Hakodate is perhaps the most underrated Japanese city between the trio of Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Yokohama, but that’s a good thing. Exploring here is laid back, and the city teems with great views and international influence. The overlook from Mount Hakodate and the area’s fresh seafood are the main attractions while stopped in Hakodate on your Asia cruise.
Explore the Western-style forts of Motomachi, which is surrounded by 19th century-influenced architecture. They’re a symbol of the port’s openness during a time when Japan isolated itself from international trade. Take a romantic stroll at night while the trees glitter with string lights. No matter what you choose, there’s plenty to do on a Hakodate, Japan cruise, whether that’s savoring a traditional tea ceremony or seeing the cherry blossoms at Fort Goryokaku.
One of the most popular activities for tourists is a trek or ride to the summit of Mount Hakodate. Take a bus or ropeway up to the top of Mount Hakodate for panoramic views of the city and the bay before stopping in the area’s restaurants or souvenir shops. Experience this enduring sight for yourself on your cruise to Hakodate, Japan.
Shaped like a star, Fort Goryokaku was once a major defense for the city of Hakodate and now is a relaxing, historic park. In late April and the beginning of May, the erupting cherry blossoms attract tons of visitors to the area. There’s very little remaining of the fort, but plenty to see when you walk the stunning grounds. It’s a must-experience park for nature lovers.
Walk through the historic neighborhood of Motomachi and you’ll be amazed by the Western style of this small part of Hakodate. Check out the Old Public Hall where the Hakodate government operated in the 1900s. A walking tour through Motomachi on the way to Mount Hakodate is a must for travelers who want to learn Hakodate history.
About a 15-minute drive from the Hakodate port, plenty of stores and eateries are tucked away within these huge commercial warehouses just waiting to be explored.
At the base of Mount Hakodate is a relaxing hot spring called Yachigashira. Take a dip and forget your cares in these relaxing springs before or after catching the views from the top of Mount Hakodate.
Climb Mount Hakodate or take a short, three-minute ropeway ride to Fort Tsugaru at the mountain’s summit. The fort promises panoramic views of the city below. Whether you’re outdoorsy or not, the summit is accessible for most fitness levels.
Whether you’re looking for fresh catches of the day from local fishermen or want to enjoy lunch from one of the vendors’ stalls, Morning Market is a Hakodate institution you must check out during your stop in Hakodate.
For a taste of Japanese history and a look at Fort Goryokaku, head to the beautiful star-shaped Goryokaku Tower. It’s a testament to the Edo period in Japan and contains historical context on how the West affected this area of Japan.
Hakodate’s ramen is prepared differently than ramen from other areas of Japan. Comforting and filling, you’ll find the local ramen on most menus across town and at the Morning Market, too.
Hakodate is known for its seafood, squid dishes, and the freshest sushi possible. Delicious sashimi, ramen, and sticky rice are must-tries. Head to Donburi Yokocho Market for food stalls, or try Hakodate’s famous salt-centric ramen at spots like Seiryuken or Kamome. Try seafood ramen or a Japanese style burger while you’re stopped in Hakodate, too.
Hakodate enjoyed relative quiet until the mid-19th century, when the Hakodate port opened for international trade with the world. After that, the city grew as a result of increased trading and notoriety. Western influence is apparent in Hakodate at Motomachi, the neighborhood district filled with 19th century style homes and buildings. Tour the Morning Market to find fresh seafood or chat with local vendors (if you happen to know some Japanese) about their life in Hakodate.
The cruise pier’s amenities are somewhat minimal in Hakodate because it is more of a trading pier than a cruise pier. There’s no currency exchange, but you’ll be able to ask questions at the information desk.
Hop on the complimentary shuttle bus and get off at JR Hakodate Station to explore downtown Hakodate. There are also two tram lines running throughout Hakodate, and taxis are almost always available as well.
There’s not a lot of shopping near the port, so you’re better off heading out to get lunch or fresh local seafood from Morning Market. JR Hakodate Station and its neighboring shops are a short bus ride away.
Tipping isn’t a must while you’re on your cruise to Hakodate, Japan. If anything, tipping your waiter or taxi driver could be misinterpreted as impolite, so it’s best not to tip. If you feel you’ve had an exceptional tour guide, you can ask them if they feel comfortable receiving a tip. Use cash when you can. The official currency is called the yen, and many smaller, local establishments won’t take credit cards.