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Sapporo Snapshots: Pro Tips on Taking Best Photos of the Iconic Sapporo Clock Tower!

Sapporo Snapshots: Pro Tips on Taking Best Photos of the Iconic Sapporo Clock Tower!

Date published: 23 January 2020
Last updated: 4 August 2020

The Sapporo Clock Tower is one of the more popular sightseeing spots in the city. This old historical building is nestled among the taller buildings in the city center, and from whatever angle you view it, you are presented with unique photo opportunities.

Plus, the inside of the building also has a picture-perfect atmosphere where you can also learn the history of the clock’s mechanism. A quick snapshot of the place will not do it justice!

There are several interesting photo spots that highlight the charms of this building that we will introduce here.

Table of Contents
  1. Prime photo spots! Classic Version
  2. Prime photo spots! Alternative Snaps
  3. Check out the history of the clock tower!
  4. Have your picture taken with Prof. Clark
  5. The secret about the bell in the clock tower
  6. Last of all let’s check out souvenirs!
The Sapporo Clock Tower is a 5-minute walk from Odori Station, which is serviced by all Sapporo Metro Subway lines and just a 10-minute walk from the JR Sapporo Station

Prime photo spots! Classic Version

Tall office buildings surround the Sapporo Clock Tower. For that reason, it is hard to snap photos of it without them appearing in the background. There are ways, however, to shoot from different angles that can result in a better picture!

Here are three locations from which to capture that classic look. This is the first one!

The southwest corner of the clock tower is a classic photo spot that is next to the large highway intersection. There is also a raised platform.

The secret to taking this photo is not to take it from the sidewalk, but to bend down and shoot upwards with the clock tower in the background. If you take a picture standing normally, the buildings behind the clock tower are too imposing, so by squatting down, their presence is minimized, and the clock tower is more beautifully presented.

Shoot from a low angle upwards!

The second classic spot is near the front and close to the first spot.

If you get close and squat down to take a photo looking upwards the buildings behind it are even less visible!
In May the lilacs are in bloom. They can be used to beautifully frame the clock tower!
Come in October and the leaves turn crimson which presents another unique view!
Once the sun sets and twilight sets in, the buildings behind the clock tower are less obtrusive and the beauty of the clock tower is enhanced.

There are three good ways to photograph the front of the clock tower. The tall office buildings will be visible, but the whole scene is attractively presented.

The entire clock tower is clearly pictured even though the large buildings behind it are visible.

This photo spot is the Clock Tower Photo Plaza on the second floor of the MN Building facing the clock tower on the opposite side of the street. Visitors may freely enter and stand on the outside terrace to view the clock tower.

This spot is spacious enough for many people to take commemorative photos.

The front of the clock tower faces almost directly west. For that reason, the best time to photograph the clock tower is in the afternoon when it gets the western light.
If you want to take photos of yourself with the clock tower in the background, you should use a flash otherwise your face would be dark from the shadow of the buildings.

Prime photo spots! Alternative Snaps

The spots we previously introduced produce photos typically seen in travel magazines and pamphlets. The following are little-known spots that enable you to capture a slightly different view.

This first one is a view of the left side of the front of the clock tower taken from a northwest angle.

Between November and April the trees will have lost their leaves leaving a clearer view of the clock tower.

Compared to the southwest side the trees obstruct the view a bit, but you can avoid the branches by shooting upwards.

Taking a photo for SNS that keeps out the buildings in back. (The photo board is no longer available)

As you walk around the clock tower, you’ll come to another unique photo spot.

This is the view from the northeast. The buildings behind the clock tower are almost non-discernable.

The clock tower is a long east-to-west building so if you proceed to the east it becomes harder to see the clock tower because it is to the west of the front of the building.

Unfortunately the clock tower is not visible from the east side.
The clock tower is visible from the southeast side. You can get great photos depending on the angle from which you shoot. The best time to shoot here is between morning and noon when there are no shadows and it gets good sunlight.

We have gone around the building pointing out good spots, but there is still one more. This is the view.

This unusual spot allows you to look down on the entire structure.

The shot was taken from the observation corridor on the roof of the 19-story Sapporo City Hall that stands across the street on the south side of the clock tower. The clock tower is surrounded by office buildings, but it is possible for anyone to enter the city hall and take photos from the observation corridor which makes it a valuable photo spot.

Looking in the opposite direction from the clock tower you can see the Sapporo TV Tower from the observation corridor.
  • Sapporoshiyakushohonchosha Tembokai
    札幌市役所本庁舎 展望回廊
    • Address 〒060-0001北海道札幌市中央区北1条西2/2, Kita1-jonishi, Chuo-ku Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido, 060-0001, Japan
    • Phone Number 011-211-2111
    • Fee: free
      Open times: End of April - end of October weekdays 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.; 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. on weekdays during the Sapporo Snow Festival
      *May be closed during bad weather.
      Closed: Saturday, Sunday, national holidays, and from the end of October to the end of April (except on weekdays during the Sapporo Snow Festival)

There are many different locations and angles for taking good photos and perhaps you can discover others, too, that would enable you to take uniquely different commemorative photos of the clock tower.

*The photos, except for some, were taken in March 2018, so it is possible that since then there may have been changes to the surrounding area.
*Construction sheets will cover parts of the building between June 1 and October 31, 2018 because repairs and painting will be undertaken at that time so it will not be possible to take photos of the exterior. The clock tower also will be closed during that time.

Check out the history of the clock tower!

Let’s next take a look inside the clock tower.

Immediately on your right after entering the building you pay an admission fee (200 yen for adults and no charge for high school students and younger) and are then able to freely view the interior.
The volunteer staff inside the building can give you detailed information.

The second floor of the clock tower (the actual tower is five stories tall). An exhibition describing the history of the clock tower is on the first floor while on the second floor there are scenes recreated showing events during the Meiji period and at the same time information about concerts and other events to be held in the hall which can be rented out for those purposes.

First take a look at the exhibit explaining the history of the clock tower on the first floor

The clock tower was constructed in October 1878 as a hall to be used for martial arts training at the Sapporo Agricultural College as envisioned by Professor Clark. Three years later a clock made by the Howard Company of America was installed and the building assumed its current shape.
For that reason the official name of the clock tower is The Martial Arts Hall of the Former Sapporo Agricultural College.

A 1/100 scale model of the agricultural college in its early years

In 1903 the Sapporo Agricultural College moved to another location and the clock tower became the property of Sapporo City. From that time on Sapporo residents called it the “Clock Tower”. After that it was used as a public hall and as a library until 1966. In 1968 it became a sightseeing facility and since 1998 it has been used as a rental hall and for cultural activities.

To learn more, let’s move on to the second floor.

Have your picture taken with Prof. Clark

The second floor hall has a retro feel to it.

It feels just like going back in time.

Here one can imagine scenes of diploma presentation ceremonies that took place when it was the Sapporo Agricultural College.

Sitting on one of the benches it is easy to imagine what it might have been like listening to a lecture here or attending a graduation ceremony.

In front of the rows of benches there is a tiered platform.

Atop the platform there is a bench and someone appears to be sitting on it

Wondering who it might be I drew nearer

And was surprised to see it was a statue of Prof. Clark!

There is a space on the bench next to him and he appears to be beckoning you to sit next to him.

I tried imitating his pose.

There are other bronze statues of Prof. Clark elsewhere in the country, but this is the closest and the best one for having your photo taken with it.

The secret about the bell in the clock tower

On the side of the second-floor hall opposite the bronze statue of Prof. Clark is the entrance to the mechanism room of the clock tower and also an exhibition showing how the clock works.
Only maintenance personnel are allowed to enter the mechanism room, however, the exhibition outside it shows how the clock works.

The pendulum tower clock made by the Howard Company in 1928. It does not have a clapper to ring a bell, but it is possible to see how the clock works.
This model is exactly the same size as the actual tower clock face. It is 167 cm in diameter and the hands of the clock are made from Akita cedar.

The pendulum uses heavy weights to run the clock. The mechanism for moving the hands and that for ringing the bell all use heavy wire cables and every four days someone would have to wind up the wire to keep the clock running continuously day and night.

For the weight, rocks taken from the river bed of the Toyohira River that runs through Sapporo were used. In the event that the wire should break, small rocks were used so that they would not damage the building or floor when they hit it, but scatter instead.

The bell sounds the hour by ringing the same number of times as the hour which means it rings 156 times a day. This is a good place to be a few minutes before the hour.

You can feel the vibration in the wall when the bell rings.

The bell has a high-pitched peal. It is a sound from the Meiji era that you can both hear and feel still today.

Last of all let’s check out souvenirs!

There is a shop in the corner on the first floor that sells clock tower goods.
There are a number of different items here including the “Tokkei” and “Tokei Daijin” characters.

Tokkei stuffed toy strap 463 yen each (right) and Tokkei Pouch of Butter Candies 378 per bag (left)
Tokei Daijin magnets 270 yen each

There are other popular original items, too.

This is a tin of Sapporo Clock Tower black tea that costs 1,500 yen. This milk-flavored tea is an original bled that evokes the image of Sapporo in the snow surrounded by a border of Lilly of the Valley flowers, the flower of the city.

Makes a charming gift!

The attractions of the clock tower can be enjoyed from different angles and different places and a tour of the inside is also informative and enjoyable. This is a place where you can take many kinds of different photos and a great place to leisurely pass the time listening to the sounds of the bell that has rung throughout the city since Meiji times.

Admission: 200 yen for adults; free for high school age and younger
Hours: 8:45 a.m. ~ 5:10 p.m. (last admission 5:00 p.m.)
Closed: January 1 ~ 3 ※June 1 ~ October 31, 2018 it will be closed for maintenance and painting. It will not be possible to take photos of the exterior at this time because it will be covered in construction sheets.

*Prices mentioned in the article all include tax

Written by : Nobuhiro Kawashima

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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