MANILA – It’s safe to say that the romantic comedy film “Kita Kita” is the surprise hit of the year.
The movie, which features the unlikely pairing of Alessandra de Rossi and Empoy, has earned a whopping P240 million in just over two weeks. Its critical and commercial success has led to talks to have De Rossi and Empoy star in a new flick.
Sapporo, Japan’s fifth largest city and the setting of “Kita Kita,” is also expected to benefit from the movie’s popularity, the same way Sagada in Mountain Province attracted more visitors after the release of “That Thing Called Tadhana.”
Located in the northern island of Hokkaido, Sapporo can be reached by a 90-minute flight from Tokyo’s Haneda or Narita Airport. Trains and long-distance ferries are also available, but these trips will take longer.
To those who want to retrace the steps of Lea (De Rossi) and Tonyo (Empoy), here’s a tour of Sapporo and nearby areas featured in “Kita Kita.”
ODORI PARK, BEER MUSEUM
Just like in other Japanese cities, it’s easy to get around Sapporo by public transport. Book a hotel near the train stations of Sapporo, Odori, or Susukino as the top city attractions are within walking distance from these areas.
Odori Park, for instance, is just beside Odori subway station (or a 10-minute walk from JR Sapporo station). This park turns into a winter wonderland every February, when it serves as the main site of the Sapporo Snow Festival.
At the eastern end of Odori Park stands the Sapporo TV Tower, which has an observation deck. In the film, Lea is seen getting engaged to her Japanese boyfriend here.
Walk for a block from Odori Park and you’ll reach the Clock Tower, which is considered one of Sapporo’s symbols.
Remember when Lea said, “Hindi ako kinikilig, hindi” after drinking several mugs of beer? That took place at the Sapporo Beer Museum, which introduces the history of beer in Japan. It also has restaurants serving all-you-can-eat jingisukan (a mutton barbecue dish that originated in Sapporo) and all-you-can-drink beer.
The Sapporo Beer Museum can be accessed by the Loop 88 Factory Line bus that stops at Odori station.
SUSUKINO, MOUNT MOIWA
Dubbed as Japan’s biggest entertainment district north of Tokyo, Susukino is just one stop from Odori station, and two stops from Sapporo station.
This part of Sapporo is packed with bars, shops, and restaurants, and is also featured a number of times in “Kita Kita.” A memorable scene here is when Lea, wearing a heart costume, drinks her worries away in a bar.
From Susukino, take Sapporo’s only streetcar line to Ropeway Iriguchi station and go to Mount Moiwa, a popular sightseeing spot. The observation deck at the summit was also shown in the “Kita Kita” trailer, where Lea happily rings the bell with a banana mascot.
Just a bus ride away from Mount Moiwa is Fushimi Inari Jinja, a “branch” of the bigger and more famous Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto. In the trailer of “Kita Kita,” Lea and Tonyo are seen dancing together, with the shrine’s vermillion torii gates in the background.
Just a bit far off from the city is Moerenuma Park, where Lea and Tonyo went on a bike date. The unique public space is filled with impressive structures, including a pyramid building made of glass.
To get to Moerenuma Park, take a train to Kanjodori-higashi station and then hop on a bus to the park’s entrance. You can also ride a taxi from Odori or Sapporo.
“Kita Kita” not only showcased the beauty of Sapporo, but also the city’s neighboring areas – Otaru, Biei, and Asahidake.
Of the three, the most prominently featured in the trailer and the film is Otaru, a small port city that is about half an hour from Sapporo by train. A festival called Otaru Snow Light Path is held here every February, around the same time as the Sapporo Snow Festival.
Biei, on the other hand, is surrounded by vast flower farms. One of these is Zerubu Hill, which was shown in “Kita Kita.”
Getting to Biei from Sapporo can take some time (a little over two hours by train), so it’s best to make the most out of your visit. Go on a day trip and also check out Shikisai no Oka, a seven-hectare hill carpeted with flowers in different colors.
Asahidake (or Mount Asahi), meanwhile, is the highest mountain in Hokkaido and forms part of the Daisetsuzan National Park. It is also one of the dating spots of Lea and Tonyo in the film.
A rental car is recommended to go to Daisetsuzan National Park. These are available in Sapporo and other major cities in Hokkaido.