A general view of Hokkaido’s Development in Meiji Period by observing a “Pioneering Kaitaku Village”

 – How Japan opened the frontier land of Hokkaido and successfully initiated its industrial development?

Entrance facility of Kaitaku Village


Recently, I had a chance to travel around Hokkaido area and visited the “Hokkaido Pioneering Kaitaku Village” (named Kaitaku-no-Mura) located on the outskirts of Sapporo. This “Pioneering Village” is an open-air museum built as a tourist theme park in “Atsubetsu-cho”, Sapporo City in 1983 with commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Hokkaido prefecture government.

  The Village was constructed as one of the memorial facilities in the Nopporo Forest Park in “Atsubetsu-cho”, Sapporo, where about 50 precious historic buildings was relocated or built in the four hectare space.   

All are valuable classic buildings that represent the development history of Hokkaido. The village is divided into four districts: urban area, farming village, fishing village, and mountain village district, each with unique buildings.

Map of the Kaitaku Pioneering Village

 By spending half day walk in the “Pioneer Kaitaku Village” while inspecting the old houses and buildings, I saw many evidences of people’s life the former days there. So I could touched a little about the challenging but difficult pioneering life of the people in the virgin land during the beginning of the Meiji period.

Homepage of the “Pioneer Kaitaku Village:
| Kaitaku Village 開拓の村 (kaitaku.or.jp) with allocation of the historic building

“ Sapporo Development Commission Building”(1873)

First, in the front Plaza, which is the entrance, you can find the symbols of the development of Hokkaido, the “Former Sapporo Station” (reception center) and the “Former Sapporo Development Commission Building”   
At the side of the square is a ‘stagecoach’ hangout to welcome visitors.

 Beyond that area, you can see the wide town space, with shops, liquor stores, inns, hardware stores, a hoofing shop, a photo studio, a barber shop, a post office, and a police box built in the Meiji along the stagecoach tracks.  Various buildings are lined up, and the situation of the city at the time of frontier development is reproduced.

old dye shop
Soba noodle shop
candy store
medical clinic

hoofing shop
photo shop
barber shop
police station

 In the remote rural area, which is the terminal point of the stagecoach, there are rural houses of pioneer migrants, lodgings of soldiers, a rice storehouse, a station mail station, a silkworm seed factory, and a dairy farm and livestock barn. There are also shrines and places of worship which tried to build for remind the migrants’ hometowns. In addition, the “Pioneer Hut”, which depicts the development of the early Meiji era, is a facility that never overlooked

farmer’s house
farmer’s house
silkworm workshop

a migrant’s hut
solder’s hut
migrants’ church
local shrine


 In the fishing village area, there are reproductions of the “Hanedashi” where fishing boats can enter, and the magnificent “fisherman’s house” and workshop of the former rich ‘Aoyama family’, across a pond that imitates the sea.  That is reminiscent of the height of the North Sea fishing industry in the Taisho period. In addition, a charcoal-burning hut and a hut are built on the hilly land across the bridge, which conveys the memorial progress of pioneering forestry.

Hanedashi hut
a rich fisherman’s house
fisherman’s workshop
forest workshop

 In an open side of the city area, the former “Sapporo Agricultural College Dormitory”, the former “Sapporo School’s Martial Arts Hall”, and the former “Hokkai Junior High School” are  recreated as the represent sites of practical education in Hokkaido. Also, near the front Plaza, along with the former “Sapporo Kaitakushi Office (Development Authority)” , the former “Kaitakushi Industrial Bureau’s Office” and the former “Urakawa local branch” are all relocated there.

school domitory
private mid school
local govt house

 If carefully looking at each of these “Pioneering Kaitaku Village”, visitors can deeply learn about the hardships, wisdom and efforts of the people who lived during the pioneering days of Hokkaido, and above all, the society and lifestyle of those times were lively imaged in your minds. If you have an opportunity to travel to Hokkaido, this open museum is definitely one of the best of memorial place.

 Based on the memory and materials obtained in the “Hokkaido Kaihatsu Pioneering Village,” I summarize here the progress and development of Hokkaido’s development since the Meiji era. I hope you’ll enjoy the pioneering story of Hokkaido development.

  1. The history of Hokkaido (Ezo) development before Meiji
  2. The pioneering solder’s farmers in the early Meiji era
  3. Establishment of the Hokkaido Development Commission and the challenge of industrialization
  4. The beginning and development of rice farming in Hokkaido
  5. Start and development of Western-style dairy farming
  6. Development of Hokkaido fisheries
  7. Chronology of Hokkaido Development
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