Hakodate, the southern gateway to Japan, is a picturesque city with many churches and Western-style buildings, and an exotic atmosphere.
The bay area with its brick warehouses and the spectacular night view from Mount Hakodate is not to be missed.
At the morning market, enjoy a bowl of freshly caught seafood. A short distance from Hakodate is Onuma, a beautiful nature spot with Mount Komagatake, Matsumae, the only castle town in Hokkaido, and Esashi, which prospered through herring fishing and trading during the Edo period.
Hakodate was one of the first port towns to open its doors to the world and is dotted with historical buildings that tell the story of the past.
The cobblestone streets leading up to Mt. Hakodate are crowded with tourists who enjoy strolling along the historical romance of the area.
The waterfront area with its retro red brick warehouses is a popular gourmet and shopping area.
Fort Goryokaku is well known by locals and tourists alike for its beautiful seasonal scenery and was the site of the Hakodate War, the last battle of the Boshin War.
It is now open to the public as Goryokaku Park and is well known to both citizens and tourists. The promenade around the perimeter is a popular walking course where visitors can enjoy the changing seasons.
In spring, the area is crowded with people enjoying cherry blossom viewing, and in winter, the snowy landscape is a sight to behold.
The coexistence of the emotional historic site and nature is a beautiful sight. Other colorful flowers such as wisteria trellises and water lilies welcome visitors.
You can also take a rowboat around the moat and enjoy the historic atmosphere of Goryokaku.
Goryokaku Tower is located right next to Goryokaku Park. The tower has an observation deck, stores, a bronze statue of Hijikata Toshizo, and a restaurant.
From the observation room 90 meters above the ground, you can clearly see the star shape of Goryokaku Park and there is also a thrilling see-through floor with part of the floor made of glass, where you can test your nerves.
The impressive Mount Hakodate, located in the western part of Hakodate City at an elevation of 334 meters, is one of Hokkaido’s most popular nighttime scenic spots.
Surrounded on three sides by the sea, Hakodate offers a unique fan-shaped nightscape of the city.
The angle from the top of the mountain overlooking the city is approximately 10 degrees, which is said to be the angle at which the streets are clear and buildings look beautiful.
From August to winter, fishing lights of squid fishermen float from the “Fishing Fire Park” on the right after getting off the ropeway, so please enjoy the night view from this park along with the view from the observatory.
Restaurant Genova is located on the second floor of the observation deck at the summit of the park and is highly acclaimed both domestically and internationally.
A special lunch that includes a round-trip ticket for the ropeway is also available, allowing visitors to enjoy dishes made with Hokkaido ingredients while taking in the scenery.
It is recommended to visit during the daytime as well as at night.
Mount Hakodate Ropeway
Hakodate Ropeway is a ropeway that takes you to the top of the mountain in about 3 minutes and operates every 10 minutes (every 5 minutes during busy times), so there is little waiting time.
The large 125-passenger gondolas have large, open windows and you can enjoy a great view as you zip up to the summit.
Hakodate Morning Market
The always bustling Hakodate Morning Market is a must-visit when sightseeing in Hakodate and is lined with about 250 stores selling fresh seafood, including Hokkaido’s famous crabs and salmon, as well as farm products, seafood rice bowls, squid fishing, and a wide variety of souvenirs and local treats.
The market has a cafeteria where visitors can enjoy fresh seafood purchased early in the morning of the day and offers a variety of delicacies such as fresh squid sashimi that will make any gourmet lover drool.
Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse
The Kanamori Red Brick Warehouse, a 15-minute walk or 13-minute streetcar ride from JR Hakodate Station, was once used as a warehouse for clothing stores during the Meiji era.
Today, restaurants, beer halls, and general merchandise stores are housed within it, making it one of Hakodate’s most popular tourist spots.
Inside the warehouse are many attractive stores, including Hakodate Music Box Store with a collection of cute music boxes, LE CONFITURE which sells thick milk jam made from raw Hokkaido milk, and Hakodate Beer Hall which serves locally brewed beer.
