Hokkaido University is one of Japan’s most prestigious universities and is also well ranked internationally. It has been important to Sapporo’s development since its early days as not only a major academic attraction, but with its beautiful, expansive grounds and facilities, also as one of Sapporo’s most popular tourist attractions.
Hokkaido University was originally founded in 1876 as the Hokkaido Agricultural College, and is notable as the first university to issue Bachelor’s degrees in Japan. Professor William Clark, who is often credited as one of Sapporo’s founding fathers, taught here during the days of the Agricultural College, and his parting words to the students: “Boys, be ambitious!” continue to serve as an encouragement and often repeated statement today. The Agricultural College played a pivotal role in Hokkaido’s development, and the Sapporo Clock Tower which was part of the original campus is now one of Sapporo’s main attractions. Many of its former alumni have gone on to considerable achievements, with noted authors and Nobel Prize winners amongst them. The main Hokkaido University campus is now located just north of Sapporo Station, with a satellite campus in the southern Hokkaido coastal town of Hakodate.
Hokkaido University has earned a strong reputation as an advanced research institution, with strong links to industry, community and government. It has consistently been ranked as one of Japan’s top 10 universities, and was ranked 138th in the world in 2012. While maintaining its core concepts of “The Frontier Spirit,” “Global Perspectives,” “All-round Education” and “Practical Learning”, the faculty members, students and alumni are all making concerted efforts to transform their campus into a global base for education and research. New programs targeting international students and an English language syllabus are in development as of 2013, with a new English language website also launched to help promote the university globally, an overseas office in China and a European office planned in the near future.
The University faculties include: Letters Education Law Economics Medicine Dental medicine Engineering Veterinary medicine Fisheries sciences Agriculture Pharmaceutical sciences
Graduate schools include: Letters Education Law Economics and business administration Medicine Dental medicine Engineering Veterinary medicine International media and communication Information science and technology Fisheries sciences Environmental earth science Science Pharmaceutical sciences Agriculture Life science
In addition there is the Institute of Seismology and Volcanology, Hokkaido University|Institute of Seismology
The Hokkaido University grounds cover 3 square kilometers starting from just a block north of Sapporo station. It is considered the most beautiful university campus in Japan, largely due to its extensive park areas and natural attractions. The campus facilities are extensive and include many points of interest:
The Central Lawn is the university’s most popular green space, covering 12,000 square meters. The remnant of the Sakushukotoni River flows here through the southern part of the campus. The original river had its source in a spring near the north side of the Hokkaido University Botanical Gardens and ran through the area east of the Clark Memorial Student Center, the Central Lawn, the areas west of the Centennial Hall, south of Ono Pond and northwest of the university before joining the Kotoni River.
Bust of Dr. W.S. Clark
On the north-west corner of the Central Lawn is a statue of William S. Clark, one of the founding fathers of Hokkaido University. Originally created by the sculptor Sekiro Tajima in 1926 as part of the 50th anniversary of the university’s foundation, Dr. Clark’s famous phrase, ‘Boys be Ambitious,’ was inscribed on its base. The first statue was sadly melted down in 1943 under the Metal Recovery Act during World War II, but the current statue was recast by Kensei Kato in 1948 using the original cast.
The Elm Forest is a spacious grassy space between the buildings of the School of Agriculture and the School of Science, which as the name suggests has many elm trees. Students can often be seen here playing soccer, catch or other games adding a lively and vibrant atmosphere to the campus. The forest reflects the long history of Hokkaido University, and tourists visiting the area get a strong sense of the distinct campus environment from this expansive and pleasant space.
Ono Pond is part of the natural environment of the area before the foundation of Hokkaido University. Today, it’s popular with both local and international students alike as a lunch time spot over the warmer months. This pond was originally a spring for the Sakushukotoni river, and has served many functions over the years, including a watering spot for cattle on their way to the Model Barn. In the 1970’s Professor Kazuo Ono of the School of Engineering took on the challenge of restoring the devastated pond to its original state. The pond is an iconic image of the university, and its restoration and status as part of the Eco-Campus Promotion Project in 2008 is indicative of Hokkaido University’s dedication to a green future.
The main road of the campus extends in a straight line for almost 1.5km, and makes for a nice walking spot with its lines of trees along either side. With an array of places to drop into, it is well worth soaking in the natural sights. During the summer months it’s bustling with bicycles, people jogging on their daily run and tourists enjoying the atmosphere.
Constructed in 1909 the Furukawa Hall is a splendid example of French Renaissance Style architecture in Japan. Now registered as a cultural asset, the mansard roof and dormer windows on each wing along with the centered semi-circular arch window and turret display an elegance rarely seen in contemporary Japan.
Poplar Avenue is one of the symbols of Hokkaido University. The poplar was introduced to Hokkaido in the mid-Meiji era when its seeds were imported from the United States to develop windbreak forests. The first line of poplar trees at Hokkaido University was planted in 1903. To commemorate the 125th anniversary of the university, a new Poplar Avenue with seventy poplars was planted in 2000 about 500 meters to the north. These young trees were grown from cuttings collected from the old Poplar Avenue.
Ginkgo Avenue attracts many visitors in autumn when the leaves change to a beautiful orange hue. The avenue is 380 meters long with 70 trees. On a Sunday usually toward the end of October, the University closes the street to cars to allow for the public to enjoy this great sight, which is very popular for photographers.
Hokkaido University’s most important heritage buildings are a group of farm buildings situated on the northern side of the campus. The structures consist of a large dairy barn, a silo, corn storage barn, a building for threshing and hulling grain, a milk processing plant and a food processing plant. Dr. W.S. Clark recommended that these be built with the intent to make them the model for other structures to be built across Hokkaido. Built in 1877 these are the oldest agricultural buildings in Hokkaido.
Elm Forest Shop/Information Center
The Elm Forest Shop and Information Center, located just inside the main gates, sells Hokkaido University brand items and gifts such as Daiginjo Japanese Sake, Sapporo Agricultural College milk cookies.
Hokkaido University Museum
Learn all about Dr. W.S. Clark one of the University’s founding fathers, Nobel Prize winner Akira Suzuki and his research, and see scientifically significant specimens and historical documents dating from the University’s establishment in 1876 to the present day.
With all its green spaces the campus is a great place to visit in the Spring through Autumn. It is one of Sapporo’s most popular tourist attractions and photo spots, and with its close proximity to Sapporo Station it’s within easy walking distance of most downtown hotels.
This post is also available in: Japanese