Hakodate (函館) is a large city in southern Hokkaidō, Japan.
Hakodate is in the north of Japan, and is the largest city in southern Hokkaidō. As one of the first cities in Japan to be opened to trade, like Yokohama and Kobe, there are some signs of foreign influence in Hakodate, notably architecture.
Hakodate has been one of the largest settlements of explorers of the Hokkaido island through and after the Meiji era, following the few years of the Republic of Ezo since 1868 (see box). Separated just by a 20-km strait of Tsugaru (津軽海峡) from Honshu, Japan's main island, the city has naturally been seen as an entrance to Hokkaido. It was the second largest city in Hokkaido until 1950s and still is the third largest with a 350,000 population, surpassed only by Sapporo and Asahikawa.
Hakodate, like Kanazawa and Nagasaki, is one of the hidden gems of Japanese tourism. Everyone should see Kyoto and Tokyo, because they're amazing cities. But Japanese domestic tourists, having done those cities before, come in droves to some places that international tourists may not have heard of and appreciate the fabulous food, culture and history of some of Japan's lesser known cities. Hakodate should not be missed on a trip to Japan.
Hakodate AirportJAL and ANA offer nonstop service to Hakodate from Tokyo (Haneda), Osaka (Itami) and Nagoya (Chubu); Air Do (ADO) also flies the Tokyo route and offers slightly cheaper fares. There are turboprop flights to several other cities in Hokkaidō, as well as daily Korean Air service to Seoul.
Sapporo's busier Chitose Airport, 3-4 hours to the north by train, also offers a fairly convenient alternative.
Hakodate has two major train stations:
- Hakodate Station (函館駅) is in the center of the city and is served by conventional trains.
- Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station (新函館北斗駅) is 18 km north of Hakodate station and is the northernmost terminal for the shinkansen.
From Tokyo it takes approximately 4½ hours to reach Hakodate using the Hayabusa shinkansen service and the Hakodate Liner. A one-way trip costs ¥23,010 in standard class, and is fully covered by the national Japan Rail Pass.
If you are just traveling between Tokyo and Hokkaido, consider the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass, which is slightly cheaper than the national pass (¥26,000 for advance purchase). This pass covers travel from Tokyo to Hakodate, and also covers express trains from Hakodate to Sapporo. It can be used on any 6 days within a 14-day period. Unlike the national pass, however, the JR East-South Hokkaido Pass only comes in one version for standard class travel.
Both Hakodate and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto stations offer service to Sapporo on the Hokuto (北斗) limited express service (3½ hours, ¥8,830).
Overnight travelOvernight trains to Hokkaido were discontinued when the shinkansen began operations through the Seikan Tunnel in March 2016.
For journeys from Tokyo to Hakodate, it is now easier to just make the trip during the daytime. If you want to travel overnight over a longer distance (i.e. from Osaka and cities beyond), you may wish to split up your journey - stop to visit another city along the way, or simply find a station along the bullet train route where you can find cheap accommodation, Morioka and Sendai are good options with lots of connections and a number of cheaper hotels. An intermediate stop is a good option for Rail Pass holders, as only the lodging has to be paid for.
Seishun 18 TicketSince the Seishun 18 Ticket does not allow travel using bullet trains, users who want to go to Hakodate from Honshu must purchase a separate option ticket for ¥2300. The special ticket allows trips in any available standard class seat on Hokkaido Shinkansen trains between Okutsugaru-Imabetsu (the last bullet train stop in Honshu) and Kikonai (the first such stop on Hokkaido). It also covers travel on the private Isaribi Line between Kikonai and Goryokaku, where the rest of the local JR network can be accessed. You must be in possession of a valid Seishun 18 Ticket to purchase and use the option ticket.
Trains to areas outside of Hakodate leave infrequently (compared to areas like Tokyo where trains come every few minutes) so plan ahead.
By boatHakodate's main ferry terminal is 4 km from the center and reachable on buses 1 and 19; a direct shuttle is also available between the ferry terminal and train station.
