Hakodate: June 29th-July 1st
The most polarising city I’ve been to in Japan so far.
In the lead up to visiting Hakodate, I really wasn't sure what to expect. This is my first visit to Hokkaido, and even though it isn't very far from Honshu (Japan’s mainland), lots of people had told me that Hokkaido has a vastly different feeling compared to the rest of Japan in many ways. And that’s exactly what I experienced here.
Hakodate is an interesting and rather intriguing mix of Eastern and Western culture in a place that you really wouldn't expect it to intersect unless you were aware of the history behind the location.
Under the Kanagawa Treaty of 1854, the city was one of the first ports to open itself up to international trade and, as such, hosted a small foreign community. Much of that history can still be observed in the Motomachi district, a steep hillside that is sprinkled with wooden buildings and brick churches.
Once we arrived in Hakodate, we left our bags at our hotel and visited Hakodate Mountain Ropeway. Following a short cable-car ride with pretty spectacular views in its own right, we arrived at the top of the mountain and experienced a really nice view of sunset. And an even more amazing ice cream! Hokkaido ice cream really lives up to it’s name.
Yesterday, we visited Goryo-Kaku, among a few other places. If I had to describe yestersday, I’d have to use one of my favourite Japanese kanji: 雨 (rain). It was a relief that this didn't totally ruin the day, though.
On this day, I also observed a distinct love for things of the past, as well as a push towards internationalism. We visited Goryo-kaku Tower, and inside the foyer was an old music box playing Japanese childhood songs (such as those from Ghibli films).
Afterwards, we visited a Catholic Church, a Russian Orthodox Church, and finally an onsen. And that is part of what makes Hakodate, and presumably Hokkaido, such a special place. The fact that there can be such a blend between old, traditional values and new, internaionalised values in such a confined space is truly special.
This is the view that many people often have of Tokyo, but I believe it is much better defined here in Hakodate.
Here are some more photos from the last few days with accompanying captions.
Written by Jack Fetter for 1024LAL on Julu 1st, 2015.