Japan 2020 – A transit through Hakodate

While our sojourn through Sapporo might have seemed a little short, Hakodate was where we really didn’t stay for very long, spending less than 24hrs here. Hakodate was also where we saw first hand, the damage the current corona-virus issue can have on a small city.

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We continue where we last left off, having grabbed a taxi back towards Kutchan station for a local train towards Oshamambe Station for a transfer to the diesel-powered Super Hokuto Limited Express, a much larger service that runs from Sapporo towards Hakodate.

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I managed to find the newly released Prawn Bisque canned soup! Stick to corn.

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Our rather scenic journey beginning from Niseko would take us a little over four hours as we arrived into Hakodate just in time to see the sunset from our room at the La’gent Stay Hakodate Ekimae hotel. A lovely new establishment built right next to the main station.

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The rooms were modern, clean and came with traditional design touches like the raised platform beds which I liked. While online reviews might point out the rather hard mattresses used, for someone like me with back issues, it was a Godsend. I loved the mattresses and I finally woke up the next day without an achy back. Please excuse the messy room once again.

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With the sun going down, we rested for a bit and set out for dinner at a rather unassuming local Shio Ramen joint situated quite close to the hotel, called Ramen Jiyoken. Please excuse the lack of photos for this place as all we wanted after an entire day of travelling was to get some warm food into our stomachs. While the ramen here wasn’t especially spectacular or exciting, it did have a rather homely soulful feel and the gyoza was pretty good though. This old Ramen restaurant did bring back plenty of memories of the first time I visited a local Ramen joint on my first ever trip to Japan over twenty years ago. On a cold spring night in a little town called Tenri. It just felt so similar and the food was very cheap too. Maybe their prices here have been around for over twenty years too?

While our initial plan for Hakodate was to hit the ropeway up Mount Hakodate, we decided that we’ve had enough of looking at night lights with the freezing cold winter sea air surrounding us. Instead, we took a slow walk through town in search of more food. An early supper I guess.

Our walk took us towards Daimon Yokocho, an exciting and busy cluster of small eateries catering to hungry travellers. Except… it wasn’t busy, nor exciting. And there were no hungry travellers to be found, other than those manning the small food stores, it was quite simply, deserted. There was no one in sight and no one in the smaller establishments. It was sad, and a very strong image of how devastating the effects of the current corona-virus crisis can be. As you can understand, with the general mood surrounding this area, I didn’t want to take any pictures here at all. While we would have loved to stay and partake in some local culinary delights here, our destination further up ahead. Uni Murakami. A restaurant that specialises in Uni and nothing but Uni. It cannot be missed!

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We have both have already had a meal of Ramen just moments ago, you’d forgive us for ordering up another portion of dinner here just to sample all the Uni our stomachs could take. How was it? Sublime. Another place we’d likely return to if we ever find ourselves travelling through Hakodate in the future. We were in Uni Heaven. We also had plenty of food envy whilst looking at the tables around us, everything looked so good.

With our Uni cravings satisfied, we walked on towards the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouses, a small series of converted warehouses now housing shops, restaurants, cafes and beer halls. While the beer hall was still opened, all the other shops closed much earlier than their official timings, something we felt was again probably due to the lack of visitors in the whole of the city. It was very quiet, and it was just 7 pm.

While we shouldn’t be eating anymore, with just one last night in Hokkaido, we popped into a Soup Curry restaurant just to find out what all the fuss was about. I was stuffed!

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But, I still had to grab one last bottle of Hokkaido milk to cap off the night. The La’gent Stay Hakodate Ekimae hotel also has an in-house bathe, not an Onsen but an Ofuro. I was tempted but being spent for the day, I opted to sit in our room’s bathtub instead.

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The next morning we visited the nearby Hakodate morning market for breakfast and again, we were surprised at just how empty it was. While it made for an easy way for us to dine and buy produce, we did feel rather sad for all the shop-owners and employees. Let’s hope things get better quickly.

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While it might make some people a little uncomfortable, the Hakodate morning market has a tank smack in the middle for you to catch your very own Squid.

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Which they will very promptly slice up into still-moving sashimi slices on the spot. If it makes you feel any better, we ate up the entire squid.

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For our main course, we headed towards the market’s stretch of Don restaurants for a last seafood bowl. One phrase that we learnt on this trip that turned out rather handy was “Gohan sukuname de onegai shimasu” or “Gohan sukuname” in short. Translated, it simply means, less rice. Our food intake abilities are not what quite they used to be.

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With crab being one of Hokkaido’s finest exports, I had to grab one last grilled leg before we leave. Tasty. Breakfast done, we retreated to our hotel for last-minute preps before checking-out.

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We also managed to grab a last-minute coffee and a slice of Hokkaido cheesecake before getting back onto the Super Hokuto for a short ride up towards Shin-Hakodate Station.

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Yes, that’s right, even though the Shinkansen now brings you to Hakodate from Tokyo, it doesn’t actually terminate at the main Hakodate station in the city. Instead, it stops at Shin-Hakodate, a station situated around twenty minutes outside of the main city, which was where the Super Hokuto was taking us. I wonder if this fact was also why some travellers give Hakodate City a miss in the first place, preferring to continue their journey to Tokyo directly instead.

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With fifteen minutes to make our transfer, our Hayabusa train was already on the platform waiting for us to board. Pulling our masks back on, we settled down for the ride.

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Goodbye Hokkaido.

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