Top historic sites in Hokkaido

Goryokaku Fortress

Goryōkaku (五稜郭) (literally, 'five-point fort') is a star fort in the Japanese city of Hakodate on the island of Hokkaido. The fortress was completed in 1866. It was the main fortress of the short-lived Republic of Ezo. Goryōkaku was designed in 1855 by Takeda Ayasaburō and Jules Brunet. Their plans was based on the work of the French architect Vauban. The fortress was completed in 1866, two years before the coll ...
Founded: 1855-1866 | Location: Hakodate, Japan

Sapporo Beer Museum

The Sapporo Beer Museum is registered as one of the Hokkaidō Heritage sites in 2004, the museum is the only beer museum in Japan. The red-brick building was erected originally as a factory of the Sapporo Sugar Company in 1890, and later opened as a museum in July 1987. The building also houses the Sapporo Beer Garden in the south wing. The history of the Sapporo Beer Museum dates back to Meiji period, when William Smith ...
Founded: 1890 | Location: Sapporo, Japan

Abashiri Prison Museum

The Abashiri Prison Museum is an outdoor museum of history. Today the buildings are preserved and open to the public. Older parts of the prison were relocated to the base of Mount Tento in 1983, where they operate as the country"s only prison museum. In April 1890, the Meiji government sent over a thousand political prisoners to the isolated Abashiri village and forced them to build roads linking it to the more popu ...
Founded: 1890 | Location: Abashiri, Japan

Matsumae Castle

Matsumae Castle is a castle located in Matsumae in Hokkaidō, Japan, and is the northernmost castle in Japan. The only traditional style Edo period castle in Hokkaidō, it was the chief residence of the han (estate) of the Matsumae clan. First built in 1606 by Matsumae Yoshihiro under orders from the Tokugawa shogunate, which required his clan to defend the area, and by extension the whole of Japan, from the Ainu  ...
Founded: 1606 | Location: Matsumae, Japan

Historical Village of Hokkaido

Historical Village of Hokkaido (北海道開拓の村, Hokkaidō Kaitaku no Mura) is an open-air museum in Sapporo. It opened in the Nopporo Shinrin Kōen Prefectural Natural Park in 1983. It includes fifty-two historical structures from the 'frontier days' of the Meiji period to the Shōwa period that have been relocated and reconstructed or recreated, divided into four zones: town (with thirty-one buildings) ...
Founded: 1983 | Location: Sapporo, Japan

Hokkaido Museum

Hokkaido Museum (北海道博物館, Hokkaidō Hakubutsukan) was opened in Sapporo in 2015. Located within Nopporo Shinrin Kōen Prefectural Natural Park, the permanent exhibition is dedicated to the nature, history, and culture of Hokkaido. The Main Exhibition introduces two concepts: “Hokkaido as Part of Northeast Asia” and “The Interrelationships of Nature and Humans” through five themes integrating Hokkaido ...
Founded: 2015 | Location: Sapporo, Japan

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.