History of Hokkaido University

Hokkaido University was founded in 1876.

For 136 years, Hokkaido University has earned a reputation for pioneering research on the cutting edge. Today, Hokkaido University is an advanced research institution, with strong links to industry, community and government. Our stunning main campus is located in downtown Sapporo, within walking distance to almost everything the beautiful city has to offer. With an additional campus in the coastal city of Hakodate, Hokkaido University has become the powerhouse of innovation and research of northern Japan.;xNLx;Founded back in 1876 as Sapporo Agricultural College - we were remarkably the nation’s first institute to issue formal degrees. The phrase “Be ambitious!”, which serves as Hokkaido University’s motto, is derived from the words of Dr. William Clark, the founding father of the College. The quote not only inspired the very first pupils in 1877, but remains extremely popular today as a message to encourage all young people. ;xNLx;;xNLx;Find out more about our rich and fascinating history by using this timeline which offers detailed information about our past set against a backdrop of historical events which helped shape contemporary Japan. We hope you enjoy it.

Kumao TAKAOKA 3rd President

Presided over the building of the Agricultural Building which is considered today as one of the University's iconic structures and welcomed the Showa Emperior to the University in October 1936.

Yutaka KON 4th President

Yutaka Kon is remembered for reparing the university as the war approached whilst at the same time, putting in place measures to keep the university operational over the period of the war. Over his period of presidency, he also oversaw the setting up of the Institute of Low Temperature Science, the Catalysis Research Center, and the Research Institute of Ultrashort Waves. (now RIES)

The first group of International Students join the university

Hokkaido University sees the arrival of its first group of young scholars from around the world

Direct Rule and Exploration

The Tokugawa Shogunate placed Ezo under its direct control and commissioned the mapping/exploration of Ezo and beyond.

The Imperial University System

The birth of the imperial university, prestigious universities educating the elite of Japan. Hokkaido University joined the club in 1918.

Ainu Mosir

In the days before settlement by the Japanese people, what we now call Hokkaido was the homeland of the indigenous Ainu people.

The Matsumae Fiefdom

The Kakizaki family gained exclusive trading rights with the Ainu and established the Wajin presence in Ainu Mosir.

Shakushain’s War

The Ainu rose up against Wajin (Japanese) in a dispute over hunting and fishing rights. It was the largest ever conflict between the two peoples.

The Treaty of Peace and Amity

As a result of the Treaty of Peace and Amity, Hakodate was opened up as a treaty port.

The Meiji Restoration and Boshin War

The civil war between the Tokugawa Shogunate and forces urging an Imperial Restoration ended in Hakodate.

The Development Commission

The new Meiji Government made the settlement of Hokkaido its policy, and a new capital was born: Sapporo.

The Satsuma Rebellion

Saigo Takamori led the last stand against the sweeping reforms introduced after the Meiji Restoration.

Developing Japan’s Railways

Ten years after the first railroad was built in Japan, Hokkaido got its first railroad too.

The Meiji Constitution

The Meiji Constitution was promulgated. It was the first constitution in Japan’s history.

The Sino-Japanese War

Japan defeated China in a war over control of the Korean peninsula.

Japan as Imperial Power

Japan joined the club of imperial nations through victories in overseas wars and the signing of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance.

The End of the Meiji Period

The Meiji Emperor died and the new Taisho Era began.

The First National Census

The population of Hokkaido grew rapidly and reached 2.36 million.

Universal Male Suffrage

Restrictions on voting were lowered and all males over the age of 25 became eligible to vote in Japan.

Peppermint Boom

In the midst of the worldwide depression, the town of Kitami in northern Hokkaido boomed with a peppermint rush.

Hokkaido’s first national parks

Daisetsuzan and Lake Akan became Hokkaido’s first national parks in 1934.

Pearl Harbor

The task force that attacks Pearl Harbor set sail from the island of Etorofu, east of Hokkaido.


In the wake of defeat, many were relocated to Hokkaido from territories lost to the Soviet Union.

The New Japanese Constitution

Japan’s new constitution of 1947 renounced war and disbanded the military. But Hokkaido eventually became a key site for SDF bases.

The Beginning of the “1955 System”

The creation of the Liberal Democratic Party in 1955 began the party’s 38-year domination of domestic politics.

The Rise and Fall of Coal

The decision in 1959 to switch from coal to oil as the primary source of energy led to the decline of Hokkaido’s coaling communities.

The Tokyo Olympics

Hosting the summer Olympics was accompanied by massive improvements in infrastructure, including the bullet train.

