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Hakodate (函館市; -shi) is a port city and the capital city of Oshima Subprefecture on the island of Hokkaido.

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Hakodate city is overlooked by Hakodateyama (Mount Hakodate), a lumpy, totally forested mountain. The summit of the mountain is easily reached by either hiking trail, cable car, or car. The night-time view from the summit is renowned all over Japan as one of the loveliest sights in the country. An obscure local nickname of the bumpy mountain is Gagyuzan ("Mount Cow's-back"), which alludes to the way the mountain's shape resembles that of a resting bovine.

Hakodate City
Hakodate City View from mountain Hokkaido Japan. Picture by Fg2

Hakodate is home to the famous European-style Goryokaku fort, which was built in the shape of a five-pointed star in 1866. During the last phase of the Meiji Restoration, the shogunate loyalists occupied the fort, declaring the establishment of the Republic of Ezo. A handful of French soldiers, who had served as military advisers for the shogunate army, joined the rebellion led by Enomoto Takeaki. After battles with the government forces, the secessionists surrendered the fort in 1869. It is now used as a public park. The park is a popular spot in Hokkaido for hanami (cherry blossom viewing).

Orthodox Christian Church in Hakodate
Orthodox Christian Church in Hakodate. Picture by Fg2

Getting to Hakodate

By plane
Hakodate Airport (函館空港 Hakodate kūkō, HKD) is 20 minutes by bus (¥300) from the train station.

Both JAL and ANA offer non-stop service to Hakodate from Tokyo Haneda Airport and Osaka Itami Airport. JAL offers air connections to the rest of Hokkaido, while ANA also offers non-stop service from the new Chubu International Airport in Nagoya.

Sapporo's busier Chitose Airport, 2-3 hours to the north by train, also offers a fairly convenient alternative.

By train
Currently, the fastest way to reach Hakodate by train from Tokyo is by a combination of Shinkansen and Limited Express trains, transferring between the two at Hachinohe station. The one-way trip lasts about 6 hours and costs almost ¥19,000. If you have a 7-Day Japan Rail Pass, you will save about ¥9,000 off of the total cost if you travel round-trip using this method.

The Shinkansen is inching slowly towards Hakodate, but still has a fair ways to go and is unlikely to reach the city before 2020.

A popular way to reach Hakodate is by overnight sleeper train. Two Hokutosei (北斗星) sleeper trains depart daily from Ueno Station in Tokyo. The ride to Hachinohe is between 12 and 14 hours in duration. The Cassiopeia (カシオペア) sleeper train also runs from Ueno to Hakodate a few times a week, but its cabins are more expensive than the Hokutosei. All three of these trains eventually continue to Sapporo.

From Osaka and Kyoto, the Nihonkai (日本海) #1 makes daily runs to Hakodate via the northern Honshu coast, taking almost 18 hours to make the one-way trip.

By boat
Hakodate is a major port. Major operator Higashi-Nihon Ferry [1] (http://www.higashinihon-ferry.co.jp/) offers frequent services to Aomori (3:40, ¥1850) and less frequent services to Oma (1:40, ¥1170) on the remote Shimokita Peninsula. The main ferry terminal is 4 km from the centre and reachable on buses 1 and 19.

As of 2004, the city has an estimated population of 299,737 and the density of 442.24 persons per km². The total area is 677.77 km². Hakodate's size nearly doubled on 1 December 2004 when the neighbouring municipalities of Toi, Esan, Todohokke and Minamikayabe were merged into it.

Hakodate History

The port of Hakodate was opened to American trade on 31 March 1853 under the conditions of the Treaty of Kanagawa, as negotiated by Commodore Matthew Perry. A mariner of his fleet died during cruising and his body was buried in Hakodate cemetery for foreigners. He was the first U.S. citizen to be buried in Japan. Hakodate was later awarded the status of city on 1 August 1922.

Soon several countries settled their consulates in Hakodate. One of them, the Russian one, had a chapel, from where Eastern Orthodoxy arrived in Japan, now the Japanese Orthodox Church. The Orthodox church is neighboured by several other churches, including Anglican and Catholic.

The small but bustling city is also famous as the site of Hijikata Toshizo's last stand.

Hakodate Food

The city is also known for Hakodate Shio Ramen, where instead of having a pork cutlet placed inside the soup, sliced squid is used. On a similar note, Hakodate's city fish is the squid. Every year (around July) the city gets together for the Hakodate Port Festival. Hordes of citizens gather in the streets to dance a wiggly dance known as the Ika-odori (Squid Dance), the name of which describes the dance appropriately. The glowing lights of squid-catching boats can be seen in the waters surrounding the city.

Near Hakodate, Hokkaido there is the static inverter plant of the HVDC Hokkaido-Honshu.

(Section of article covering "getting to" based on Wikitravel article by Wikitravel users Evan Prodromou. Based on work by Christopher Webb and Jose Ramos, Wikitravel user(s) Jpatokal and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.  Article used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0.)
(Article based on Wikipedia article and used under the GNU Free Documentation License)

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