Exploring Japan: Monkey see, monkey do in Hakodate

Exploring Japan: Monkey see, monkey do in Hakodate

by Masakazu
Live Japan

Hakodate, in southern Hokkaido, has an exotic atmosphere with classic brick buildings and an amazing night view from Mt. Hakodate. Add to those sights culinary delights that include famous Hakodate ramen, fresh seafood from the Tsugaru Strait, and local hamburgers, and you have a city that draws tourists throughout the year. Here are ten fun things to do in Hakodate – recommended by a local writer!

1. Squid fishing at the Hakodate Morning Market

The Hakodate Morning Market (“Hakodate Asaichi”) is an experience you definitely don't want to miss. Shops sell fruits and vegetables, dried foods, sweets, clothing, and more, all centered on fresh fish and a lively early morning atmosphere. At one corner of the market is the always vibrant Donburi Yokocho Market, which serves seafood bowls and other dishes.

At the Asaichi’s Ekini Market you can try your hand at squid fishing, a popular activity in which you can catch your own squid from a small tank before eating it on the spot. The price varies depending on the size of the day’s squid, and it is about 600 to 2,000 yen per person (including cooking fee). The fresh, exceptionally delicious squid are like nothing you’ve ever tasted. Here you’ll also be able to try “ikagoro” (squid intestines) – a delicacy that can only be eaten fresh.

Hakodate Morning Market

Address: 9-19, Wakamatsucho, Hakodate, Hokkaido, 040-0063

Phone: 0138-22-7981 (Hakodate Morning Market Cooperative Association Secretariat)
Hours: 6:00 - 14:00 (January - April), 5:00 - 14:00 (May - December), differs from shop to shop


2. Enjoy the footbath near Yunokawa Onsen Station

Hakodate’s City Tram is convenient for sightseeing throughout the city, connecting major destinations like Motomachi with its Hakodate Ropeway platform and historic churches, to the Red Brick Warehouses, Goryokaku Park, and Yunokawa Onsen. One-day tram tickets and one- and two-day passes valid for both the tram and city buses are useful transit options depending on your destination and how many days you’ll be in the city.

The footbath located near Yunokawa Onsen Station is a popular spot not only for tourists but also for Hakodate citizens. This sodium/calcium chloride spring is available free of charge. Bring a towel to dry your feet and you can relax while waiting for the tram.

Public Footbath

Address: 1-16-5, Yunokawacho, Hakodate, Hokkaido, 042-0932

Phone: 0138-57-8988 (Hakodate Yunokawa Onsen Ryokan Cooperative)
Hours: 9:00 - 21:00, open daily
Price: Free


3. Aerial view of Goryokaku Park’s cherry blossoms from Goryokaku Tower

Goryokaku was the political center of Ezo (Hokkaido’s former name), but has been a public park since 1914.

Five thousdan cherry trees have been planted in the park, making it one of the most acclaimed cherry blossom spots in Hokkaido. Prime blossom viewing takes place from late April to early May. From 107-meter-high Goryokaku Tower, adjacent to the park, you can enjoy views of the pink, star-shaped fort, the city itself, Mt. Hakodate, and the Tsugaru Strait. Be sure to witness these much-beloved cherry blossoms in full bloom!


Goryokaku Tower

Address: 43-9, Goryokakucho, Hakodate, Hokkaido, 040-0001

Phone: 0138-51-4785 (Goryokaku Tower)
Hours: 8:00 - 19:00 (April 21 - October 20), 9:00 - 18:00 (October 21 - April 20), 9:00 - 19:00 (During the winter Star Dream event), 6:00 - 19:00 (January 1), open daily
Admission: Adults 900 yen


4. Visit hot spring monkeys at Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden

The Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden opened in 1970 as a place to enjoy the feeling of summer all year long. Approximately 3,000 colorful flowers tropical plants from 300 species are on display, and the garden’s monkey habitat is home to more than 70 Japanese macaques. Macaques don't bathe on hotter days, but consistently soak in hot springs to cope with the harsh Hokkaido winter. Come check out these relaxed monkeys!

Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden

Address: 3-1-15, Yunokawacho, Hakodate, Hokkaido, 042-0932

Phone Number0138-57-7833

Hours: 9:30 - 18:00 (April l - October), 9:30 - 16:30 (November - March), closed December 29th - January 1st
Admission: Adults 300 yen


5. Popular coffee ice cream at Coffee Room Kikuchi

In addition to hot drinks, Coffee Room Kikuchi sells delicious soft serve ice cream with a gelato-like texture. Available in mocha, milk, vanilla, and three-flavor mix varieties (270 yen including tax), take-out customers stop by one after another for this cool treat. You should definitely try it if you’re in the vicinity of Yunokawa Onsen.

