When I first saw Odori Park, it was covered in a blanket of snow. A thick blanket of snow. Enough snow to make the huge snow sculptures for which Sapporo is famous in the winter.
Sapporo in the summertime is a wholly different affair. That icy covering in winter actually hides a host of activities for kids. Around the 9th block of the park (blocks in Sapporo are counted from the TV tower outward), a multi-faceted playground takes up most of the area. There are play sets – one taller one with a long slide, a swinging bridge and some scarily narrow stairs (adults, beware) and smaller one with a short castle tower and a small slide with a ladder approach. Across the way, a whale-shaped jungle gym provides some climbing fun, while large basket swings are great for toddlers who can’t yet balance a real swing on their own.
Nearby, a large white sand dune look-alike doubles as a fabulous slide. Shorts and skirts aren’t advisable, but if you have long pants on (and the Sapporo summer doesn’t merit shorts too often) this makes for a fun do it yourself piece of playground. If it’s a bit too scary for small kids, a twisty black slide that looks like a piece of modern art lies in the field nearby and is equally entertaining.
Perhaps the best part of the park, however, are the fountains. A rock-lined stream crisscrosses the middle of the block with stepping stones, short bridges and a few animal statues scattered about. In the evenings and early mornings, the stream is dry. Come here after 10am in the morning when the water is turned on, however, and this becomes the best free waterpark I’ve seen to date. Water spouts out of the top of stone whales and gushes forth from the ground to make a huge wading pond. Schoolkids descend on the area in droves during the day, half with swimsuits, half without. Just bring a towel (over buy one at the convenience store on the nearby corner) and a change of clothes and let your little ones have a ball.