There had been hunting and fishing settlements in an area the indigenous Ainu people named Sari-poro-netsuke (river running along a plain filled with reeds) before the Tokugawa Shōgunate established an official trading post there in 1821.

As Japanese interests spread into the northern island, at the end of the Edo Period work began on a canal through the area. That, in turn, encouraged further settlement, 

In 1868 the Meiji government decided Hakodate, the existing administrative centre, was poorly located, and they needed to relocate the capital to a more central location. 

The Ishikari Plain provided an unusually large stretch of flat, well-drained land in mountainous Hokkaidō and was, therefore, the logical place.

Once the decision had been made, outside assistance was called in to lay out the new city, and the result was a well laid out grid of wide tree-lined streets with ample public parklands on a strategic plan drawn up by American urban planners.

Construction began around Ōdōri Park, which remains as a twelve block (1.5 kilometre) ribbon of green parkland bisecting downtown Sapporo. It is flanked by  Ōdōri Street, which forms the east-west axis of the street grid. 

Addresses are expressed as North or South of Ōdōri and East or West of the other axis, which follows Sōseigawa (Creation River) Canal, flanked by Ekimae-dōri (Front of the Station Street). 

Landmarks, such as Tokeidai clock tower (N1W2) are identified on the grid, but those addresses cover the whole block, so businesses will provide maps to assist with more precise navigation. 

But compared to other, older cities it's relatively uncomplicated.

© Ian Hughes 2017