Hakodate Offers Authentic Japan Experience Without Tourist Crowds

While Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka tend to dominate Japan’s tourism scene, the northern city of Hakodate remains an underrated gem just waiting to be explored. This picturesque port city on the southern tip of Hokkaido is a wonderland of natural scenery, fascinating history, unique cuisine and surprisingly few crowds.

From stunning night views to fresh seafood markets to abandoned fort ruins, Hakodate offers an authentic slice of Japanese culture that deserves to be higher on every traveler’s bucket list.

One of Hakodate’s biggest claims to fame is its famed night view, considered one of the most beautiful in the world. The vista from Mount Hakodate stretches out over the twinkling lights of the city below, Hakodate Bay with ships plying its waters, and even glimpses of sparkling Tsugaru Strait in the distance on clear nights.

It’s a mesmerizing, romantic scene best viewed from observation decks and mountaintop restaurants and cafes.

Down below at sea level, the bustling Hakodate Morning Market is a must-visit for seafood lovers. Hundreds of stalls overflow with just-caught fish, king crab, sea urchin and other bounties from the nearby waters. You can get sashimi freshly prepared or sample grilled squid and other hot snacks. The lively market atmosphere itself is also a quintessential Japanese experience.

An underrated gem is Goryokaku Fort, an impressive 19th century star-shaped fortification that was one of Japan’s first western-style forts. You can still explore the surviving gates, walls, moats and guardhouses of this beautifully preserved historic structure. In spring, the surrounding park blooms with thousands of cherry blossom trees adding an extra touch of scenic beauty.

For something completely different, don’t miss the Trappistine Monasteries in Hakodate’s Kirishima neighborhood. Here you can purchase simple but delicious baked goods and sweets handmade by the Christian nuns of these silent monasteries – a unique taste of Hakodate.

Other underrated local highlights include the Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden with lush greenhouses, the striking Russian Orthodox Hakodate Church, abandoned Tsugaru Mukou rail tunnels for urban explorers, and sake brewery tours. Summertime brings beer gardens and colorful fireworks festivals, while winter offers hot spring hopping and snow festivals.

Easily accessible yet off-the-beaten-path, beautiful Hakodate allows foreign visitors to discover the real warmth of Japanese hospitality and culture without the tourist crowds. From gorgeous sea views and mouthwatering seafood to hidden historic gems, this northern Japanese city has something to delight every type of traveler.

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