Written by Sandrine
Goryokaku Tower - Enjoy A Breathtaking View Of Hakodate City!
The Goryokaku area of Hakodate city is a popular sightseeing destination, as well as a location of historical importance. Let's take a look at its main attraction - the Goryokaku Tower.
One of the most popular sightseeing destinations in Hakodate is the famed Goryokaku area, with its tower that allows a beautiful view over the city. Going up to the observatory deck of the Goryokaku Tower also enables you to see the famous star-shaped fort area. In the spring, this area is particularly popular, when the cherry blossoms take over the fort area, creating a pink star-shaped view that just has to be experienced from atop.
Popular not only as a sakura viewing destination in Hokkaido, the tower also gives a wonderful panoramic view over the city. In other words, it's a great place to take photos of Hakodate city!
Let’s Visit the Observatory!
If you want to enjoy the view over the famed star-shaped fort or the panoramic view of the city and the nearby mountains, including Mount Hakodate, then you should go to the observatory deck of the Goryokaku Tower.
The tower is 107 meters high and will give you a great overview of the city. The facility also provides useful information about the Goryokaku historical area. You will be able to learn about the city's history with the help of the small museum displays of figurines exhibiting the battles that were fought in the Goryokaku area at the end of the Edo period (1603 - 1868).
The observatory actually consists of two decks, with the lowest one located 86 m above ground. A cafe and a souvenir shop are located here. The second one, located higher, 90 m above ground, is a small museum and exhibition place, showing the history of the fort. It is also a great viewing point.
The entrance ticket for the observatory deck costs 850 yen and must be purchased at the information center on the first floor. There are discount tickets for students and groups, and the observatory is open all year round.
View of the Star-Shaped Fort
The star-shaped fort is a popular sakura viewing spot in spring time, when the cherry blossoms are at their peak. In Hakodate, that is in May, slightly later than in cities such as Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo. The view of the star-shaped fort can be enjoyed in any season. For example, during the colder seasons, there are beautiful winter illuminations around the star shape.
The Goryokaku area served as a fort to the short-lived Republic of Ezo, a state that was established in 1869 by sustainers of the Tokugawa shogunate. The state was defeated by the imperial army in the Battle of Hakodate, that was fought right in the Goryokaku area. The island that used to be known as Ezo was then renamed "Hokkaido". This was during the early days of the Meiji period (1868 - 1912), when imperial rule was restored in Japan under Emperor Meiji.
The Goryokaku area has thus played a significant role in the history of Hokkaido and all the rest of Japan. Visiting the Goryokaku area will give you an idea of where the power of the state of Ezo once lied.
A Popular Sakura Viewing Spot
The Goryokaku fort area is famed for its beautiful sakura trees and flowers. The late blooming of the cherry blossoms is common in Hokkaido, enabling travelers to enjoy viewing the sakura outside the peak season in other Japanese regions. The Goryokaku star-shaped area will be filled with sakura trees all around it, so a trip to the observatory deck of the Goryokaku tower enables you to see and photograph the area in all its magnificence. If you want to enjoy the sakura blossoms from below, the illumination of the tower and the lights around the trees create a beautiful scenery that shouldn't be missed.
Enjoy Viewing the Goryokaku Tower from Below
If you choose to view the tower from below, you can still enjoy its rich history. Inside the tower, on the first floor, there is a souvenir shop specializing in Goryokaku Tower and Hakodate souvenirs. It is a great place to look for items that will remind you of your trip.
On the first floor, you will also find a cafe serving the popular Hakodate ice cream specialties, while the second-floor restaurant offers visitors delicious Hokkaido cuisine. There is no admission fee for the tower's first floor and information center.
Outside the tower, the Goryokaku area is a great place for walks, enabling you to view and photograph the tower from the outside. If you visit in the summer, you will be able to attend the Hakodate Goryokaku Festival, commemorating the Meiji Restoration (1868). During this festival, Hakodate city and the Goryokaku area go back to this historical period, with visitors and amateur actors dressing up to perform the city's history.
How to Get to the Goryokaku Tower
Getting to the Goryokaku fort and tower is fairly easy, as two of the city's tram lines take you there. Be sure to take the tram to the Goryokaku Tower stop, where you can easily spot the tower from.
From the tram stop, a five to ten minutes walk will take you to the Goryokaku area. The tram stop is located eight stops away from Hakodate station, and the ride takes approximately 20 minutes. Around the Goryokaku area, you will find great shopping and dining places. They will all make a trip to this part of the town very enjoyable.