Seikan Ferry and Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry operate ferry services from Hakodate's port to Aomori with multiple departures daily. Trips take 3 hr 45 min. One way fares are cheapest on the Seikan Ferry, ¥1600 for a carpet space. The Tsugaru Kaikyo's Blue Dolphin ferry offers several classes of service, from standard carpet space (¥2220 one-way) up to a suite with two beds and an in-room shower and toilet (¥4940 one-way) and a luxurious suite that adds a living room (¥12,340 one-way). Note that during peak travel periods, these fares are higher.
Tsugaru Kaikyo also operates to Ōma on the remote Shimokita Peninsula, with two daily round-trips. Fares start at ¥1810 for second class and ¥2220/2460 for a reserved seat. Travel time is 1 hr 40 min.
Cars and motorcycles can also be carried on the Hakodate-Oma ferry, and on some of the Hakodate-Aomori ferries.
Tsugaru Kaikyo offers online booking of all of their ferry services in English through a third party. Fares are paid in euros and reservations are confirmed within 48 hours of booking. They also offer checked baggage service for an extra fee.
The streetcar's one-day pass can also be bought at the tourists information center inside the JR Hakodate station. When purchasing a one-day pass, make sure to check out the attached list of discount shops since it may come handy in your tour. (As of December 2007, a 10% discount was provided for the Hakodate ropeway and the Goryōkaku tower).
There are two streetcar routes; namely, the number 2 route, and the number 5 route. Both routes runs from the same Yunokawa until it branches out in Jujigai.
Route map of street car route #2 is as follows. Note that the first three stations are different from route #5.
Yachigashira(谷地頭), Aoyagi-chō(青柳町), Hōrai-chō(宝来町), Jūjigai(十字街), Uo ichiba-dōri(魚市場通), Shiyakusho Mae(市役所前), Matsukaze-chō(松風町), Shinkawa-chō(新川町), Chitose-chō(千歳町), Shōwa-bashi(昭和橋), Horikawa-chō(堀川町), Chiyodagai(千代台), Chūōbyōin Mae(中央病院前), Goryōkaku Kōen Mae(五稜郭公園前), Suginami-chō(杉並町), Kashiwagi-chō(柏木町), Fukabori-chō(深堀町), Keibajo Mae(競馬場前), Komabashako Mae(駒場車庫前), Hakodate Arena Mae(函館アリーナ前), Yunokawa Onsen(湯の川温泉), Yunokawa(湯の川)
Route map of street car route #5 is as follows. The first three stations are different from route #2.
Hakodate Dokku Mae(函館どつく前), Ōmachi(大町), Suehiro-chō(末広町), Jūjigai(十字街), Uo ichiba-dōri(魚市場通), Shiyakusho Mae(市役所前), Matsukaze-chō(松風町), Shinkawa-chō(新川町), Chitose-chō(千歳町), Shōwa-bashi(昭和橋), Horikawa-chō(堀川町), Chiyodagai(千代台), Chūōbyōin Mae(中央病院前), Goryōkaku Kōen Mae(五稜郭公園前), Suginami-chō(杉並町), Kashiwagi-chō(柏木町), Fukabori-chō(深堀町), Keibajo Mae(競馬場前), Komabashako Mae(駒場車庫前), Hakodate Arena Mae(函館アリーナ前), Yunokawa Onsen(湯の川温泉), Yunokawa(湯の川)
Additionally, there is the はこだて 電車・バス沿線名所・史跡マップ (hakodate densha, basu ensenmeisho, shiseki mappu), the map of interesting places to visit in Hakodate by streetcar and bus. It is free and has a physical map of all the stops as well as many of the attractions.
The Hakodate Guide Map is also provided free of charge at both the JR Tourist Information Counter and in the Museum of Photographic History's Tourist Information located in front of the Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward.
