6-Day South Hokkaido Itinerary
Above shows a snapshot of Hokkaido on Google Maps and an overview of the route we took. Clearly, there were more places in Hokkaido I would love to visit but due to the brevity of time and accessibility by our JR East-South Hokkaido Pass, we were limited to 5 cities: Hakodate, Lake Toya, Noboribetsu, Sapporo and Otaru.
I first plotted my route according to the attractions we want to visit on Google Maps. When I’m done with the final bookmarking, I export it to a phone app, Maps.me, through this method, which allows me to transfer all my bookmarks into the app and use it offline on the go!
With chasing sakuras and excellent Japanese cuisines in mind, we set off to places that offered the best of these!
Day 1: Hakodate
Hakodate is one of Japan’s first international trading ports of the Meiji Era in 1859.
Roaming around Hakodate, you will notice that most of the city center is characterised by steep slopes. Do not be daunted by them, for they offer some of the nicest views from the top. Each slope has a unique name of its own, and no view is the same.
The night view of Hakodate delights visitors with lights scattered like constellations on the ground, as you trace the illuminated buildings.
EAT: Hakodate Morning Market (Donburi Yokocho)
Begin your morning at Hakodate Morning Market. A cluster of 300-odd shops selling fresh seafood and vegetables. Fish for live squids, and try a famous seafood dish, Seafood Rice Bowl, at the “Donburi Yokocho Ichiba” Restaurant Arcade. Located inside the Hakodate Morning Market, featuring the arcade features some 20 eateries. Sample fresh crab, salmon caviar and even sea urchin!
Operating hours: 5:00 - 14:00
EAT: Ebisuya Sushi Shokudo 恵比寿屋食堂 (Location)
If you’re looking to try a classic donburi, step into this restaurant that offers over 50 varieties of seafood donburi.
We recommend Jusshunen Kinen Don – two huge shrimps, king crabs, red caviar, herring roe, scallops and egg roll (¥1,500/SGD19) and Shake Ikura Don – a thick layer of Shake (salmon fish) flakes and red caviar.
Koburi Don means “small serving donburi”. The amount of rice in Koburi Don is lesser than usual while an amazing amount of shrimp, sea urchin, crab and scallops are still served to the brim.
Getting there: 1-minute walk from JR Hakodate Station West exit f. Opening hours: 6 am - 6 pm
SAKURA: Fort Goryokaku
After a hearty (seafood) breakfast at the morning market, make a visit to Goryokaku Park to catch the cherry blossoms in the morning light.
Fort Goryokaku is known as one of Hokkaido’s best cherry blossom viewing spots, with over 1600 cherry blossom trees in full bloom during spring. Indeed, it certainly lives up to its hype as the sight of the dainty pink sakura in full bloom is indeed one to behold.
My favourite part is when the wind blows and pink flowers rain all around you, as if it’s snowing. The best time to visit Fort Goryokaku is around early May as it is the peak of the blooming season, slightly later than the rest of Japan.
Aside from the beautiful cherry blossoms, Fort Goryokaku is also known for its massive, star-shaped, Western-style citadel. This citadel used to serve as a political, diplomatic and defensive base of the area. Why star-shaped you may wonder? The star-shaped citadel was created to reduce the blind spots in gun battles that were designed to protect the city.
For a bird’s eye view of the entire fortress, access the observation deck 98 metres high at the nearby Goryokaku Tower for ¥900/SGD11. The waiting time for the queue is approximately 30 minutes.
Getting to Fort Goryokaku: Buses 151, 25, 33, 6-2, 105, 5-1, 130, 59 and 60 get you to Goryokaku Park. Bus stops 1, 2 or 5 at the Hakodate Station bus terminal. Buses operate from 06:09 to 21:10 from the bus terminal. The last bus that departs from Goryokaku Park is 21:44. One-way ticket costs ¥240, and takes approximately 15 minutes.
Get the bus map and timetable at the tourist centre at Hakodate Station before beginning your adventures!
Red Brick Warehouse
Returning from a lovely morning catching cherry blossoms, you’re ready to take on the city centre!
One of my favourite locations because of its striking dark red brick exterior of the warehouse, the Hakodate Port was one of the first ports in Japan to open to foreign trade in the 1800s. This explains the western-influenced façade of the Red Brick Warehouses. Today, the warehouses house several shops selling souvenirs, fashion apparels, Japanese snacks, restaurants and others.
Furthermore, the warehouse is poised along the Hakodate bay. I strolled along the bay at sunset and was treated to the sight of the sky’s purple, crimson and pink. Seagulls were busy circling the skies as the hues of colours change, making for a picturesque sight.
Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward
Built in 1910, this Old Branch Office of Hokkaido Government is one of the most iconic historical building in Hakodate. Situated at a top of the hill, the balcony on the second floor commands a full view of the port.
Russian Orthodox Church
This church is founded in 1859 by the Russian Consulate. The existing building, built in 1916, is known as a representation of western-style buildings in Hakodate.
Motomachi Roman Catholic Church
The rooster on its spire is unique to this church.
Hakodate Episcopal Church
The roof is shaped like a cross when viewed from above.
The peak of Mount Hakodate promises an unobstructed view of central Hakodate, and its night view is considered one of the country’s top three night views. I highly recommend you to finish your explorations of Hakodate with a trip to the summit of Mount Hakodate, for ¥1780.
However, this attraction is a hot favourite amongst tourists, and the expected queueing time can range from 30 minutes to over an hour. I had to jostle, and quite literally, push my way through the throng of people, just to get to the front of the observation deck and get a good view of the night lights 334 metres high. While there are several ways to make your way up to the peak, the most efficient way to get to the summit is by the Hakodateyama Ropeway.
Getting around Hakodate: There is a sightseeing bus at the same bus terminal in front of the train station that goes around the attraction spots in Hakodate. Bus stop 4 Bus operating hours: 09:00 to 17:40, and runs every 20 minutes. One-day pass bus fare: ¥240 Duration: 33 minutes from one end to the other.
Hokkaido Sightseeing Bus route:
Hakodate station > Morning market > Toyoko-Inn Asaichi > Hakodate Kokusai Hotel > Hakodate Beer > La Vista Hakodate Bay Hotel > Meiji-kan > Red Brick Warehouses > Hakodate Beer Hall > Jujigai > Ropeway Station > Motomachi > Old British Consulate > Chinese Memorial Hall > Motomachi Park
It then loops back the same way to Hakodate station.
Recommended duration in Hakodate: 1 full day
Next page: Toya