An Autumn Trip to Hakodate: Fall Foliage, Great Views, and Fun Things to Do
Hakodate is Hokkaido's third-largest city. One of Japan's first port cities, it has aspects that resemble the country's other charmingly European-influenced cities, like Yokohama and Nagasaki. Its geographic isolation from mainland Japan makes it a 'secret gem' of a city loved by travelers keen to discover a deeper side of Japanese culture.
Fall foliage in Kosetsuen Garden
In Hakodate, you’ll encounter unique cultures, excellent cuisine, and natural scenery that is one of a kind. Thanks to its location in Hokkaido, the northernmost region in Japan, it's one of the first areas to experience autumn, which peaks in mid-October to early November. Here, the colors are nothing short of spectacular! With bright, vibrant foliage, Hakodate is one of the best places to embrace the autumn season before anywhere else.
We introduce a one-and-a-half-day fall itinerary in Hakodate that can be enjoyed from or heading to Sapporo or exploring the wider Hokkaido region.
Splendid Fall foliage in Kosetsuen Garden
Also known as Miharashi Park, Kosetsuen is a great place to begin your adventure through Hakodate. It's stunning all year long, but especially in autumn when the park's leaves transform the landscape into fiery shades of red, orange, and gold. Between mid-October to the first week of November, the park celebrates the fall foliage season with a 'Momi-G' Festival evening light-up event (from 16:00 to 21:00).
The park is located to the east of central Hakodate, and it is relatively easy to access by the Hakodate Bus Line 82 bound bus, which services the area semi-regularly. Kosetsuen embodies the spirit of this fascinating city, a mix of traditional Japanese landscape design and more European-style architecture.
The park was built in 1898 by local magnate Minejiro Iwafune. It was used by the Iwafune family, who later opened up the park to the public as a sign of appreciation for the people of Hakodate.
Start at the front gate and wander through the collection of western-inspired buildings like the greenhouse (built in 1909) and wooden storehouse. Later, make your way to the northern end of the park, where the Japanese-style teahouse sits nestled between the towering trees, of which the park has 150 varieties.
There's also a central information center, known as 'Green center' located near the entrance of the park where guests can pick up brochures outlining seasonal events and is open to the public for free, making it a perfect spot to plan out the rest of your day if you haven’t already.
Taste Delicious Hakodate Ramen at Ajisai!
Fuel up for the day with some late morning, early lunch ramen from one of the city's most-loved ramen stores, Ajisai. It gets busy around lunch, so a little tip is to try and beat the rush with an earlier lunch (11:30-12:00).
What makes this store so popular is quite simply the quality of its broth and noodles. The store's specialty is shio (salt) ramen, and the taste is a lighter, well-balanced combination of flavors that allow the texture and flavor of the thin, chewy noodles and perfectly sliced pork and crisp, slightly sweet negi (spring onion) to ring through.
For a little kick, try adding some of the store's signature 'Ezo abura kosho' (pepper oil) sauce to the mix; it's an excellent contrast to the softer flavors of the broth. If you prefer your ramen dishes a little heavier, they offer their iconic shio ramen with more classic Hokkaido toppings like butter and corn.
Wear Historic Outfits and Have Your Photo Taken! Haikara Costume Museum
As you wander through Hakodate, you can practically read the city's history in its streets. This city was one of Japan's first to be opened to international trade following the nation's era of isolation during the Edo Period (1603 - 1868).
As a result, the city embraced more international styles – most specifically European – with gusto. This embrace is still clear today, with buildings like Motomachi's eye-catching Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward, an important cultural property, standing proud as centerpieces of the city's landscape.
The Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward was completed in 1910. It was a replacement to the city's old town hall, which was lost during Hakodate's Great Fire in 1907. Take a trip back in time to the early 1900s by exploring the grand interior of the town hall, with its informative displays, long-running, sun-drenched corridors, and impressive, expansive ballroom located on the second floor.
To fully embrace the atmosphere of the hall, dress up like a Meiji-era Hakodate lord or lady. The facility offers a wide selection of classic costumes, both European and Japanese, harking back to the time of the hall's heyday.