It is also a great place to look for souvenirs.
Motomachi Roman Catholic Church
The serine Motomachi Roman Catholic Church, located in the corner of a group of churches that are representative of the Motomachi area, features a large bell tower with a soaring, pointed roof in the 12th-century Gothic architectural style.
All the pieces in the chancel are about 100 years old and made in Italy. Be sure to admire the wonderful reliefs carved and painted in wood.
You can feel the atmosphere of an authentic Italian church. There is even an altar set given by Pope Benedict XV as a gift for the fire!
The oldest Catholic church in Japan the Church was first built in 1859 but was destroyed by fire twice, and the current building was rebuilt in 1923.
The Motomachi area, which stretches at the foot of Mount Hakodate, is a recommended area that cannot be avoided when touring Hakodate.
It is known as a “town of slopes” dotted with exotic buildings such as the former Hakodate Ward Public Hall, the former British Consulate, and the Hakodate Haristos Orthodox Church.
The slopes seem to have been created in a straight line due to the large fires experienced many times throughout history.
It is recommended to stroll around the area wearing comfortable walking clothes.
Hakodate’s Motomachi is famous for its many slopes, but the most famous of them all is Hachimanzaka, which has appeared many times in TV dramas and movies.
The beautiful road stretches straight out to the sea, and the Seikan Liaison Ship Memorial Museum Mashu Maru can be seen lined up with the road.
It looks completely different depending on the season and time of day, so if photography is your hobby, bring your camera along on your visit.
Former British Consulate And Tea Room Victorian Rose
The fascinating former British Consulate was opened shortly after Hakodate began international trade in 1859 and now the museum exhibits the consul’s office and the living room where the consul’s family spent their days.
After touring the museum, visitors can take a break in the adjoining tea room.
Visitors can enjoy a cup of authentic English tea, afternoon tea, baked goods, cakes, and other delicacies while being surrounded by antique furnishings imported from the United Kingdom.
The English garden behind the building is also a must-see. In early summer, beautiful roses are at their best, adding to the exotic atmosphere. The tea room alone is also available.
Former Hakodate Ward Public Hall
The public hall was completed in 1910 at a total cost of about 58,000 yen with a donation of 50,000 yen (equivalent to 1 billion yen at today’s prices) from Teppei Soma, one of the wealthiest merchants in Hokkaido.
It is a symmetrical colonial-style building with striking blue-gray and yellow colors. It is also known that Emperor Taisho used it as his quarters when he was the Crown Prince.
The wonderful Trappistine Convent was founded in 1898 as the first convent for women in Japan, and the present cathedral was rebuilt in 1927.
The inside of the monastery is very impressive with its serene atmosphere, beautifully landscaped garden, and brick buildings.
Visitors can tour the vestibule and the reference room attached to the store, which is still in use and cannot be entered.
Access: From the Goryokaku Tower bus stop, you can take the Goryokaku Tower-Trapistine shuttle bus to the Trappistine Convent.
From the Trappistine-Mae bus stop, the main gate is just a stone’s throw away, and the entrance is just across the street.
St. John’s Church
St. John’s Church is an Anglican church with a history of over 130 years.
The current building was renovated in 1979 and has a modern design with a domed canopy, which is unusual for an Anglican church.
Russian Orthodox Church
Among the many international cultures in Hakodate, one of the most famous architectural structures is the Hakodate Russian Orthodox Church.
This was the first Russian Orthodox cathedral in Japan and its white walls and blue-green roof create an exotic atmosphere, and the roof is topped with a dome typical of Russian architecture.
There are few buildings around the cathedral that obstruct the view, making it possible to take pictures from various angles.
The building is still used as a church in modern times and is open to the public.
Hakodate Park, which opened in 1879, is a park full of firsts. The park’s mini amusement park named Kodomo no Kuni has Japan’s oldest Ferris wheel.
