流れる雲)

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★ – Good
  • Type: All Vegan
  • Location: Maruyamakoen, Sapporo, Hokkaido
  • Hours: Sun-Wed: 10:30-17:00; Thur-Sat: 10:30-21:00 (Lunch from 12:00). No closed days.
  • Price: $$ – Moderate (Lunch Sets ¥1000, Dinner Set ¥1600)
  • Website: Restaurant WebsiteVegeNavi Page, HappyCow Page

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About & Location:

Aoi Sora Organic Cafe is an entirely vegan cafe in Sapporo, Hokkaido.  It is located about a 10 minute walk from Maruyamakoen Station on the Tozai line.  Maruyamakoen Station is roughly 10-15 minutes from Sapporo Station. From there, it’s a bit of a headache to get to the cafe itself – I ended up lost for about 30 minutes trying to find it.  So, I’ll give you walking directions below.

Address, Train Access & Contact:

  • English Address: 22-1-7, Minami-Ichi-Nishi, Chuuou-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido, Japan
  • Japanese Address: 札幌市中央区南1条西22丁目1-7   裏参道ルーム22・1F
  • Train Access: 10-15 minutes walk from Maruyamakoen Station (Tozai Line)
  • Phone Number: 011-623-3887

Walking Directions:

So, first, at Maruyamakoen Station, take Exit 6.  Walk up the stairs until you reach the shopping complex.  Then cross to the escalator, and take it up on floor (to the ground floor).  When you get off the escalator, walk toward the Daiei and Starbucks.  Exit out the front doors.

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Once you’ve exited, turn left, and walk down the street for approximately 5 blocks (not exact because there are some non-through streets).

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At some point you will see a Sunkus (convenience store) on your right, and shortly after, a store called LAND USA.  Keep walking straight!

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Eventually, you will see these stores on your right (one is an interior goods store, and I believe the other is a cafe/bakery – look for the orange  & yellow ruffled awning over the door.  Keep walking straight, the restaurant is on this block!

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About halfway down, look for a deep recess in between buildings.  Aoi Sora is deep in this recess, at the back.  This is particular hard to see when it’s dark!  It has a sign with a blue sky and clouds on it, and this is lit up at night.

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Google Map:

Food Review:

After seeing rave reviews of this restaurant on Happy Cow as well as Vegi Navi (a Japanese vegetarian cuisine website), I decided that I had to visit Aoi Sora first.  It ended up being well worth the visit.  The menu was entirely in Japanese (with no photos), so choosing what I wanted was a bit difficult, but the waiter was happy to help me out and explain what each item was.

 Sadly, I didn’t see the faux fish burger that everyone was raving about online (I think it’s a lunch-only item), so I opted for the Chinese Vegetable Plate set (with cake and tea) for 1600 yen. The set came with a bowl of warm Ma Po Tofu, a hearty mound of brown rice, a small side of warm vegetables (including Chinese broccoli, carrots, cabbage, white radish, and some kind of flavorful paste), another cold side-dish of vegetables (with onions, daikon, squash, and I think some curry and other spices), a hot clear soup with daikon radish, and side salad.  Everything turned out to be quite good, although I wasn’t particularly fond of one of the pastes used to flavor the first assortment of Chinese vegetables.  Each dish was individually small but did a great job of filling me up over the course of the meal.

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Afterwards I was served a cup of Earl Grey tea (they also had other tea options) and a tiny but delicious chocolate cake served with vanilla soy ice cream.  Finally, I found a vegan restaurant in Japan that makes a chocolate cake that is rich and moist (as opposed to the dry, crumbling cakes I’ve received and multiple other restaurants).  That said, if I’d ordered it without the set it would have cost roughly ¥600 for slice of cake smaller than my palm, which seems a bit much.  The dessert menu also offered an apple tart and an array of soy milk ice creams.

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Overall, the meal wasn’t quite as awe-inducing as I had expected (given the nearly entirely 5-star reviews I saw online), but it was still very good and definitely worth visiting.

Atmosphere & Service:

The cafe itself was wonderfully well-heated and very spacious and clean.  It had a similar atmosphere to many other vegan cafes I’ve visited – very natural, with lots of wood and large windows.    The service was exceptional:  I was the only person there at 7 pm on a Saturday, so the waiter was incredibly attentive.  I couldn’t read most of the all-Japanease, no-photo menu (I need to study more kanji), so the server walked me through the menu and translated everything I asked about.  I don’t think he was exactly fluent but he knew how to describe what the dishes were.  Since I was the only person there there wait was only about 15-20 minutes (pretty good considering that there was so much detail in the dishes). I was quite pleased.

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Okay, that’s all for today!  More Sapporo restaurant reviews to come over the next few days!