Hakodate (函館), as one of the first cities in Japan to open up to international trade, provides visitors with something different from the rest of Hokkaido. Dutch, American, English and other traders came and settled here many years ago, creating a rich history and places to visit that feel like a fusion of east and west.
Budget travel tips
- Pick up a 1-day tram pass from the Hakodate station Tourist Information Center, they will save you a lot of money and time.
- Some historical buildings require an entrance fee, but you can save money by buying multi-pass tickets at any of these buildings.
Things to do
A nice, relaxing place to come any time of the day, the bay area is a cool place to have an ice cream, do a bit of window shopping and check out the old Kanemori red brick warehouses. Take the tram to Jujigai and walk to the bay.
The best fish market in Hokkaido, and one of the most interesting in Japan. An enormous array of all kinds of fish, and restaurants to serve them up for you. You can even get some shops/stalls to cook or prepare it for you for free. The market is right next to Hakodate station.
Very impressive fort, the first one to be built in Japan based on western designs and structures. There is also the Hakodate Magistrate’s Office, which has good English explanations about the forts long, violent history. Take the tram to Goryokaku-koen-mae.
Open: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (5 pm in winter)
Price: Free (museum 500 yen)
It’s a little pricey going up this mountain, but the view from the top is considered to be one of the most impressive city views in Japan. Best in the evening. The ropeway is near Jujigai tram stop.
Ropeway price (round trip): Adults 1200 yen, Children 600 yen
Open: 10:00-22:00 (25/4 to 15/10), 10:00-21:00 (16/10 to 24/4)
Direct summit bus price (from Hakodate station, not in winter): 400 yen
This well signposted area has an impressive collection of western influenced buildings made for the foreigners who settled here. Highlights include the Russian Orthodox church, the Episcopal church and the old public hall. Take the tram to Suehiro-cho and walk from there.
Why not put that tram pass to good use, and visit this hot spring town? There is a free foot bath near the tram stop, plus many one-day hot springs to enjoy in the area.
Say hello to some local deer at this big park, which is a great place to visit during the cherry blossom season.
How to get there
From other places it’s best to take the JR train.
Hostels and cheap hotels
Near Goryokaku, the dormitory here is really cheap. Check prices at Booking.com