Hakodate – 函館 (2/3)
Here is the second part of our article about Hakodate.
So, let’s take a look to the touristic spots of this city!
Hakodate can be basically split in three interest areas:
1) Hakodate peninsula and the Mount Hakodate (we are to talk about in this article)
2) Goryōkaku area
3) Yu-no-kawa area, to be presented in another article.
Main spots of Hakodate
Asaichi (morning fish market)
Just a few steps away from Hakodate Station the famous Asaichi fresh fish market is located.
This area wakes up at 5:00 (6:00 in the winter), and it is possible to taste delicious fresh sea products.
The main ones are sea urchins, fish eggs and crabs, but everything can be found in the sea of Hokkaidō.
The amount of sashimi you would get in Tōkyō for 3.000 yen can be enjoyed here as cheap as 1.500 yen, and the flavor is assured!
Not only fresh fish can be purchased here, but it is possible to buy the tasty Hokkaido Yubari melon, and if you are courageous enough, you can try the “odori ika”, a squid still living that will keep moving its tentacles inside your mouth. (well, I wasn’t courageous enough, I must admit that!)
Access: exit the station and go right.
Time schedule: early morning-afternoon (please, note: if you don’t get here early enough everything could be sold-out).
Kanemori red brick storehouses
Walking toward Hakodate-yama from Asaichi you can see some red tiled storehouses along the sea.
These storehouses, witnesses of the old port-city days, are now restaurants, beer houses or souvenir shops.
Especially, we recommend you to visit this souvenirs and decorations shops, where you can find many fancy accessories and ornamental goods.
Among these brick buildings you can see the former Post Office, called Meiji-kan. The exterior part is covered by ivy.
The canals between the building create a sort of Venetian atmosphere.
This spot gets very nice thanks to the Christmas lights in the winter time.
Access: 15 minutes walking from the Asaichi area, 5 minutes walking from “Jūjigai” tramway stop
Time schedules: depending on single shops.
The area of Motomachi is the historical heart of Hakodate city.
This part of the town separates the Station area from Sakaemachi and, as you get off the tram, you enter a place where time has stopped:
the shape of a church, Hakodate-yama on the background, the deep blue sea, it feels like you are not in Japan any more.
Also, since this area has the shape of a fan, the more you go towards the sea the more it gets narrow.
Among the spots named “-zaka” (meaning “slope”), Hachiman-zaka is the most famous.
Walking further from the sea the altitude increases gently and you can have a view on the harbor from here.
In this place you feel immersed in the city, therefore many tourists take pictures standing in the middle of the road (pay attention while you’re taking pictures, sometimes car may pass here).
Another uphill road is Chacha-nobori. “Chacha” means “grandfather” in the Ainu language (Ainus are the indigenous population of Hokkaido), the name of this road seems to come from the bend-over position people assume while walking uphill.
The Orthodox church of Hakodate, called “Gangan-ji”, is also called the Resurrection Cathedral is an important national cultural site.
The building is built in Byzantine style, and as an orthodox church contains many golden icons.
The church is surrounded by a garden full of roses.
Just a few meters south the catholic church of Moto-machi. The weather van on the spire is a landmark.
Close to the orthodox church, westwards, there is another western stile building built in the Meiji period in a fancy colonial style, which was the Public Hall of Hakodate.
The contrast between the golden roof and the light blue walls is nice from each point of view.
If you pay for the entrance, you can visit also the inside of the building, and from the balcony on the second floor you can have a view on the harbor.
Aside this building the Motomachi Park takes place.
This is also a scenic area and it’s a perfect spot for a break during your visit. Here, many events and concerts are held during the year.
Among the buildings in the park, one hosts an exhibition about old cameras, while another one is the Hakodate’s tourism association building. Here you can ask for directions, maps or pamphlets.
Walking down the park stairs you reach the former English Consulate.
There is also a pavilion among the flowers which decorate the building.
This building hosts a museum about the opening of Hakodate to the foreigners merchants in the past.
There are other interesting spots in this area: Ice cream-dōri is a road which links some tourist locations in Motomachi.
You will surely encounter many girls publicizing their own ice cream shop, giving you discount coupons and claiming that their shop is the best in the city; don’t know if it’s true, however I got some ice cream here. There is also a small church along the road.
Access: 10 minuts walking from “Suehiro-chō” tramway station.
Going on, westwards, you come by the feet of Hakodate-yama, whose shape is circular, and it is immediately possible to see the see. Here the foreigners graveyard takes place. Fom the opening of the harbor, many foreigners came to Hakodate. Those who couldn’t go back to their country now rest here. Not many tourists come all the way to this place, so you can enjoy the view on the sea and Mount Komagatake in a tranquil place. You can find also some little coffee houses, good for a break while looking the sea or for a light meal.
Next to graveyard there is Kōryū-ji Buddhist temple, by its gate “San-mon” it is possible to see a decorative sculpture settled there.
Going along the way the number of the buildings gets lower and lower, and you finally reach Irifune-machi, where the road ends, and virtually you cannot go further.
Access: 10 minuts walking from “dokku-mae” tramway stop (final stop).
The night view that one can admire from Hakodate-yama is just impressive, and considered one of the three best night views of Japan, along with Kobe and Nagasaki. Getting to the top by cable-car represents the quickest way: the return ticket costs 1.160 yen, and cable-cars leave every 5-10 minutes; it runs from 9:00 to 22:00 (21:00 in the winter).
The height of Hakodate-yama is 334 meters, and you can enjoy a wide view on the city. In clear days it it possible to see a large portion of Aomori, looking southwards to Honshū. I went slightly before the sunset, so I could enjoy either the day view and the spectacular night view.
It is said that the most nice timing to see the night view is about 30 minutes after the sunset, so during the so called “blue hour”.
From the tramway last stop, “Yachigashira“, go towards the sea. Walking along the bank you come to a tranquil neighborhood of fishermen, heading to Tachimachi-misaki. The road gets steeper. There is a graveyard on the left, and among the graves you can see the historical Ishikawa Kuboku family’s one. The sea and the shape of Hakodate is visible from here, and this landscape looks somewhere Irish, with steep cliffs covered by grass and cloudy sky.
Going on you come by a car parking followed by a path. The buildings are few, you can see a side of the mountain: the steep cliff is splendid. If the weather is good you can see Aomori if you look toward Tsugaru Strait.
For the ones who want to explore Tachimachi-misaki there is also a hiking path. On the plain called Senjōjiki, where the ruins of a military post take place.
In this second part we introduced the tourist spots in Hakodate Peninsula and at Hakodate-yama’s feet.
We will soon write about Goryōkaku and Yu-no-kawa areas!