With the grand opening of the Hokkaido bullet train that now allows direct access from Tokyo by land, there are more modes of transport to Hakodate city. Hakodate is a city located in the south of Hokkaido, and it was ranked as the most attractive city in Japan by the Brand Research Institute Incorporated in 2014 and 2015. Filled with fantastic seafood, rich history, great scenery, and magnificent onsen, it sounds great, doesn’t it?!
1. Hokkaido’s jewel box!? The night view from Mount Hakodate
With Hakodate Bay on the left and the Tsugaru Strait on the right, the night view of Hakodate is so spectacular it looks almost like a painting. Awarded a 3/3 star review in The Michelin Green Guide: Japan, the scenic views from Mount Hakodate are bound to entrance and captivate you.
2. The star-shaped fortress of Hakodate Goryokaku
When firearms started becoming more mainstream during war combat more than 150 years ago, the older Japanese-style fortresses started to become ineffective in defending the tenshu kaku, or the central tower of a Japanese castle. When the Convention of Kanagawa, also known as the Japan-US Treaty of Peace and Amity, was signed in 1854, Western culture was brought into Japan, giving rise to the Western-style of fortress building – the star-shaped fort. Hakodate Goryokaku is one of only two castles in Japan that showcases the star design, the other being Shizuoka Castle.
Goryokaku and Tower
Address: 4 Goryokakucho, Hakodate, Hokkaido
Access info: 7 minutes’ walk from JR Goryokaku Station or 15 minutes’ drive from JR Hakodate Station
Opening hours: 9:00 to 18:00
Fixed holiday: please ask
Contact: +81 138-51-4785
Entrance fee: 840 JPY (7.60 USD) for access to tower observation deck
3. A panoramic view from Goryokaku Tower
Goryokaku Tower not only allows you to view Hakodate Goryokaku, but also gives you a fantastic bird’s eye view of the whole of Hakodate. Goryokaku Tower was built in 1964 to commemorate the 100th-year anniversary of Hakodate Goryokaku and was renovated and reopened in 2006. The view from the 90-metre-high (295-foot-high) observatory is simply stunning!
4. Find out about the Battle of Hakodate
Also located within the Hakodate Goryokaku site is Hakodate Magistrate’s office (Hakodate Bugyosho). Built in the centre of Goryokaku, it served as a courthouse and saw historical events such as the Battle of Hakodate. This was a war between a traditional Samurai dynasty (Edo) versus the new movement of Meiji troops that supported the Imperial government. Though dismantled during the Meiji Era, it was restored in 2010 and is now open to the public. There are various artefacts on display inside and it is the best place to learn more about the the Battle of Hakodate.
Hakodate Magistrate’s office (Hakodate Bugyosho)
Address: 44-3 Goryokakucho
Access info: In the centre of Goryokaku
Opening hours: 9:00 - 16:45 (last entry)
Fixed holiday: Dec 31th - Jan 3rd every year
Contact: +81 138-51-2864
Entrance fee: 500 JPY (4.50 USD)
5. The retro townscape of the Hakodate Bay area
Hakodate, along with cities like Yokohama and Nagasaki, was one of the first international trade ports to be opened in Japan. With a splendid mix of Japanese and Western culture, the Hakodate Bay area has a townscape that is reminiscent of the Taisho and Showa eras. The shops and cafés that line the street are worth visiting too!
6. Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse
Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse was built soon after Hakodate was opened as an international port, and is now one of the symbols of Hakodate. Though some of the buildings are still used as warehouses today, most of them are now shopping centres and restaurants. It is located near Mount Hakodate and many people enjoy the magnificent sunset here before making their way to Mount Hakodate for the night view.
Kanemori Red Bricks Warehouse
Address: 14-12 Suehirocho, Hakodate, Hokkaido
Access info: 15 minutes’ walk or 5 minutes’ taxi ride from JR Hakodate Station
Opening hours: 9:30 - 19:00 (for shops), 11:30 - 22:00 (beer hall)
Fixed holiday: nil
Contact: +81 138-27-5530
Entrance fee: free
7. Indulge at the Donburi Yokocho Market
Located just a minutes’ walk away from Japan Railway’s Hakodate Station, Hakodate Asaichi (Hakodate Morning Market) is perhaps the most luxurious place to have breakfast. With numerous fresh seafood items available, including squid, sea urchins, scallops and many more, it’s just so hard to make a decision! Donburi Yokocho Market, located at the entrance of Hakodate Asaichi, lets you have a blend of these seafood treats in a Japanese donburi style.
Hakodate Asaichi (Hakodate morning market)
Address: 9-19 Wakamatsuchō, Hakodate-city, Hokkaido
Access info: 1-minute walk from JR Hakodate Station
Opening hours: 6:00 - noon
Fixed holiday: depending on the retails
Entrance fee: Free
8. Try squid fishing!
The squid delicacies of Hakodate definitely have to be on your bucket list. The katsuika tsuri (squid fishing), also found in Hakodate Asaichi, allows you to not just fish, but to have the squid prepared right before your eyes. The cook will help prepare the squid into sashimi once you fish them out of the water- you can’t have squid sashimi any fresher than this!
Hotel and Spa Resort, La Vista Hakodate Bay, is well-known as the hotel with the best breakfast in Japan. Not only is their breakfast selection full of fresh seafood, La Vista also specialises in local Hakodate dishes, Western food, and confectionary.
Yunohama Hotel is located near the Hakodate Streetcar station of Yunokawa Onsen. Its famous onsen, the Shiosai Isaribi Rotenburo, is an open-air onsen where you can have a spectacular view of the Tsugaru Strait and the Pacific Ocean. You will notice lots of lights along the Tsugaru Straits while enjoying the Onsen; these are the isaribi – lights used by fishermen to attract fish.
Yunokawa Onsen has over 360 years of history and is conveniently located a 5-minute car ride from Hakodate Airport, and 15 minutes from the Japan Railway Hakodate Station. Among the hotels where you can have a relaxing time in Yunokawa Onsen is the Yunokawa Prince Hotel. Rated as a five-star hotel for 9 consecutive years between 2005 and 2014, Yunokawa Prince Hotel offers the best panoramic views of the Tsugaru Straits. Out of the 175 rooms available, 115 of them have a rotenburo (open-air bath) on the balcony.
Explore the wonders of Hakodate
Hakodate is now one of the trending destinations for a trip to Hokkaido. From the night view from Mount Hakodate to the historical Hakodate Goryokaku, you will be constantly excited by the wonders that Hakodate has to offer. Also filled with great food, such as squid cuisine and the famous LeTAO, it is a great place for both all city, history, and food lovers!
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