Apart from the buses and subway system in Sapporo. There is also the Sapporo Streetcar. The Sapporo Streetcar runs in what almost looks like an L-shaped loop, but the loop is incomplete at one end. So the two termini of the line are literally two blocks apart from each other.
These two end stops both start in the busy Susukino district of Sapporo. Susukino is Sapporo’s entertainment district. It’s home to a whole whack of restaurants, host/hostess clubs, and other businesses of the night. Susukino is where you will also find the largest collection of neon billboards and adverts in town. This area really shines through at night.
On one sunny summer afternoon, my wife and I got onto the streetcar at one of the terminus stops closest to the Susukino Subway station. Like many public transport vehicles in Japan, the streetcars are often ad-wrapped in a variety of different adverts. The one that we saw the most this day was the one for Shalom Church. It’s already kind of funny to find a church advert in Japan, let alone on a Japanese streetcar.
The Sapporo Streetcar is a narrow gauge rail vehicle like most streetcars/trams worldwide. They only have bench seating that line the sides of the car. Some seats are clearly labelled as courtesy seats for those who need a seat on a busy streetcar. The cars are double-ended. The driver simply walks to the other end of the streetcar when it’s time to turn the car around. I noticed that the Sapporo streetcar drivers were all standing on my ride around the “loop.” Also, similar to many buses in Japan, passengers must load from the rear door. They either tap in with their smart card or collect a paper ticket from a dispenser. Passengers then must exit from the front door. As they exit, they either tap out with their smart card or pay the driver based on the distance travelled.
The ride out of the Susukino district was busy, but manageable from a rider’s perspective. A few stops out of Susukino and heading south, the streetcar was pretty empty. The line runs south for about 4 km, or 7 stops, before turning west and heading towards Mt. Moiwa. From the streetcar, I can see the Moiwayama Ropeway. I just couldn’t get a decent shot of it while the streetcar rumbled along. At the furthest point from Susukino, right at the southwest corner of the route, there was the streetcar yards and office. That’s where our original driver got off and a new driver took over. The car was pretty empty at this point.
The streetcar turned north and headed back to the centre of town. This is when the streetcar really started to fill up. Many seniors were boarding the streetcar. I had to give up my seat and my photos in favour of squeezing into a little corner behind the driver’s area. By the time we reached Susukino, I was really pressed into the corner and surrounded by a variety of different folks heading off to work, I assume.
The ride took about 60 minutes total from Susukino Station to Nishi 4 Chome Stop. On the warm summer afternoon, I think my wife must have napped half the way in the crowded streetcar. She was lucky. She managed to have a seat most of the way.
Streetcars are a fun way to see the city, even if they are a bit on the slow side and that this particular route doesn’t take me anywhere that I’m planning to go. I did get to see parts of the city I would not have normally seen if I had stayed stuffed up underground in the subway system. The streetcar is a part of the Sapporo landscape and it carries a lot of people everyday. I always enjoy seeing different modes of public transport mix it up in the city. It doesn’t hurt that these streetcars are really cute too.