6 Reasons to Visit Charming Hakodate Town, Hokkaido
Hakodate spans the Kameda Peninsula on the south coast of Hokkaido. Perhaps overlooked by most Western travellers, Hakodate nevertheless has much to offer visitors both culturally and sceni-cally, with excellent bus, train and tram services and pleasant walks, making it one of the easiest places to get around. It is also just 15 minutes to and from Hakodate Airport to Hakodate Station by bus.
Many of Hakodate’s hotels are close to Hakodate Station and the port area, so we will start there, as most visitors do. Be sure to make an early start and, strolling southwest past the station, take in the bustling Hakodate Asaichi (morning market), one of Hokkaido’s best known fresh fish markets.
Continuing in the same direction takes you past the port and its fleet of squid fishing boats to Kanemori, a cluster of converted red brick warehouses offering smart shops and eateries. Beyond this are the lower slopes of Mt. Hakodate with their many European style buildings, such as the Ha-kodate Orthodox Church, and the former Russian consulate.
Walking southeast from Hakodate Station, along the main road, leads you right across the peninsula to the opposite bay and long sandy beaches. Alternatively, you might prefer to take a city tram from opposite Hakodate Station to Yachigashira terminus and save your legs to explore the nearby coast and Hakodate Park.
Stunning Night Views from Mt. Hakodate
Nowhere is the lay of the land more apparent than from the observation building atop Mt. Hakodate. Accessible by ropeway, or by bus from Hakodate Station, the observation platforms offer an excep-tionally clear view of the peninsula below, especially at night. Indeed, the night viewing experience is one not to be missed, but do take a coat; it can be pretty bracing up there!
The area directly to the southeast of Hakodate Station is where you will find all the best eating and drinking, with dozens of restaurants and bars nestled among the back streets. Hakodate being a port town, you can expect to find excellent seafood here, but it is squid that Hakodate prides itself upon, so please, try the grilled squid; it is the local delicacy, after all! Then again, plump, grilled hokke (Okhotsk mackerel), when in season, is highly recommended too.
Founded by French nuns in 1898, this women’s convent features lovely grounds, as well as a crafts and baked-goods store and history centre. There is not much to do there, but there is a peace and serenity about the place that makes the bus ride from Hakodate Station or Airport well worth the effort.
Onuma National Park
Just 54 minutes from Hakodate Station via the JR Hakodate Line (or 39 minutes by the considera-bly more expensive Hokuto Express) is Onuma National Park. In the shadow of an imposing dormant volcano, Mt. Komagatake, this system of inter-connected lakes and islets offers one of the most beautiful and non-taxing hiking areas in Japan at any time of year, even deep winter.
Travellers seeking a change of pace might find that Hakodate offers an accessible and relaxed intro-duction to Hokkaido history, culture and natural beauty, whilst its generally compact layout and nearby national park makes it perfect for walking holidays.