Hokkaido’s History & Timeline

Hokkaido’s recorded history is not long than any other Japanese regions, but it is dynamic. The birth of modern Hokkaido is identified with the founding of Kaitakushi (Development Commission) in 1869 just after the feudal Japan. About two million Japanese immigrants came to this undeveloped vast region by 1918.

Ancient Hokkaido

Ofune Archaeological Site, Minamikayabe (in Hakodate)

23,000 BC Hokkaido was connected to the Eurasian continent to the north. Nomadic hunters settle in Hokkaido via Sakhalin, as well as Northern Honshu.

15,000 BC Hokkaido was divided from the Eurasian continent when the last glacial period ended.

3rd century BC Jomon people appear in many locations across Hokkaido and continues to the 7th century AD. The Yayoi culture and its rice cultivation were not handled town to Hokkaido.

5th century AD The coastal fishing Okhotsk culture come to Northeastern Hokkaido from Sakhalin.

8th century AD Hokkaido’s Satsumon culture appears. People introduce bronze tool-making from Northern Honshu and the trade routes are born.

9th century The Okhotsk culture absorbed into the Satsumon culture. The Ainu culture since the 13th century has both elements.

23,000 BC Hokkaido was connected to the Eurasian continent to the north. Nomadic hunters settle in Hokkaido via Sakhalin, as well as Northern Honshu.

Feudal Hokkaido

Katsuyama Castle Ruins, Kaminokuni

1457 Outbreak of Koshamain’s War between Ainu and Japanese in Southern Hokkaido. Takeda Nobuhiro kills the Ainu leader.

1470s Katsuyama-dake hillside castle is erected by Takeda (Kakizaki) Nobuhiro in Kaminokuni (Southern Hokkaido).

1604 The warlord Kakizaki Yoshihiro becomes a daimyo (feudal lord) of the Matsumae clan and this land is called Ezo.

1669-1672 Shakushain’s Revolt occurs from east to west. Finally the Matsumae clan breaks a reconciliation and killed the Ainu leader, then rule the trade and peoples in Ezo.

End of the Edo Shogunate

Old Goryokaku Fortress, Hakodate

1792 Russian envoy Adam Laxman arrives in Nemuro with Japanese casteways who greeted Catherine II.

1854 US commodore Matthew Perry arrives in Hakodate by the ‘Black Ships’.

1855 Hokkaido’s only Japanese-style castle is complete in Matsumae.

1859 Hokkaido’s first international port is opened in Hakodate.

1864 Japan’s first Western-style fort of Goryokaku is complete in Hakodate.

1868-1869 The new government army wins the Boshin civil war. The Matsumae clan is defeated and the war ends in Hakodate.

The Age of Pioneers

Old Hokkaido Government Office Building, Sapporo

1869 Kaitakushi (Development Commission: renamed Hokkaido Government 17 years later) is established in Sapporo. Ezo is renamed to Hokkaido.

1873 Nakayama Kyuzo succeeds in Hokkaido’s first rice cultivation in Shimamatsu (in Kitahiroshima).

1875-1904 Japanese Tondenhei (farmer soldiers) settles in Hokkaido (e.g. Sapporo, Ebetsu, Fukagawa, Asahikawa, Shibetsu City, Akkeshi and Nemuro).

1876 Kaitakushi establishes the beer brewery and the agricultural college (current Hokkaido University) in Sapporo.

1880 Hokkaido’s first train line connects Sapporo with Temiya (in Otaru).

1918 Hokkaido’s population exceeds two million.

1926 The volcano Tokachi-dake erupts in Kamifurano that kills 144 people.

1944 The volcano Showa-shinzan (398m) appears on the fields in Sobetsu near Toya-ko.

1945 US bombing raid on Hokkaido particularly port towns (such as Muroran and Kushiro) along the Pacific Ocean, killing over 2000 people.

Post-War Development

Old Sumitomo Akabira Coal Mine, Akabira

1945-1954 The mainland Hokkaido undergoes USA-led occupation.

1950 The first Sapporo Snow Festival is held in Odori Park.

Early 1950s to mid 1960 Hokkaido’s coal industry reaches its peak, especially Sorachi Region. Population exceeds five million in 1960.

1954 Typhoon Marie tears through Hokkaido. The railway ship Toya-maru sink off Hakodate and killing 1155 people.

1968 Electrification of the JNR Hakodate Line between Otaru and Takikawa begins.

1972 Sapporo hosts the first Winter Olympics in Asia.

1981 Hokutan Yubari New Coal Mine’s explosion kills 93 people.

1988 Seikan railway tunnel connects Hokkaido with Honshu. New Chitose Airport opens.

The Heisei Period

Sapporo Dome, Sapporo

1993 The big earthquake strikes off Okushiri-to and Southern Hokkaido that kills 230 people.

1994 Nibutani-born Kayano Shigeru sit for the first Ainu politician in the Diet of Japan.

1997 One of Hokkaido’s main banks Takushoku Ginko (founded in 1899: called takugin) goes bankrupt by the collapse of bubble economy.

2002 Sapporo hosts the FIFA World Cup England vs Argentina hotly contested match (at Sapporo Dome).

2004 The Japanese Professional baseball team Nippon-Ham Fighters moves to Hokkaido from Tokyo.

2005 Shiretoko is listed as a World Natural Heritage Site.

2008 The 34th G8 Summit is held in Toyako-cho.

2016 The Hokkaido Shinkansen services go into operation between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto.

2018 On 6 September, Eastern Iburi earthquake strikes that kills 43 people and cut power to most households in Hokkaido.

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