Along with Shimoda in Shizuoka Prefecture, Hakodate, a fishing port in southwestern Hokkaido, was opened to foreign trade in 1854 following the conclusion of a treaty with the United States.
Throughout the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) eras, Hakodate prospered as a cosmopolitan city.
Reminders of this adventurous time--Western architecture in particular--are still easy to find throughout this hilly city.
So integral are these buildings to Hakodate's identity, there are zones in the city where historic structures must be preserved.
The tourist area is relatively small and visitors can take in many sites of interest by strolling the streets--or by hopping aboard a tram. Hakodate is one of the few remaining cities in the country where this form of transportation is still available.
Wander happily through the historic churches, warehouses and offices dating from a century ago, but make sure you get to bed early. You'll need to get up at the crack of dawn to see Hakodate's morning market at its exciting best. Sure it mainly feeds the locals, but it also offers up a taste of delicious Hokkaido seafood to tourists.
Leaving the city, visit Mount Hakodateyama on the peninsula jutting out into Tsugaru Strait and Hakodate Bay. Once the site of a military fortress and off-limits to the public, the mountain has retained much of its natural beauty.
Night views of the city from a lookout point on the mountain are breathtaking and unforgettable.
Visitors flock to Hakodate from all over the country and from abroad as well, all drawn by the variety of attractions on offer.
Another landmark is star-shaped Goryokaku Park. It was built by the shogunate between 1857 and 1864 as a Western-style fort to keep an eye on foreign ships entering the port recently opened to overseas trade.
It was also the site of a fierce battle during the last civil war, as the Edo shogunate fought the new Meiji government troops.
Today the fortress is gone and the park is noted, not for gunfire, but for cherry blossoms in the spring and boating in the moat. Nearby are museums of art and Hokkaido history.
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From Haneda Airport, it is an 80-minute flight to Hakodate Airport.
From Kansai International Airport, it takes about two hours and five minutes.
It is a 20-minute bus ride from Hakodate Airport to JR Hakodate Station.
To get to Mount Hakodateyama, take a taxi from JR Hakodate Station to Hakodatateyama Ropeway Sanroku Station, a ride of seven minutes. It is about 10 minutes if you take a tram to Jujigai stop and walk to the station.
Goryokaku Park is about 15 minutes by taxi both from Hakodate Airport and JR Hakodate Station.
Visit (www.city.hakodate.hokkaido.jp) and (hakobura.jp).
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