Hakodate – 函館 (1/3)
At the entrance of Hokkaidō, surrounded by nature, there is a fascinating city with a western atmosphere: today we will talk about Hakodate, the third major city of the island after Sapporo and Asahikawa.
In this article we are going to write briefly about its history and the ways to access it. For what concerns the touristic aspect we are waiting for you on the next chapter.
The history of the city
Hakodate is a port-city located in Kameda Peninsula, which is part of Oshima Peninsula, in Southern Hokkaidō. The city we can see nowadays comes from a fishermen’s village founded in 1454 by the Usukeshi Ainu clan: it seems that the city originally developed around a palace built by Kōno Masamichi.
Hakodate became a port in the Meiji Period, and reached a considerable development: the foreigners could land in this port, in the same way they could do so in Yokohama and Nagasaki.
The close Russian influence on Hakodate has been important, and this can be simply understood by noticing the presence of Orthodox churches in the town.
Hakodate, already a big city in the beginning of the Shōwa Period, became the major city in Hokkaidō in the early 30’s of the previous century. However, the role of the prefectural capital city was given to Sapporo after the big fire that hit the city in 1934. Moreover, during the prosperity period of Japan and thanks to the establishment of a air transportation system, many inhabitants moved to Sapporo, or went to Tōkyō. Hakodate’s role as Hokkaidō’s entrance became weaker.
Anyway, with the construction of the Seikan Tunnel, reaching Hakodate has become more convenient. In addiction, there is a project to set a Shinkansen line between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate, and from 2016 spring, when the Hokkaido Shinkansen will open, it will be possible to reach it with no change from Tokyo in about 4 hours. We can expect Hakodate to go back to its prosperity!
As written before, it is possible to find many tracks of the colonial times in Hakodate. The city’s atmosphere still reminds a port-city’s one. There are many western buildings, and the churches gently mingle with the rest of the city.
Another peculiarity in Hakodate is the territory where it takes place: the sea surrounds it at east, west and south. In Southern Hakodate there is a dormant volcano called Hakodate-yama. You can enjoy a gorgeous night-view on the peninsula from here. The night-landscapes too are a fascinating characteristic of Hakodate.
Especially for those who intend to travel within Hokkaidō, for reaching Hakodate, one of the island’s most famous spots, getting to Sapporo before is almost essential.
The information about prices and ride durations might vary in time.
There are two airports in Sapporo: Shin-Chitose and Okadama. The first one is linked to Honshū by many direct flights to the major cities, while the second one is the hub for Hokkaido Air System (HAK). From both the airport is possible to reach Hakodate with ANA or HAK in about 45 minutes.
You can reach Hakodate city by bus at the price of 1.200 yen from Hakodate Airport.
Consult this page for timetables: http://tinyurl.com/mdc5nls
The limited express trains “Hokuto” and “Super Hokuto” run between Hakodate and Sapporo. The fare for a ride (3 hours and 30 minutes) is about 9.000 yen. You can feel Hokkaidō’s wide nature spaces from the window. If you have time we advise you to travel by train. Especially, the landscapes around Ōnumakōen Station are breathtaking.
If you want to explore Hokkaidō by train, the “Hokkaidō Free Pass” may be convenient. In addiction, if you enter Hokkaido from Honshu, you can reach first Shin-Aomori Station by the Hayabusa Shinkansen from Tokyo, and then change at this station with the Hakucho Train, crossing the Seikan tunnel. These trains can be very expensive, but are covered if you have got a Japan Rail Pass.
In Sapporo there’s a bus leaving for Hakodate almost every hour: the companies offering such services are Hokkaidō Chūō Bus, Tōnan Bus and Hokkaidō Transports. The fare is about 4.500 yen and the rides take something like 5 hours. There’s also a night-bus service.
Talking about Hokkaidō, car journeys come to mind: its long and wide roads remind of American spaces! On a car trip to Hokkaidō, you have to stop in Hakodate. If you travel on the Hokkaido central highway, you can reach it in 4 hours from Sapporo. The toll fare is 6.500 yen.
( → Hakodate 2/3 )