Why does this tourist hotspot not meet the expectations of so many people?
Japan is well known for its “Nihon Sandai“, which means “Japan’s Big Three“. The term is generally used to classify the top three in a variety of illustrious categories, such as night sights and wagyu, but there are unofficial categories that have become equally well known, such as “Spots of Nihon Sandai Gakkari“, Where “Japan’s three big disappointing spots“.
At the top of this less than splendid list is the Sapporo Clock Tower in Japan’s northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido. Often featured by travel guides as one of the best places to visit while traveling in Hokkaido, you might be wondering why this is both a top place to visit and the most disappointingso our reporter Atol traveled there to find out what makes this place fall short of so many people’s expectations.
▼ Our reporter began the investigation by going around the clock tower.
Having not visited the clock tower in decades, it looked much smaller than before. The height of the clock itself didn’t seem that high – it would roughly equal the sixth floor of a building.
Yet it is rare to find a building like this in Japan, which is why it is so prized, and the bell inside the clock tower is so unusual that it has been listed as the ‘one of the 100 soundscapes of Japan. It costs 200 yen (1.38 USD) to enter the building, so Atol paid for a ticket and went inside to see if anything here would be disappointing.
On the first floor, there was a museum displaying the history of the clock tower, as well as pictures of old Sapporo. It was interesting to see photos of yesteryear, so there was nothing particularly disappointing here.
▼ The clock tower would have stood out in 1949, when it was painted bright green.
When originally constructed in 1878, the building served an important community role as a performance hall for Sapporo Agricultural College (now Hokkaido University) and the hall can still be seen on the second floor today.
What’s not to love about this historic tourist site? It’s Japan’s oldest clock tower, within walking distance of Sapporo Station, and houses a well-appointed museum that allows visitors to take photos, with an entrance fee of just 200 yen. In theory, all of these points should make it a great tourist spot, so what makes it so disappointing?
Well, after investigating the site, Atol believes that the real reason why the clock tower is so disappointing to visitors is due to the surrounding trees.
As you can see in the old photo above, the clock tower is impressive as it stands out against the landscape, dominating the surrounding trees. However, today’s scene is markedly different, as trees now tower over the clock tower, eclipsing and obscuring it from view.
The main reason why the clock tower has gained such a disappointing reputation among the Japanese is that visitors say it’s much smaller than they expected. Photos in travel guides often tend to make the building look bigger than it is, but from Atol’s perspective, that’s not so much the building’s fault as the trees that make it up. surround.
In order to change people’s perception of the site, they would probably have to cut down the trees and replace them with smaller varieties that allow the building to take pride of place on the busy street corner.
However, rather than felling trees in a concrete jungle, which could be the start of a slippery slope for the surrounding landscape at other historic sites, perhaps it should be the people, not the trees, that should work to change the views of the building.
Sure, it might be smaller than expected, but Sapporo Clock Tower still has plenty to do, especially for the half-full traveler who knows how to expect nothing and enjoy it all while traveling. From this point of view, no construction site will ever be really disappointing, even if it is completely concealed behind scaffolding.
Sapporo Clock Tower / 札幌市時計台
Address: Sapporo-ken, Sapporo-shi, Chuo-ku, Kita 1 Jonishi 2-chome
Open: 8:45 a.m. to 5:10 p.m.
Closed: New Year holidays (January 1-3)
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[ Read in Japanese ]