Easily accessible by Hakodate Airport or through the Shinkansen (bullet train), Hakodate is a unique and dynamic destination. As the major city of Hokkaido’s South, it boasts a unique history as one of the earliest areas to undergo frontier development, becoming a major international port – as well as being the locale for the Battle of Hokkaido, where the Tokugawa Shogunate staged its final fruitless defense against the newly formed Meiji-aligned forces. This history permeates many of the city’s famous landmarks, while the proximity to the ocean means a treasure trove of delicious seafood delicacies await. Add to these some excellent hot spring selections as well, and you have yourself the recipe for a trip that is both relaxing and stimulating. We have listed some of our favorite spots and things to do below, with a focus on gastronomy and wellness!
Yunokawa Onsen Umi to Akari Hewitt Resort
Yunokawa Onsen is the most famous hot spring area in southern Hokkaido and is one of the three major hot spring villages in the prefecture. It has a long history and legend has it that in 1653, the local feudal patriarch was cured of an incurable disease after bathing at Yunokawa. In addition to the relaxing spa experience, the view overlooking the Tsugaru Straits and the fresh seafood unique to Hakodate add to the area’s charms. You can enjoy all these charms at Yunokawa Onsen Umi to Akari Hewitt Resort, which has everything you could possibly want from a hot spring resort. From numerous indoor spas to an outdoor “infinity hot spring”, you have a myriad of options to relax before enjoying a decadent dinner that features only the best local ingredients. One of our favorite things to do here is enjoying a moonlight dip while sipping on some local Sake!
3-9-20 Yunokawa-cho, Hakodate-shi
Hotel & Spa Century Marina Hakodate
If you prefer to stay in the city’s downtown, we highly recommend Century Marina, which is located along the waterfront and offers great views of the bay throughout. While more of a classic hotel experience overall, it sets itself apart through its numerous Spa offerings. Yes, here too you can enjoy an infinity hot spring experience, this time on the rooftop overlooking the city and the ubiquitous Mount Hakodate. While the views are great throughout the hotel, one of our favorite things about the Century Marina is its breakfast buffet, primarily because it features a delicious take on the popular local dish “Ikura Don”, a rice bowl topped with salmon roe. Simple and satisfying, it is the perfect way to start your day in Hakodate!
22-13 Otemachi, Hakodate
Soup made from “Makonbu”
Hokkaido is well known for Konbu (edible kelp), which is an essential dish to make Dashi (Japanese soup stock). Dashi forms the base to most Japanese dishes. Over 90% of Konbu comes from Hokkaido, and many people say that this means Hokkaido is at the core of Japanese cuisine. Makonbu, which can be found in Hakodate and its surrounding areas, is said to be the highest quality Konbu. Through its trademark broad and thick leaves, it produces a clear soup that exhibits a refined but not overwhelming sweetness and excellent umami. While you are in the area, we highly recommend you try soup stock made from this one-of-a-kind ingredient.
1546-12 Kakkumi-cho, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido
Table De Rivage
Located north of Hakodate at Lake Onuma, Table De Rivage is a true hidden gem. The concept is quite unique and features a menu that focuses exclusively on local and seasonal ingredients to deliver internationally influenced dishes, including a creamy crab pasta or a beef and vegetable curry. The rustic and spacious interior, featuring great views of the surrounding nature is another highlight and if you want to enjoy the lake even further, they even offer cruises.
141, Onuma-cho, Nanae-cho, Kameda-gun, Hokkaido
Located about 16 kilometers to the north of Hakodate in the nearby town of Nanae Town, Fukuda Nouen specializes in the cultivation and sale of Shiitake, one of the most delectable edible mushroom species. Having seen their popularity skyrocket the world over due to their meaty texture and rich umami flavor, Shiitake have a powerful taste that makes them ideal as a main dish, either grilled or fried. Fukuda Nouen specializes in their own brand of “Ousama Shiitake”, which literally means King Shiitake. Their flavor truly lives up to the name, and we highly recommend stopping by to grab a box of these immensely delicious mushrooms. If you prefer the ready-to-eat experience, there are also numerous restaurants in the area utilizing this local variety of Shiitake.
83 Tsuruno, Nanae-cho, Kameda-gun, Hokkaido
Kur Plaza Pirika Hotel & Ski Resort
If you want to get into nature, we recommend checking out Kur Plaza Hotel & Ski Resort, which is located about halfway between Hakodate and Sapporo. As the name suggests, it is only a stone’s throw to the nearby Imakanecho Pirika Ski Area, making it a perfect locale to check out the areas world-renowned powder snow without having to brave the crowds further up north at Niseko. The hotel itself features traditional Japanese rooms, an on-site hot spring, as well as a variety of Hokkaido-style dishes to make your stay comfortable.
205-1 Pirika, Imakane-cho, Setana-gun, Hokkaido
L’oiseau par Matsunaga
For that special night out in Hakodate, we recommend a stop at L’oiseau par Matsunaga. Featuring an original take on Hokkaido’s rich ingredients, which are married to French cuisine for an extraordinary culinary experience and paired with an excellent wine selection, this restaurant offers something hard to find anywhere else. While open for both lunch and dinner, we recommend the later to enjoy the full course and wine pairing to its fullest extent, as Chef Matsunaga will surely leave a lasting impression with his original cooking.
L’oiseau par Matsunaga