One of Hokkaidō’s highlights is the Historical Village of Hokkaidō (北海道開拓の村), some 14km east of the city centre. This impressive museum, laid out across a spacious park, gathers together some sixty buildings constructed around Hokkaidō between the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as large-scale immigration from Honshū cranked up. Wandering around the village’s four main areas, representing town, farm, mountain and fishing communities, will give you a strong impression of what Hokkaidō looked like before prefabricated buildings and concrete expressways became the norm.
The buildings have been restored as beautifully inside as out and spruced up with displays related to their former use, be it a sweet shop, a silkworm house or a woodcutter’s shanty. There are guides in some houses (explanations in Japanese only) and written English explanations in all. It’s a good idea to wear slip-on shoes, as you’ll be taking them off a lot to explore the interiors. In summer, you can hop aboard the horse-drawn trolley car (¥270) that plies the main street – in winter this is replaced by a sleigh. Some of the houses are shut from December to April (hence the reduced admission fee), but the village is worth visiting even then for its special atmosphere when blanketed in snow.
To cover the whole site will take you at least half a day; you can bring a picnic or there are a couple of inexpensive restaurants and refreshment stops within the village. You can extend your visit by exploring the neighbouring grounds of Nopporo Forest Park, created to commemorate Hokkaidō’s centennial, which contains the mildly interesting Historical Museum of Hokkaidō and Centennial Memorial Tower, a 100m-tall metal spike which you can ascend for a free view of the city.