Mount Hakodate

Yesterday, I had bought a three-museum ticket when I visited the Museum of Northern Peoples. Today, I went to the other two: the former British consulate and the old Public Hall.

The British Consulate was established in Hakodate after an Anglo-Japanese Treaty was signed in 1858. Free trade between Britain and Japan then began. A year later, Hakodate’s port was opened for international trading. By the late 19th century, fourteen countries including the United States, Russia, France, Holland, Portugal, and Germany had consulates stationed in Hakodate. These countries also represented countries that didn’t have a presence in Japan.

The British consuls provided care for British people, served as mediators in disputes with Japanese people, and provided aid for British vessels and support for trade and commerce. Every summer, the British Eastern Fleet would arrive in Hakodate to avoid the summer heat and the city became very crowded. The consuls were kept busy during these times as they had to attend to the visitors.

In 1907, a large fire destroyed over 12,000 houses — about half of the city — including the public meeting hall, which was used for public gatherings. A local merchant, Soma Teppei, who had lost some of his own shops in the fire, helped finance the building of the current public hall, which was finished in 1910.

The symmetrical building epitomises Hokkaido’s western-style architecture of the Meiji era (1868-1912). The upper floor has a balcony with skylights, and pillars with decorated capitals which flank the entrance and porches.

In 1974 it was designated as an important cultural property and the building was entirely restored in 1982 after three years’ work. Further restorations started in 2018, and you can watch a film of the craftsmen making replacement parts.

One of the highlights of Hakodate is the view from Mount Hakodate, which is 334m tall. I made my way to the start of the trail via some churches.

Most people took the gondola (cable car) up. I hiked and saw a fair number of locals also walking. The footpath zigzags its way up with long level stretches. So, it’s quite a leisurely walk.

I took the gondola down to maximise my one full day in Hakodate. After descending, I went to the red-brick warehouses, which were closed last night. There were a variety of shops in them.

Whilst having a coffee, I searched for an electronics shop. I needed to buy a phone screen protector because somehow I’d cracked the existing one. The shop was about 30 minutes away by bus. The bus stop was close, and the bus came quickly; I was soon in the store and was able to find a screen protector.

For the return trip, I found out that the last bus had gone! Google Maps suggested a train. On the way to the station, I went into another large shop, Bic Camera, which has stores all over Japan and sells everything electrical, not just cameras, despite the name.

I used my JR Pass on the train. In Japan, train travel is expensive, especially the Shinkansen (bullet) trains. Therefore, tourists are offered various passes, which you can order from your home country. You can now buy them when in Japan (you couldn’t once) but it’s about 10% more expensive. So, it’s better to buy then before you get to Japan. The passes are not available to Japanese people. The JR Pass comes in three flavours: 7, 14, and 21 days. There are also regional passes. They all give you unlimited travel (with a few exceptions) on JR trains for the period. For travelling from Sapporo to Tokyo, which is what I wanted to do, I had two choices: a six-day regional pass (the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass) or the seven-day JR Pass. The passes are valid on many local trains. I opted for the JR Pass to give me a bit more time to make my way south to Tokyo.

When I got back near my ryokan, it was getting late, and I didn’t want to look for a restaurant. However, I didn’t need much persuading to return to the pizza restaurant I went to yesterday! I asked for the same pizza and blood-red orange juice.

Leave a Reply