Hakodate Winter Adventure: Two Days of Sightseeing and Gourmet Experiences in Hokkaido

Hakodate | Introduction

Hakodate, formerly known as Goryokaku, is the southernmost city in Hokkaido, surrounded by sea on three sides. It has been an important trade port in Hokkaido since ancient times and is the third-largest city in Hokkaido. Hakodate holds significant historical value in Japan, featuring important historical sites such as the Goryokaku Fort. It also boasts one of the world's three most famous night views from Mount Hakodate, the Hakodate Morning Market filled with fresh seafood, and the Motomachi area, known for its strong foreign influence and popular tourist attractions.

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Accommodation in Hakodate | Accommodation in La'gent

Hakodate is a popular tourist spot, and there are a lot of accommodations to choose from. We came to Hakodate in winter for two days and one night, and chose La'gent which is next to Hakodate station, and we were satisfied with our stay. The price ratio of the room was good, the space was big enough, the table and chairs were all available, and the location was in front of the station with a view of the sea. The transportation next to Hakodate station is very convenient, and there is a small shopping street underneath the hotel, so it is worth recommending!

Hakodate Ekimae La'gent Booking Comparison

Attractions | Hakodate Morning Market

Hakodate Morning Market is the largest market in Hakodate, and it is very close to our accommodation, so our first stop was to head to the market for some food. The morning market consists of several buildings, with both indoor and outdoor sections. Hakodate, located in the southern part of Hokkaido and surrounded by the sea on three sides, boasts a natural harbor. Some shops sell dried goods, while others offer fresh seafood, all of which are tantalizing seafood options!

The most crowded spot is undoubtedly this famous squid stall. Squid is a representative specialty of Hakodate, and visitors enjoy trying to catch squid at the Hakodate Morning Market. When the squid is caught, it squirts water, causing excitement among the nearby tourists. It's a lively scene!

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Outside, there are crab vendors specializing in crabs, and the king crabs look impressive, don't they? The vendors even let them crawl on the ground to showcase their astonishing mobility.

With so much seafood available, it's definitely a must-visit. We chose to stay near the Hakodate Morning Market this time precisely because we knew there would be many delicious seafood dishes to try, and one visit wouldn't be enough to sample them all. Even the roadside stalls all look incredibly tasty, and the grilled scallops are as big as plates.

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Hakodate Morning Market: Must-Try | Kikuyo Shokudo

Upon arrival on the first day, after settling our luggage, we immediately headed to Kikuyo Shokudo. Kikuyo Shokudo is most famous for its original Hakodate sea urchin, scallop, and salmon roe rice bowl. The set meal also includes side dishes like squid and soup, and even the side dishes are delicious. Of course, all the seafood is very fresh, and eating the luxurious seafood rice bowl was incredibly satisfying. There is a wide variety of seafood rice bowls to choose from, and you can also customize your own. Since they open for breakfast, we actually went there twice. Besides, we also tried a bowl with sea urchin, salmon roe, and crab meat, but compared to that, the scallops in the original bowl were more delicious.

Hakodate Morning Market: Must-Try | Murakami Sea Urchin Shop

Murakami Sea Urchin Shop specializes in Hakodate's specialty sea urchin dishes. We usually aren't particularly fond of sea urchin, and it's true that sea urchin can be quite pricey compared to other seafood. So, we didn't have high expectations for sea urchin initially. However, after trying the seafood rice bowl at Kikuyo Shokudo, we discovered that sea urchin in Hakodate is truly delicious. Surprisingly, our experience at Murakami Sea Urchin Shop was even more remarkable.

