Next travel destination inside Japan - Hakodate
If you’re looking for your next travel destination in Japan, consider Hakodate as one of your options. Easily accessible from Tokyo by airplane, the flight takes just a little over an hour.
Hakodate is the third-largest city on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. Known for its iconic views and the freshest seafood and dairy, the city has been influenced by its history as a port city. You can experience this influence in the Bay area and, of course, in Motomachi.
Hakodate offers a lot for tourists, and here are our top recommendations:
Rising 334 meters high, Mount Hakodate provides one of the most breathtaking views of central Hakodate, both during the day and at night when the city is illuminated. It is considered one of Japan’s three most beautiful mountain views, alongside Nagasaki’s Mount Inasa and Kobe’s Mount Rokko.
You can reach the summit by car, bus, or ropeway. We recommend taking the ropeway for its convenience and stunning views during the ascent. On the summit, you’ll find cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy the sunset, have dinner or tea, and admire the night view. You can spend as much time as you like (until the last ropeway), but even 30 minutes at the peak is sufficient if you’re short on time.
Goryokaku Tower and Fort Goryokaku
Built during the final years of the Edo period, Fort Goryokaku played a significant strategic role in the civil war. Open to the public since 1910, it features approximately 1,600 cherry blossom trees, creating an unparalleled atmosphere. For the famous view of the star-shaped garden, head to Goryokaku Tower.
Given the size of the area, we recommend allocating at least 2-3 hours to fully appreciate Goryokaku Tower and Fort Goryokaku.
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.