I spotted Retro Saka in a tourist brochure picked up from New Chitose Airport, and knew immediately I had to visit. Billed as a “vintage museum,” it seemed like just the kind of unique local attraction I favor over regular ol’ art and history museums. The brochure didn’t list the address or operating hours, and googling it didn’t provide a lot more information. Apparently it’s been open since 1994, but it’s still quite under the radar. It has no website, although it does seem to have a Facebook page (liked by 125 people, as of this writing), and it’s ranked #129 of 350 attractions on TripAdvisor (none of the reviews are in English).
But, my fellow Americans and other English-speaking people, you should visit this place if you go to Sapporo. For one thing, it’s free! And photos are allowed, and there are a lot of things you’ll want to get photos of.
Some background, according to the Facebook page and one of the two English articles on this place: the museum is the personal collection of Kazutaka Saka, director of the Saka Biscuit company (Saka Eiyo Shokuhin K.K.). The company was founded in 1950, and it’s crackers are well known in Hokkaido. As far as I can tell, Mr. Saka is still alive and adding to the museum. Most of the items are everyday objects from the 1940s through the 1970s.
I walked from Maruyama Park (about 30 minutes) but you can take the Tozai line to Nijuyonken Station and walk about 10 minutes. There is no English signage, and the building has little to indicate it’s an attraction, so memorize what the outside looks like before you go or you might walk right past it.
Looking from the outside, you can tell that calling it a “museum” is a bit generous. Step inside, and it feels more like a cramped old shop. Or a perverted grandfather’s house. That’s because the first “exhibit” you’ll see is this:
There was no one else, either visitor or staff, inside. This was around noontime on a Friday. I guess they really trust people to not touch or steal anything. Most of the items are simply set out, not behind any barriers (again, it was like being in a shop or home).
There are no plaques or explanatory texts anywhere, and the displays are basically a random assortment of collections. In one room, most of the items seemed to be from the 1950s–a collection of those perfume bottles with the squeezy balloon thing, trays of cigarette packs, shelves of cameras, a corner with half a dozen geisha wigs, etc. In one hallway, cases of creepy dolls. A shelf of gas masks. Mannequin limbs. And all throughout, vintage erotica.
It took maybe 30 minutes to get a look at everything. To exit, you can go out the way you came, or you can walk into an adjacent room where Saka products are sold. There are a few shelves with different kinds of crackers, and it’s all incredibly normal and disjointing, considering the preceding weirdness. I bought a bag of their most famous product, the Sapporo Beer Crackers (around ¥100, or $1), and ate them as I walked to the train station.
Retro Space Saka
3-22, 3-7 Nijyuyonken
Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan