Dangerous History: The Abashiri Prison Museum

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  • Abashiri Prison Museum is located in the city of Abashiri in Hokkaido, Japan. Constructed in the 1890s, it was used as a facility for the incarceration of dangerous criminals and political prisoners. In recent years, it has turned into an open-air museum.

    Founding Abashiri Prison

    The story of Abashiri Prison’s founding takes place around 115 years ago during the Meiji Era. The life of the pioneers of the Abashiri village was tough, especially during the winter season where the ocean near the village was frozen. As years passed by, the number of people grew in the area. One day, a government official came to the village. He walked around and soon climbed a mountain. Upon doing so, he thought it was the perfect spot for prisoners to settle into because it was hard to escape. The difficulty being that to the north lie the Sea of Okhotsk and to the south, Lake Abashiri.

    From then on, 50 men in iron chains came to the village and started chopping down big trees with watchmen monitoring them. They made a hut for themselves. One month later, another 50 men also in chains came to the village. Over time, they were able to make a facility good enough to house 1,000 prisoners. Years passed by and the number grew even bigger. Before long, more and more merchants came in order to open more shops near the area.


    Abashiri Prison Museum illustrates the life of the prisoners. There are over a dozen buildings and structures of the old prison. This includes the main prison which consists of five radially constructed wings, a law court, bathhouse and a punishment chamber.

    Additional Information

    Abashiri Prison Museum is open 7 days a week from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm and can be accessed by bus if you use the Tentozan Line. It will take about 20 minutes by car or 25 minutes by bus from Memanbetsu Airport. There is a food court for you to eat lunch located at Futamigaoka Farm, where “Prisoner’s Lunch” is a popular choice on the menu.

    Fees are as follows:
    Adult = 1,080 yen
    College Student = 750 yen
    Student = 540 yen

    Abashiri Prison Museum

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