Visitors will first purchase an admission ticket (adults 300 yen, children and students 150 yen) from the vending machine at the entrance. Those who wish to rent costumes should go to the Costume Hall, where you can select one of the courses available and pay for the costume rental service beforehand. Afterward, you’ll be guided by the staff to the area where you can choose your costume.
The costume rental fee varies depending on the course you select: Standard course: 20 minutes; adults 1,200 yen, children 800 yen Long course: 40 minutes; adults 2,400 yen, children 1,600 yen
Enjoy the View of Hakodate Port! A Relaxing Walk in Motomachi Park
Situated adjacent to the striking facade of the Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward is Motomachi Park. A centerpiece of the historical neighborhood of Motomachi, the park is flanked by buildings boasting European charm and is backdropped by hillside harbor views.
This elevated landscaped garden and part is a wonderful spot to take in the city's sights and enjoy the colorful foliage as it transitions from green into warm, autumnal tones.
To learn a little more about the city's history, stroll around the garden and inspect the historical landmarks, like the remains of iconic educational institution Shojutsushirabesho and the Statue of Commodore Matthew C. Perry.
Explore Hakodate by Local Tram
One of the unique ways to get around Hakodate is by streetcar. The city has a well-established network of trams that are excellent for both sightseeing and regular transport.
Hakodate's trams run every six to 12 minutes and reach most of the city's key main tourist neighborhoods – Hakodate Station, Motomachi, the Bay Area, Goryokaku, and Yunokawa – throughout the day.
With fares costing between 210 to 260 yen, which can be paid in cash when getting off the tram, it's a fun and affordable way to see the sights and get caught up in the city's exciting energy.
Enjoy the Fabulous City View from Mt. Hakodate
One of the most idyllic ways to wrap up a day's sightseeing in Hakodate is by catching the sunset over the city and surrounding ports and mountains. Mt. Hakodate is a 334-meter high mountain standing tall and proud at the southern end of the peninsula overlooking much of central Hakodate. The observation deck, which is free to enter, is accessible by ropeway, bus or car, and it also includes souvenir shops, a cafe, and a cafeteria-style restaurant.
If you can get there a little before sunset (around 16:00 in autumn), that's best as you'll be able to witness the city's hypnotic transition from day to dusk and evening, in which the cityscape sparkles with its evening city lights.
The unique layout of the city, flanked by the port, makes for a panoramic view that's been recognized by the ‘Michelin Green Guide Japan’ as one of the country's best night views. It's also listed as one of the nation's three best night views alongside Kobe's Mount Rokko and Nagasaki's Mount Inasa.
Onuma Park: Visit One of Hokkaido’s Famous Fall Foliage Spots!
If you've got half a day to spend in Hakodate and are looking to explore a new side of the city, then make your way to Onuma Quasi-National Park. Here you'll find spectacular autumn views, plenty of open space, volcanic landscapes, restaurants, cafes, and countless outdoor activities.
The park is located along the center of Lake Onuma, around 20 kilometers north of central Hakodate City. The most picturesque and first place to start exploring the park is the area nestled between lakes Onuma (large lake) and Konuma (small lake).
The area is connected by two bridges. It's well signposted and easily explored on foot. From here, you can also take in the spectacular views of volcano Mt. Komagatake, flanked by foliage that transforms with the passing seasons.
Surrounded by mountains, lakes, and forests, the area is also perfect for embracing the autumn beauty of Hokkaido and going deep into the region's lush untamed nature. Strolling, hiking, canoeing, camping, cycling, and boat cruising are just some of the ways to explore Onuma Quasi-National Park up close. Visit the information center right by the station to learn more about what's on offer here.
Onuma is very easily accessible by public transport from Hakodate Station, too. It takes about 45 minutes by limited express train or in one hour by local train. Also, if you're planning to head to Sapporo, it makes an excellent stop-off location as most limited express trains from Hakodate to Sapporo stop at Onuma Koen Station.
How to Get to Hakodate
Japan's leading airlines, JAL, ANA, and Air Do, all operate regular flights between Tokyo's Haneda Airport and Hakodate Airport, making it an easy place to begin your adventures through Hokkaido.
From Tokyo to Hakodate, the flight takes just 80 minutes. From New Chitose Airport, the closest to Sapporo, there are frequent flights to Hakodate Airport, making it extremely easy and convenient to travel here.