History of Hokkaido University

History of Hokkaido University

The university started out in 1876 as the Sapporo Agricultural College, one of the first modern academic institutions in Japan. During its long history, the college was promoted to an Imperial University, and then flourished after the creation of the new university system. Over this period, we have declared and cultivated our basic philosophies of education and research, namely, “Frontier Spirit,” “Global Perspectives,” “All-round Education” and “Practical Learning.” ;xNLx;;xNLx;Today, Hokkaido University has developed into one of the most comprehensive universities in the country. Our researchers in the social and natural sciences, as well as in the humanities, are working towards the advancement of human knowledge and resolution of global issues through their outstanding work.;xNLx;;xNLx;The phrase “Be ambitious!”, which serves as Hokkaido University’s motto, is derived from the words of Dr. William Smith 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.

1826-07-31 00:00:00

Dr. William Smith Clark

A great man with a great legacy

1854-02-01 00:00:00

The Japan-US Treaty of Peace and Amity

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

1868-01-01 00:00:00

The Meiji Restoration and Boshin War

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

1869-01-01 00:00:00

The Development Commission

The new Meiji Government made the settlement of Hokkaido its policy.

1872-01-01 00:00:00

Developing Japan’s Railways

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

1876-03-03 00:00:00

A Contract signed

William Smith Clark's contract to assist in the foundation of Sapporo Agricultural College. Signed in Washington, United States on March 3, 1876

1876-08-14 00:00:00

Clark gives the opening address of Sapporo Agricultural College

In front of foreign staff and his new students, Clark delivered the Opening Address for the College on August 14, 1876.

1876-09-01 00:00:00

Establishment of Sapporo Agricultural College Farm No. 2 initiated

The beginning of western-based agricultural education in Japan

1877-01-01 00:00:00

The Satsuma Rebellion

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

1877-04-16 00:00:00

“Boys be Ambitious!”

Clark leaves Sapporo

1879-10-01 00:00:00

The Team of the First Instructors

Clark brought with him a team of teaching staff to assist him in setting up Sapporo Agricultural College. William Wheeler and David Penhallow arrived with Clark. William Penn Brooks arrived two months before Clark's departure and stayed until October 1888. All three men left their own legacies.

1880-07-10 00:00:00

First Commencement Exercises are held in the drill hall

The sending-off of the first 13 graduates takes place in the Drill Hall (now Sapporo Clock Tower).

1881-07-01 00:00:00

Kingo MIYABE graduates

Plant Taxonomist and first honorary citizen of Sapporo

1881-07-02 00:00:00

Kanzo UCHIMURA graduates

Author and Christian Evangelist

1881-07-03 00:00:00

Inazo NITOBE graduates

The man who undoubtedly achieved his goal of “becoming a bridge across the Pacific”—Inazo NITOBE, obtained his first of many degrees from Sapporo Agricultural College.

1881-07-31 00:00:00

Isami HIROI studies with Cecil Peabody

One of Japan's most famous engineers studies with a renowned scholar from America

1886-01-02 00:00:00

The Imperial University System

The Imperial University System was introduced. Hokkaido University joined the club in 1918.

1886-01-03 00:00:00

The Botanic Gardens open

The Botanic Gardens of Sapporo Agricultural College

1889-01-01 00:00:00

The Meiji Constitution

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

1891-01-01 00:00:00

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.

1894-08-01 00:00:00

The onset of Sino-Japanese War

In August 1894, Japan declared war on the Qing dynasty, beginning the Sino-Japanese War.

1895-07-01 16:08:49

Shonen MATSUMURA graduates

The pioneer of entomological research in East Asia, Shonen Matsumura graduated

1900-12-01 00:00:00

Inazo NITOBE completes his most famous work

'Bushido - The Soul of Japan'

1901-01-01 00:00:00

Sapporo Agricultural College celebrates 25 years.

Events to celebrate 25 years were held in the Drill Hall, now Sapporo’s famous Clock Tower.

1901-07-01 00:00:00

Takeo ARISHIMA graduates

Writer of 'A Certain Woman' graduates

1903-01-01 00:00:00

Poplar Avenue is planted

A symbol of Hokkaido University

1903-01-02 00:00:00

Sapporo Campus is relocated to its current home

The beginning of one of the most attractive university campuses in Japan

1907-01-01 00:00:00

The School of Fisheries is established

1907-09-01 00:00:00

We graduate from a college to a University

In 1907, Sapporo Agricultural College becomes known as the Agricultural College of Tohoku Imperial University.

1909-11-01 00:00:00

Furukawa Hall is completed

The Furukawa Hall was completed within a 6-month period in 1909.

1918-04-01 12:13:25

Hokkaido Imperial University established

Hokkaido Imperial University was established in 1918, making it independent from the Agricultural College of Tohoku Imperial University.

1918-04-02 00:00:00

Sechi KATO

A pioneer of a different kind — the first woman to study at Hokkaido University

1919-04-01 00:00:00

The School of Medicine is established

With the foundation of Hokkaido Imperial University, the School of Medicine is established in 1919, making it one of the oldest faculties on campus. In April 1921, a hospital attached to the School of Medicine was established, and started providing medical treatment in November of the same year. Since the opening of the hospital had been long awaited by local residents, patients rushed to the hospital as soon as it opened, with some people waiting from as early as 6 a.m.

1920-01-01 00:00:00

The First National Census

1924-09-01 00:00:00

The School of Engineering is established

The School of Engineering is established

1925-01-01 00:00:00

Universal Male Suffrage

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

1926-01-01 00:00:00

50th Anniversary

The University reached 50 years.

1930-01-01 00:00:00

The School of Science is established

The School of Science was established in April 1930, in the building now known as the Hokkaido University Museum.

1930-12-19 00:00:00

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

1933-12-09 00:00:00

Kumao TAKAOKA, 3rd President

After graduating from Sapporo Agricultural College in 1895, Takaoka stayed at his alma mater and majored in agricultural economics. He studied economics, agricultural policy, and colonial studies at the universities of Bonn and Berlin from 1900 to 1904 in Germany. At his alma mater, he was in charge of agricultural policy and colonial studies, and laid the foundation of the Department of Agricultural Economics.

1934-01-01 00:00:00

Hokkaido’s first national parks

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

1935-07-01 00:00:00

Akira IFUKUBE graduates

The man behind the score of one of the world's classic films—Godzilla

1936-03-12 00:00:00

Ukichiro NAKAYA develops artificial snow crystals

The first artificial snow crystals in the world are developed on the Sapporo Campus

1937-12-01 00:00:00

Yutaka KON, 4th President

Yutaka KON is remembered for putting in place measures to keep the university operational over the period of the war.

1941-01-01 00:00:00

The Institute of Low Temperature Science

Hokkaido University’s first research institute was established in 1941—the Institute of Low Temperature Science (ILTS).

1942-07-01 00:00:00

Hokkaido University and WWII

Then Prime Minister Hideki TOJO visited Hokkaido University and met student troops just 7 months after Pearl Harbor.

1942-09-01 00:00:00

Yoshie KATSURADA becomes the first female professor at Hokkaido University.

Yoshie KATSURADA, a mathematician, became the first female professor at the University.

1944-01-01 00:00:00

Battling war-driven famine

To compensate for the severe food shortage during the war, trees were cut down in the schoolyard, lawns were cultivated, and fields were planted throughout the campus.

1945-08-01 00:00:00


In August 1945, Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration, ending the Pacific War.

1945-12-30 00:00:00

Seiya ITO, 5th President

Graduating from the School 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.

History of Hokkaido University

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