| Hokkaido

First place you want to visit in Sapporo! The Former Hokkaido Government Building –Important Cultural Property

150 years ago, Hokkaido once was called “Ezochi” and it was nothing but thick primeval forests and just a wilderness. The Hokkaido Development Commission Agency was placed in 1869 (Meiji 2nd).
The development & modernization of Hokkaido started in Sapporo first and it has continued to the present. The Former Hokkaido Government Building(北海道庁旧本庁舎) had been the political base supporting that process from Meiji Era (1868 – 1912) to Showa Era (1926 – 1989)
Just as the name “The Red Brick Government Building” goes, this magnificent building was constructed of as many as 2.5 million red bricks and its interior is highly sophisticated and beautifully detailed. There is so much to see.
You’ll have fun browsing in their library and gift shop! You can walk from the Sapporo Station and it takes only 7 minutes. It is very convenient. This is the ideal place to start your journey!
See, walk and feel.
Go on a time travel –the unique time travel Sapporo can provide.


The beauty of the Red Brick is appreciated beyond time.

The octagon tower, the mansard roof and bay windows projecting north and south….The Former Hokkaido Government Building stands out clearly against the blue sky.
The view you are enjoying has not changed much since the construction in 1869 (Meiji 2nd).
In 1909 (Meiji 42nd ), the roof and the inside of the Red Brick Government Building was totally destroyed by fire but the brick wall survived the fire. The building was re-constructed and re-gained its original figure in 1968 (Showa 43rd) and designated as a National Important Cultural Property the following year.

The budget for a 3-year construction plan is 4 times as much as that of the Foreign Ministry at that time!
The budget for the Rokumei-kan Pavillion (Western-style palace of Meiji Era) was 195,000 yen (about 40 million dollars at the present rate) but they spent much more on the Red Brick.
The design is called American neo-baroque style and this style was considered the most beautiful design back then and still is!
Just think about the fact that the polished and refined look of the building has not been changed since Meiji Era, you will be deeply moved by its presence.

There weren’t and still aren’t tall buildings around it.
Imagine there were only wooden single story houses at that time instead.
Imagine how people felt when they looked up at this building.
Isn’t it interesting to even think about this?

Feel the Frontier Spirit in the details.

You feel the “pride” of the pioneers who lead the time even in the details inside the building.

At the entrance hall, you are welcomed by the three-section arch and the front staircase.
The sunlight comes through the windows in the sunny afternoon and the entrance hall looks so majestic.

You don’t want to miss The Commemorative Room on the 2nd floor.
This is the room where successive directors-general of the Development Agency and governors worked and has specially elaborated fixtures.
For example, the double windows in the back are rare windows even in Hokkaido at that time and even now. The wainscot panel below the windows is made of one sheet of a Japanese Ash tree, which is very valuable. The panel shows unique wood grain called “ Tamamoku (circular moire pattern).”
Take notice of marvelous craftsmanship and the aesthetic consciousness seen in the newel posts of stairs, the ceiling and the lighting fixtures…..
There resides the Frontier Spirit “Creating the New Era.”

The symbol of the Hokkaido Development Commission is “Goryosei (a red polar star).” This symbol was designed after the polar star and is used in the Development Commission related buildings such as the Sapporo Clock Tower and the Sapporo Beer Museum.

You see the Goryosei stars shining around the building. Walk around and find one!

Want to feel the history and the culture of Hokkaido?
Go to this Information Corner. It is free!

If you feel like you want to know more about the history and the culture of Hokkaido after the tour of the Red Brick, the 2nd floor “Aka-Renga” (the branch of Hokkaido Museum) is the place to go.
This area was reopened after renovation in July 2015.

The National Treasure “hollow clay figure“(replica) discovered in Hakodate, a huge herring pot from Wakkanai and more articles are on display.
There are brochures of various museums of Hokkaido and it is convenient to collect information about other museums.
In “The Archives of Hokkaido” on the 1st floor, you see various historical materials and records including “Tozai Ezo Sansenchiri Torishirabezu” (the map of Old Hokkaido, replica) by Mr. Takeshiro Matsuura.
Isn’t it great because this place is free of charge and you can walk around anywhere you wish? If time allows, have a volunteer guide give you a short tour!

From a memento to wine -Gift Shop with a great selection

What makes your trip fun is ….. Shopping!
The gift shop on the 1st floor has a wide selection of souvenirs: something you can get only at the Red Brick to something everyone likes.

One of the popular items is the wine.
“Red Brick Wine” (about $10+tax)
The grapes used are from Niki town and Yoichi town and they sell 2 kinds of wine –red (Seibel, dry wine) & white (Niagara, medium sweet) in
360ml (about 12 fl. oz.) bottles and it is a very good and compact size to carry.

The gift shop has penholders, magnets, mini-towels, postcards, original T-shirts, guidebooks and more. They also have items in the motif of the Red Brick.
Meiji era(1868 ~ 1912), Taisho era (1912 ~ 1926) and Showa era (1926 ~ 1989) – 3 eras that the Red Brick went through. Even today the Red Brick is watching the changes Sapporo is experiencing.
You saw the footsteps of the Red Brick. Visit their gift shop and take a piece of memory with you!

Smart tip
  • If you want to take photos by the East gate in order to get the whole building in your picture, go there during the morning because you don’t want the sun against you.
  • Volunteer guides are there from 9 am to 5 pm. You don’t have to make an arrangement in advance. They could give you a walk-around-downtown tour, too.
  • The paintings in the building are done by the local artists. Don't miss the great works of art that depict historical events.
What's interesting

The architectural beauty and all the displays never tire me. Being “Dosanko (Hokkaido local)”, I always find something new every time I visit the Red Brick. Its wonderful garden shows us so many different faces each season and is a locals’ favorite spot just to relax. Take time and walk around the Red Brick.