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Hakodate in Hokkaido is a popular tourist destination with enough spectacular scenery to enjoy time and time again. With a wide variety of exciting sightseeing locations such as Goryokaku, Mount Hakodate, and the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse, there is no doubt that Hakodate should be a must-visit destination on any Hokkaido lovers’ itinerary. Not to mention that as a port city, Hakodate is one of the best places in Japan to enjoy delicious fresh seafood! In this issue, we will introduce three must-see tourist spots in Hakodate.
The unique charm of Hakodate
Hakodate, located in the southern part of Hokkaido, is not only famous for its snowy scenery, but also for its abundance of unique year-round tourist attractions, such as its famous star-shaped fort and sparkling night views. This bustling northern city is a captivating place to visit, no matter the season!
Furthermore, Hakodate, which opened its port to international trade in 1859, retains many unique architectural structures inspired by Western culture. Surrounded by the Tsugaru Straits, the Pacific Ocean and Uchiura Bay, the city also boasts abundant marine produce caught fresh from its expansive natural fishing grounds. Whether you are a foodie, architecture enthusiast or nature lover, Hakodate has something for you!
Take in the million-dollar nightscape at Mount Hakodate
Mount Hakodate, one of the most famous sightseeing spots in Hakodate, is located in the southwestern part of Hakodate and stands 334 meters above sea level. From the famous observatory, visitors can gaze upon the unique topography of the city, which is flanked on both sides by Hakodate Bay and the Tsugaru Straits in two distinct concave arcs. During the day, the observatory offers beautiful panoramic views of the city surrounded by sparkling blue oceans, and at night, the lights of the city begin to glow quietly, creating a dreamlike and fantastic scene.
The view from Mt. Hakodate has been awarded three stars by the Michelin Green Guide Japan. Also known as the "Million Dollar Nightscape", it is a sight worth seeing at least once in your lifetime.
There are several ways to reach the Mount Hakodate Observatory. The Mount Hakodate Ropeway takes only 3 minutes to reach the observatory, with plenty of pretty scenery viewable from the windows on the way up. There is also an easy hiking trail up the mountain, which takes approximately one hour to walk to the top. Hikers can enjoy observing the flora of the four magnificent seasons along the leisurely trail and feel a sense of achievement as the cityscape of Hakodate stretches out below them!
The store at the summit observatory sells special exclusive souvenirs that can only be found at Mount Hakodate. Souvenir packets of lamb curry made in collaboration with Hakodate’s famous ‘Gotoken’ restaurant and 1.5-times concentrated bottles of Hokkaido’s beloved ‘guarana’ soft drink are available, as well as rare reprint edition Gondola Choro-Q, t-shirts, and glow-in-the-dark postcards.
Hakodate Ropeway Sanroku Station
- Address: 19-7 Motomachi, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido
- Access: Transfer from JR Hakodate Station to the streetcar, get off at 'Jyujigai' and walk to Mount Hakodate Ropeway Sanroku Station.
- Official Website: https://334.co.jp/en/
Enjoy the retro atmosphere at Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse
When Hakodate opened its port, the shipping industry boomed, and merchant Kumashiro Watanabe seized the opportunity to open a warehouse in Hakodate in 1887. Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse was later destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt in 1909 using flame-resistant materials and later transformed into a commercial facility in 1988. The vintage, over-100-year-old red brick walls exude a sense of history and charm that words cannot describe. This beautiful piece of architecture have now been divided into four areas – the perfect place for spending a relaxing day shopping and eating.
'BAY Hakodate' stands on both banks of the canal, linked by a bridge. Inside, in the ‘Hakodate Music Box Hall’, a large number of ornate wooden and glass music boxes are arranged together in a museum-like display of beauty. While there, be sure to also try the crispy ‘PATATE HAKODATE’ croquettes, which are fried on the spot and full of flavor. Dig in while enjoying the calming views of the canal outside. Don't forget to take a picture in front of the 'Bell of Happiness' before leaving!
