Mapping Japanese City Spaces: Sapporo and Chitose
Sapporo, Japan’s wintry northern metropolis! It’s a very new city by Japanese standards, starting in the mid 19th century as a frontier settlers’ village on the Ishikari plains. As I mentioned in another post, Hokkaido’s southern port of Hakodate was the most populous city and de facto capital of the island in the 19th century. The new Meiji government, however, was concerned Russia might try to settle northern Hokkaido ahead of Japan, so they moved the regional capital to Sapporo, still a small town, in order to gain a clear foothold in the area. In the century or so since, it’s grown like mad and outpaced its contemporaries to become not just Hokkaido’s biggest city, but one of the nation’s biggest.
You can click on any map to enlarge it.
Sapporo and Chitose Metro Areas, 1960-2010 Time Elapse
Sapporo Metro Area and Chitose Micro Area, 1960
By 1960, Sapporo had already grown into a major national city. Otaru, on the west side of Ishikari Bay, was another of Hokkaido’s oldest major cities. Otaru, like Hakodate, had been more populous than Sapporo in the past, and even briefly became Hokkaido’s biggest city in the early 20th century. Despite having lost ranking since, it was still a very dense and significant city in 1960.
Sapporo Metro Area 496,302 8th
Otaru Metro Area 161,921 24th
Chitose Micro Area 22,306
Eniwa Micro Area 14,176
Ebetsu Micro Area 13,101
Yoichi Micro Area 10,648
Sapporo City 455,209 9th
91.7% of metro area
Sapporo Metro Area and Chitose Micro Area, 1970
Sapporo’s urban growth in the 1960s was astonishing, expanding in every direction while only slightly lowering in density. Ebetsu joined Sapporo’s employment area, with a belt of developments already beginning to connect the two cities. The formerly rural town of Chitose to the south also expanded dramatically with the construction of the regional airport that serves Sapporo, which also accounted for the sudden plummet in apparent population density. Many other nearby regional cities also grew significantly.
Otaru, though, had already peaked and was beginning to decline, with a precipitous drop in ranking. The coal industry was coming to an end in Japan, with industries modernizing and switching to petroleum. Otaru and the coal mining towns in interior Hokkaido were emptying out, fueling Sapporo’s rapid growth as people moved to the “big city” for better opportunities.
Sapporo Metro Area 867,084 7th + 74.7% + 1 rank
Otaru Metro Area 155,662 44th – 3.9% – 20 ranks
Chitose Micro Area 38,307 + 71.7%
Eniwa Micro Area 18,701 + 31.9%
Yoichi Micro Area 16,713 + 57.0%
Tobetsu 6,883 [new DID]
Sapporo City 823,233 9th + 80.8%
94.9% of metro area + 3.2% of metro area
Sapporo Metro Area and Chitose Micro Area, 1980
Greater Sapporo continued to grow rapidly in population and status through the 1970s. The city hosted the first Winter Olympics outside of Europe and North America in 1972, and was divided into wards in 1975. Ebetsu and Sapporo continued to slowly grow together, and new satellites continued to emerge around the city, especially to the north. Otaru, while continuing to lose population, also became a major satellite of Sapporo.
Sapporo Metro Area 1,524,943 6th + 75.9% + 1 rank
Chitose Micro Area 47,841 + 24.9%
Eniwa Micro Area 27,821 + 48.8%
Yoichi Micro Area 19,187 + 14.8%
Sapporo City 1,265,054 6th + 53.7% + 3 ranks
83.0% of metro area – 11.9% of metro area
Sapporo and Chitose Metro Areas, 1990
Sapporo continued to grow significantly, though at the relatively slower pace common for the 1980s. Many close satellites grew to the point they began to merge into one another as a contiguous city space. Sapporo City, already very uniform in density among its wards, evened out even further. To the south, Eniwa joined Greater Sapporo and Chitose continued to forge ahead in its expansion. Otaru was still in steady decline, joined now by its western neighbor Yoichi which lost a great proportion of its urban population.
Sapporo Metro Area 1,915,404 6th + 25.6%
Chitose Metro Area 65,537 + 37.0%
Yoichi Micro Area 13,798 – 28.1%
Sapporo City 1,570,733 5th + 24.2% + 1 rank
82.0% of metro area – 1.0% of metro area
Sapporo and Chitose Metro Areas, 2000
Sapporo continued to slow down through the 1990s, though its urban growth rate was still pretty fast compared to many other major areas. Close satellites continued to grow together, with Ebetsu now contiguous with the city of Sapporo. A ward split accounted for the apparent increase of density in the city proper, as the less dense suburban edges were sectioned off from the denser old parts of the city.
Chitose experienced a major leap in status as it actually “stole” the suburb of Eniwa off of Greater Sapporo and vaulted into the top 100 urban areas.
Sapporo Metro Area 2,094,069 5th + 9.3% + 1 rank
Chitose Metro Area 129,170 76th + 97.1% + 29 ranks
Yoichi Micro Area 12,032 – 12.8%
Sapporo City 1,759,684 5th + 12.0%
84.0% of metro area + 2.0% of metro area
Sapporo and Chitose Metro Areas, 2010
After a long period of pronounced growth, Sapporo seems to “cooling down”, though growth continues. Even though the city never markedly decentralized like some older or larger cities, it’s still following the trend of recentralization. Chuo-ku, the central ward of the old city, has visibly risen in density to give the formerly uniform-looking city a dense urban center. Otaru continues to decline, but has nevertheless become a secondary core of the greater urban area.
Sapporo-Otaru Metro Area 2,184,387 5th + 4.3%
Chitose Metro Area 141,923 73rd + 9.9% + 3 ranks
Sapporo City 1,846,399 5th + 4.9%
84.5% of metro area + 0.5% of metro area
If there’s any city or region of Japan you’d like to see, just ask me in the comments! Really, I do requests!
National land numerical information (densely inhabited district data)
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
Processed and edited in ArcGIS Explorer
Microsoft Bing Maps used as basemap