Friday, October 19, 2018

Six Short Hours in Hakodate

6AM, the first express out of Sapporo to Hakodate. I don't remember much about the 3.5-hour train ride. I probably snoozed throughout the early morning journey.

The first thing I did upon arriving at Hakodate Station was look for the Hakodate Asaichi (Morning Market). Not because I was hungry, but because it was just a few steps from the station.

Squid on the manhole cover of Hakodate

The Morning Market is not just one big building, but a block of buildings. One building was mostly restaurants, another was for seafood, and another was a mix of fresh produce and seafood. I went inside the building with a tower and a sign: 駅二市場. Most of the stalls inside this building were selling fresh seafood. But there were also tables where people were eating brunch of whatever it was they had bought from the market stalls.

Inside 市場, one of the buildings in Hakodate Morning Market


The Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse is just a 15-minute walk from Hakodate Asaichi, but I was feeling lazy and took a tram (600 yen for a tram pass for unlimited rides good for one day). The brick buildings along the port of Hakodate were built in 1907. The buildings now house shops selling clothes, shoes, accessories, souvenirs, sweets, etc. In short, a mall.

 Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse

Although there were restaurants near Kanemori, I left the area to look for Ajisai, a ramen restaurant specializing in Hakodate's shio (salt) ramen. It was just a 4-minute walk from Kanemori. Ajisai was still closed when I got there (the restaurant opens at 11AM), but I was glad to be there early. Because as soon as I was seated, more people started coming in. This place must be really good!

 Shio ramen at Ajisai (860 yen)

I am a shoyu (soy sauce) ramen guy, but Ajisai's shio ramen was so delectable, I wished I had room for one more bowl.

Lunch over, I took the tram to go to the Motomachi District, where there are many historic buildings. The Motomachi District is located at the foot of Mount Hakodate, and up the slope I walked to visit the Former British Consulate of Hakodate (open from 9AM to 7PM; admission fee of 300 yen; a combo ticket for admission to both Former British Consulate and Old Public Hall is also available for 500 yen).

The British Consulate in Hakodate was established in 1859 when Hakodate Port was opened as an international trading port. The current building was built in 1913 and served as the British Consulate until 1934. During World War II it was used as a hospital facility. The building now serves as a memorial hall where visitors can see the rooms and some exhibits about the former consul and the opening of Hakodate Port.

 Former British Consulate of Hakodate

One of the rooms in the British Consulate

On the next block, up the slope, is Motomachi Park, where there is a mint green western-style building which used to be Hokkaido Government Office. It is now the Motomachi Information Center.

 Information Center at Motomachi Park

Behind Motomachi Park is the Former Hakodate Town Hall (open from 9AM to 7PM; admission fee of 300 yen; a combo ticket for admission to both Former British Consulate and Old Public Hall is also available for 500 yen). Since I had bought the combo ticket, I went to take a look inside the Town Hall. 

Former Hakodate Town Hall on the manhole cover

 Former Hakodate Town Hall

The huge Hakodate Town Hall, built in 1909 (and completed the following year), has two floors. On the ground floor are bedrooms, a dining room, a billiard room, and a banquet hall. On the second floor are the concert hall, and a few guest rooms. Members of the Imperial Family stayed here on their visits to Hakodate.

Also in Motomachi District are churches—Russian Orthodox Church, Motomachi Roman Catholic Church, and Hakodate St. John's Church—and many western-style residential buildings which made me feel I was not in Japan.

The Russian Orthodox Church on the manhole cover

 Russian Orthodox Church

 Motomachi Roman Catholic Church

Just two blocks from the Russian Orthodox Church is the Mount Hakodate Ropeway Station, where a cable car can take you to the top of Mount Hakodate. I read somewhere that the night time view from Mount Hakodate is great, but I did not read anything about views during day time, so I skipped that and, instead, took the tram east to Goryokaku Tower (open from 9AM to 6PM; admission fee of 900 yen).

Fort Goryokaku as seen from Goryokaku Tower

The Goryokaku Tower has two levels of observation decks. The first level is at 86 meters above ground, and the second level at 90 meters. The observations decks afford a view of the star-shaped Fort Goryokaku and the city of Hakodate. The second level observation deck does not merely exist for the view, but for learning about the history of the fort: there are dioramas depicting the history of the fort, a scaled model of the fort, etc. The first level has an exhibit about forts around the world, a souvenir shop, a cafe, an ice cream kiosk, and see-through floor panels (if you're afraid of heights, please don't look down).


Hakodate City as seen from Goryokaku Tower

Hakodate Magistrate's Office in Goryokaku Park

My reserved ticket for the express back to Sapporo was around 430PM and I didn't have time to visit the Fort and the Magistrate's Office located right in the center of it. Six hours sure went by too fast...

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Japanese Summer 2018
Otaru on Foot
Asahikawa Accommodation: Asahikawa Ride
Beautiful Nature in Biei Town
Lavender Fields in Nakafurano
Daisetsuzan National Park: A Short Hike in Asahidake
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Hiking Thru Hell in Noboribetsu
Six Short Hours in Hakodate (you're here!)
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Walking Through Abandoned Places in Toya
Hokkaido Rail Pass
Itinerary and Expenses: 9D/9N Hokkaido and Sawara Town

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