What's new

Welcome to Japan Reference (JREF) - the community for all Things Japanese.

Join Today! It is fast, simple, and FREE!

Sapporo Clock Tower

Sapporo Clock Tower 360 Degrees


Sapporo Clock Tower, situated on North 1 West 2, Chūō-ku, Sapporo, the largest town on the island of Hokkaidō, northern Japan, is a wooden structure and popular tourist attraction.

The Sapporo Clock Tower (札幌時計台, Sapporo tokeidai) is a wooden structure built in 1878 by William Wheeler and located North 1 - West 2 (Kita 1 Nishi 2), Chūō-ku in Sapporo1. Initially, it was the military training hall of the Sapporo Agricultural College. In the American architectural style, the building is one of the few surviving Western-style buildings in Sapporo, a city that developed in the 1870s with American aid. The tower has become one of the most representative symbols of the city. It is a tourist attraction and a prominent legacy of American assistance to Hokkaidō during the Meiji era.

William Wheeler was the architect of the military training hall at the former Sapporo Agricultural College (now Hokkaidō University) in 1878, commissioned by the Japan Colonization Commission3. He completed the plans in January and construction took place from March to October. The clock, made by the Howard Clock Company of Boston, was delivered in 1879, but its imposing size required extensive work to incorporate it, completed in July 18812. Its chimes still ring out every hour today. Emperor Meiji visited the city and the tower in 1881.

The construction of the tower and other Western-style buildings in Hokkaidō emanated from the Japanese government's desire to colonise the island and modernise it. According to Yaguchi, these buildings were intended to enhance the prestige of the elites and impress the residents to accept and support the rapid modernisation of the country.

In 1906, the clock tower was completely relocated about 487 metres south of its original location and temporarily served as a post office in 1907 and a library from 1911 to 1918. After the Second World War, the clock was put out of use but was restored in 1967 and 1976, and a museum was officially established in the same year. Significant works, including earthquake-resistant repairs, were undertaken between 1995 and 1998. The tower was classified as an important cultural asset in 1970 and listed as a mechanical engineering heritage site in 2009.

The single-storey T-shaped building is built of wood using the cross-frame construction technique known as "balloon frame", which originated in the United States and which, according to Berque, is combined with an indigenous method for the supporting structure. The ground floor consists of an entrance hall, a staircase and four rooms initially intended for teaching purposes. The upper floor consists of a small armoury and a large military training room for student exercises, inspired by the United States. The walls are covered with horizontal wooden planks on the outside, and the main facade has a large triangular roof.

The size and architecture of the building were unprecedented and had nothing in common with the traditional style. The contrast with the structures of the Ainu, the island's indigenous people, is even stronger. This type of clock tower was also new to Japan and is another testimony to early Western influences.

Address: 2-chome Kita 1 Jonishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0001


(in Japanese and English)
About author


There are no comments to display.

Journal entry information

Last update
〒060-0001 北海道札幌市中央区北1条西2丁目

More entries in Travel & Nature

More entries from tokyopaul360

Top Bottom