Message from the Chair of the Board

Background to the Establishment of the Abashiri Prison Museum

In 1973, a plan for renovating Abashiri Prison was announced. The late Hisashi Sato, then the owner of Abashiri Newspaper, lamented the impending demolition of valuable old buildings from the Meiji era and proposed that all the buildings of the original Abashiri Prison should be relocated for preservation. His passion for preservation moved Abashiri citizens. With the support of the Ministry of Justice, the Hokkaido Government and relevant organizations in Abashiri, the Abashiri Prison Preservation Foundation was established on May 28, 1980. Mr. Sato became the first chair of the board. The aims of the foundation were to conserve the old buildings of the original Abashiri Prison as cultural assets, to exhibit items and materials related to the modern penal practices of Hokkaido, and to contribute to the development of education and culture. The foundation launched a project to create a museum that would preserve and exhibit prison buildings. The Abashiri Prison Museum opened after a three-year preparation period.
In 1994, the Abashiri Prison Museum fulfilled the requirements specified in the Museum Act to become a registered museum. In 2005, three buildings of the original Abashiri Prison were designated as registered tangible cultural properties, which demonstrated that the buildings from the Meiji era exhibited at the museum were valuable cultural properties.
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the museum, in 2010 facilities for exhibiting items and materials related to the administration of punishment were thoroughly renovated and the Penological Museum was opened.
The Penological Museum has a movie theater that provides a "virtual reality experience" of prison, where visitors can see the movie “Forests Where Inmates in Red Prison Uniforms Worked”. This movie focuses on inmates from Abashiri Prison who constructed a 220-km section of Central Road between Abashiri and Asahikawa in eight months, in 1891. Many inmates died from the harsh labor. The situation of the current prison is also shown. There are exhibits that show the somewhat strange relationship that Abashiri Prison maintains with Abashiri and its residents.

The latest digital video and stereophonic technologies, as well as virtual reality techniques, are used for the exhibits at the Penological Museum. You're sure to learn something new and important at this museum.
Because international tourists are visiting Abashiri Prison Museum in increasing numbers, multiple languages are used for the written and audio explanations of exhibits.
In February 2016, eight of the relocated and restored buildings were designated as nationally important cultural properties. That designation realized the museum’s longtime dream. All the board members and staff are determined to make additional efforts for the continued conservation of these buildings, as these are Japan’s first prison buildings to be designated as nationally important cultural properties.


Please visit Abashiri Prison Museum if our website has helped you to take an interest in the museum.
Abashiri is in a beautiful area. It's bordered by the Sea of Okhotsk, four lakes, mountains and other topography.
In Abashiri, you can enjoy foods from land and the sea that vary from season to season.
Abashiri is an attractive city. You're always welcome here.
Kiyomaru Kitano, Chair of the Board,
Abashiri Prison Preservation Foundation