Four Points by Sheraton Hakodate is a 2-minute walk from JR Hakodate station which has new Panasonic electric bicycles for hire. The rate is ¥1000 for 3 hours. You may hire these bicycles even if you're not a guest.
Mount HakodateOffers spectacular views of the city of Hakodate in clear weather and offers, according to locals, one of the three best night views of not merely Japan but the entire world (the other claimants being Naples and Hong Kong). The busiest time is during sunset, so if you plan to take a sunset photograph, be ready to arrive early and claim your spot... and be prepared for a 40-minute waiting queue to catch the cable car back from the summit.
Fort Hakodate RuinsFort Hakodate, also known as Tsugaru Fort (津軽要塞), is located on Mount Hakodate. This was a World War II battery (though it predates World War II as a fort) which now has been recreated with camping tables where the air batteries used to be. From the upper ropeway station, use the lower exit on the left of the arrival/departure deck and follow the stairs downward to a second parking lot. There you'll see a sign of the west battery, just follow the path. For the east and south battery you have to hike or take a car there.
Fort GoryōkakuA star-shaped fort, a symbolic site to the city itself. Completed in 1864, this was Japan's first Western-style fortress and finished just in time for it to be occupied by the Ezo Republic as their headquarters. It never saw any action though, as the rebels surrendered peacefully. Most of the fort was consequently demolished and this is now a large park and popular cherry-blossom spot in spring. The fort also houses a small museum with exhibits on local history (rotating each year). (JR Goryōkaku station is not near to Goryōkaku. Tram or bus are recommended.)
Goryōkaku TowerFrom the 90-meter viewing platform you can get a striking view of the star-shaped fort. Neat dioramas tell the story of the Enomoto and Ezo Republic (see sidebox), and the role of the fort in Hakodate's history; an English pamphlet is available. The views from Goryōkaku Tower is different on each season. In spring, you can enjoy seeing 1,600 cherry blossoms and the view from the tower is a best place to see them. However, it takes at least 3 hours to go up the tower in cherry blossom season because of the crowds. In summer, you can enjoy full green trees, and in fall you can enjoy the changing leaves. In winter, Goryōkaku is covered with snow and is illuminated at night.
MotomachiThis is the historical district. One popular attraction is the Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward (旧函館区公会堂 Kyū-hakodateku-kōkai-dō), a European-style building which housed Hakodate's government in the early 1900s. The various churches and consulates in the area, dating to the early days of foreign trade with Japan, are also frequented by tourists. There is a pleasant walk up going from the Higashi Honganji Temple (東本願寺函館別院 higashi-honganji-hakodate-betsuin) all the way up to the Foreign Cemetery (外国人墓地 gaikokujin-bochi). On your way you will pass the Russian Orthodox Church, the Our Lady Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church (worth a look inside; the door on the side of the main front door isn't locked, it's just heavy and visitors are welcome), the Episcopal Church as well as the old British Consulate, the Old Public Hall, the Old Russian Consulate, as well as other temples in the vicinity of the cemetery. There is also the Gokoku Shrine which houses the remains of the imperial dead following the Battle of Hakodate, as well as the remains of the Choshu rebels that died in the Satsuma Rebellion, although their memorials are not open to the public.
address: KameoThis was built in 1954. This temple is "Soto Zen", a sect of Buddhism. The temple is a popular place for locals to honour their ancestors. Moreover, you can feel season. In the fall, you can enjoy seeing colored leaves. There are red tree and yellow tree. They are very beautiful. And also, you can see snow in winter.
address: KameoThis shrine is surrounded by trees. And also, there is a river behind. This name is "Shiodome river." Therefore, there are a lot of nature. Then, the festival is held in August 13th and 14th every year. People in Kameo are looking forward to going to this. In this festival, Japanese drums is played by people. Japanese drums is called "Taiko" in Japanese. "Taiko" is Japanese traditional instrument. Though the festival is very small, you can see Japanese traditional things.
