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Hakodate Travel Guide: See The Sights In An Exotic Northern City

Hakodate Travel Guide: See The Sights In An Exotic Northern City

Hokkaido 2016.12.30

Hakodate, found on the eastern side of Hokkaido, is a lively, unique city that is fun both day and night, and where you'll find Japan's first western-style 5-sided fortification, as well as many other exciting sightseeing spots.

Translated by Hilary Keyes

Written by Mayu

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What Kind of Place Is Hakodate?

Hakodate is the third most populated city in Hokkaido, falling after Sapporo and Asahikawa, respectively. It is located in the eastern part of the prefecture.

In 1859, together with Nagasaki and Yokohama, Hakodate opened its port to the world, and soon became a city with an international air to it, as numerous English and French moved into the area. For the sake of their new residents, churches and consulates were built, giving the city its characteristic look.

And as these buildings are still standing, Hakodate, when compared to other Japanese cities, has a somewhat exotic look to it. But the townscape isn't its only draw. Hakodate is also known for having perhaps the most beautiful night views in all of Japan, incredible fresh seafood caught daily off its coastline, and for being blessed with many wonderful tourist attractions. Let's take a closer look at Hakodate.

Table of Contents:

1. Hakodate Area Guide
2. 20 Most Recommended Sightseeing Spots in Hakodate
3. A Two Day Model Itinerary for Hakodate
4. The Climate and What to Wear in Hakodate
5. How to Reach Hakodate
6. Regarding International Routes to Hakodate Airport
7. The Best Ways to Get Around in Hakodate (The 1 Day Ride Ticket)
8. Souvenirs from Hakodate
9. How to Get the Most Out of Your Trip to Hakodate

Hakodate Area Guide

If you divide Hakodate into its largest sections, then it splits into three main areas - Motomachi, Bay, and Yunokawa Onsen and the airport areas. Now let's take a closer look at the features and sightseeing spots of each of these areas.

Motomachi Area

hachimanzaka slope ship 160821a

Photo courtesy of: Hakodate Tourism Department

Motomachi spreads out at the foothills of Mount Hakodate. The city street car route travels from Suehirocho Station to Jujigai Station and is dotted with sightseeing spots. It takes 7 minutes by train to travel from Suehirocho Station to Hakodate Station by streetcar, or it is a 20 minute walk.

hakodate motomachi

The view in Motomachi (Photo courtesy of Hakodate Tourism Department)

With many different churches and Hachimanzaka (a famous hill known for its beautiful scenery), this area has a particularly exotic feel to it. From the summit of Mount Hakodate you can enjoy a jewel-box like night view, that has been aptly nicknamed, 'The Million Dollar Nightscape'.

Bay Area

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Photo courtesy of: Hakodate Tourism Department

This is the beach area that spreads out past Motomachi. The sight of the harbor and the red brick warehouses here makes for a beautiful view as well. With shopping halls, beer halls, foods you'll want to take photos of, and lovely places to stroll, there are many different ways to enjoy this area.

Yunokawa and the Airport Area

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Photo courtesy of: Hakodate Tourism Department

Yunokawa Onsen has been a hot spring area since the olden days, and here is where you will also find the centrally located Hakodate Airport as well. A trip to Yunokawa Onsen takes only 17 minutes from the airport by shuttle bus, while from Hakodate Station to Yunokawa Onsen it takes 15 minutes by bus or 30 minutes by streetcar.

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Photo courtesy of: Hakodate Tourism Department

At the Hakodate City Nettai Botanical Gardens from December to about the end of May, visitors can enjoy watching Japanese macaques playing in the hot spring waters. To learn more about this, please take a look at Hakodate Sightseeing Guide - Transportation, Areas and Souvenirs.

20 Most Recommended Sightseeing Spots in Hakodate

1. Mount Hakodate

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Photo courtesy of: Hakodate Tourism Department

The unmissable 'Million Dollar View' from Mount Hakodate. To see this night view, take the 334-meter long ropeway from the foothills to the summit, which takes 3 minutes, and is located about 20 minutes away from Hakodate Station. The contrast of the twinkling city lights and the pitch blackness of the ocean is indescribably beautiful.

