Sapporo Clock Tower
Sapporo's symbolic landmark straight from the American mid-west.
The oldest standing building in Sapporo, the beloved Clock Tower (or “Tokeidai”) has been counting away the hours since 1881. Every day, without fail, the clock bells chime once for each hour, sounding a ring throughout the fifth largest city in Japan.
This iconic clock gable, whose resemblance mirrors a countryside barn, was attached three years later to the local landmark’s original construction in 1878. Initially, the American colonial-style building functioned as a drill hall — a “dojo” for martial arts training — for students of the former Sapporo Agricultural College (presently Hokkaido University). In July 1881, however, the four-faced clock was installed by E. Howard & Co. (which then became the Waltham Watch Company) of Boston, Massachusetts.
To this day, the Clock Tower prominently displays two red stars fixed on its gabled roof which jointly represent the North Star and the pioneer spirit of Japan’s northward expansion in Hokkaido. A walk through this designated Important Cultural Property grants visitors access to the museum on the first floor—exhibiting both the building’s history and the colonial evolution of Sapporo. The second floor serves as a spacious ceremony hall that occasionally hosts community events and concerts.
If you’re up for a challenge, try to spot the total number of seventeen red stars featured on the premise of this Meiji-era timepiece. The clocks ticking!