Hokkaido COVID-19 cases hit new records

Hokkaido has recorded three consecutive triple figure COVID-19 case days, hitting a new record 187 on Saturday after 115 Friday and 119 Thursday local officials reported. Previously there had been no 3 figure case days here.

Young Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki was pro-active early in the pandemic, declaring a state of emergency back in February before the national government, and the overall total number of cases is now still only a bit over 3,800 according to Nippon.com based on data from the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare.

The bulk of the new cases are concentrated in Sapporo.

Heading out for some Yellowtails in Sapporo – note mask wearing was common pre pandemic © Carmen Price / Snow Action

Sapporo’s Susukino District there is Japan’s largest entertainment district north of Tokyo, packed with bars, restaurants and stores. It’s a key reason why we rate the city as having some of Japan’s best aprés ski.

Our favourite area to wander at night, especially if it’s snowing, is the historic covered Tanukikoji arcade. It runs east to west in downtown Sapporo from Nishi-1-chome to Nishi-7-chome for about a kilometre. Being covered, it’s great when the weather is bad. It was developed during the frontier period of the late 19th century when merchant houses and restaurants began to pop up in what is known today as the Tanukikoji. Tanuki means a raccoon dog, those cute critters you see on the road signs. The arcade is great to explore, with lots of funky shops, karaoke bars and tiny little restaurants.

They often share various facilities from toilets to maze like entrances, so it’s easy to see how they could be hotspots for contagion. But revisiting our images to go with this from our last visit 20 months ago it stands out how most people – especially locals – were already wearing masks.

So don’t panic: compared to tens of thousands of daily cases across major European countries, and over 100,000 daily cases in America, the Hokkaido numbers remain tiny.

But these increases obviously won’t help speed up any quarantine free ‘bubble’ travel arrangements for international visitors either. April looks like the earliest realistic bet for that to happen.

For those who can get there, the 20-21 winter looks set to be a big one as snowfalls are starting to build already.

Powder skiing at Sapporo Kokusai ski resort
Fresh line at Sapporo Kokusai © Owain Price