Coffee Room Kikuchi

Address: 3-13-19, Yunokawacho, Hakodate, Hokkaido, 042-0932

Phone Number0138-59-3495

Hours: 9:30 - 21:00 (April – September, *Wednesday and Thursday 9:30 - 18:30), 9:30 - 18:30 (October - March), closed New Year holidays


6. Eat Hakodate’s most popular hamburgers at Lucky Pierrot

The “Bay Area Main Store” is close to major tourist destinations

The “Hakodate Snow Burger” with delicious white sauce

Hakodate Lucky Pierrot is a local hamburger chain with shops found only in and around Hakodate. The Bay Area Main Store is the original, opened in 1987. Following a philosophy of “no one is the same,” each of the seventeen locations are uniquely designed and decorated. In addition to the three most popular burgers – the Chinese Chicken, Lucky Egg, and Pork Katsu (Cutlet) Burgers – the menu includes Hokkaido-esque burgers like the Hakodateyama Burger (1,100 yen, tax excluded) and the Genghis Khan Burger (350 yen tax excluded), curry, and omelet rice. They’re all delicious, and sure to put a smile on your face.


Hakodate Lucky Pierrot Bay Area Main Store

Address: 23-18, Suehirocho, Hakodate, Hokkaido, 040-0053

Phone Number: 0138-26-9099

Hours: 10:00 - 22:00 (Saturday until 23:00 ), open daily


7. Shopping at Hako to Tate at Hakodate Airport

Hako to Tate at Hakodate Airport sells souvenirs jointly developed with southern Hokkaido manufacturers to promote the charm of Hakodate.

The “International Signal Flag Bag” has a motif based on the communication flags used by ships, while the “Ikauroko Komon Series” fashion accessories feature a softly colored “squid and scales” pattern. The shop is full of items that embody the uniqueness of Hakodate, which opened as Japan's first international trading port in 1854.

The “Kankan Gift Package” is excellent for souvenir gift-giving. You can fill a decorative can with your favorite items and seal it with the shop’s hand operated can sealer.

Hako to Tate

Address: Hakodate Airport Terminal Bld.2F, Takamatsucho, Hakodate Shi, Hokkaido, 042-0952

Phone Number: 0138-57-8884

Hours: 8:00 - 19:30 (In accordance with final boarding time), open daily


8. Handmade crafts at the classic Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse and Meijikan

Kanamori Red Brick Warehouse is a renovated commercial warehouse used during the Meiji period. Representative of the Hakodate Bay area, the Warehouse is an exotic shopping area over 40 souvenir shops, sweet shops, and beer halls that retain the atmosphere of the Meiji era.

Hakodate Meijikan is a renovation of the former Hakodate Post Office, which was built in 1911 as Hokkaido’s first post office. Inside the building, there’s a Handmade Music Box Workshop where customers can make their own music boxes, as well as the Sandblast Experience Workshop where they can create sandblasted glass art (reservation required).
Music boxes from 100 years ago are also displayed on the first floor, and music box concerts are held in the morning and afternoon (subject to cancellation).

Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse

Address: 14-12, Suehirocho, Hakodate Shi, Hokkaido, 040-0053

Phone Number: 0138-27-5530

Hours: 9:30 - 19:00 (varies depending on the season), open daily

Hakodate Meijikan

Address: 11-17, Toyokawacho, Hakodate, Hokkaido, 040-0065

Phone Number: 0138-27-7070

Hours: 9:30 - 18:00 (varies depending on the season), closed Wednesdays


9. Do the Squid Dance

Every August, the Hakodate Port Festival takes place over five days as the city’s biggest, most colorful summer event. Among many individual events, the Hakodate Ikaodori (squid dance) is the most exciting. Volunteers came up with the idea that “anyone can dance” in 1980, and the dance was first performed during the Port Festival the following year, gradually gaining popularity with festival-goers.

Since Hakodate is famous as a “squid town,” squid dishes like squid sashimi, salted squid, and squid somen are represented in the dance. Hand fans with choreography instructions are distributed at the festival venue, so give it a try!

Hakodate Port Festival

Location: Hakodate city area (Jujigai Station, Hakodate Station, Chiyogadai Station,
Phone: 0138-27-3535 (Hakodate Port Festival Executive Committee)
Date: August 1-5

10. The spectacular night view from Mt. Hakodate

With Mt. Hakodate jutting into the sea, which wraps around either side of the city, the night view of Hakodate is said to be one of the three best night views in the world. The transition from dusk to night is the best viewing time as the red sky and city lights create a fantastic atmosphere. The top of the mountain can be reached via ropeway, bus, or car. However, there are restrictions on private transportation depending on the season and time of day, and public transportation is recommended to avoid traffic congestion. The buses’ narrow and winding mountain route is thrilling, compared to the ropeway’s direct ascent, so taking the ropeway up Mt. Hakodate and riding the bus down is a convenient way to experience the best of both worlds.

Hakodateyama Ropeway

Address: 19-7, Motomachi, Hakodate, Hokkaido, 040-0054

Phone Number: 0138-23-3105

Hours: 10:00 - 22:00 (last descent) (April 25 - October 15), 10:00 - 21:00 (last descent) (October 16 - April 24), open daily
Fare: Adults (junior high school students and above) 1,500 yen (round trip) 1,000 yen (one way)


Hakodate has so much more than just this top 10!

In the midst of Hokkaido’s wealth of magnificent natural scenery, Hakodate is one of a few locations where you can get a feeling of history and romance. In this city that developed along with its port near the end of the Edo period, there are many other impressive sights besides the ten we’ve recommended including foreign-influenced buildings like the Orthodox Church and the former Russian Consulate, the grave of famous poet Takuboku Ishikawa, and the relaxing Yunokawa Onsen. Be sure you have plenty of time to visit the next time you’re in Hakodate!



Via Live Japan

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