Hakodate is one of the largest cities on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. Visit this waterfront city to enjoy stunning views, fresh seafood and a variety of cultural attractions. Hakodate was among the first Japanese harbor cities to open up to international trade following the Edo Period’s self-imposed national isolation from 1615 to 1868. Due to this, the island exhibits significant overseas influence in its architecture and culture.
Stroll through Motomachi, the former residential district of Hakodate’s foreign population. This slice of Europe features a Russian Orthodox Church and the Old British Consulate. Fort Goryokaku, a Western-style citadel in the shape of a star, is one of Hakodate’s most remarkable attractions. It was built at the end of the Edo Period to defend the city against the threat of Western imperialism. By 1910, the fort had lost its military importance and was converted into a public park.
Over a thousand cherry trees line Fort Goryokaku’s moats. Visit in early May to see the blossoms flowering. The Former Magistrate Office sits at the center of the fort. Although the original office was destroyed after the fall of the shogunate, the city meticulously built a reconstruction. To see a bird’s eye view of Fort Goryokaku, ascend to the observation deck of the adjacent Goryokaku Tower.
Make the half-hour trip outside the city to Onuma Park. This Quasi-National Park surrounds Onuma Lake and Konuma Lake. Hike or ride along the lakes’ shorelines on a well-maintained network of trails. Take a boat out to go fishing or sightseeing. The expansive Onuma Lake has 126 islands to explore. The dormant volcano Mount Komagatake serves as the park’s majestic backdrop.
Although Hokkaido is the second largest of Japan’s four primary islands, it is also the least developed. Winters are very cold and snowy, while summers are sunny but mild. Every season, visitors flock to Hokkaido to go skiing, hiking and camping. You can easily reach most of the island’s natural attractions from Hakodate.