Hakodate opened as Japan’s first trading port and introduced foreign culture ahead of the rest of Hokkaido. Everywhere in Hakodate, you will see beautiful scenery skillfully blending Japanese and Western traditions and which you will want to upload to social media: gorgeous Motomachi and its streetscapes with a foreign flavor—rows of churches and other European style buildings—or Mt. Hakodate with its world-famous nightscape. It is a city prepared to satisfy lovers of fine food with its fresh seafood that can only be served in a port town and hamburgers prepared with locally produced beef.
We urge you to combine your visit to Hakodate with a tour of its surroundings such as Onuma Quasi-National Park or the towns of Esashi and Matsumae.
- Planning Hints
- Hakodate’s major sightseeing spots are concentrated in a small area, so you only need to stay 2 days and 1 night. Hakodate’s streetcars (Hakodate Transportation Bureau) are a convenient way to sightsee inside Hakodate City.
- If you wish to be close to the Hakodate Morning Market and other sightseeing districts, you should find lodging near the Station Plaza or in the Bay Area. Choose the lodging best suited to the purpose of your visit. If, for example, you want to relax in a hot spring, stay in a hotel in the Yunokawa Hot Spring District.
- If you wish to take in Onuma Quasi-National Park or the towns of Esashi or Matsumae with their rustic flavor of old Japan, you should extend your stay to 2 nights and 3 days.
The main form of transportation used in Hakodate is the city’s streetcar system (Hakodate Transportation Bureau). The streetcars run between 6 and 12 minutes apart during the day and can carry you to almost every sightseeing spot in the city. A streetcar day pass that lets you get on and off as often as you want is particularly convenient. To visit the surrounding region from Hakodate, you can take the JR train to Onuma Park or travel by bus to Matsumae and Esashi .
Streetcar day pass
A convenient pass that gives you a full day of unlimited use of the Hakodate streetcars
[Prices] Adults 600 yen, children 300 yen
[Vendor locations] On streetcars, Tourist Information Center, front desks of hotels, convenience stores, etc.
Throughout the year, events of many kinds are held frequently in Hakodate: the Hakodate Goryokaku Festival that introduces the history of Hakodate, the Hakodate Christmas Fantasy when the winter streets are gorgeously decorated, and the Hakodate Illumination to name a few. Before coming, find out what kinds of events will be held during your visit!
Major events in Hakodate
Hakodate Goryokaku Festival
Hakodate Christmas Fantasy
December 1 to 25
Early December to late February
Hoshi no yume (Dream of Stars)
December to February
In Hakodate, the major sightseeing spots are concentrated in a small area, so the best way to visit them is to use the streetcars.
The world-famous nightscapes visible from Mt. Hakodate make it the most popular sightseeing spot in the city. The contrast between the bright lights of the city and the darkness of the ocean waters that seem to squeeze the city from the left and right is an impressive sight. Do not miss the chance to see this nightscape that glows like a precious stone from the mountain-top lookout.
The colors change from season to season, so even if you have seen it before, you will enjoy a brand-new experience in another season of the year.
◎ The best time is about 30 minutes after sunset when you can enjoy watching the sky gradually changing after the sun has disappeared over the horizon. Leave plenty of time to get to the top because it is crowded in the evening.
◎ The colors change with the season. The nightscape is even more beautiful in the winter when the air is clear.
◎ Look for the Japanese letters “ハート” hidden in the nightscape! It is said that if you find them, your wish will be granted.
◎ We suggest that you ride the ropeway to the top of Mt. Hakodate. You won’t have to wait long and it smooths your visit to the spot.
This park is located on the site of Japan’s first Western style fortress, Goryokaku. It is not only a tourist attraction, but also a popular place where the people of Hakodate like to enjoy a relaxing stroll. The star shape of Goryokaku Fort can be seen from the adjoining Goryokaku Tower Lookout.
◎ It is also a popular place for cherry blossom viewing when the approximately 1,600 cherry trees on the park grounds are blooming. Every visitor to Hakodate must go up the Goryokaku Tower to see the star-shaped green space encircled on all sides by a sea of pink.
