Besides my ties to Kitahiroshima and Sapporo, I also have a major tie to the city of Hakodate. My husband was born and raised in Hakodate, and every year, we dutifully make the trip down south to visit my in-laws.
Actually, make that two or three times a year. When my husband and I have matching long vacations, we tend to go down to visit for a three-day period. For Japanese, that’s New Year’s Shogatsu, Obon in August, and Golden Week in May. We usually drive and it takes about three and a half hours to get there on the highway. If you take the slower local roads, the drive time is doubled.
There is also a part of the “highway” that is only one lane–this causes me to lose my mind all the time. You’re at the mercy of the car in front of you. If they are driving slowly, you kind of have to go the same pace they’re going.
But the visits are usually mandatory for a Japanese family 🙂 When we’re in Hakodate, we don’t really do anything but stay home and catch up over some food and drinks. My parents-in-law are getting older, so sightseeing with them is a little tougher.
Plus, they also prefer staying home more than going out, especially in the winter. Every time I say, “Let’s go do something,” my mother-in-law will shoe us out of the house without joining us and then ask us to go on errands to buy something for her. In the beginning, when my husband and I just got married, they would often join us and show us around. These days, though, we just sit at home and chat.
However, here are some places of interest for tourists to the city:
Kanemori Brick Houses
This is a giant shopping center built from the old brick warehouses of long ago. It is close to the port area, so walking around is really nice. There’s a lot of interesting shops and local food to try.
Goryoukaku and the Tower
You can’t really see the photos of the old star-shaped fort, but it’s there 🙂 The best place to see it is from the tower, of course. But that means you have to pay to go up to see it from the observatory. If you choose not to, the base of the tower has some souvenirs on sale and a nice area for resting.
Inside the Fort, there is a reconstruction of the old administration building that used to be inside. Take a walk around the park. It is a huge garden and lots of interesting places inside.
Hakodate is built upon these sloping roads that lead to Motomachi, which is the old part of town. Here, you’ll see a lot of these sloping roads. The most famous one is Hachiman-zaka, where you’ll be able to see the port from the top of the road.
This is also where you’ll find the old government building. You can actually go inside and look around at the old architecture.
The park outside has some amazing views, as well.
The Russian Orthodox Church
This is also still in the Motomachi area. This church is small and so is the outdoor area. It is still in use, so it’s a working building. The view of the city and the docks from this are is amazing.
Of course, this is the place to go to see views of the peninsula. Everybody in Japan knows this place. The best place to see the view of the city is at dusk or when it’s dark. Still, I also like it when it’s day time. It tends to get crowded, so pick your battle.