Abashiri Prison

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Abashiri Prison
Abashiri prison.jpg
LocationAbashiri, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan
Coordinates44°0′59.7″N 144°13′51.8″E / 44.016583°N 144.231056°E / 44.016583; 144.231056Coordinates: 44°0′59.7″N 144°13′51.8″E / 44.016583°N 144.231056°E / 44.016583; 144.231056
Managed byMinistry of Justice

Abashiri Prison (Japanese: 網走刑務所, Hepburn: Abashiri Keimusho) is a prison in Abashiri, Hokkaido Prefecture that opened in 1890. The northernmost prison in Japan, it is located near the Abashiri River and east of Mount Tento. It holds inmates with sentences of less than ten years.[1] Older parts of the prison were relocated to the base of Mount Tento in 1983, where they operate as the country's only prison museum.


In April 1890, the Meiji government sent over a thousand political prisoners to the isolated Abashiri village and forced them to build roads linking it to the more populous south.[2] Initial conditions were extremely harsh, with insufficient food and rest, and over 200 prisoners died of malnutrition, accidents and as punishment for attempting to escape.[3] Abashiri Prison later became known for being a self-sufficient farming prison, and was cited as a model for others throughout Japan.[2][4]

Most of the prison burned down in a 1909 fire, but it was reconstructed in 1912.[4] Previously known as Abashiri Kangoku (網走監獄), it took on its current name in 1922. In 1984, the prison moved to a modern reinforced concrete complex.[2]

Due to the 1965 film Abashiri Prison and its sequels, the prison became a popular tourist attraction.[2] The prison is also known for its wooden nipopo (ニポポ) dolls carved by its inmates.[5]

Abashiri Prison in June 2010.


The inside of the original prison house, one of the Important Cultural Properties at the Abashiri Prison Museum.

In 1983, older parts of the prison were relocated to the base of Mount Tento and operate as a museum called the Abashiri Prison Museum (博物館網走監獄). It is the only prison museum in the country.[2] As of 2016, eight of the buildings preserved at the museum are designated Important Cultural Property by the Agency for Cultural Affairs,[4][5] while three are registered Tangible Cultural Property.

Notable inmates[edit]

In fiction[edit]

The 1965 film Abashiri Prison spawned a popular series of yakuza films featuring the prison.

In the 2012 video game Yakuza 5, one of the protagonists, Taiga Saejima, escapes from Abashiri Prison, making his way to a village deep in the mountains of Hokkaido.

In "Mako Tanida", a 2014 episode of the television series The Blacklist, the episode's titular yakuza boss escapes from Abashiri Prison.

The 2014 manga series Golden Kamuy, set shortly after the Russo-Japanese War, features a raid on Abashiri Prison as one of its major plot points.


  1. ^ "Inmates in Hokkaido raise beef cattle to learn about value of life". The Japan Times. 2015-06-23. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Abashiri astounds with its ice and convict connections". The Japan Times. 2013-03-24. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
  3. ^ "Abashiri Prison Museum | Japan Experience".
  4. ^ a b c "道内の文化財を訪ねて 旧網走監獄 静かに光差す舎房 /北海道" (in Japanese). Mainichi Shimbun. 2016-06-12. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
  5. ^ a b "国の重要文化財指定へ!事務局長に聞く「博物館網走監獄」の楽しみ方" (in Japanese). Hokkaido Relations, Inc. 2015-12-29. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
  6. ^ Schreiber, Mark (2018-05-05). "News outlets quick to fall in love with prison break coverage". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  7. ^ Mitchell, Richard H. (1992). Janus-Faced Justice: Political Criminals in Imperial Japan. University of Hawaii Press. p. 93. ISBN 9780824814106. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  8. ^ a b Ishikawa, Machiko. "Writing the Sense of Loss in the Inner Self: A Narrative of Nakagami Kenji and Nagayama Norioin Late 1960s Tokyo" (PDF). Australian National University. p. 5. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  9. ^ Simonović, B. (2016-04-26). "Pol i Hiroši, braća po ocu Ličaninu" (in Bosnian). Vesti. Retrieved 2020-10-13.

External links[edit]