Why does this top tourist spot fall short of so many people’s expectations?

Japan is well known for its “Nihon Sandai“, which means “Japan’s Big Three“. The term is generally used to rank the top three in a variety of illustrious categories, like night views and wagyu, but there are some unofficial categories that have become equally well known, like “Nihon Sandai Gakkari Spots“, or “Japan’s Big Three Disappointing Spots“.

At the top of this less-than splendid list is the Sapporo Clock Tower in Japan’s northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido. Often touted by travel guides as one of the top sites to visit on a trip to Hokkaido, you might be scratching your head as to why it’s both a top place to visit and the most disappointing, so our reporter Atol headed up there to find out what makes this place fall short of so many people’s expectations.

▼ Our reporter started the investigations by walking around the clock tower.

Having not visited the clock tower for decades, it looked a lot smaller than before. The height of the clock itself didn’t seem that high — it’d be roughly equivalent to the sixth floor of a building.

Still, it’s rare to find a building like this in Japan, which is why it’s so prized, and the bell inside the clocktower is so unusual it’s been listed as one of the 100 Soundscapes of Japan. It costs 200 yen (US$1.38) to enter the building, so Atol paid for a ticket and stepped inside to see if anything here would be underwhelming.

On the first floor, there was a museum introducing the history of the clock tower, along with images of old Sapporo. It was interesting to see photos from yesteryear, so there was nothing notably disappointing here.

▼ The clock tower would’ve stood out back in 1949, when it was painted in a bold green.

When it was initially constructed in 1878, the building played a strong community role as a performance hall for Sapporo Agricultural College (present-day Hokkaido University) and the hall can still be seen on the second floor today.

What’s not to like about this historic tourist site? It’s the oldest clock tower in Japan, within walking distance from Sapporo Station, and home to a well-laid out museum that allows visitors to take photos, with an entrance fee of just 200 yen. In theory, all these points should make it a great sightseeing spot, so what makes it so disappointing?

Well, after investigating the site, Atol reckons the real reason why the clock tower is so underwhelming for visitors is due to the surrounding trees.

As you can see from the old photo above, the clock tower looks impressive as it stands out on the landscape, towering over the surrounding trees. However, the scene today is markedly different, as the trees now tower over the clock tower, dwarfing it and obscuring it from view.

The main reason why the clock tower has gained such a disappointing reputation amongst people in Japan is because visitors say it’s a lot smaller than they expected. Photos in travel guides often tend to make the building seem larger than it is, but from Atol’s point of view, it’s not so much the building’s fault as it is the trees around it.

In order to alter people’s perceptions of the site, they’d likely have to chop down the trees and replace them with smaller varieties that allow the building to really take pride of place on the busy street corner.

However, rather than chop down 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, who should work on changing the views of the building.

Sure, it might be smaller than expected, but the Sapporo Clock Tower still has a lot of things going for it, especially for the glass-half-full traveller who knows to expect nothing and appreciate everything during their travels. From that standpoint, no site will ever be truly disappointing, even if it’s totally obscured behind scaffolding.

Site information
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.-5:10 p.m.
Closed: New Year Holidays (Jan 1-3)

Photos ©SoraNews24
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