The picturesque city of Hakodate is renowned for its fresh seafood and spectacular views, while its location at the southern tip of Hokkaido makes it a convenient base for exploring the abundance of nature nearby.
Hakodate is accessible by air, rail, road, and sea.
You can fly directly to Hakodate from major airports across Japan and within Hokkaido from Chitose, Okadama, Asahikawa and Monbetsu airports.
The JR Tohoku/Hokkaido Shinkansen links Tokyo with Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station in four hours. Take a local train from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station for the final leg of the journey to Hakodate. Within Hokkaido, there are JR express and local trains from Sapporo to Hakodate. All are covered by the JR Rail Pass.
Alternatively, there is a Chuo Bus which operates from Sapporo Station. If you're looking for a scenic option, there are regular ferry services across the Tsugaru Strait between Hakodate and Aomori. The journey can take up to four hours.
Although Hakodate had been inhabited since the Jomon period and later by the Ainu, its modern face only emerged during the 19th century as Japan reopened to the world. The historic Motomachi district boasts many buildings dating back to this period.
Be sure to take a leisurely stroll through Hakodate's past and check out the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse complex, which is now one of the city's go-to destinations for shopping and dining.
Hakodate is one of Hokkaido's major fishing ports. To see the freshest catch, head to the morning market by Hakodate Station, which sells seafood as well as other produce.
Look over all the fresh salmon roe, sea urchin, crab and other delicacies of the deep before sampling them at one of the many eateries around the market. A seafood donburi rice bowl is a local specialty.
In addition to its seafood offerings, Hakodate has dishes to suit every taste, from ramen to tempura to hamburgers. Look out for the city's very own burger chain, Lucky Pierrot. It has more than a dozen stores, each artistically decorated in its own unique style.
Hakodate really shines at night. For the best views, you have two options: Mt. Hakodate or Goryokaku Tower. From either vantage point, you can see the city spread out below you in all its glittering glory.
Another destination to consider is Mt. Esan, two hours east of Hakodate by bus. Mt. Esan is an active volcano renowned for its wealth of alpine plants. Look out for the azalea festival in early summer when there is an explosion of red at the foot of the mountain.
Another reason to visit the Mt. Esan area is to relax in an unusual rejuvenating hot spring. The naturally burgundy-colored waters of Esan Onsen have drawn visitors since the 19th century.
On the coast, Mizunashi Kaihin Hot Spring lets you bathe right by the sea. You'll need to time your visit properly, though, since it's only possible to take a dip when the tide is low.
Hakodate is a good starting point from which to explore southern Hokkaido. Head for the great outdoors in Onuma Park, with its lakes graced with islets. Consider a trip to Esashi, a quaint fishing port with many historic buildings, or visit the castle town of Matsumae.
If you have the time, board the ferry to beautiful Okushiri Island, covered with pastures and beech tree forests, for a taste of island life.