Hakodate – 函館 (3/3)
In this third and last part of our special article about Hakodate, we will mainly talk about Goryōkaku area, in the northern part of the city!
During the expansion of Hakodate’s port, not only commerce, but also navy and military related facilities grew considerably. To protect the access to the peninsula from the north, Goryokaku fort was established, however, instead of recalling a Japanese Castle, the Goryokaku fort was built following a western concept.
Since the Goryōkaku area is located far away from Hakodate Station, reaching it by foot requires time, so we advise you to travel by public transportation, such as bus or tram.
At the tram stop in front of Hakodate Station square, step on the tram heading to Yunokawa and get off at Goryōkaku Kōen-mae stop.
From the tram stop you have to go back a few metres by foot, on the direction your tram came. You will immediately be at an intersection, and will see the Goryōkaku Tower.
The Goryōkaku Tower is 107 mt high, which makes it the highest point of Hakodate after Mount Hakodate itself.
From the tower’s observatory it is possible to admire the star-shaped Goryōkaku Park.
We recommend it especially during the cherries blooming season (from the end of May to June), it is absolutely wonderful!
Official website: http://www.goryokaku-tower.co.jp/
This park, containing the Goryokaku fort, the first western-style fort in Japan, was built during the Boshin War. In the development period, it would have defended Hakodate from a possible invasion by a western country.
From a ground level view one can’t realize, but from a high located spot, such the Hakodate Tower in the nearby area, the shape of a star immediately shows up. The park is surrounded by a canal, and you can rent a boat to explore it.
In the park’s heart a rebuilt version of the Hakodate Magistrate’s Office takes place. This building seems to be built in a Japanese style, but the impression it gives differs from the other castles of Japan.
Every year, on Summer weekends the Hakodate Magistrate’s Office becomes a theater stage. More than 500 volunteers take part of the event and interesting shows are held.
In the eastern part of Hakodate the Yunokawa area is located, reachable by getting off at the last stop of the tramway line.
After a long stroll through the city, how about relaxing at a traditional onsen (hot spring)?
Of course there is plenty of one-day-stay onsens in this area.
Close to the Yunokawa-onsen stop there is a free footbath (ashiyu), while near the terminal stop,
Yunokawa, one of the must see spots of this area takes place, namely, the Yukura Shrine.
The Trappistine Monastery is located east from the Yu no Kawa tram stop. This was the first women monastery of Japan, and nowadays is a popular tourist spot. The Madleine cakes and cookies made here are among the most famous souvenirs from Hakodate!
The Kyū-Iwafune-shi Garden and the Miharashi Garden are located North from the Yu no Kawa stop.
Here you can see about 150 different kind of trees, and especially Miharashi Garden is very popular during the Fall season, when the leaves’ colors are enlightened at night with different techniques.
Finally, let’s talk about Hakodate’s culinary delights!
Beside the Asaichi fish products we introduced previously, there are many other delicious things to try in Hakodate.
One of these is Hakodate Ramen, part of Hakodate’s tradition since 1884. There are many versions of it, but the most characteristic one is the chicken broth soup, you can distinguish it by its transparency.
Western dishes and sweets are also really delicious, especially dairy products and bread.
The connection between Hakodate and the West is strong, there are many influences from Russian and French cuisine.
Hakodate is a wonderful city, it considerably exceeded my expectations, and deserves absolutely more than a day of visit.
It is not a big city such as Sapporo, to remain in Hokkaido, but I think there is plenty of spots to visit.
In Hakodate, while being in Japan I could feel like being in a western country due to the atmosphere of the streets, and the architecture of many buildings. The nature, the sea and the mountains of Hakodate are great and gorgeous, so Hakodate can conjugate a deep sense of freedom and intense historical features.
There are surely other spots to visit that we didn’t mention in this article, such as Onuma Park, with the inconfondibile silhouette of Mount Komagatake, or the little town of Matsumae, protecting the northernmost Japanese Castle!