Murakami Sea Urchin Shop is incredibly popular, and getting a reservation can be quite challenging. So, we decided to arrive early and queue up before they opened. It's important to note that waiting outdoors in Hakodate's winter nights is no joke, which gives you an idea of how high our expectations were for this place. However, Murakami Sea Urchin Shop exceeded our expectations. Their sea urchin is known for not being treated with alum, and the extremely fresh sea urchin practically melts in your mouth. The sweetness upon the first bite is an unbelievably delicious experience. While the sea urchin rice bowl may appear expensive, don't hesitate to order it. In addition to the sea urchin rice bowl, they also offer various other sea urchin dishes, such as sea urchin porridge and grilled sea urchin, all of which are delicious. But if you have a limited budget, the must-try dish is still the sea urchin rice bowl!

Attractions | Goryokaku Fort

Goryokaku is indeed a must-visit historical attraction in Hakodate. To get to Goryokaku, you can take a bus and then walk a short distance towards the distinctive five-pointed star-shaped tower known as Goryokaku Tower. The upper level of Goryokaku Tower provides the best panoramic view of Goryokaku, and inside the tower, you can also learn about the history of Goryokaku Fort before heading out to explore the grounds. It's a great place to immerse yourself in the history and beauty of Goryokaku.

Goryokaku is a star-shaped fortress originally built in the late Edo period. At that time, Hakodate was known as "Hakodate," and Hokkaido was referred to as "Ezo." The Battle of Hakodate, which took place during the end of the Edo period, was the final conflict between the Meiji government and the forces of the Tokugawa Shogunate. During this battle, Goryokaku served as the stronghold for the Tokugawa Shogunate's forces, making it not only architecturally unique but also of significant historical importance due to its role in this pivotal conflict.

After enjoying the panoramic view, it's a great idea to take a stroll inside Goryokaku Fort. On this particular afternoon with light snowfall and the approaching holiday season of winter, there weren't many tourists, which added to the tranquil and serene atmosphere of the place.

Underneath the bridge is actually a moat, and during the winter, this moat has already frozen over, covered with a thick layer of snow.

This building is the Hakodate Magistrate's Office. During the late Edo period, after the arrival of the Black Ships and the signing of the Kanagawa Treaty between the United States and Japan, Hakodate became Japan's first open port. The original Hakodate Magistrate's Office, which could be considered the city government of that time, was also relocated within Goryokaku.

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Attractions | Motomachi

Hakodate's Motomachi district is situated at the foot of Mount Hakodate. Originally, it was a residential area where many foreigners settled after the opening of Hakodate's port for international trade. In this area, you can find numerous wooden Western-style houses, consulates, churches, and other Western-influenced architectural structures. The Western architectural style has made it a popular tourist attraction.

Starting from Hakodate Station, you can take the tram to the intersection of Jujigai and begin your ascent. The Motomachi district isn't very large, and walking from Jujigai to Motomachi Park, circling around, should take less than two hours at a leisurely pace. However, if you visit during winter like us, with snowy and slippery paths, walking naturally becomes slower. Plus, spending time taking photos, the afternoon quickly passes by. During December's harsh winter, outdoor photography isn't easy, and your hands can freeze in just a couple of seconds.

In Motomachi, you can see Japan's earliest Russian Orthodox Church, characterized by its green domed roof.

The cobblestone streets are a signature of Motomachi, and among them, one of the most famous is Hachiman-zaka. In the summer, the trees along the sides of the road are beautiful, but in winter, it seems to exude a sense of solitude. Despite the cold wind, many visitors still stop to take photographs.

Attractions | Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse

The Kanemori Warehouse District is located not far from Motomachi, and these red brick buildings were originally warehouses for the port. With the decline of the North Sea fishing industry, they have now been transformed into a large shopping street. Among them, the Kanemori Yokocho Museum primarily sells small items with a Western European style, making it a great place for shopping as well.

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In the northern regions, winter evenings darken quickly, and the festive atmosphere of Christmas night comes to life as the Christmas tree lights up. It's at this time that you realize there are actually quite a lot of visitors around, perhaps because many were indoors before.