Address: Hokkaido, Hakodate, Motomachi 19-7
Website: Mount Hakodate Ropeway

2. Hakodate Morning Market

s_hakodate market 160816a

Photo courtesy of: Hakodate Tourism Department

The Hakodate Morning Market takes place quite close to Hakodate Station, and this is where you will find amazing fresh marine products. Not only do they sell seafood, but also seasonal fruits too.

Address: Hokkaido, Hakodate, Wakamatsucho 9-19
Website: Hakodate Morning Market

3. Yunokawa Onsen (Hakodate Nettai Botanical Gardens)

s_monkey onsen 160816a

Photo courtesy of: Hakodate Tourism Department

A hot spring area easily reached from the city - that is Yunokawa Onsen to a T. From Hakodate Station to Yunokawa Onsen Station, the gateway to this hot spring area, it only takes 35 minutes by streetcar. Around the station, there are many free foot baths and moderately priced bathhouses as well.

And, for those coming to Hakodate in the winter, the Hakodate Onsen Nettai Botanical Gardens are strongly recommended. Have you seen the videos online or on TV of monkeys enjoying a hot spring? That idyllic scene can be viewed in person at Hakodate's Nettai Botanical Gardens.

Address: Hokkaido, Hakodate, Yunokawacho 3-1-15
Website: Nettai Botanical Gardens

4. Hachimanzaka

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Photo courtesy of: Hakodate Tourism Department

Hachimanzaka, the slope that stretches straight onward and commands an amazing view of the port, is consistently ranked as the number one Japanese hill most tourists want to visit.

Hachimanzaka can be reached on foot from Hakodate Station (a 20 minute walk), or in 15 minutes on the streetcar (getting off at the Suehirocho stop). If you would like to see this area when it is less crowded, then we recommend visiting before 10 o'clock in the morning.

Address: Hakodate, Suehirocho

5. Hakodate Harbor

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Photo courtesy of: Hakodate Tourism Department

Also located quite close to Hakodate Station, Hakodate Harbor has prospered as a fishing and trade port since long ago. Part of the appeal of the night view over Hakodate and the scenery from Hachimanzaka comes from the ship traffic and red brick warehouses of Hakodate Harbor. From March to December, a sightseeing ferry is also available here.

Address: Hokkaido, Hakodate, Minatocho

6. Kanemori Aka Renga Soko

hakodate red brick warehouse 160816

Photo courtesy of: Hakodate Tourism Department

A 15 minute walk from Hakodate Station, or 13 minute ride via street car, the Kanemori Aka Renga Soko, or Kanemori Red Brick Warehouses, were build in the Meiji era to be used as warehouses for clothiers. Now, these buildings are full of restaurants, beer halls, and general stores, but still stand as Hakodate's representative tourist attractions.

Within the warehouse shops, you can find cute music boxes being sold at the Hakodate Music Box Hall, and rich milk jam made from fresh Hokkaido milk at Le Confiture, while other buildings are home to the Hakodate Beer Hall, and many other fascinating shops. If you are looking for souvenirs, this is the perfect place to visit.

Address: Hokkaido, Hakodate, Suehirocho 14-12
Website: Kanemori Aka Renga Sogo

7. Onuma Quasi-National Park

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Photo courtesy of: Hakodate Tourism Department

For those who have some extra time in their schedules, a trip to the Onuma Quasi-National Park is a must. It is a 30 minute ride away from Hakodate Station via the Hokuto limited express.

Onuma Quasi-National Park is where you can enjoy beautiful reflections on the mirror-like surface of Komagadake lake in summer, and a snow-filled, frozen solid landscape in winter.

Depending on the season, you can canoe or go horseback riding or snowmobile here, making it a great leisure place all year round.