◎ In the winter, Goryokaku Fort is brightly illuminated.
◎ Visitors can learn about the history of Hakodate at the Hakodate Magistrate’s Office that was restored in 2010.
The Motomachi Area at the foot of Mt. Hakodate retains much that is reminiscent of the first Japanese city that was opened as a port. Its rows of buildings blending Western culture and Japanese culture along its cobblestone streets will remind you of European cities.
Stroll through Motomachi savoring the foreign flavor that is produced by the concentration of popular sightseeing spots between Daisanzaka and Motoizaka: particularly the three big churches which include the Hakodate Orthodox Church and the Old Hakodate Ward Public.
◎ The area’s attractions include the Hakodate Orthodox Church which symbolizes the churches of Motomachi, and other historical buildings. And the best place to take pictures is the top of the Chacha steps where you can see all three of Motomachi’s famous churches!
◎ Another famous Hakodate sight is the cobblestone street leading from Hachiman Hill to Hakodate Port.
◎ You can take a break and relax in one of the area’s many cafes, including some established in renovated homes and one-of-a-kind cafes that guarantee you a unique experience.
The Bay Area must be on the itinerary of everyone who visits Hakodate looking forward to seeing the rows of red-brick warehouses in the Port. It includes a shopping mall with restaurants, souvenir shops, confectionaries and others centered on the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse. It offers things to see, things to buy, and fun to be had. It’s a perfect place to shop or look for souvenirs. Here you will be able to enjoy a stroll in a historical atmosphere while exposed to the briny wind.
◎ You can take an enjoyable cruise around the harbor on the sightseeing boat, Blue Moon.
◎ Every December during the Hakodate Christmas Festival, a giant Christmas tree is erected on the bay! When the tree is illuminated at 6:00 PM every day, a fireworks display is presented.
You can tour the entire region from your base in Hakodate!
Onuma Quasi-National Park
It is a national park in a rich natural environment that you can reach from Hakodate by traveling for 30 minutes on a JR special express train or by driving your own car for about 40 minutes.
The scenery woven by Mt. Komagatake, Onuma and Konuma Ponds, and 126 islands of all sizes is Japanese garden scenery rare even in Hokkaido.
There are many ways to enjoy the shoreline, including pleasurable short shoreline strolls and full-day leisurely outdoor experiences. You will be delighted by encountering Hokkaido red squirrels, other small animals, and many birds.
◎ Sightseeing boats cruise Lake Onuma and Lake Konuma. Book a cruise on one of these boats for a relaxed look at the park scenery.
◎ You can also experience the natural life of Lake Onuma by strolling on the four walkways connecting the two lakes.
◎ Other enjoyable activities are canoeing and cycling in the summer and riding a snowmobile or fishing for fresh water smelts in the winter.
The port city of Hakodate is a treasure-house of sea urchins, cuttlefish and other delicious seafoods. Do not miss the Hakodate morning market. The lightly seasoned shio ramen is a popular choice. Below we introduce delicious gourmet foods you will want to taste during your visit to Hakodate.
When asked what they want to eat in Hakodate, everybody naturally answers, “Seafood”. Here they can savor the taste of Hakodate’s well-known sea urchins, crabs, and other blessings of the sea. And they can enjoy these delicious flavors no matter which season they come.
Hakodate Morning Market
Hakodate Morning Market located right beside JR Hakodate Station is the fine food center of Hakodate. Its biggest appeal is the fresh seafood that it brings together in this single market. Here you can find many shops where you can enjoy seafood donburi, including the Donburi Yokocho Market and Hakodate Morning Market Plaza. Each shop serves dishes it has painstakingly created, so be sure to fully savor their unique flavors. One more local specialty is squid fishing. You catch a squid that soon reappears on your table as a serving of squid sashimi.
Along with miso in Sapporo and shoyu in Asahikawa, Hakodate’s shio is one of the three beloved ramens of Hokkaido. Its clear soup reveals the commitment and skill of the chef who prepared it. Be sure to find the ramen that suits your personal taste.