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Kinson Warehouse | Pastry Snaffle's

The cheesecake of Pastry Snaffle's in Hakodate Kanamori Museum is another classic in Hakodate, there are several other famous cheesecake shops in Kanamori warehouse, we bought them back to the hotel and ate them, and after comparing, we agreed that Snaffle's is the best. A cupcake is 200 yen, including free coffee. If you come to Kanamori Warehouse for shopping, it's good to have a cake or take away a gift, but if you want to use it inside the restaurant, you usually need to queue up. If you don't want to waste time, you can eat at the standing bar next to the restaurant like we did, but there are only a few flavors of cake to choose from.

Must Try Gourmet | Shio Ramen Michi-cai

Salt-flavored ramen is a classic in Hakodate, and Shio Ramen Michi-cai is one of the renowned establishments serving it. The dining street in Kanemori Warehouse District has gathered many excellent restaurants. We didn't have the chance to visit the original Shio Ramen Michi-cai in Goryokaku, so we went to the branch in the Kanemori Warehouse District. Shio ramen is made with kombu (kelp) and chicken bones, resulting in a refreshing broth. You can enhance the flavor by adding some Ezo oil and pepper from the condiments on the table.

Attractions | Mount Hakodate | World's Top 3 Night Views

Visiting Mount Hakodate for its night view is an absolute must when you're in Hakodate. To get to the summit of Mount Hakodate, you can take the ropeway. You have the option to walk from Jujigai or take a shuttle bus to the ropeway station. Since the bus schedule is less frequent, we chose to walk uphill on the way there and took the shuttle bus for the return journey.

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Hakodate's night view is indeed one of the world's top three night views. Due to the unpredictable weather, it's generally recommended to spend at least two nights in Hakodate to allow flexibility in your schedule. We only had one day, and the weather wasn't great in the morning, so we were worried about missing the night view. Fortunately, luck was on our side as the weather began to clear up in the evening.

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Attractions | Onuma Quasi-National Park

Onuma Quasi-National Park is composed of barrier lakes formed by the eruption of Mount Komagatake, and within these lakes are numerous islands. It is considered a wild and pristine natural park. If you're not driving, the common way to reach it is by taking the JR train to Onuma Koen Station. However, on our second day in Hakodate, we decided to rent a car for our first road trip in Japan. Parking is conveniently located near Onuma Koen Station, and we were pleasantly surprised to find out that parking fees at Japanese national parks were waived during the New Year holiday.

Onuma Park has a total of four walking trails. Not far from the parking area is the park plaza, where the Ojima Path begins. This trail is approximately a 15-minute walk and connects West Ojima to East Ojima. It's a great spot to capture scenic views of Mount Komagatake. During the summer, visitors often enjoy activities like cycling and boat rides on the lake. However, in winter, when the lake is covered in white snow, the primary attraction is the spectacular scenery. Don't underestimate the beauty of the winter landscape in Onuma Park, as it has been selected as one of the "New Three Views of Japan."

Beyond the Go-rokuhashi Bridge, there is a circular walking trail known as the "Island Tour Path". This trail connects seven islands, and it takes approximately one hour to complete the circuit, depending on your pace.

The atmosphere along the trail is incredibly serene, with very few tourists encountered along the way. Each bridge that spans the lake's surface offers breathtaking views, and the scenery is indeed spectacular. Despite the cold wind, an hour of hiking doesn't seem too strenuous, provided you have a good pair of slip-resistant shoes. The vast lake covered in white snow allows us to appreciate Mount Komagatake from various angles throughout the journey.

Onuma Park Specialty | Numanoie | Onuma Dumplings

Before leaving Onuma Park, don't forget to try the famous specialty of Numanoie located just across from the station. This renowned century-old shop specializes in only one item, "Onuma Dumplings" or "大沼糰子." These dumplings are made from glutinous rice with a soy sauce flavor and are filled with red bean or sesame. They make for a delightful Japanese dessert, especially when paired with tea.

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