Kanemori Red Brick WarehousesThese warehouses built at the end of the Meiji era now house a variety of commercial facilities, as well as restaurants serving seafood. There is also the first concrete electricity pole of Japan located near there, which seems to attract the interest of Japanese tourists. A night view of Hakodate can be seen from The Blue Moon bay cruise, located at the vicinity of the red brick warehouses. The area is especially nice for a night time walk as the buildings are lit up and the area is very atmospheric, especially in winter.
Hakodate Museum of Northern PeoplesNot much English here, but worth a look to gain an understanding of the Ainu, the indigenous people of northern Japan. Ainu culture is rich and fascinating but has historically been forgotten in Japan.
Port FestivalThis is Hakodate's biggest carnival and known for very unique Hakodate Squid Dance (函館いか踊り Hakodate Ika-odori) in its parade Wassyoi Hakodate (ワッショイはこだて Wasshoi Hakodate). The parade is normally in the 2nd and 3rd day (2nd day: Jujigai to Matsukaze-cho, 3rd day: Horikawa-cho to Goryokaku). Also there are a fireworks event in 1st day. (Please note that this schedule may be changed because of the weather.)
phone: +81-138-27-3535A giant Christmas tree is displayed floating on the sea in the red-brick warehouses (金森赤レンガ倉庫群) area during the festival each year. Lighting-up events with fireworks are held every night. This Christmas trees are presented by Halifax, Canada every year.
address: KameoHere you can experience agriculture. Everyone can enjoy this place. You can sow seeds and plant vegetables. For example, you can grow strawberries, rice, buckwheat and sweet potato. After the food developed, you can harvest it. You can also pick cherries there. The adult rate is ¥400, and the rate for children is ¥200.
address: KameoA mid-sized ski resort adjacent to Lake Onuma and accessible by bus from Onuma Station. Features 2 chairlifts and a gondola as well as a rental shop.
address: 20-7 Yachigashira-cho (谷地頭町20-7)A hot spring near Mount Hakodate. This is muddy hot spring as opposed to the clear hot spring at the Yunokawa Hot Springs on the other end of the tram line. Most users are local residents of Hakodate. A cafeteria is on site. Soap and towels are available for an extra fee. Free parking available.
Morning MarketCrammed into a couple of bayfront buildings, rows of vendors sell a variety of seafood, but the main attraction is the huge selection of Hokkaidō's famous crabs. Open 5:00 (6:00 in the winter) until noon. Next to the market are a number of restaurants, most of which specialize in seafood-topped donburi (rice bowl).
- Glasswares and musicboxes can be bought at the old Meijikan Post Office (明治館 meiji-kan). Meijikan is near the vicinity of the red brick warehouses (akarenga) and the Hakodate Beer Hall. Get off at the streetcar's jujigai(十字街) stop.
Department storesThere are three popular department stores in Hakodate. They are "Marui-Imai", "Boni-moriya" and "To. depart".
- Marui-Imai (丸井今井) is at very near to Goryokaku-koen Mae station. Marui-Imai is the most popular and oldest department store company in Hokkaido. They run their stores in Sapporo as well as Hakodate.
- Boni-moriya (棒二森屋. shortly 棒二 or ボーニ) is at very near to Hakodate Station. Boni-moriya is also one of the oldest department store companies in Hokkaido. But they will close their store in December 2018.
- To. depart (テーオーデパート te-oh) is at Yanagawa-cho (梁川町). "To. Holdings" is one of the most popular and biggest corporation in Hakodate. They run DIY stores Yellow Glove (イエローグローブ) and many other businesses as well as the department store.
Convenience stores are also popular with tourists.
- Seicomart are convenience stores which are nearly only in Hokkaido. You can buy Hokkaido original foods, drinks and other items.
- Hasegawa store (ハセガワストア, shortly ハセスト Hase-sto) are convenience stores only in Hakodate area. They are well-known by Yakitori-bento (やきとり弁当), it is a lunch set includes skewered pork.
- Tsuruha Drug (ツルハドラッグ) is a drug store (pharmacy) chain which is one of the most popular drug store chains in Hokkaido. Duty-free shopping is available. Tourists (especially Chinese) are often seen in the store.
Restaurants and food stalls at the Morning MarketExplore this lively market and its stalls. In and around the market are there many small restaurants where you can eat all kinds of preparations of squid and other fishes, including the "odori-don" dish.
address: Goryokakucho 31-10 (五稜郭町31-10)A small chain of Indonesian-style soup curry restaurants found in many locations across Hokkaido. Has an unusually large scale for spiciness (up to infinity!) and also features several difference house specials, of which the spiciest is 'Dewi Fujin.' There are two other locations in the city (see website) but are not as easy to access without use of an automobile.
address: Suehiromachi 14-12 (末広町14番12)This food-and-beer restaurant, located in a red brick warehouse in the akarenga district, combines a German bierhalle atmosphere into its interior design. The large food menu includes a good selection of seafood dishes, western specialties such as pizza and spaghetti, and there are a couple of locally-brewed beers on tap, although quite pricey (¥870 for a pint). English menu with pictures available.
address: Hondori 1-4-20 (本通1丁目44-20)This sushi restaurant, a short walk from Fort Goryōkaku, is a good value for lunch when all plates are ¥129.
Lucky PierrotThis chain of hamburger restaurants is exclusive to Hakodate, popular among citizens and known to reasonable prices. "Each franchise is decked out in its own unique kitsch including one in art deco and another in year round Santa themes. They made international news last year when they began offering a “whale burger”, which one blogger called more poetically a “whale whopper”. LaPi, as called by locals, does indeed have a menu as eccentric as its’ décor. The #1 most popular item is called “Chinese Chicken”. This humberger contains chicken, lettuce and mayonnaise and is very delicious. #2 is the “whale burger,” which is fried whale with miso sauce. Two other items are of special interest - the “Hokkaido Genghis Khan Burger” and the "Scallop Burger." The latter originated from a customer contest. The main LaPi website is a trip. The menu link is called “Umai monogatari” which means “Tasty Tales”. There are many different menu items in Lupi. For example, pizzas, cakes, hamburgers and omelets combined with fried rice. The website also provides sightseeing suggestions for Hakodate as well as a page titled “Love Letter,” which appears to be a signbook/forum for folks to pay tribute to their food.
Lumbini Curry Houseaddress: Mihara 1-20-11 (美原１丁目２０−１１)Quite the hidden gem, Lumbini is a Nepalese curry restaurant in the Mihara area of Hakodate north of Goryokaku Park. There are 4 curry base flavors (tomato, onion, daal, and spinach) and a fair selection of different naans. Has both tables and rug seating on raised platforms.
Rabbit FarmThis is a bakery. There are many delicious sweet rolls and cakes. There are apple pies, chocolate sticks, cream puffs and bread as well. This bakery often staffs disabled people, which gives them work opportunities they may not have otherwise.
Teuchi Soba Kitawaseaddress: 32-9 Honcho (本町32-9)A small but very charming soba restaurant hidden along the main tram line running east . The staff and atmosphere are very inviting and the multitude of soba lunch and dinner sets are sure to satisfy. Make sure to try some of their soba-flavored soft-serve ice cream for dessert.
Tea Shop Yūhiphone: +81 138-85-8824address: 25-18 FunamichōA delightful place to relax after seeing the main sights. This cozy wooden building serves delicious teas, along with light snacks. The window seats offer a great view of the bay and the staff is very friendly. English menu available.
BagusA surfer-style bar open 'til morning.
Bar Big Jobaddress: Hakodate, Honcho, 7-7An English-style standing room only bar featuring a selection of bottled Belgian beers. Chairs are often set up outside in front of the bar during the warmer months of the year.
Eiley's Irish Pubaddress: Hakodate-shi, Honchō, 9-5 3FA spacious Irish pub on the 3rd floor of a building in Goryokaku. Several beer options from around the globe including Guinness on tap.
