Next travel destination inside Japan - Hakodate
If you are in search for your next travel destination inside Japan, you might want to consider Hakodate as one of the options. Hakodate can be easily reached from Tokyo by an airplane, the flight takes just a bit longer than an hour.
Hakodate is the third biggest city on Japan’s northernmost Island Hokkaido. It is best known for some of the iconic views and for the freshest seafood and dairy. Being a port-city, it had many foreign influence on it. You can feel it in the Bay area and, of course, Motomachi.
Hakodate has a lot to offer to a tourist. Here are our top recommendations.
Mount Hakodate is 334 meters high and has one of the best vies of the central Hakodate both during a day and a night, when the city is full of lights. This view is considered to be one of the three most beautiful mountain views in all of Japan. The other two are Nagasaki’s Mount Inasa and Kobe’s Mount Rokko.
There are several ways to get to the summit: a car, a bus, or a ropeway. We recommend on the ropeway. It might not be the cheapest among the options, but it is the fastest and the most convenient. And the view from the ropeway car is amazing on its own.
There are cafe and restaurants on the summit, so if you are not in rush, you can come here before the sunset, then stay for a dinner or a tea, and later enjoy the night view as well.
There is no limit how long you can stay there (until the last ropeway), but if you are tight on time, know that even 30 minutes on the peak should be more than enough.
Goryokaku Tower and Fort Goryokaku
The fort was built in the last years of Edo period. It was an important strategic location during the civil war, and it became open to public in 1910.
There are about 1,600 sakura trees in the park, and the atmosphere is unlike anywhere else. So it is needless to say when it is the best time to visit this place.
The famous view of the garden in its star shape is available from Goryokaku Tower.
The place is quite big, and along with the Tower, we advice that you give this place at least 2-3 hours of your time.
When Japan opened to the foreigners in 1854, many of the foreign residents chose to live in this area. Therefore, you will soon see that the area does not look like a typical Japanese neighborhood.
In Motomachi you will find several churches that belong to different confessions. Also a foreign cemetery is located here.
Many shops and cafes are located in Motomachi as well. The closeness of the island to Russia, makes Russian culture quite popular here. You will find shops and cafes specializing in Russian food and selling Russian goods all over.
Another iconic view of the city can also be observed from Motomachi . The place is called Hachiman-zaka slop. The view is pretty and gives you the San-Fransisco vibes.
Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward is highly recommended for a visit. Beautiful building from outside and from inside. The ocean view from the second floor is breathtaking, so definitely make sure to come here during the opening hours.
Motomachi is not a super huge area, but it is packed with tons of nice cafes and small streets and it is fun to stroll around them over and over again. Definitely give this place the time it deserves. Maybe even come here every day of your trip for a few hours.
The shops and cafes we highly especially are:
Marutamagoya, Chaika, 茶房 菊泉, ハコダテソフトハウス 北櫻茶, Flower picnic cafe -HAKODATE-, Cafeteria Moglie.
Morning Market and morning buffets
All of Hokkaido and especially Hakodate is famous for the freshest seafood you can taste. The fishes you can get are vary by season, but the staples such as fish eggs or calamari are available throughout the year and are a must try.
Morning market is the best place to do so. Fresh from the sea, the food tastes amazing and the prices are very reasonable. The fish market is located in the center of the city, just about 5-minute walk from Hakodate station.
If for what ever reason, you can not go to the market, or not everyone in your company is into the seafood, you can check out one of the morning buffets at the hotels and offer the seafood and other breakfast items. One of most famous one is a buffet at the restaurant Azalea, located on the first floor of Hakodate Kokusai Hotel. Not once the buffet was mentioned as one of the best buffets in Hokkaido, and the great thing about this buffet is that it is open to everyone, not just for the guests of the hotel. For 2,500 jpy per person, you can an access to a free flow of morning Japanese and western dishes. Firstly, there is a live kitchen where the chefs will make you a perfect omelette or grill a steak. Secondly there is a plenty of the baked good, fruits, drinks, and of course, the seafood. You are allowed to eat as much of it as you can.
All these make it a great deal, hence it is very popular. You cannot make a reservation for this buffet, so we advice you go there as early as its opening time.
Another a food-related must is a burger from Lucky Pierrot. Lucky Pierrot is a local burger chain. The prices are very customer-friendly and along with the burgers, you can find here also omuraisu, curry, pizzas, yakisoba, and desserts (the menu vary by branch). The food is great, but the cool thing about this restaurant is that every branch has a theme. In our opinion the coolest one is Lucky Pierrot Jujigai Ginza branch. This is the most Christmasy place we have ever seen. It is like a Christmas movie, like Christmas on steroids. Go there and you will understand it yourself.
Onuma is a quasi national park not too far from Hakodate and can be easily reached from Hakodate station. Be noted that the station you need is Onumakoen, one station after Onuma. You should also remember that the access might be easy, but the trains are not very frequent and you are better to check the schedule and the prices for the tickets in advance.
After you are arriving at the station, go to go to the information center and get all the info and all the recommendations about the area, and also some discounted coupons for the attractions.
The place is especially recommended for a visit during a summer time or autumn, however you are more than welcome to come here all year around.
As for the attractions, you can rent a bicycle and go around the lake, or even on foot you can cover most of the trails. Also taking a boat trip can be nice, but the guides speak Japanese only.
After enjoying the nature part, there are also some worth-visiting dining spots.
Food recommendations in Onuma
First, there are a few ice-cream spots, that serve wine-flavored soft-serve, lavender soft-serve, squid ink soft-serve and more. All made of the local products, and dairy in Hokkaido is amazing, so do not miss an opportunity to try it.
Next place we can recommend is a local brewery, Onuma Beer, that won tons of prices. They offer good deals where you can try most of the types of beer they offer. Both dining-in and take-out are available.
Last but not least, Yamakawa Bokujyo Moo Town Cafe Factory, is a small ranch producing milk and beef meat. Their roast beef sandwich as well Philly steak sandwich are highly recommended. But please try a plain glass of cold milk. It is amazing! Without any additives it tastes sweet and nothing like milk you can buy in a supermarket. It is such a delicatessen!
Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden (Hot-Tubbing Monkeys)
if you want to see monkeys bathing in a hot tub, this is one of the places where you can do it. However, be aware that unlike the park in Nagano prefecture, here we are talking about a botanical garden/zoo. It is very small, and all the monkeys are places in the same small area. It won’t make long to see them all. And then there is also a small yet very beautiful botanical garden. But all combined it won&t take more than 45 minutes of your time. You can keep as the last destination before you are heading back to the airport. Or if you go to Onuma only for a half a day, you can come to the monkeys afterwards.
At the end of your Hakodate adventure, if you need to go back to Honshu, we can recommend instead of taking a flight back to Tokyo, take a ferry to Aomori, and then travel back to Tokyo. It will make another fun attraction with beautiful views along the way.
Our trip to Hakodate was everything we wanted and more. Hope you will enjoy it too.