Region
Hokkaido
Island
Hokkaido
Largest City
Sapporo
Population
5,682,950

Hakodate

In 2015, Hakodate was voted Japan’s most attractive city and it’s not hard to see why.

A vibrant harbor gateway, Hakodate is a satisfying fusion of Japanese and Western influences that makes for a perfect bookend to your travels through the spectacular wilds of Hokkaido. Despite its developing function as an entry point and transport hub for Japan’s northernmost island, Hakodate has retained its picturesque charm.

Hakodate is incredibly pretty and has an easy, breezy, holiday vibe.

Stop here to replenish your energy levels with a bit of all-inclusive sightseeing. Museums, (small) mountains, markets and hot springs are all there – often more tourist-friendly than in the bigger cities back on Honshu.

Hakodate harbor was one of the first to open up to foreign trade after centuries of isolation and the city’s blend of traditional Japanese and 19th-century Western architecture shows influences from Russia, China and Europe. It’s cosmopolitan history is epitomized by the massive star-shaped Fort Goryokaku – a Western-style citadel turned public park that is one of Hokkaido’s top spots for cherry blossom viewing.

View of Hakodate at night from Mount Hakodate

Not a bad view.

The best time to see Hakodate is at night. Mount Hakodate, a forested mountain at the city’s southern tip, offers magical views of the city and surrounding waters below which glow with the lights of squid fishing boats. You can reach the mountain at any time of the day; by hiking, driving or cable car.

Another reason to vote for Hakodate is the great food available. Being surrounded by the ocean on three sides, the fish in any number of the city’s restaurants is always fresh. The city’s speciality is squid, which comes in a variety of forms from raw and wriggling to deep-fried and even as ice-cream. Ramen, too, is popular, with the Hakodate version adding kelp, seafood, and/or squid to a delicious, warming broth.

Wake up early for the Asa-ichi market which opens at 5 a.m.

Wake up early for the Asa-ichi market which opens at 5 a.m. (the action is over by 8 a.m..)

The Asa-ichi (Morning Market) is a seafood lover’s dream. Stalls upon stalls offer up the days catch, as well as fresh fruits, vegetables and snacks, or you can try sourcing your own breakfast with a morning expedition into the bay. This is the best place to try a fresh sashimi breakfast; choose from one of the many restaurants dotted throughout the market.

Work off your fishy feast with a walk around the Motomachi area which is packed with 19th century Western-style architecture, including the old British Consulate, the Russian Greek Orthodox Church and the Old Public Hall.

Outside of the city, the lakes and mountains of the Onuma Quasi-National Park are a good place for finding a secluded hot spring or two. There’s camping, canoeing, fishing and hiking if you’re staying over. It’s about a one hour trip from Hakodate.

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How To Get There

Address

Hakodate, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan

By train

You can take the new JR Tohoku/Hokkaido bullet train route direct from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station. The line connects Aomori Prefecture on the main island of Honshu to Shin-Hakodate Hokuto station. From Tokyo, it will take around 4 hours and 10 minutes to reach Hakodate directly.

If tickets are sold out for the new route, you can go old-school and take the JR Tohoku bullet train to Shin-Aomori station and transfer to a JR Hakucho limited express train to Hakodate. It takes about 6 hours. Alternatively, you can take the Hokutosei sleeper train from Ueno station (Tokyo) which takes around 9 hours.

There are also rail connections from Sapporo and other major destinations in Hokkaido, if you’re flying in.

By bus

There are buses outside of Hakodate station that run to/from Sapporo, including an overnight service, taking around 6 hours.

By car

Driving to Hokkaido from Honshu would be a hardcore but incredibly rewarding road trip. The journey takes at least a day, and you’ll need to factor in the ferry from the main island to Hokkaido in the last portion.

Where To Stay

Hotel Heart Inn
  • Shinonomecho 13-7 Hakodate-Shi, Hokkaido 040-0036
  • 7.2/10
  • 0.1 km
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Henmi Ryokan
  • Wakamatsucho 4-6 Hakodate-Shi, Hokkaido 040-0063
  • 8.4/10
  • 0.2 km
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Homestay Plus Hakodate
  • Asahicho 6-14 Hakodate-Shi, Hokkaido 040-0037
  • 9.7/10
  • 0.3 km
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Guesthouse Hakodate Bay
  • Otemachi 12-5 Hakodate-Shi, Hokkaido 040-0063
  • 7.3/10
  • 0.3 km
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