Address: Hokkaido, Kamedagun, Nanaecho, Onumacho 1023-1
Website: Onuma Quasi-National Park

8. Goryokaku Tower

Photo courtesy of: Hakodate Tourism Department

Completed in 1864, Goryokaku was the nation's first Western-style five sided fortification (goryokaku meaning "five sided fortification"). A fantastic panoramic view can be had from Goryokaku Tower, which stands 107 meters tall. And as there are also some souvenir shops here, it is a great place to do a bit of shopping too.

Not only that, Goryokaku Koenmae Station and its surrounding area are well-known sakura spots in spring. It takes about 10 minutes by bus from Hakodate Station to reach this area.

Address: Hokkaido, Hakodate, Goryokakucho 43-9
Website: Goryokaku Tower

9. Former British Consulate of Hakodate

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Photo courtesy of: Hakodate Tourism Department

Built in 1859 and used for the next 75 years, the Former British Consulate of Hakodate is the ideal place to see what the city of Hakodate was like when the port was opened as it has been well-preserved and now serves as quite the elegant and popular museum. As it is quite close to Hachimanzaka, it is a good idea to come here after you have been to view the slope.

Though you will surely learn some history while here, it is also fun to take photos through the comic foregrounds (the panels you stick your face through depicting funny characters or poses), or of the giant world map carpet, and to enjoy some real English tea and sweets in the cafe.

In the courtyard there is an English rose garden where there are 139 plants of 60 different varieties of roses growing (as of July 2015); these roses are at their best from the end of June to mid-July.

Address: Hakodate, Motomachi 33-14
Website: Former British Consulate of Hakodate

10. Seikan Ferry Memorial Hall Mashuumaru

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Photo courtesy of: Hakodate Tourism Department

Right next to Hakodate Station you will find the Seikan Ferry Memorial Hall Mashuumaru - a museum dedicated to ferries. Inside this museum you can see actual ferries that were placed directly into the museum, so ship and boat fans are sure to enjoy visiting this spot.

If you aren't able to try the actual ferry, how does a visit to a pilothouse and imagining oneself as the ship captain, or standing on the deck of a ship feeling the gentle sway of the waves sound?

Address: Hokkaido, Hakodate, Wakamatsucho, #12
Website: Seikan Ferry Memorial Hall Mashuumaru

To learn more about the first 10 spots on our list, take a look at 10 Unforgettable Sightseeing Destinations in Hakodate.

11. Yachigashira Onsen

This representative hot spring is located close to the foothills of Mount Hakodate and to Tachimachisaki.

Well-loved by the locals, you can enjoy the waters of this onsen for very reasonable prices: 420 yen for adults, 140 yen for children from 6-12 years old, 70 yen for children from 3-6 years old, and free for children under 3.

Website: Yachigashira Onsen

Incidentally, there are some important manners that you should know before visiting a Japanese hot spring, such as that you must bathe outside of the tub first, and that long hair should be kept tied back - to learn more about the etiquette required at onsen, please read What You Should Know About Bath Culture In Japan.

12. Hakodate Park

Selected as one of Japan's 100 Historical Parks and part of the Northern Landscape Gardening Heritage, this garden is living history. This park first took shape in 1879, as Hokkaido's first Western-style public park. Inside the park, you will find the Hakodate Municipal Museum, and an amusement park - making this a place that those traveling with children will find ideal to visit.

Address: Hokkaido, Hakodate, Aoyagicho 17
Website: Hakodate Park

13. Hokkaido Sakamoto Ryoma Museum

Exhibitions of materials related to the late Edo era samurai, Sakamoto Ryoma are displayed in this museum. Here you can see Sakamoto Ryoma's favorite sword, as well as his guns and other articles he imported from Holland and France on exhibition as well.
Address: Hokkaido, Hakodate, Suehirocho 8−6
Website: Hokkaido Sakamoto Ryoma Museum

14. Cape Tachimachi-misaki

This is the cape on top of a cliff. From here you can enjoy an unbroken view of Tsugaru Strait, which is said to be one of the most picturesque areas in Hakodate.

