Hakodate is an area on the southwestern part of the island of Hokkaido in Japan. It contains 1 city (named Hakodate), 25 towns, and 1 village. It stretches from 41-46' North latitude and 140-44' East longitude.

The city of Hakodate is a bit of a strange place. It was the port that was used by the Russians to gain a foothold in the country. This can be seen in the architecture and many of the buildings in the area, and the treaty that Admiral Matthew Perry arranged with the government at the time is on public display in the city.

Hakodate is a wonderful city if you're one of those people who really like the kind of sightseeing that involves old buildings. There are numerous beautiful Christian churches there, devoted to many different sects of Christianity. Off the top of my head, I can remember a Greek Orthodox church and a Russian Orthodox church as well. It's a bit strange to see these churches that would not be out of place in Europe, except for the fact that they have genkan (the lowered place when you first walk inside where you take off your shoes). Apart from Christian churches, there are also numerous Buddhist temples and shrines that are also very interesting, but are relatively new by Japanese standards (about 150 or so years old).

In addition to the religious structures, there are also many historical buildings as well. These include the site of Admiral Perry's interview and old embassies that have been renovated to become museums. There is also Fort Goryokaku, which has been converted into a park. The view from the tower during spring and winter are both breathtaking. During the spring, it's because of all the thousands of flowers blooming beneath you. It is said that while each flower has it's own month in the rest of Japan, in Hokkaido they all bloom at the same time. During the winter, Goryokaku is beautiful for an entirely different reason. The whole place is covered in snow and lights, which gives it that warm fuzzy Christmas feeling.

Also, the night view from the top of Hakodate mountain is not something that should be missed. It overlooks a very big part of Hokkaido and is absolutely stunning. I would recommend taking the cable car up there if you can, it is much more scenic than the bus ride and not very expensive (580 yen per person, or currently about USD$5). Be careful going there during tourist seasons, as Hokkaido is a very popular vacation spot for the Japanese and the view can often be obscured by the throngs of people.

There are also many hotels in Hakodate with the old Japanese-style baths. The kind with the really big tubs where you can just soak for hours, if you want. Unfortunately these are all mostly indoors, which aren't quite as cool as the ones which are outdoors, but they are still quite an experience if you've never done had a Japanese bath before.

The food:

Hokkaido in general is a very tasty place to live if you like seafood. But Hakodate does have a couple of regional specialities that I don't think you should miss. There are many things from here I'd like to recommend...

One of the first is the famous Gotouken. Gotouken is a restaurant established in 1879 and serves absolutely delicious Japanese-style curry. I would highly recommend their duck curry, it is one of the things they are most well-known for. The curry at Gotouken is popular around Japan. You can buy it for about 1000 yen (currently roughly USD$8) per can at omiyage stores around the country.

Another Hakodate speciality is Yamagawa milk. Yamagawa milk comes straight from a farm in the nearby city of Nanae. Most likely it was bottled within the last two days from your time of purchase. It is a milk for people who think that whole milk is a bit thin. Put a straw in that milk and you'll see chunks of cream stuck to the straw after you're done with the bottle (which are like the old-fashioned glass kind, by the way). This milk is impossible to find outside of Hokkaido, and very difficult to find outside of Hakodate.

There is also a famous hamburger and curry chain restaurant called Lucky Pierrot that exists only on the island of Hokkaido. It has about 3 branches in the city of Hakodate, and is very delicious. This restaurant chain is often featured on shows that talk about travel in Japan. The Hakodate Snow Burger is recommended by me, as is the Chinese Chicken Sandwich. They serve Yamagawa milk here.

Since Hakodate is right next to the ocean, it is only natural that some of their best food is seafood. Sanma sashimi is very tasty also, and it is something that I think all sashimi lovers should try at least once. It very quickly became my favorite type of sushi. Sanma is not a Hokkaido speciality per say, some of it is shipped to other major cities in Japan but unfortunately it is very expensive. Might as well eat it cheaply and freshly close to the source.

If you can afford it, there is also the Tegani. It's a big and fuzzy crab that is sold in most markets in Hakodate. There's a lot of good eating in one of those, one per person is probably more than enough for an appetizer.

The squid, potatoes, and corn around the Hakodate area are also very famous. If you decide to cook in Hakodate, keep these ingredients in mind.

And for those of you who want to eat at Gotouken but don't know where it is, the telephone number is: 0138-23-1106. I'm not sure if they speak English but you can give it a try.

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