Exploring Hakodate in a Day
Hakodate is the third largest city in the southern part of Hokkaido island and it takes around five hours by bus to reach Hakodate from Sapporo. The city is not really big and actually we can visit all the tourist spots in one day because they are not too far from each other. The main city transportations (that I could find there) are trams and buses. But in the middle of the cold winter it was really hard for me to wait for them outside. The shops had already closed at 7pm and the transportation services had also stopped much earlier as compared to other big cities in Japan. Hakodate for me was a peaceful city and its picturesque view was really mesmerising. Since Hakodate is one of the first harbor citifies that opened to international trade, the western influence is much felt there. It didn't take me even a moment to have felt that I was somewhere in Europe.
There are some must-see places when you visit Hakodate. I started the journey from Hakodate Bay where you can enjoy the view of the blue sea-water, the boat cruises that docked at the bay; and the snow mountain on the opposite side of the island. Red brick warehouses are also located in Hakodate Bay area and they remind me of the classical western ambience. On entering the warehouse, the feeling was completely different because of the modified interiors that gave a more modern impression to the visitors. There were many shops that sold various kinds of souvenirs and accessories that were not related to “Japanese”, therefore I didn't, for once, feel the Japanese atmosphere in the brick warehouses. When I stepped outside in the direction opposite to the place where I entered the warehouses, I found many restaurants as well as cafes and shops that sold Japanese souvenirs and food specialties from Hokkaido. This particular area is known as the Hakodate Factory.
Then, I went up from the bay area to the base of Mount Hakodate to catch a glimpse of the Motomachi area, on foot. It actually took longer than expected but I really enjoyed the view when I finally reached there. Motomachi is an area of many old buildings with classical western architecture which previously functioned as trade centers for innumerable foreigner traders who moved to Hakodate. Russian Orthodox Church and the Old British Consulate are examples of some of the famous buildings.
From Motomachi, I went up further to find the place from where I could buy the ticket to ride the cable car to Mount Hakodate. I personally think that it is better to go up to the mountain in the evening because one, it is not too crowded and; two, you might find a better spot to enjoy the view of the city front he top before it starts to get crowded, especially before the sun sets. There are many souvenir shops and restaurant at the top of the mountain. The cityscape as seen from Mount Hakodate is one of the best views I have ever seen during my stay in Japan. It was the most beautiful sight especially with the city covered in snow. A memorable experience indeed, to watch the city gradually starting to turn on the lamps, turning the island picturesque with the glow of a zillion lamps as the sky turned darker and darker into the night.
The other must-see place in Hakodate is the Fort of Goryokaku which is built for defense purposes during the war period. When I visited the fort, it was all covered by snow so I could not see the shape of the fort clearly. Hence, it is better to observe the fort from the observation deck of Goryokaku Tower.
Someone once said that, if you have ever visit Hakodate but you did not have a chance to eat a quick meal at Lucky Pierrot's, then you have not visited Hakodate yet. This itself indicates how important Lucky Pierrot is to Hakodate. This hamburger chain is indeed originally from Hakodate and can only be found at Hakodate. There are many branches of Lucky Pierrot in the city and each branch has it's own theme. It is quite simple to find it because chain has the big clown face as its mascot. I visited the Swing themed shop and I actually sat on the Swing-chair. I also visited the Elvis Presley themed Lucky Pierrot where Elvis’ photos adorned the walls and his songs kept playing in the background. As soon as you enter the shop, go straight to the cashier's section to select the menu and pay for it so that you can enjoy your food later while completely engrossed in the theme of that particular Lucky Pierrot. The staff serves the order at your place later, though. The main menu is the Burger and the most popular is the Chinese Chicken Hamburger. I ordered a Shrimp Mayonnaise Burger with potato fries which were delicious. I enjoyed the unique atmosphere as it was totally in contrast to the the common restaurants or café in Japan.
Hakodate is worth visiting when you are in Hokkaido.
Check these websites for further information about Hakodate tourism and the famous burger shop.