Sapporo Shiryokan is a museum of city archives housed in Sapporo’s former Court of Appeal building. The building was built in 1926 and is a nice example of Taisho era architecture. The interior structure, floors and pillars are made of reinforced concrete, but the outer walls are made of brick and Sapporo “nanseki” which is a kind of porous, soft stone which is easy to carve. The building’s symmetrical form, exterior carved reliefs, wood-panelled interiors, and stained-glass windows give it a refined and elegant appearance.
Originally a court building, the Shiryokan was converted into a museum in 1973. At that time, the museum stored and exhibited materials related to the 1972 Sapporo Olympics as well as materials related to local history, culture, and literature. However, these days the museum is more of a multi-purpose location. The building still contains some exhibition rooms for local history and culture, but also a café, a shop, and some other rooms that can be rented for art shows and events. The Shiryokan was nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property in 2020.
The Shiryokan has two floors. On the first floor of the building is an exhibition room which has displays dedicated to the history of Sapporo. These displays feature models, old maps of the city, and photographs and there is English information alongside the Japanese.
One room on the first floor has been renovated to its original appearance as a courtroom, and this is sometimes used for mock trials as an educational experience. Visitors can walk freely around this room and take pictures of themselves in the judge’s seat.
Also on the 1st floor is an area dedicated to the manga artist and painter Hiroshi Oba. Oba was born in Sapporo, and here you can view many of his original artworks as well as a reproduction of his atelier. There is a small shop here where you can buy original souvenir reproductions of his artworks as well as picture books and postcards.
There is also a lounge and café area on the 1st floor, called the SIAF Lounge, which has books and pamphlets related to Sapporo International Art Festival. Here you can freely browse over 400 books on art, architecture and design. The café sells soft drinks, tea, coffee, handmade cakes and scones with last orders at 18.30. Sapporo International Art Festival usually takes place every three years and makes use of several venues around the city including the Shiryokan.
On the 2nd floor there are many mini-galleries which can be rented for private exhibitions and a lecture room which can be used for meetings, presentations, or musical events. It is worth checking these rooms, as the exhibitions and events are often free.
In the center of the second floor is the old reception room of the building which is now called the Odori Exchange Gallery. This room is worth a visit for the view from the window over the Shiryokan’s front garden and the rose garden in Odori Park.
Opening Hours & Admission
Opening Hours: 9:00 to 19:00
Closed: Mondays (open if Monday is a national holiday and closed the following day) & December 29th to January 3rd
Sapporo Shiryokan Location
Sapporo Shiryokan is located at the western end of Odori Park. The closest station is Nishi-Juitchome on the Tozai Subway Line which is just 4 minutes away. However, you can walk from Odori Station (on the Tozai, Toho, and Namboku subway lines) in just 13 minutes.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.