Hokkaido Museum, Sapporo, Japan

Hokkaido Museum, aka Mori no Charenga, is a museum introducing the nature, history and culture of Hokkaido.Hokkaido Museum opened in Sapporo, Hokkaidō, Japan in 2015. Located within Nopporo Shinrin Kōen Prefectural Natural Park.

Most of the permanent exhibitions are history-related, including archeology, and folklore-related. Educational activities are being conducted in both the humanities and natural history fields.

Hokkaido Reclamation Memorial Hall, established on April 15, 1971 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Hokkaido’s opening. The Pioneer Memorial Hall was closed on November 4, 2013, and was greatly remodeled based on the Hokkaido Museum Basic Plan formulated by Hokkaido. The Hokkaido Ainu Research Center for Ainu Culture was integrated and renamed the Hokkaido Museum.

It also collects and preserves materials that represent a precious treasure of the people of Hokkaido, and conducts exhibitions, educational activities and events.

The Main Exhibition introduces two concepts: “Hokkaido as Part of Northeast Asia” and “The Interrelationships of Nature and Humans” through five themes integrating Hokkaido’s nature, history, and culture. Hokkaido is often seen as northernmost reaches of Japan, but from the broader perspective of northeast Asia, Hokkaido appears differently. It is common to see civilization and its natural environment as two separate entities, but understanding the interrelationships between humans and nature provides a new perspective. Understanding Hokkaido’s past and present will provide insights to its future.

Meeting of the North and South
Numerous islands lie to Hokkaido’s south, including Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa. The neighboring island of Sakhalin (Karafuto) stretches far to the north, and just beyond lies the Eurasian continent. To the east, the Kuril Islands lead towards the Kamchatka Peninsula. Since ancient times, Hokkaido has been a crossroads connecting these regions, and a point of interaction for all manner of life, human culture, and goods. The mammoth came to Hokkaido from the north, and the Naumann’s elephant came from the south. Stand on the picture of Hokkaido below, and see the world from our vantage point.

Hokkaido’s Tale of 1.2 Million Years
It is sometimes said that the history of Hokkaido is brief. Certainly, it has only been 150 years since settlement and development first brought a large population to Hokkaido. However, looking further into the past, we will find that unlike the simple picture painted in many Japanese history textbooks, this land is built upon layers of unique history. One such example is the provision of Ainu-supplied seat otter pelts to the Tokugawa shogunate. Let us leaf through the long, long tale of Hokkaido’s 1.2 million years of history.

The Culture and Recent History of the Ainu
The Ainu are an indigenous people of Japan. “Ainu” means “human being” in the Ainu language. The Ainu have lived not only here in Hokkaido, but also in regions such as Sakhalin (Karafuto) and the Kuril Islands, developing a variety of cultures. When the Meiji government brought Hokkaido into Japan’s domain, settlement and development had a drastic impact upon the Ainu ways of life and culture. Facing these challenges, the Ainu have persevered, carrying on their cultural heritage to this day.

The Secret of Hokkaido’s Unique Identity
The large picture to the right depicts Hokkaido from the beginning of the Showa period (1926-89), capturing a moment in history when Hokkaido had undergone major changes from the Meiji period (1868-1912), and was beginning to approach its present state. Hokkaido is characterized by beautiful scenery, special local products made from bounties of the sea and earth, warm indoor winter lifestyles, and more. Modern Hokkaido is rich in such “uniqueness”. How has Hokkaido’s unique identity come to be?

Towards Our Time
Over the past hundred years, which have included major wars, our ways of life, social structure, and relationship with nature have changed greatly. What manner of things have we experienced, and how have these experiences shaped our current way of living? Let us consider the various activities and observations of humans while we think together about Hokkaido’s present, and gain insights towards its future.

The Ecosystems of Hokkaido
In the mere hundred years since the Meiji period, Hokkaido’s environment has undergone sudden changes. Even so, there are a great variety of natural environments within Hokkaido, which are home to many living things. These ecosystems are supported by the interaction of life, such as food webs. We humans are also involved in these relationships. Let us gain greater understanding of the state of Hokkaido’s natural environment, as well as the interactions between living things, and consider the ongoing interrelationships between humans and nature.


Exhibition Hall

First floor
Hall 1 “Northern Earth” (Tertiary-Jomon period)
Hall 2 “The Formation of Ainu Culture” (5th Century-17th Century)
Hall 3 “The Times of Ezochi” (18th Century-19th Century)
Hall 4 “The Beginning of the Modern Age” (1869-1885, Pioneering Era)

Second floor
Hall 5 “Opening Earth” (1886: Hokkaido Government started-1917 World War I)
Hall 6 “From Recession to War” (1918, the end of World War I-1945, the end of the Pacific War)
Hall 7 “Post-war Hokkaido” (1945-1970s post-war reconstruction period)
Hall 8 “New Hokkaido” (Multi-screen video display since 1970’s)

Museum Cafe
A small coffee shop “Museum Cafe” is in the Grand Hall that serves coffee, other beverages, donuts and other snacks.

