Regarding short term accommodation, I can recommend the following youth hostel in Sapporo
I recommend you visit the Sapporo International Communication Plaza as soon as you get there.
They have lots of information. You can meet Japanese people there and maybe find out about homestays or work. The Plaza offers an free English conversation service where Japanese people can come to the office and talk with native English speakers, so dont be surprised if people come up to you and talk to you. The staff are very friendly. And its free.
It may be worth calling into the Australian Consulate office in Sapporo and introducing yourself and explain your plans. They can sometimes provide you with contact information of people who can help.
http://www.business.australia.or.jp/sapporo/english/ You need to make an appointment. The consul is a nice Australian bloke, Chris Woods.
One of our contacts in Niseko is Scott Walker from Australia House in Niseko. He is a good friend of my wife's family. I am sure that if you called Scott and mentioned that Tetsuko Nichols (previously Tetsuko Kadosaki) suggested it may be worth saying hello, he may be able to give you some good advice. He can be found at www.nisekoaccommodation.com
If you are looking for a job teaching English, most of the schools will take you without ESL qualifications, but it doesnt hurt to have it. You can also teach freelance. Teaching English is not the best environment if learning Japanese is a priority.
I hope this advice helps and you enjoy your stay.
Fondest memory: Internet cafes in Japan are called Mangakissa (literally a comic cafe). They are a bit different from Australia. You can choose a booth where you can watch videos, TV or use the Internet. Many of them operate 24hours and the reasonable price includes drink all you like tea, coffee or softdrinks. Some of them have showers as some people stay late, fall asleep in their booth, wake in the morning and head off to work etc. This makes for really cheap accommodation with entertainment thrown in. If you are going to do that, the trick is to find a non-smoking one (they are rare but increasing) and also request a room with a mat rather than a chair as it is better for sleeping. There is one cafe I used to use diagonally opposite Starbucks and across the road from Mitsukoshi Department Store near Odori Park. It is on the 2nd or 3rd floor. Although it is not non smoking, I heard they have another store closer to the Sapporo Station which is non smoking.
A couple of other things to keep in mind are : you will learn more Japanese and more about Japan if you stay with a homestay. If you plan to travel around Japan, a Japan Rail Pass which you can only buy outside Japan is a good investment. One cheap and alternative way to get to Tokyo from Hokkaido is by ferry from Tomakomae. About 7500yen for the lowest class (sleeping in a large room with Japanese truckies). You have to add to the cost the Bus from Sapporo Station, the Bus from Oarai to Mito Station and the train from Mito to Tokyo, but it still works out cheaper than the train or plane from Sapporo and as it travels overnight, you can cut the cost of one night stay.
Favorite thing: Sapporo is laid out on the North American grid system and is a very easy city to navigate. City blocks are named and numbered according to the point of compass, with the apex at the eastern end of Odori Park. For instance, the Clock Tower address is North 1, West 2 (one block north of Odori park apex and two blocks west). City maps are available free of charge from the tourist information office at the JR station... we were here during a very snowy February and had no problems getting around. Buses/trains/trams all ran like clockwork but if I visited during any other time of year, cycling would be a great way to see the city.
Some useful travel websites on Japan / Hokkaido / Sapporo:-
Old Government Building. This stately brick building stands out from its concrete neighbors. It was built in the American neo-baroque style. Admission is free and it is definitely worth a visit.
Fondest memory: On Sundays, the grounds are filled with artists, acrobats, and traditional storytellers.
Favorite thing: Odori Park. This is a great place for a walk and people watching. There is usually always something going on. I got a chance to experience the Summer Biergarden. In between the tree lined walkways are large grassy areas filled with flowers, statues, and kids. Hokkaido has sooooo much grass!! I once asked a teacher why there was no grass on school grounds – to get the reply that it was too much upkeep. I couldn’t understand the reasoning as the students were picking the blades of grass one at a time from the ground! I had given up on finding grass in Japan, so it was a good surprise to see grass everywhere.
Favorite thing: A leisurely walk. I think Odori Park is a must, the next set of places aren’t that important – I only recommend them if you have lots of time. The clock tower, the symbol of Sapporo. Nijo Fish Market. Hokkaido University: Poplar Avenue and bust of John Clark (a American teacher who is famous for the quote “Boys, be ambitious”. Sapporo Factory.
Visit Susukino. Those of you who have been here will know what I mean.....LOL!!!
Otaru, a small port side town west of Sapporo, is a beautifull place for the romantics to relax.
Fondest memory: The people, so relaxed that it is almost scarey.
Time your trip to coincide with the Sapporo Snow Festival! One of Japan's largest winter events, over 2 million people visit this annual event to see hundreds of beautiful snow statues & ice sculptures which lined ODORI PARK, the grounds of the Self Defense Force Base in Makomanai & the main street in Susukino. The event is held for 7 days every February.
Due to the shortage of snow in the immediate area of the festival sites, huge volumes of snow (6400 five-ton truckloads) are carried in from the suburbs. Work will begin 3 weeks before the festival.
Fondest memory: Spielberg's Jurassic Park?!
A single giant snow statue generally requires at least 2000 cubic meters of snow!
First, a wooden frame is built & filled with tightly packed snow. When the snow has hardened, the frame panels are removed & the carving began. Shovels are used for the rough shaping of the statue while other tools are used to add the finishing touches.
Fondest memory: Have fun!
Sapporo Snow festival
The world-famous Snow Festival is held at the beginning of February and takes place at three sites, Odori Park, Makomanai and Susukino. The huge artistic snow sculptures lit up colorfully at night time look spectacular.
Fondest memory: The White Illumination can be seen mainly in Odori Park, which is in the center of the city, from the middle of November to the middle of Feburuary. These artistic objects decorate the northern night sky, highlighting the poetic charm of winter.
Visit a Shinto shrine. Any one will do. Then read up on some Japanese mythology on the Sun Goddess, Moon God, Wind God. You'll get some insights into the ancient beliefs and concepts that still influence the culture at the most subtle levels.
Unique Qualities: Unlike the more famous Christian churches and cathedrals, which are chock full of rich artwork or striking architecture, a Shinto shrine seems quite stark in its simplicity. Yet here you will get a sense for the way in which the concept 'less is more' bears great fruit for Japanese art and religion. It's more of a subjective experience than an intellectual one. Just enjoy it. And let the insights come over time.
Fondest memory: A cold day in early Spring. Snow was still under foot. The wind was blowing and crows were cawing as I entered the grounds of Shinkotoni Jinja. It was a quiet moment when I felt close to the spirit of old Japan.
Snow, huge bulks of snow everywhere! I had never seen so much before. Don't laugh at me, you people from Canada or Scandinavia, I come from a land with mild climate, ok?
Sorry difficult to say at this point. I actually don't live in Sapporo, but my town is not on the list. I live in Shinshinotsu-mura, a small rice growing town of 4000, about 45 minutes from Sapporo. Our festival is at the end of August. I think powder skiing at Niskeko or one of the other ski resorts.
Fondest memory: I'm about to have a look at Daisetsuzan National Park & Shikotsu Toya National Park, so I'll let you know
Fondest memory: Snow.. lots and lots of snow... I love snow. Yea it does not snow where I am from so I love it. The only problem is you can not walk in it! If you wear enough clothes - several layers you will not feel the cold. (You need waterproof shoes, thermals (including socks) a proper warm jacket that has some waterproof quality and jumpers as well.)
Favorite thing: I found this interesting sink in one of the restaurants in Sapporo, a 3-in-one automatic sink! All you need is to put your hand underneath the cover and the soap, water and dryer will automatically turn on.