Ramaru ラメールaddress: honcho 2-3 Alpha BuildingSmall drinking place 2nd floor. "Nomi-ho Dai" All you can drink for 1½ hours, ¥3000. Look for a "Blue Ship's Anchor" on the sign next to the Boss coffee machine. This street has many bars so it is a little confuzing to find. But if you find it- it's well worth a chat with Osho-san. the owner.
Kingyoaddress: Honcho 9-3 Honcho Building 2nd FloorElegantly styled drinking establishment. "Nomi-ho Dai" more than 3 people; All you can drink 1½ hours- ¥3500 p/p.
address: 22-4 WakamatsuchōA 2-minute walk from the Hakodate station. It is a cozy inn with clean tatami rooms run by an English speaking Japanese lady. Laundry available and the internet in the lounge area is free.
Minshuku Sumitomo-Innive blocks (or street lights) straight on from Hakodate station, or take the bus to Omori-cho. Rooms are typical Japanese 15-tatami Spartan minshuku-style, bathroom included. In 2007, management did not speak English (despite its website having an English page).
phone: +81 138 23 1045 (Asaichi)All Toyoko Inns are pretty much the same though the Asaichi one is a little bit more in amongst the action with the Morning Market nearby than the Ekimae Daimon. They offer very convenient and cheap rooms and free breakfast but lack the 'Japanese experience' you may get from other options. Rooms can be reserved online through an English website.
Comfort Hotel HakodateA business hotel conveniently located next to the train station. Rooms are small but clean, and the price includes breakfast.
phone: +81 138 22 0111The once dated and daggy Loisir has had a bit of a facelift and a new name. The rooms are small but the location is excellent. The bar on the 13th floor has nice views and can do you a decent martini.
phone: +81 138 23 0591Pricey, but worth it if you can get a room with a view of the bay. Nice location not far from the station and near the red brick warehouse area and not far from the old part of town. Called the 'international' hotel, but nothing particularly international about it apart from the romanisation of the word 'international' in the name.
phone: +81 138-27-5858address: 23-9 Suehiro-cho (末広町23-9)A hotel that is south of the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse. Offers a range of different accommodations from hostel style shared dormitories to individual rooms in a historic bank building. Family rooms that sleep up to 6 are also available. Within walking distance to many attractions near Motomachi, including the ropeway station. Good for travelers on a budget or those traveling in a large group.
Visitors unused to icy conditions should be careful in winter of the icy conditions, particularly of black ice. Cars may skid in the streets and pedestrians can fall victim to it on the sidewalks. Do as the Japanese do: simply stand up and keep walking like nothing happened.
As elsewhere in Japan, Hakodate is comparatively very safe when it comes to petty crime. One exception that seems to happen in Hokkaido, albeit rarely even then, is being approached by a foreigner claiming to be in distress and needing cash. They will tell you that an ATM swallowed their card or some other sob story and that they cannot speak Japanese but strangely are not interested in being accompanied to the police so you can translate for them. This will likely occur in a touristy area and they don't pose any danger. Simply direct them to the nearest police box, there is one near the station.
- Lake Onuma (大沼 ōnuma), a "quasi-national park" that's about half an hour to the north by express train, offers a pleasant quick gateway. If you wish to go to Lake Ōnuma by local train, make sure to check the train schedule since local trains only come every 2 hours or so.
- Matsumae (松前), 1½ hour drive from Hakodate along the coast, has the only castle in Hokkaidō, which is in Matsumae park, famed in southern Hokkaidō (南北海道 minami hokkaidō or 道南 dōnan) for excellent cherry blossom viewing in late April/early May.
- Esan (恵山), known for its Tsutsuji (Azalea) festival in late May/early June, it's about a 45-minute car ride east of Hakodate city proper (but still within the city limits). The drive will take you mostly along the coast with scenic views of northern Aomori on clear days.