Discovery Square
This is a room where visitors can have hands-on experiences involving “observing intently,” “encountering the real thing,” “using a tool” and “making something.” Using Discovery Kits that allow them to experience such things as touching a fossil or encountering Ainu culture, visitors can discover a mystery of nature, the wisdom of a person from the past or something else they didn’t know. Exciting “Discovery Events” are held on weekends and holidays.

The Library is near the spot where one exits the Main Exhibition Hall elevator and the stairs from the 1st Floor to the Lower Level. Here a person can research and receive reference services.

Nopporo Forest Park
It was opened as part of Hokkaido’s Centennial Project in 1968 to protect and enhance the precious natural forest and to give residents a recreational area for getting closer to nature. It has been designated a Prefectural Nature Park.The majority of its 2,053 hectares are national forest, parts of which have been designated as Showa no Mori recreational use forest and a wildlife sanctuary.Walking paths crisscrossing the park let visitors enjoy nature observation, therapeutic forest walks, and in winter, cross-country skiing.

In the natural forest inside Nopporo Forest Park, there is a comparatively large amount of forest remaining that is situated in a transition zone between temperate forest and subarctic forest.It is a mixed conifer and broadleaf forest. Its broadleaf forest contains Mongolian oak, Japanese Judas tree and Japanese linden, and its subarctic conifer forest consists mostly of Sakhalin fir.Small and medium-sized mammals inhabit the park, including foxes, raccoon dogs, varying hares, Hokkaido squirrels, Pteromys volans orii (subspecies of Siberian flying squirrel) and small Japanese field mice.

Moreover, approximately 140 kinds of birds can be seen, including the black woodpecker, a protected species; owls; the blue-and-white flycatcher; the narcissus flycatcher; the long-tailed tit; the Japanese tit; and the great spotted woodpecker.Rare insects including Damaster gehinii and the Japanese predacious diving beetle, as well as insects that are quite popular with children including Terpnosia nigricosta and the Miyama Stag Beetle, can also be seen there.

Historical Village of Hokkaido
The Historical Village of Hokkaido is an outdoor museum that contains historical structures of Hokkaido built in the Meiji and early Showa eras and then dismantled, reconstructed and restored or reproduced there. It was opened in 1983 to preserve precious cultural assets and hand them down to later generations and to allow people to learn through experience about the lives of people during the frontier days. It is made up of four areas — Town, Fishing Village, Farm Village and Mountain Village — which contain 52 historical structures, and the villages make up one big exhibition area. In the summer a horse-drawn trolley runs along the main street of the Town, and in winter a horse-drawn sleigh goes around the villages.

Seasonal village festivals and events including farm work and other hands-on events are held periodically throughout the year. In the hands-on learning building, a person can make traditional toys and experience play from the past such as beanbags, marbles and tops.

There are also demonstrations of how to use a lever press by a volunteer, demonstrations of straw work, explanations of the buildings and guided tours. The horse-drawn trolley runs at 30 to 40 minute intervals, covering the villages, a distance of approximately 500 meters, in approximately five minutes.

Nopporo Forest Park Visitors’ Center
The Nopporo Forest Park Visitors’ Center opened in 2001. Inside the center, dioramas, illustrations and photos show the workings of the nature in Nopporo Forest Park in an easy-to-understand way, and visitors can learn about how the park came to be, its vegetation and the creatures that live in the forest. Visitors can freely read picture books, illustrated reference books and specialized books and ask questions of the specialist staff, and if they drop by before walking through the park, they can learn how to distinguish the trees and shrubs and how to identify the types of insects. Also, once a month a nature observation gathering is held, and various nature themed events are held, including a “Forest Handicraft Corner,” a parent-child nature workshop, lectures and various nature-themed events. Other than that, there are a microscope corner, a bird cry Scan Talk, touch-panel quizzes and wooden toys such as building blocks; parents and their children can relax and experience nature in the center.

Centennial Memorial Tower
Centennial Memorial Tower was built in 1970 as one part of Hokkaido’s Centennial Project, as an expression of gratitude for the hard work of the people who built the Hokkaido of today and as a symbol of limitless future development. The tower is 100 meters tall to represent 100 years, and a view room that overlooks the city of Sapporo and Ishikari Plain was built on its 8th floor (23.5 meters up). Quadratic curves that stretch toward the sky and cross at a point at an infinite height symbolize future development. Moreover, on a planar level it is modeled on a hexagon, which expresses a snow crystal. For safety reasons, the Hokkaido Centennial Memorial Tower and its environs are currently off-limits.