Hokkaido 5 - Hakodate
As the weather wasn't showing any sign of improvement, I decided to stop with the lakes, onsens and parks and spent one day in Hakodate, a port town located at the southwestern tip of the island.
Hakodate was one of the first ports open after two and a half centuries of isolation under the shogun military dictatorship. As such, the town shows significant foreign influence, as you can see from some of the architectures:
Apart from the foreign buildings, those influences are reflected in urban design. parking places, pavement, sidewalks etc. It is hard to describe and the next few pictures may seem completely pointless, but people who know Japan will immediately tell that this actually does not look like Japan!
Another sign of foreign influence, the multilingual signs:
In this case, it is mostly the Russian label that strikes. Indeed, Russia is so close from Hokkaido that it is easily accessible by ferry, and the sovereignty of some of the northern islands is still disputed (it even seems that it was debated during the recent G8 summit).
Here is the old, western-style fort. Unfortunately, nothing remains of the actual structure but you can notice the peculiar star-shape layout, designed to trap attackers in crossfire.
Of course, there are still typical Japanese designs remaining, such as small temples scattered throughout the town (notice the owl, one of Hokkaido's symbols):
Or that tori, hard to miss:
By the way, did you know that each town has its own manhole cover model? Here is the local version:
And the foreigners' cemetery, which has the graves of famous people of the time, including some of commodore Perry's men (if you don't remember that name, you can read this post):
Hakodate is also famous for its delicious seafood, and it would have been a waste to come here and not try it. So I went to the port area:
As a quick digression: the melon is another Hokkaido specialty, and it is really good (contrary to most fruits in Japan)!
The entrance of a sushi restaurant, straight from the sea:
Mmmmmm...talk about freshness...