Address: Hokkaido, Hakodate, Sumiyoshicho

15. Hakodate Hikari no Yatai Daimon Yokocho

Hakodate Hikari no Yatai Daimon Yokocho, a 5 minute walk from Hakodate Station, is a yatai or food stall street, where you can purchase ramen, sushi, Genghis Khan (a grilled mutton and vegetable dish), and various other delicious Hokkaido specialty dishes from over 20 different shops. If you want to try sushi and sashimi made from fresh Hakodate seafood, local specialty ramen, and other delicious dishes, then this is the place to visit.

Address: Hokkaido, Hakodate, Matsukazecho 7
Website: http://hakodate-yatai.com/

16. Inishie Kaido

The earliest port to open in Hokkaido belongs to Esashichou. Formerly a prosperous fishing and trading area, traces of the past townscape still remain and have been reproduced here on the Inishie Kaido. Here you can see reproductions of homes, restaurants, general stores, and even beauty parlors from bygone days, making it overflow with historical charm and into a popular tourist attraction.

It can be reached by train in about an hour from Hakodate Station.

Address: Hokkaido, Hiyamagun, Isashicho, Nakawacho, Ubagamicho
Website: Inishie Kaido

17. Oniushi Park

This park is most famous for its sakura, or cherry blossoms. Come the spring, about 500 trees of 20 different varieties burst into bloom, coloring the park in shades of pink. This is the only place that you can view unusual sakura types, such as the Horiihi zakura and Komami sakura.

Address: Hokkaido, Kayabegun, Morimachi, Uwadaicho 326−1

18. Todohokke Mizunashi Kaihin Onsen

This is a natural hot spring on the beach. The time that you can enter the hot spring depends on the rising of the tides. As it is a mixed gender bath, you should bring your swimsuit if you are wanting to visit this hot spring.

Address: Hokkaido, Hakodate, Esanmisakicho 100
Website: Todohokke Mizunashi Kaihin Onsen

19. Tobetsu Trappist Monestary

This is a Catholic monastery that began in 1894. The Trappist butter, butter candies, and Trappist cookies made by the monks here are exceptionally popular and make the perfect souvenir.

Address: Hokkaido, Hokutoshi, Mitsuishi 392
Website: Tobetsu Trappist Monestary

20. Matsumae Castle

【完成】函館

This is the sole Japanese-style castle in Hokkaido, the current form of which comes from its reconstruction in 1959. Known as an excellent sakura viewing spot, there is Matsumae Castle Town Festival held here annually.

Address: Hokkaido, Matsumaegun, Matsumaecho, Azamatsushiro 144
Website: Matsumae Castle

A Two Day Model Itinerary for Hakodate

If you want to enjoy your fill of everything that Hakodate has to offer, then we recommend spending about 2-3 days sightseeing in the area. Here we will introduce our two day itinerary to see the sights.

Day 1: Hachimanzaka, Red Brick Warehouses, Nightview - Enjoy Romantic Hakodate!

For the first day, travel through the Motomachi and Bay area, then enjoy the night views that are synonymous with sightseeing in Hakodate.

10:00 Visit the Former British Consulate of Hakodate and take some fun pictures.
11:30 Travel along Hachimanzaka, and head to the Bay area; go to Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse for lunch and for some souvenirs!
15:00 Go to Goryokaku Tower
18:00 See the Million Dollar View! Take the ropeway up Mount Hakodate

Day 2: Morning Market, Onuma Quasi-National Park, Nettai Botanical Gardens - Take in Hakodate's Marine Products and Nature!

On the second day, it's time to enjoy the marine products and grand natural sights that make up Hakodate.

06:30 Go to the Hakodate Morning Market
08:00 See the scenery! Head to Onuma Quasi-National Park
13:00 Watch the monkeys soaking in the hot springs at Hakodate Nettai Botanical Gardens

Check out Enjoy Hakodate's Elegant Streets and Nature with This 2-Day Itinerary! for more.

