Insider’s Advice Hokkaido

A Weekend in Hakodate Part 2: Fun Activities for the Winter Months and More!

Itinerary:

Onuma Park→Kanemori Warehouses→ Yunokawa Tropical Botanical Garden→ Goryokaku Tower

This is the second of a two part series. Please read part 1 here:

Japan is well known for it’s four distinct seasons, however I didn’t come truly appreciate the changing seasons until I moved to Hokkaido. When I first came here in the summertime, I was pleasantly surprised by how warm it was; averaging in the mid-20’s! Although Hokkaido is best-known for its snowy winter scenery, at the height of summer it is easily warm enough for outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, watersports etc. However, as the season turned from summer to autumn and then to winter it became a lot colder; snow settled and the mountains that had previously been the perfect hiking spots had been reopened as ski slopes! A truly unique feature of life in Hokkaido is being able to witness the drastically changing landscapes across all for seasons. However, not only do the views change, but also the range of activities and experiences available in any given season differs dramatically. Today I’d like to introduce activities in and around Hakodate which only exist during the winter months!

Onuma Park

Fun winter activities-on ice!

At Onuma Park, located only a short distance away from Hakodate in the southern region of Hokkaido, there are plenty of unique activities which are only on offer during the winter months! In the winter it becomes possible to walk on top of the frozen Lake Onuma. During this time you can try your hand at fishing for pond smelt via a small hole cut directly into the ice! Once you’ve caught some fish, take them inside where they will be prepared for eating-seafood doesn’t get much fresher than this!

Pond smelt tempura.

Due to its vast size, Onuma Lake also becomes a great spot for snowmobiling in the winter! Visitors both young and old will enjoy gliding across the frozen lake on the 2km long course! Why not gather your friends and challenge them to a race? A great option for young families is the sled tour, in which you can view the splendors of Lake Onuma’s winter scenery from the comfort of a sled pulled by a snowmobile!

Snowmobiling on the frozen lake Onuma.

Kanemori Red Brick Warehouses

Visit a commercial district steeped in history to find the perfect gift from Hakodate!

Packed with a vast variety of shops stocking all manner of goods, from local snacks and sweets, to unique clothing and accessories dyed with squid ink, the Kanemori Red Brick warehouses in the bay area are a veritable shopper’s paradise! Hakodate was chosen as of the first ports in Japan to open to foreign trade in 1859, and as such has a long commercial history, and in particular the trade of import goods; the Kanemori Red Brick warehouses which line the bay serve as a reminder of this. Constructed in 1909, the warehouse buildings themselves are somewhat of a historical curiosity as they are comprised of a combination of both British and French designs. Also worth a visit is the Meijikan, which was originally built in 1911 as a post office. Today the building is a large shopping area, notable for the vast array of music boxes available for purchase; it is also possible to make your own music box if you have the time!

Kanemori Red Brick Warehouses.

Tropical Botanical Garden (Onsen Monkeys)

Meet a group of monkeys, who love nothing better than bath time!

The Yunokawa area of Hakodate is well known as one of the best hot spring towns in Hokkaido, and not just for humans! Located only a short tram ride from the center of Hakodate, The Tropical Botanical Garden is home to a group of Japanese monkeys, who love nothing better than to take a long soak in the hot springs! In the depths of winter when the city is buried in snow, you will find these monkeys blissfully lounging in the warmth of the bath-considering how cold it is you can hardly blame them!

Bathing monkeys!

Goryokaku Winter Illuminations

Witness the star-shaped fort gleaming in the dark of night!

On your way back to town, wrap up your evening with a stop off at Goryokaku Fort, which is specially lit up in the evening during the winter! The Goryokaku Fort is a western-style star-shaped fort which was built over 150 years ago. The adjacent Goryokaku Tower offers a great panoramic views of the surrounding area, and as such makes for an excellent spot to get a photo of the iconic star-shaped fort.

Star-shaped fort lit up at night.


Author: Phoenix Scotney, Coordinator of International Relations at Hokkaido Tourism Organization.

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