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Hakodate's Goryokaku and Detective Conan: The Million-Dollar Pentagram (Spoilers)

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Detective Conan: The Million-Dollar Pentagram is the latest movie in the animated series and is set in Hakodate. Read to learn about three anecdotes from Goryokaku’s history and the Shinsengumi that will make you enjoy the film even more!

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Know Goryokaku to Better Appreciate the Latest Conan Movie!


Detective Conan: The Million-Dollar Pentagram’s Theatrical Trailer

Detective Conan: The Million-Dollar Pentagram was released in theaters on April 12, 2024. The suspense drama is set in Hakodate and revolves around swords that belonged to Toshizo Hijikata of the Shinsengumi.

Our writer went to see the movie on April 13, the day after its release. His heart was racing, and he grinned from ear to ear for two hours while watching Heiji Hattori, the Great Detective of the West, and Kaito Kid in action while swooning over Heiji’s romance with Kazuha Toyama.

The Goryokaku Fort plays a central role in this year’s movie. The star-shaped fort is a rare structure in Japan that is significant to the Shinsengumi.

This article will outline three facts about Goryokaku that will make watching this movie even more enjoyable.

*This article does not contain any major spoilers regarding the movie's main plot. However, a section introduces basic details from the movie, so please read this article after you’ve seen the movie if you don't want to know any spoilers.

1. Why Is the Goryokaku Fort Star-Shaped?

Goryokaku

Photo by Pixta

Detective Conan: The Million-Dollar Pentagram is a story about pentagrams, as the title suggests, that appear everywhere and act as a clue to solving the mystery.

The pentagram, of course, refers to the Goryokaku Fort. Goryokaku is beautiful, but why did this mysteriously shaped spot come to be in the first place?

Construction began on Goryokaku in 1857 during the Edo Period. The place started being used in 1864.

The 1854 Japan-US Treaty of Peace and Amity prompted the construction of Goryokaku. This treaty ended the policy of national seclusion from the Edo Period and mandated that the cities of Shimoda and Hakodate open their ports to foreign countries.

At the time, the homes and offices of government officials were located in downtown Hakodate, but there were security issues. For this reason, a fort was made so government offices could be moved further inland.

Elvas, Portugal

The star fort in Elvas, Portugal Photo by Pixta

Ayasaburo Takeda, a scholar in European studies, designed the fort’s exterior walls. He obtained information on European fort architecture design from French soldiers visiting Hakodate and designed Goryokaku’s fortress walls.

Europe is home to several star-shaped forts. This style of architecture initially developed in Italy around the 15th century. It later became widespread and constructed across Europe.

But why is a star an ideal shape? For example, cannons placed on the walls of a circular fort would create blind spots. However, by placing cannons on the tips of a star fort, the army can go on the offensive without nearly any blind spots from all angles.

Afterward, star forts declined due to the development of artillery weapons that could fire from high-elevation angles (in the sky).

Nonetheless, the fortified walls of star fortresses such as Palmanova in Italy and Elvas in Portugal still exist today and have become World Heritage sites.

2. How are Goryokaku and Toshizo Hijikata Related?

Toshizo Hijikata

The bronze Toshizo Hijikata statue in Takahata Fudoson, Tokyo

Toshizo Hijikata (1835-1869) of the Shinsengumi makes a guest appearance in Detective Conan: The Million-Dollar Pentagram. Now then, how are Goryokaku and Toshizo Hijikata related to each other?

Toshizo Hijikata is a historical figure who was vice-commander of the Shinsengumi, an elite group of warriors commissioned by the shogunate and active during the late Edo Period.

In 1868, a battle (Boshin War) took place between the forces of the new Meiji government and the former shogunate. Toshizo Hijikata and his fellow Shinsengumi members fought with the shogunate army in this war.

Matsumae Castle

Fukuyama Castle in Matsumae, famously known for its cherry blossoms. Photo by Pixta

However, after being defeated in the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, the former shogunate army headed for Hokkaido through the Tohoku region.

Then comes October 1868. The former shogunate army entered Hakodate and occupied the Goryokaku Fortress. Toshizo Hijikata assumed a key position as the Army Commissioner and commanded the attack on Fukuyama Castle in present-day Matsumae the following November.

However, the former shogunate army gradually found themselves in a disadvantageous position. The Kaiyo Maru, a battleship crucial for the shogunate army, was wrecked, and foreign countries began rallying behind the new government forces.

Toshizo Hijikata

Ippongi Kanmon. Photo by Pixta

The following year, in March 1869, the new government forces sailed on a fleet from Shinagawa, Tokyo, and attacked the former shogunate army. On April 9, the army disembarked in Hokkaido.

Toshizo Hijikata commanded his troops and engaged with the new government forces on the mountain path leading to Hakodate from Esashi. His troops managed to fight off their attack. However, his troops inevitably had no choice but to retreat immediately due to the defeat of their comrades in other areas of the battle.

