Birth of Hokkaido Prefectural Onuma Park
Onuma Park continues to develop as a beautiful sightseeing spot.
In 1903, when the railway between Hakodate and Otaru was opened, the Hokkaido Legislative Assembly recognized the scenic beauty of Onuma and submitted a proposal to the Director General of the Hokkaido Government, claiming that Onuma should be a prefectural park as a part of the development of Hokkaido and should be developed as a sightseeing spot for visitors from home and abroad. In response to this proposal, the Hokkaido Government had Counsellor Takaoki Yokoyama investigate the potential of Onuma as a sightseeing spot. Counsellor Yokoyama carefully examined Onuma Park with the help of local leaders, and created the draft of a project to develop the park. Based on the project, the Hokkaido Government made a plan to turn Onuma into a large prefectural park, with which the government set an area of around 161,000 m2 as a planned park site and steadily advanced the development of the area including excavation for road construction.
In 1913, the Hokkaido Government asked Seiroku Honda, a doctor of forestry, to design Onuma Park. Dr. Honda investigated and surveyed the site to make a design plan (reform plan) before submitting it to the Hokkaido Legislative Assembly. After that, measures for Onuma Park were implemented based on the reform plan to improve the park. In October 1921, the Japanese Government accepted an application from the Hokkaido Government and gave permission to use Onuma as a park. In the following year, Onuma Park was formally established as a prefectural park.
Taking the opportunity of the inauguration of Onuma Park as a prefectural park, volunteers, including Hokkaido Legislative Assembly members, launched the Onuma Conservation Association. In the hope of developing Onuma, this association was formed to conserve the scenic beauty of Onuma forever and introduce it to people at home and abroad. In those days, Onuma Park was one of only a few parks in Hokkaido, and there was a strong desire to turn Onuma Park into a world-famous park and make the park a center for the development of Hokkaido. Great expectations were placed on Onuma Park.
In 1915, Onuma was selected as one of the New Three Views of Japan along with Yabakei and Miho no Matsubara. The Onuma electric railway was opened in 1927, and an observation tower commanding views of Onuma Park was completed on Karakasayama in 1931. At 23 meters above the ground and a height of 45 meters from the lake surface, this tower allows visitors to enjoy panoramic views of Onuma as well as the distant Ikusagawa area. In this way, Onuma built a foundation as a major sightseeing spot.
［Failed to be promoted to a national park］
In summer 1928, Osaka Mainichi Newspapers sought candidates for the New Eight Views of Japan. Onuma tried but was regrettably left out of the final selection. It was a disappointment because this might have led to a nomination to become a national park. In 1931, when the Home Ministry began selection for national parks, Onuma ran for selection as part of an area including Mori, Sawara, Shikabe, Usujiri and Hakodate. A petition was submitted, but it was not accepted. So, a large southern Hokkaido area including Onuma, Noboribetsu and Toyako was set as a candidate area, and this alternative plan was submitted. However, Onuma could not realize its ambition of becoming a national park.
After that, Onuma successfully developed, but then the whole country was involved in the turmoil of war, and Onuma was no exception. It sacrificed a lot until the end of the war, but then rapidly recovered from the devastation of the war. Reconstruction works included the renovation of bridges between islets in the lakes, the relocation of stores in Park Square, the installment of a Ferris wheel and a water chute based on the Onuma Park Five Year Improvement Plan, the construction of bridges for sightseeing on the lake, and the greening of Park Square. The drilling of hot springs was an absolute must, but it was tried many times in vain. The reconstruction of Onuma was not limited to facility improvements. With the slogan, “tourism is the only resource left for Japan,” the Onuma Tourism Association was established on May 13, 1949. The association was committed to steering the tourism of Onuma thereafter.
［Birth of Onuma Quasi-National Park］
In 1957, there were voices from various sectors hoping to promote Onuma to a quasi-national park. The movement became active, and a request was submitted to the Hokkaido Government. In July the following year, Hokkaido Prefectural Onuma Park was designated as a quasi-national park, and Onuma and Mt. Komagatake were collectively placed under state control as a special protection zone. From its establishment, the Onuma Tourism Association took control of tourism in Onuma and set out a course for developing tourism by organizing unique events as well as the Onuma Hakodate Snow and Ice Festival, the Long Distance Relay Race, the Lake Festival and the Fall Foliage Festival.
The Nanae Onuma International Tourism and Convention Association was established to take over the business of the Onuma Tourism Association, actively promote participatory and experience-based tourism and further develop the tourism of Nanae Town.