Surrounded by modern buildings such as banks, skyscrapers and hotels, the Sapporo Clock Tower sticks out distinctively. The clock is 135 years old and has an awesome history that is closely tied to Sapporo despite its size.
It was first built in 1878 as a military drill hall for defence purposes. However, as the years went by, the hall was used for a variety of purposes other that military drills and physical education.
The origin of the Sapporo Clock Tower goes as far back as the Meiji restoration. The Japanese government had requested for the USA government to assist in developing the city of Sapporo, so William S Clark, president of Mass Agricultural College; William Wheeler and David P. Penhallow were sent in 1876. William S Clark set up the Sapporo Agricultural College. The present Clock Tower building was one of the buildings in the campus of Sapporo Agricultural College. The college subsequently nurtured many fine men that helped shaped the development of Sapporo. Sapporo Agricultural College later became the renowned Hokkaido University.
In the first level of the clock tower, there is an exhibition on the history of the college, complete with artefacts of food the students used to eat and notes that they took during their education. Even though the display space is not extremely large, the authenticity of the building, enhanced with the creaking of the wooden planks under my feet somewhat transported me back into time.
The Japanese men who received an English style education under William S Clark and his colleagues learned English, agricultural techniques and even converted to Christianity. The information in the display area have English accompanying and I learned a lot about the histories of the college and the city.
At the second level, there is a musical hall and a model of how the clock works. I was fascinated by the fact that the clock is powered by the force of gravity alone. A 50-kilo stone box and 150-kilo bell are hung at the bottom of the clock, that cranks the gears and keep it moving over more than a century.
As the clock tower is as old as the young city of Sapporo, it’s a truly historic spot. To know Sapporo more, you have to pay the Clock Tower a visit! The entrance fee costs an affordable 200 yen. Luckily for me, the hotel that I was staying in, Hotel Pearl City Sapporo, is located just 2 streets away from the Clock Tower. However, it's only a 10 minute walk directly south of JR Sapporo station, so a great way to start exploring the city.
A tip for you when you visit the Clock Tower: ditch the photo spot located in the yard of the clock tower building and go opposite to the building with a balcony on the second floor. The view and photo spot is not only better, but also significantly less crowded.