Steel and high growth

Manufacturing drove the economic miracle. Hokkaido’s image as a rural idyll masked a significant manufacturing sector.

Sapporo Olympics

Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympics and became the center of world attention for a few weeks.

Tranquility amid high growth

A calendar produced by Japan Railways helps to create an enduring icon of Hokkaido and a rediscovery of the rural.

The Height of the Bubble

In the roaring 1980s, Hokkaido experienced a leisure boom and many towns embarked on resort development.

The beginning of the “lost decades”

Japan moves from the Showa era to the Heisei era, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall coincided with the bursting of the economic bubble.

The Twin Shocks

The Hanshin Earthquake and Aum Shinrikyo Cult’s poison gas attack on the Tokyo Subway station shook the nation.

World Cup matches held in Sapporo

With co-hosts South Korea, Japan hosted the Soccer World Cup.

The G8 Summit comes to Hokkaido

The G8 Summit was hosted at the hot spring resort of Lake Toyako. For one week, a small Hokkaido town was the center of world attention.

The 11 March Triple Disaster

The devastating Tohoku Earthquake caused relatively little physical damage but tremendous economic damage in Hokkaido.

Shosuke SATO 1st President

A lifelong dedication to Hokkaido University stretching over 5 decades from his student days to becoming President, Shosuke SATO’s legacy to Hokkaido University is unsurpassed.

Takajiro MINAMI 2nd President

Takajiro MINAMI was a student of Sapporo Agricultural College in its second year, and later became the second President of Hokkaido Imperial University

Juro HORIUCHI 9th President

President Horiuchi oversaw the founding of the School of Dental Medicine. He also had to manage the university through the tumultuous period of nationwide university rioting which also exploded over Sapporo Campus.

Seiya ITO 5th President

Graduating from the Faculty of Agriculture in 1908, Seiya ITO stayed with the university throughout his long career. He later became President of the university from 1945 to 1950 and was also made Professor Emeritus in 1950. Professor ITO published 110 papers, mostly on the study of fungi (Mycology) and prevention of diseases in rice crops. His most extensive and renowned publication is titled "Mycological Flora of Japan" of which he updated throughout his career. His work was so important in Mycological circles in Japan that he was designated as a person of Cultural Merit in 1959. During his presidency, he oversaw the first Hokkaido University Festival, set up the School of Law and Literature (later divided into School of Literature and School of Law and Economics. He also oversaw the implementation of the National School Establishment Law and set up the School of Education and School of Fisheries Science. He later resigned over the Eels incident.

Yoshichika SHIMA 6th President

Oversaw the establishment of the School of Veterinary Medicine and the division of the School of Law and Economics into the School of Law and the School of Economics and Business Administration.

Harusada SUGINOME 7th President

Suginome signed an agreement for mutual academic exchange cooperation with the UMass Amherst. He also oversaw the opening of the very first Student Center of any national university in Japan. Under his presidency as well the School of Pharmacy was established.

Jiro FURUICHI 8th President (died in office)

Merely three months after becoming president, Furuichi suddenly passes away. His funeral is held on campus.

Kichizo NIWA 10th President

President Niwa undertook a large overhaul of the campus environment. He also set up the very first university wide exchange agreement with Portland State University.

Shigekazu IMAMURA 11th President

In 1976, President Imamura oversaw the celebrations and events held for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the university. In 1978, the Slavic Research Center was also founded under his Presidency.

Mikio ARIE 12th President

President Arie opened new male and female dormitories for students, oversaw the establishment of the Conference Hall and heavily promoted international exchange.

Yoshio BAN 13th President

A major advocate for Internationalization, President Ban establishes the International Student Center in April 1991.

Tsutomu HIROSHIGE 14th President

Oversees the introduction of the HINES network. (Hokkaido University Information NEtwork System)

Norihito TAMBO 15th President

President Tambo presided over the establishment of the 1996 University Master Plan. In 1999, he opened the Hokkaido University Museum, and in 2001, the Field Science Center for Northern Biosphere. He is also remembered as being a major advocate for University-Industry cooperation.

Mutsuo NAKAMURA 16th President

President Nakamura formally enacted the 4 philosophies of Hokkaido University - namely “Frontier Spirit”, “Global Perspectives”, “All-round Education” and “Practical Learning.” He also presided over the establishment of the 'Hokkaido University Archives' and the 'Center for Ainu & Indigenous Studies' as well as taking the University through it's 125th year anniversary celebrations.

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