Hakodate: the southern capital of Hokkaido



Hakodate is the third largest city of Japan’s northernmost prefecture Hokkaido after the cities of Sapporo and Asahikawa. Hakodate city is on the tip of the island of Hokkaido at Oshima Peninsula. The other two main cities Sapporo and Asahikawa are located much more north, which makes Hakodate the most important city in southern Hokkaido. The Hakodate city center sits in a cape under the picturesque Mt. Hakodate where you can appreciate the world-famous Hakodate night view facing an enchanting fan-shaped bay .

On the top of the city’s out of this world night view this southern capital of Hokkaido is a popular travel destination because of its historic sites such as the epic star-shaped “the last Samurai battle field” Fort Goryokaku and local specialties such as the delicious seafood of “Asaichi” Hakodate morning market.


Recommended South Hokkaido itinerary: Cherry Blossoms and Springtime Culinary in Southern Hokkaido 

The intriguing history of Hakodate

Considering the geography, it may be obvious that this city located at the southern part of the island of Hokkaido was one of the first places where the Japanese immigrants started to live.  Here in the southern parts of the island, that were the closest to Japan’s main island Honshu Japanese began their travel towards the deeper parts of the island, that was at the time still the land of the indigenous Ainu people. 

Being a relatively new city with many out-of-towners, Hakodate was a region where innovation and new ideas could lodge. Hakodate was in fact also one of the first places to open to foreign trade when Japan’s over 200 years long “Sakoku” or “closed country” policy ended after 1853.

It is no wonder that Hakodate is known for its historic sites such as the star-shaped Fort Goryokaku that is also known as “the last Samurai battle field”. Hakodate has an interesting mix of western and Japanese architecture visible especially in the old town area. At the bottom of Mount Hakodate – that is nowadays famed for its breathtaking night view – you can listen to the whispers of the past and stroll around the old town of Motomachi and Hakodate harbor area with its charming brick warehouses and little boutiques.

The spectacular Hakodate night view

For the mainland Japanese tourists who travel to Hokkaido en masse during the holiday seasons, Hakodate equals its stunning night view that can be appreciated from Mount Hakodate hovering over this fan-shaped city.

The Japanese love making lists of “Top Three”, and believe it or not it is said that the Hakodate night view is indeed in the top three night views of not only Japan but the entire world! Beauty is maybe in the eye of the beholder, but the Hakodate night view is dazzling.

The most common way to reach this beautiful night view spot is riding a convenient cable car that you can catch from the Motomachi area. The aerial lift takes you all the way to the top of Mount Hakodate.

Though the night view is indeed in a class of its own, the view of Hakodate city during the daytime is also worth the trip. Those who wish to try out something a bit different can actually climb to the mountain on foot. There is something special about a breathtaking view after some exercise!

Fresh seafood at the "Asaichi" Morning Market

Like Hokkaido in general, Hakodate is famous for fresh seafood. Hakodate is especially famed for its high-quality squid. One of the must-see sightseeing spots in Hakodate is “Hakodate Asaichi” or Hakodate morning market. As the name suggests the Asaichi morning market opens very early in the morning. This also means that most of the fresh goods will be sold out by afternoon, so it is recommended not to leave your visit too late in the day.

At the morning market you can appreciate up close sea creatures starting from crab and shrimp to octopus and squid, not forgetting all sorts of fish living in the waters around North Japan. Even if you would rather not buy fresh seafood to be taken back to your hotel, there are other ways to enjoy the scene, such as trying the seafood at the morning market’s restaurants. At the Asaichi morning market area it is actually possible to catch your own squid from a fishing tank and have the delicacy prepared by a local chef.

Naturally – like all the main cities of Hokkaido – Hakodate also has its own special variety of ramen noodles: Hakodate salt ramen. Tasting Hakodate salt ramen, Asahikawa soy ramen and Sapporo miso ramen may in fact be a fun goal for the ramen enthusiasts visiting Hokkaido!


Interested in fresh Hokkaido seafood? Consider checking out the following off the beaten path Hokkaido destination: Toyoura: The scallop town

Custom-made Hakodate travel itinerary?

The famous Hakodate night view and the Asaichi morning market are some of the absolute must-see classics of Hakodate, but are you looking for something more special than just the basic tourist attractions when you travel to Hakodate the next time?

Or would you perhaps like to have a private guided tour in Hakodate with a local travel guide? No worries, Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel can arrange a vast variety of unique once in a lifetime activities starting from a local winery excursion or green tea tasting at an ancient tea shop to scenic horseback riding by a volcano.

Hakodate is indeed an excellent travel location to enjoy a different side of the Japanese history. It is also a great place to start your journey to the less-known but not less fascinating Hokkaido travel locations.

Our recommendations for off-the-beaten path adventures near Hakodate for those who enjoy deep travel are:

Yakumo: The town of samurai and rice

Kuromatsunai: The town of the beech forest


Send us a travel inquiry for custom-made Hokkaido itinerary or find more travel inspiration on our blog columns or  Hokkaido sample itineraries!

We are taking reservations for the year 2022 and after. Please read the latest Covid-19 updates for Hokkaido and Hokkaido Treasure Island Travel’s countermeasures for further information.