Abashiri Prison Museum 博物館 網走監獄
Japan's only prison museum shows what life was like in Japan's most notorious jail
Clinging to the side of Mt. Tento and overlooking the city of Abashiri in eastern Hokkaido, the only prison museum in Japan tells dark stories and provides a glimpse into the history of Japan's wild frontier.
- Viewing the fascinating design of the main prison house
- Experiencing the harsh life as a prisoner in the virtual reality section
How to Get There
Visit the museum by bus or taxi from Abashiri city center or by bus from Memanbetsu Airport.
From Abashiri Bus Terminal or Abashiri Station, take the Kankoshigetsumeguri bus toward Tentozan.
From Memanbetsu Airport, take the limousine bus toward Abashiri Bus Terminal and get off at Tentozan-Iriguchi. From there, it is a one-kilometer walk to the museum or a short taxi ride.
Harsh punishment in a tough territory
Barring the death penalty, confinement at Abashiri Prison was the harshest punishment a judge could give to a criminal in Meiji-era Japan.
From the 1890s, criminals—including political “criminals”—were sent here to construct the prison with their bare hands. The masterpiece of their labors is the exceptional five-wing wooden prison house, completed in 1912.
Construction of the first road to Sapporo
To guard against Russian invasion, the inmates were also forced to construct the first road to Sapporo. You can experience their heroic story in the penological/virtual reality section.
Try the “prisoner's meal”
If you are looking for a real taste of Japan prison life back in the day, try the prisoner's meal for an unusual, inexpensive lunch.
Around Mt. Tento
Aside from offering beautiful views of the Abashiri area, Mt. Tento also has two other excellent museums: the Okhotsk Drift Ice Museum and the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples.