Written by Sandrine
Hakodate Bay - Discover Hakodate’s Historical Harbor Area
Hakodate's historical bay area offers souvenir shops, museums, and even sightseeing cruises. Make sure to visit the harbor and the Kanemori red brick warehouses area when exploring this northern city.
Hakodate is a city that is attracting more and more visitors from abroad lately. The city is a wonderful sightseeing destination in itself and it is also great as a base for exploring the southern tip of Hokkaido. One of the most popular parts of the city, and just a short walk from Hakodate Station, is the bay area.
History of the Hakodate Bay Area
The bay area of Hakodate has always played an important role in the rich history of the city. The area is famed for the entrepreneurs who transformed this area into an economic hub for commerce and trading around 1860.
Today, the bay is mostly sought after by travelers for its historical buildings, its many souvenir shops and vibrant cafe and restaurant life. The bay area can be enjoyed throughout the entire year, as each season offers many great opportunities to take beautiful photos.
In 1859 the Hakodate Port opened and established itself as one of the first international trading ports in Japan. Because of these international trading activities, the city of Hakodate managed to become a multicultural city with influences from overseas. Foreign influences can be observed in the architecture of the buildings in the city. Such elements stand as a testament to the cultural communication and exchange that was made possible through the port activity that flourished in Hakodate from the 1860s.
Kanemori Red Brick Warehouses
The Kanemori Red Brick Warehouses are some of the most famous sightseeing destinations in the bay area. There is a total of seven buildings. These red brick warehouses have become a symbol of Hakodate city.
These buildings were the first commercial warehouses in Hakodate. Even now, they are housing various establishments. One of the warehouses is now a museum, while the others are home to speciality shops. The history of these warehouses goes back to around 1863, when businessman and city investor Kumashiro Watanabe established the former Kanemori Haberdasher’s Shop and the Kanemori Ship Chandlery Shop. His shops played a decisive role in establishing the bay area as an area for commerce. This part of the city became of huge importance for Hakodate, making the city attractive for trade and commerce.
By 1909 the warehouses were totally renovated and open to the public. They are housing today the city’s history museum, different types of businesses and shops. Visitors can learn more about the warehouses by visiting the exhibition Hall of the Hakodate History Plaza, located in the bay.
What to Do in Hakodate’s Bay Area
In addition to being a wonderful area to walk around in, the Hakodate Bay Area showcases the city’s seaside, as well as its historical surroundings. There are many restaurants and cafes, as well as souvenir shops. In fact, the famed Kanemori Red Brick Warehouses house some of the city’s most popular souvenir shops, as well as the municipal history museum where you can learn more about the city's history and its economic development.
The old Hakodate Meiji-kan post office, a sightseeing spot in itself, has been turned into a popular shopping area in the city, also offering a variety of souvenirs, as well as glassware and music box shops and studios.
If you are interested in the exploration part of the bay, the Hakodate Bay Area is a good way to experience Hakodate as a “sea city”. Available for locals and visitors, the short cruises with the Blue Moon Boat will enable you to explore the bay city on water. Boat rides are offered seven times a day for the price of 1600 yen and last for 40 minutes. It is a great activity to enjoy when you are in the harbor area!
How to Get to the Hakodate Bay Area
The Hakodate Bay Area and its famed red brick warehouses are located within a 15-minute walk from Hakodate Station. Because the bay area is large, taking the city tram is more convenient. The tram will take you there in a few minutes. It is especially recommended if you are visiting in the winter when walking near the sea will be colder than in the summer. Yachigashira or Dock-mae Station are the stops that will take you to different parts of the bay area. Whether you go there on foot or by means of public transportation, the bay area is fairly easy to find, and also full of visitors on a daily basis.