Near the Hakodate Municipal Museum, the oldest existing museum buildings in Japan, Old Hakodate Museum No. 1 and No. 2, remain.
The first animal facility in Hokkaido houses Hokkaido’s unique animals such as the Ezo squirrel and Ezo raccoon dog.
Hakodate Park is also known as a cherry blossom viewing spot along with Goryokaku Park, with approximately 400 cherry trees in bloom during the cherry blossom viewing season.
Onuma National Park
Onuma National Park is a vast natural park with beautiful lakes and marshes of various sizes created by the eruption of Komagatake, the symbol of the southern area of Hokkaido.
Visitors can take a cruise on a motorboat, a walk on the water in a rowboat, or rent a bicycle for a tour around the lakeside.
The park is within day trip distance from downtown Hakodate, so if you have time to spare, you should definitely consider visiting.
Yunokawa Onsen is located in Hakodate. Enjoy the nostalgic townscape of this town, which is regularly ranked as one of the best hot spring resorts, with its hot spring baths, gourmet local food, botanical gardens, shrines, and Buddhist temples.
For your Hakodate sightseeing tour, Yunokawa is the perfect place to stay as it is easily accessible to popular spots and just 5 minutes by car from Hakodate Airport.
It’s also famous for its bathing monkeys who can be seen as they take a dip during the winter months at the Botanical Gardens.
Cape Tachimachi Misaki
Located southeast of Mount Hakodate, the picturesque cape Tachimachi Misaki faces the Tsugaru Straits. On a clear day, the Shimokita Peninsula and the Tsugaru Peninsula Aomori can be clearly seen across the Tsugaru Straits.
Visit Hokkadido’s Favourite Convenience store
Seicomart, known by the nickname Seikoma is a local convenience store with many stores mainly in Hokkaido. Selling lunchboxes, prepared foods, original products, and limited-edition items, Seicomart enjoys a strong following among Hokkaido residents.
The store offers a variety of hot rice bowls, boxed lunches, rice balls, fried chicken, and other items handmade in the store’s kitchen.
Lucky Pierrot is a popular hamburger store that is popular among Hakodate residents.
It’s famous for its different decorations and menus at each restaurant, so there is always something new to discover at each one.
Hakodate citizens love this local delicacy, and it is well worth a try.
Things To Do In Hakodate in Winter
In December, visitors can enjoy “Hakodate Christmas Fantasy” in front of the Red Brick Warehouse, where a 20-meter-high Christmas tree is decorated with approximately 150,000 lights.
Don’t miss “Dream of Goryo Star,” in which the star-shaped Goryokaku moat is decorated with approximately 2,000 lights.
In early February, visitors can also enjoy “Hakodate Winter Fireworks,” a large fireworks display in the winter night sky.
More Things To Do In Hakodate Japan
Here are a few more things to do in Hakodate and the nearby Area
- Have a ball during the Hakodate Port festival in August each year
- Visit the Hakodate Museum of Art
- Order a bowl of the delicious Hakodate shio ramen
- See the fine architecture of the Hakodate City Office in the city center
- Visit the Old Soma Residence
- Take a ride on Hakodate’s extensive tram system
- Travel to Esashi and learn about the old Hokkaido herring trade
- Eat some juicy crabs
Traveling To Hakodate By Train
If you are using the JAPAN RAIL PASS, an unlimited train ticket for foreigners visiting Japan provided by the JR Group, it is best to visit by Shinkansen.
From Tokyo Station, take the Tohoku/Hokkaido Shinkansen to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, the last stop on the line, and transfer to the Hakodate Liner to get to Jr Hakodate Train Station with only one transfer.
The Shinkansen ride takes about 4 hours, while the Hakodate Liner takes about 20 minutes. Although it takes a little longer than air travel to Hakodate Airport, it is easier than flying.
Also, if you are traveling from Ginza, Akihabara, or other areas near Tokyo Station, the time required is not much different from that of flying, considering the time required to travel to Haneda Airport.