{Japan} Summer Sightseeing: Historic Village of Hokkaido

July 10, 2013

Japan

Personally, and this will come as no surprise to you, I think that museums are not just for rainy days. But some may argue that a sunny day is wasted if not spent outside. Luckily, there are plenty of open air museums, historic gardens and sculpture parks out there, so sunshine is no excuse ;) Therefore, during July and August, I’ll be sharing some of my favourite fair weather museum destinations, alongside my Museum City Guides. Let the summer sightseeing begin!

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The husband and I share a love for Japan – we met in Japanese night class, and Japan was the destination for our first holiday together. Further visits followed for me when he later spent a year working there. After having explored Tokyo and Kyoto, it was our dream to travel to Sapporo on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, something we finally managed in 2008. We visited in late Spring, and despite the northern climate we had perfect weather for spending a day at the Historic Village of Hokkaido (“Kaitaku no Mura”), an open air museum in the suburbs of Sapporo.

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You enter the museum via the former Sapporo Station building (see above), and are transported back to the pioneer era when Hokkaido was rapidly developing. Over 50 typical buildings, dating from the mid 19th to the early 20th century, have been relocated from all over Hokkaido, though as far as we understood, a few of them were also reconstructions.

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The buildings are arranged in four different areas, representing a town and three villages: farming, fishing and mountain region. Almost every imaginable type of building from that era can be found here, including government buildings, school, post office, grocery store, barber’s shop, inn, granary, fisherman, farmer and woodcutter’s house, and a shrine. There’s even a lake in the fishing village.

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You can go in to the buildings but, as is customary in Japan, you need to remove your shoes in most of them, so be sure to wear a pair that you can slip in and out of quite easily. Many of the buildings are furnished or have mannequins to recreate scenes of how the buildings were uses, so don’t get a fright if you enter a dimly lit building and see a figure looming ahead of you :)

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Also be sure to bring plenty of time with you! You can easily spend two to three hours here – just walking around the spacious 54 hectare site takes a while. Though there is a horse drawn trolley which, for a small fee, takes you around part of the site (and apparently transforms to a horse draw sleigh in winter). Or why not make a day trip of it and stop over for lunch in the cafeteria. The basic Japanese style meals – think big bowls of rice, ramen, soba or udon noodles – are simple but tasty and filling, and come at a reasonable price (at least when we were there).

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As I mentioned, the Historic Village of Sapporo is in the suburbs, so it takes a while to get to (about 45 minutes by subway and then bus), but it is absolutely worth the effort. It is open throughout the year, though you’d be best checking with tourist information in Sapporo on the exact times, where you’ll also be able to get the subway and bus directions. Though there weren’t any festivals on at the time we were visiting, we were told that there are several celebrated throughout the seasons, and apparently the harvest festival at the Shinto shrine is especially worthwhile seeing.

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