Organized Panel Session
The Japanese government founded the city of Sapporo in 1869 to serve as the capital of the island of Hokkaido, newly incorporated as the country’s first modern colony. The city was an experimental site for the broader colonial project in Hokkaido, and its form and function reflected its role as a model: visitors to Sapporo in the Meiji period commented on its gridded street layout, wide avenues, and foreign architecture, likening it to cities across the American West. This view is simplistic—the basics of Sapporo’s form predate American influence—but city planning in Meiji Sapporo did draw on influences from abroad, whether in architecture, street naming, or urban institutions. In this paper, I introduce these various transnational features of Sapporo’s cityscape by looking at the observations of Japanese and Western travellers to Sapporo—and to cities abroad—to illustrate the mix of Japanese and non-Japanese urban elements deployed to construct a new colonial capital. I then trace how the growth of Sapporo informed subsequent city building, not only throughout Hokkaido and Sakhalin but also in later colonial acquisitions, such as Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria. Colonial experts, such as Nitobe Inazō and Gotō Shinpei, drew on their experience and knowledge of Hokkaido to promote imperial city building elsewhere in the Japanese empire. The cosmopolitan influences on Sapporo produced a model colonial city that influenced later planners throughout the Japanese empire, underscoring Sapporo’s role as a fulcrum in the exchange of ideas about colonial urban space between empires and across time.