On May 11, the new government forces attacked the remaining shogunate army in Hakodate and Goryokaku. Toshizo Hijikata led his troops in a sortie from the besieged Goryokaku. However, he lost his life in battle.

The exact location of his death is unknown, but it is believed to have been near the Ippongi Kanmon (checkpoint gate).

Strictly speaking, Goryokaku was not where Toshizo Hijikata was killed, but it is often referred to as a place that occupied a significant part of his final days. For this reason, the Goryokaku Tower is decorated with statues of Toshizo Hijikata.

Moreover, Detective Conan: The Million-Dollar Pentagram opens with Toshizo Hijikata receiving the Seiryoto, a sword with a star-shaped guard. There are no hints of winter outside, so this scene most likely takes place in 1869 between March and April.

Handsome and Cultured? Who Was Toshizo Hijikata?

Toshizo Hijikata

A statue of Toshizo Hijikata in Goryokaku Tower. Photo by Pixta

Toshizo Hijikata was a feared master swordsman even within the Shinsengumi. His favorite sword to use was the Izuminokami Kanesada, which played a huge role in history (there’s even a scene in Detective Conan: The Million-Dollar Pentagram that alludes to the Kanesada).

He was born in present-day Hino, Tokyo. His mischievous personality earned him the nickname “reckless kid.” He also had a cultured side due to influences from people like his grandfather, a haiku poet, which led to his fondness for haiku poems from a young age.

The Hogyoku Haiku Collection is an anthology of haiku poems that he read. This poem collection is also a key to solving the mystery in the movie.

By the way, Toshizo Hijikata was a fairly handsome man and popular among the ladies. He’s depicted as a good-looking guy in the movie, too.

3. Is Goryokaku Famous for Cherry Blossoms?

Goryokaku Cherry Blossoms

Photo by Pixta

In Detective Conan: The Million-Dollar Pentagram, Conan, Heiji, and the gang visit Hakodate right around springtime. The various flowers that adorn the streets of Hakodate are beautifully depicted in the movie.

The area around Goryokaku Tower is where Ran Mori and Kazuha Toyama chat and gossip about relationships while touring the tower. The gorgeous cherry blossom landscape is striking.

Actually, Hakodate citizens are heavily involved in the development of cherry blossom landscapes like this.

After the end of the Boshin War, Goryokaku was used as a parade ground for the Meiji army. Meanwhile, private businesses cut ice from Goryokaku’s water moat during the winters to sell on the mainland, making the fort a huge part of citizens' livelihoods and daily lives.

By 1914, Goryokaku was opened as a public park in response to a petition submitted by Hakodate citizens. Cherry trees were then planted around the fort when the Hakodate Mainichi Shimbun, the local newspaper at the time, gifted 10,000 cherry blossom trees to the park in celebration of 10,000 issues published.

Goryokaku is now one of Hokkaido’s best cherry blossom viewing spots, with 1,500 Yoshino cherry trees going into full bloom in spring.

Goryokaku Tower

Photo by Pixta

The first tower (60 meters tall) was built in 1964 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Goryokaku’s construction. The second tower, which stands 107 meters tall, was opened in 2006.

You can admire the sights of Mt. Hakodate, the Tsugaru Strait, and the beautiful star-shaped Goryokaku Fortress from the tower’s observation deck.

Hoshi no Yume Illumination

Goryokaku is a spot loved by the citizens of Hakodate. The cherry blossom season is incredibly popular, but the fall foliage during autumn and snowy landscapes during winter are also magnificent.

Enjoy a Trip to Hakodate and the Conan Cafe!

Conan Cafe

Picture courtesy of PR Times ©Gosho Aoyama/Shogakukan・Yomiuri TV・TMS 1996 ©2024 Gosho Aoyama/Detective Conan Production Committee

Detective Conan: The Million-Dollar Pentagram is expected to be in theaters over Golden Week 2024. Why not see the movie if you’re interested?

To coincide with the release of the movie, a Detective Conan Cafe will open for a limited time. The event cafe has ten pop-up locations in seven cities across the country, including Hokkaido, Osaka, Tokyo, Nagoya, and Fukuoka, where you can try foods inspired by the characters and purchase merchandise.

Hachiman-zaka Slope and Mt. Hakodate appear in Detective Conan: The Million-Dollar Pentagram, with Hakodate being one of Hokkaido's most popular sightseeing destinations. There are plenty of trendy scenic spots and food destinations to visit.

MATCHA features articles on Hakodate and the best things to see in the city. If you’ve watched the movie and fallen in love with Hakodate, take a trip to the real-life location yourself!

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Mizzochi

Mitoyo, Kagawa, Japan

I worked in a PR agency for corporate IR/CSR and a publisher which publishes a magazine focused on international cooperation before joining MATCHA in October 2017. 
In April 2019, I moved to Mitoyo City in Kagawa Prefecture. I write articles for tourists visiting Japan, and also contribute to regional revitalization.
My main focus is on writing about internet services, rental cars, hotels, and tourist attractions in western Japan.
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