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Hokkaido History

The full-scale development of Hokkaido, which began with the establishment of the Kaitakushi (Development Commission), produced significant achievements with the passage of time. As railways and roads extended throughout the wilderness and more people and goods were transported through ports, a wide variety of crops began being raised on the once uncultivated land. The population of Hokkaido, which was once only about 50,000, has increased to 5.7 million, enveloping the land with vitality. As it enters into a new age, Hokkaido continues to possess new potential and frontier spirit.

Era of Kaitakushi (Development Commission) (1869 – 1882)
The new Meiji Government viewed the development of Hokkaido as essential to Japan’s prosperity and defense, and established the Hokkaido Kaitakushi in 1869. The government invited farmer soldiers and other immigrants from across the nation to promote the development of the wild land.

    The Kaitakushi also invited Horace Capron, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, to adopt overseas technology. The introduction of American technology helped advance both development and modernization, leading to the development of capital-intensive farming, the opening of coalmines and the construction of lumber mills, breweries and canneries that made use of local resources. In 1876, Sapporo Agricultural College (the present Hokkaido University) was also established to foster personnel for development.

    In 1882, the Kaitakushi was disbanded and three prefectures (Hakodate, Sapporo and Nemuro) were established instead. In the following year, the Department of Agriculture and Commerce established the Hokkaido Project Management Bureau, ushering in an age of three prefectures and one bureau.

Era of the Hokkaido Agency (1886 – 1947)
In 1886, the three prefectures and the Hokkaido Project Management Bureau were disbanded and the Hokkaido Agency was established as a state organization with consolidated functions to improve the social infrastructure. With the construction and improvement of roads, ports and railways and the opening of the Seikan sea route between Honshu island (Aomori) and Hokkaido (Hakodate), urban areas were formed throughout Hokkaido.

    Against such a backdrop, the Hokkaido 10-year Plan and its subsequent Development Plans were formulated, providing the groundwork for systematic development.

    With the improvement of transportation networks, the development of mines and the construction of paper mills, iron works and steel works, the foundation of modern industry was consolidated.

    After World War II, the Ministry of Home Affairs was abolished under the new constitution of 1947, and the Hokkaido Agency became a local government. Meanwhile, due to food shortages and other postwar confusion, Hokkaido became the focus as a center for producing food and as a place where those returning from overseas relocated. With the enactment of the Hokkaido Development Act, the development of Hokkaido was promoted once again under a unique system.

Era of the Hokkaido Development Agency and Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau (1950 – 2000)

In the postwar years, food shortages and other supply shortages became urgent tasks of the nation, and the development of Hokkaido was considered important as the region had abundant natural resources. To promote comprehensive improvements in infrastructure to suit the circumstances in Hokkaido, the Government of Japan created the Hokkaido Development Agency in 1950. A year later, the Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau was established as a local organization to implement public work projects initiated by the national government.

    Since 1952, efficient infrastructure improvements have been promoted based on the Hokkaido Comprehensive Development Plan, including the development of power sources, construction and improvement of roads, ports and rivers, as well as increased food production.

    The purposes of the Hokkaido Comprehensive Development Plans have also changed with the passage of time, from resource development, industrial promotion and industrial structure upgrading to industrial activation toward economic independence, harmonious co-existence with the rich natural environment, establishment of communities based on recycling and creation of safe and comfortable communities.

    Hokkaido development administration was comprehensively promoted based on the prefecture’s local characteristics from the standpoint of the national government, and the opening of the Seikan Tunnel, New Chitose Airport and the Hakucho Bridge followed.

Hokkaido Bureau and Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (2001 – )

The Hokkaido Development Agency, National Land Agency, Ministry of Construction and Ministry of Transport were reorganized into the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism in January 2001. This enabled more extensive regional development to be promoted through comprehensive measures, without any harmful effects to the traditional vertically divided administration.

    Hokkaido has unique natural, geographical, social and economic appeal compared with the rest of Japan and is therefore expected to contribute greatly to the development of the nation. Hokkaido development administration is thus based on two pillars: to formulate conservation and development policies while reconciling the national and regional needs, and to realize those policies based on collaboration between the public and private sectors.

    The Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau is developing effective and efficient projects that meet the needs of the times.
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