Translated by Hilary Keyes
When In Sapporo, See The Former Hokkaido Government Office Building!
Written by Keisuke Yamada
The Former Hokkaido Government Office Building, also known as the Red Brick Government building, in Sapporo, is a charming place to visit to learn about the history of the city and to see the striking fall colors in Hokkaido.
Hokkaido's capital,Sapporo, is the fourth most populous city in Japan. It is a vibrant place where you will find many modern buildings lining the streets and many people on the go all day long. But in this city, there is one particularly striking building that visitors must see. The Former Hokkaido Government Office Building, nicknamed the "Akarenga Chosha" (Red Brick Building), is a historical building well-loved by the locals.
What's the Former Hokkaido Government Office Building?
The Former Hokkaido Government Office Building is as its name indicates, where the seat of the government of Hokkaido prefecture was housed for over 80 years - until the new building that is currently in use was completed. Built in 1888, this building was designed and built using the American Neo-Baroque architectural style popular abroad during that time. The distorted glass made in the Meiji era, as well as the double-thickness doors and other measures were used in order to protect the Former Hokkaido Government Office Building against the cold. It is a building perfectly designed to survive the cold Hokkaido winters.
The inside of the hall is open to the general public free of charge and is a museum where materials and information on the history of Hokkaido are exhibited. If you have the time in your sightseeing schedule, stopping and listening to the volunteers that work here explain different aspects of the museum and region is a must. Now let's take a closer look at the history and details of the building, in order to demonstrate the depth of its history.
The Charms of a Red Brick Building
Approximately 2.5 million bricks were used in the construction of the Former Hokkaido Government Office Building, and if you look closely, you can see that there are numerous innovations in both the stacking and decoration of these bricks and other architectural features as well. For example, the lower part of the outer wall features darker bricks in order to increase the structural strength of the building. These blackened bricks, so to speak, are heated to a higher temperature than standard bricks, and as such can withstand greater pressure. The sight of the rusty reds and oranges of this building against the natural surroundings of the Former Hokkaido Government Office Building are also good to appreciate from a distance.
Incidentally, in 1909 there was a fire that burned the interior of the Red Brick Building down, but left the outer structure from the Meiji era completely intact. However, through a dedicated effort, the interior was faithfully reproduced in 1969.
The View from a Distance
Ginkgo trees line the roads leading towards the Former Hokkaido Government Office Building. What is so remarkable about this is that, in the autumn, these leaves will turn a dazzling shade of golden yellow, which makes for a stunning, sharp contrast with the red brick of the building. It's one of the most famous fall color spots in Sapporo, and a must see for visitors during that season.
Next to this road there is a center called the Akarenga Terrace, and if you visit the 5th floor observation gallery here, you can enjoy picture perfect views of the Former Hokkaido Government Office Building and the ginkgo trees from above.
When in Sapporo, be sure to visit the Former Hokkaido Government Office Building and see the history of Hokkaido come to life!
Former Hokkaido Government Office Building (Red Brick Building)
Address: Hokkaido, Sapporo, Chuo, Kita 3-jo Nishi 6-chome
Closed: New Year's holidays
Information in Other Languages: English, Chinese (Simplified/Traditional), Korean, Thai
Nearest Station: JR Sapporo Station
Access: 8-minute walk from west exit of JR Sapporo Station, or 4-minute walk from Exit 10 of Sapporo Station (Namboku and Toho subway lines)
Entry Fee: Free
Website: Former Hokkaido Government Office Building (Red Brick Building)