The Climate and What to Wear in Hakodate

Hakodate is cool in the summer, but well-known for having harsh and cold winters.

From July to September the average temperature hovers around 18-22 degrees Celsius, making it a very comfortable place to visit. In the evenings, though, the temperature does drop a bit, which may leave some people feeling rather chilly, so it's a good idea to bring a shawl, light sweater, or a jacket with you, just in case.

In the winter however, Hakodate's average temperature stays at about 0 to -2 degrees Celsius, and from December to March there is quite a bit of snowfall, so if you are planning to visit at this time, make sure to bring proper winter coats, hats, scarves, gloves and even snow boots in order to be fully prepared for the conditions.

How to Reach Hakodate

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The convenient Hakodate street car. Photo courtesy of: Hakodate City Tourism Department

Traveling from Haneda Airport to Hakodate

Hakodate can be easily reached via airplane from Haneda Airport. Every day there are 10 direct flights to Hakodate run by airlines like JAL, ANA, AirDO, and others. A one-way trip will cost roughly 10,000 to 30,000 yen, and the flight takes about an hour and 20 minutes.

To reach Hakodate city from the airport, you can make use of the buses: there is a direct shuttle bus from the airport to Hakodate Station every 20-30 minutes. The route takes about 25 minutes and costs 410 yen.

Traveling from Tokyo Station to Hakodate

From JR Tokyo Station, you can take the Hayabusa shinkansen, which will have you arriving at Shin-Hakodate Hokuto Station in 4 hours. The average price for a ticket on this train costs about 22,690 yen.

Take the JR Kaisoku Hakodate Liner from Shin-Hakodate Hokuto Station to Hakodate Station; it takes about 15 minutes and costs 360 yen.

Traveling from Sapporo to Hakodate

If you are traveling from Sapporo Station, take the Hokuto limited express to Hakodate Station. Transfer-free, it will take about 4 hours and cost 8310 yen.

Regarding International Routes to Hakodate Airport

【下書】函館

Hakodate Airport is the second largest airport in Hokkaido, after New Chitose Airport.

There are also international flight routes from China and Taiwan here. From China's Tianjin Binhai International Airport, Tianjin Airlines flies non-stop to Hakodate Airport. From Taipei's Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, EVA Air and Tigerair operate direct flights to Hakodate Airport.

The Best Ways to Get Around in Hakodate (The 1 Day Ride Ticket)

In order to reach most of the sightseeing spots in the city, visitors should make use of the municipal railway (the streetcar).

The streetcar links Hakodate Station with Motomachi, the Bay area, Goryokaku, Yunokawa - all of the major sightseeing spots are connected, making it easily accessible for locals and visitors alike. The ticket fare for each area ranges from 210-250 yen a ride. But there is also the very reasonable 1 Day Ride Ticket, which costs 600 yen for adults and 300 yen for children, and is sold within the streetcar itself and at Hakodate Station's tourist information center.

Besides the streetcar, there are also loop buses, taxis, rental cars, and even rental bicycles to round out the many means of transportation in the city.

Souvenirs from Hakodate

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Photo courtesy of: Hakodate Tourism Department

Our most recommended souvenir from Hakodate would have to be the cheese omelet, a famous type of cheesecake. Having the thick, rich texture of a half-cooked omelet, both men and women, and the old and young all equally love this popular dessert. Completely additive-free, this cheesecake is also entirely made from ingredients produced in Hokkaido only.

Other popular souvenirs include the blended Western and Japanese snack 'Hotate no Okoge' (crisp rice cakes made with scallops), as well as locally made wines, Trappist cookies made with Trappist butter from the monastery - all make for perfect Hakodate souvenirs.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Trip to Hakodate

Hakodate: a city with a unique atmosphere where Western-style Meiji era buildings can still be found lining the streets. This city is a sight to see not only in the day, but at night as well.

When you visit, please make sure to savor the fresh, locally caught seafood and locally produced beers and wines - these are tastes that can't be had anywhere else.

And if you happen to come here in winter, make certain that you are well-prepared for the cold.

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