Sapporo, divided by the Ishikari river, is capital of the Hokkaido prefecture. Established in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, its early growth was facilitated by foreign advisors, notably the American Dr William Clark. Sapporo came to world attention in 1972 when it hosted the Winter Olympic Games.
There is evidence of seventh century habitation in Hokkaido (called Ezo until the nineteenth century). However, a trading post near the site of modern Sapporo was not founded until the early part of the nineteenth century.
In the mid-1850s Hokkaido came under the jurisdiction of the Tokugawa Shogunate and Sapporo experienced its first major population influx. In 1866 construction began on a canal that would prove vital for trade. Two years later Sapporo moved from Shogunate control to the Meiji emperor. At this point the agricultural economy developed a broader industrial base. Production of beer and dairy products were especially important. Growth continued under the guidance of the government’s colonial office, which implemented a grid-based building scheme in 1871 and sought advice from Western experts on urban and industrial development.
Economic growth faltered in the early 1870s but recovered later in the decade when the population was boosted by immigrants from Honshu Island. In 1880 building started on the Sapporo–Otaru railroad and 6 years later the city was declared the prefecture’s capital.
Industrial growth continued in the twentieth century, and Sapporo emerged unscathed from World War II. A development plan was formulated in 1950 to promote investment from Honshu and both the economy and the population boomed. In Feb. 1972 it played host to the Winter Olympics and in April of that year was designated an autonomous city.
Food and drink processing are among the leading industries, along with publishing and sawmilling. The major port is Otaru. Sapporo is on a major rail network and Chitose airport provides domestic flights. The city has two universities, Hokkaido (founded by Dr Clark) and Hokkou Gakuen Kitami.
Places of Interest
Among Sapporo’s leading landmarks are the Clock Tower (built in 1878) and the Hokkaido Government Building (1888). The 150-m tall TV Tower provides impressive views, as does nearby Mount Moiwa (accessible by cable car). The Okurayama Jump Hill was the focus of the 1972 Winter Olympics. There is an annual snow festival (featuring ice sculptures). Other attractions include the preserved frontier village in Napporo Forest Park, an art park with extensive exhibition spaces, the Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill (with a statue of Dr Clark), botanical gardens and the Moerenuma Park (designed by the sculptor Isamu Noguchi).