‘Nippon CHA CHA CHA’ and ‘Aoi Mori’ in the Kanemori Youbutsukan are great places to buy Hakodate-exclusive souvenirs. The former is a store that exudes playfulness and creativity, selling unique Japanese crafts and daily necessities. The latter sells more traditional souvenirs, including cute cookies packaged in the shape of the red brick warehouse. Also popular with tourists is ‘Snaffle's’, where you can enjoy a simple yet hearty set meal of a cheese omelet and mini coffee at the standing counter.
Those interested in traditional Japanese culture may want to visit ‘Hakodate History Plaza’. Chopstick specialty store ‘Handmade Chopsticks Studio Yuzen Hakodate’ offers a wide variety of chopsticks and a free personalized chopstick imprinting service for the perfect gift or memento of your trip to Hakodate. ‘Hakodate Romankan’, a glass and crystal museum and store, has preserved the walls of the red brick warehouse in excellent condition, and the romantic retro atmosphere is nothing short of captivating.
Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse
- Address: 14-12 Suehiro-cho, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido
- Access: 15-minute walk from JR Hakodate Station, or 5-minute walk from 'Jyujigai' streetcar stop.
- Official Website: https://hakodate-kanemori.com/en
Enjoy the four seasons of the Goryokaku Star Fort Ruins at Goryokaku Tower
Stars are not only in the sky! Did you know that the ruins of Goryokaku Fort in Hakodate also make a giant pentagonal star shape on the ground? Hakodate opened its port at the end of the Edo period (1603-1867), and as a result, foreign merchants poured into the city to trade with the locals. In order to properly manage this influx of people and to protect the city, the Tokugawa Shogunate ordered architect Takeda Ayasaburo to build Goryokaku. Takeda, who had received a prestigious Western education, designed this pentagram-shaped castle based on European models. This was unprecedented at the time, and it served as a demonstration of the great construction capabilities of Japan’s new era.
Goryokaku is a historically significant place that showcased the unity of the feudal system. Today the ruins of Goryokaku are not only a special historical site, but also an intriguing sightseeing spot with fantastic seasonal scenery. In Goryokaku Park around the Goryokaku Ruins, visitors can enjoy dainty cherry blossoms in spring, lush fresh greenery in summer, vivid autumn leaves in fall, and silvery white landscapes in winter. From the top of Goryokaku Tower, it’s possible to look down on the entire Goryokaku site from the above and admire the incredible star-shaped design.
Goryokaku Tower was built in 2006, with the second floor of the observation deck reaching a grand 90 meters high. The pentagonal shape of the tower provides a 360-degree panoramic view, not just of the Goryokaku grounds, but also the city, Hakodate Bay, and Mount Hakodate. To avoid the crowds, try visiting the first floor of the observatory, where there is also an exclusive souvenir store.
For shopaholics who want to indulge more, there is also a store on the ground floor that offers a wide variety of great products. There are plenty of souvenirs, including limited edition products available only at Goryokaku Tower, as well as Hokkaido-related sweet treats, decorative items, crafts, and more! When you are done taking in the scenery and shopping, why not enjoy a relaxing meal in the restaurant area on the second floor? A fun visit to Goryokaku Tower will enable you to learn about Japan's history, enjoy the beautiful scenery, and satisfy your stomach and shopping urges!
- Address: 43-9 Goryokaku-cho, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido
- Access: 15-minute walk from ‘Goryokaku Koen-mae’ stop on the streetcar from JR Hakodate Station, or 7-minute walk from ‘Goryokaku Koen Iriguchi’ stop on the bus.
- Official Website: https://www.goryokaku-tower.co.jp/en/
Hakodate is a famous historical city that attracts floods of visitors with its unique architectural features and delicious gourmet culture. If you have not yet been to any of the three places introduced here, add them to your itinerary for next time you are in Hakodate!