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Hakodate: Full Bloom

View of Fort Goryokaku

The japan-guide cherry blossom reporting has finally reached Hokkaido, almost six weeks after our first report in Tokyo. Today, I am in Hakodate, a popular harbor town in southern Hokkaido, to check out a couple of popular cherry blossom sites in the city. The cherry blossom season officially started on April 24, and reached full bloom two days after the first blossoms opened. Rain from last night carried on till mid afternoon today and while rain has ceased, the skies remain cloudy and strong winds still continue. However, this bad weather did not have a negative impact on the blossoms. The temperature did not go over eight degrees Celsius all day, making this my coldest cherry blossom trip.

Thanks to the cooler than average temperatures over the past couple of days and stretching over into the next couple of days, I expect the best viewing of the blossoms in Hakodate to continue through the Golden Week holidays. This weekend would be the best time to view the cherry blossoms in Hakodate as the weather is forecast to be sunny albeit a little chilly.

I was excited to be able to take the newly opened Hokkaido Shinkansen from Shin-Aomori to the last stop, Shin Hakodate-Hokuto. The shinkansen connects Honshu to Hokkaido via the Seikan Tunnel, the deepest tunnel in the world. It now takes about four hours to make the journey between Tokyo and Shin Hakodate-Hokuto. A relay train service, the Hakodate Liner, connects the shinkansen station to Hakodate Station in about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, there isn't much to see on the shinkansen ride as the journey mostly cuts through tunnels.

The E5 shinkansen at the relatively new Shin Hakodate-hokuto Station
Transfering to the Hakodate Liner to get to Hakodate

Hakodate Park: Full Bloom

After my morning excitement of taking the Hokkaido Shinkansen, I started my day at Hakodate Park, where there are several hundred cherry trees. I found the trees here to be at full bloom and largely unaffected by the rain and strong winds. I expect the blossoms to remain at their best over the Golden Week holidays. This weekend should be the perfect time to picnic in the park as the weather is forecast to be sunny. The park is lit in the evenings from 19:00 to 21:00 (until 22:00 on weekends and national holidays) until May 10, and food vendors can be found in the southern end of the park near the small kids amusement park.

Full bloom in Hakodate Park
One of the few cherry trees with unopened blossoms
An empty park due to the rain
Food vendors on the right
Looking down at the main square at Hakodate Park
A small pavilion hidden by cherry blossoms

Fort Goryokaku: Full Bloom

My next stop was Fort Goryokaku, a star shaped western style citadel in Hakodate. The flowers here opened on April 24 and reached full bloom within two days on April 26! There are about 1600 cherry trees in the fort and the observatory at the top of Goryokaku Tower offers a great view of the fort and its cherry trees. I made my way along the star shaped fort and found the flowers here to be at full bloom. Like the blossoms at Hakodate Park, the trees here were largely unaffected by the inclement weather and I expect the best viewing period to continue through the Golden Week holidays. Due to the rain today, the paths were quite muddy and slippery, and there weren't many people picnicking under the trees. The area near Goryokaku Tower is lit in the evenings from 19:00 to 21:00 (until 22:00 on weekends and national holidays) until May 10.

Cherry blossoms at full bloom with Goryokaku Tower in the back
View of the barbecue area from the Goryokaku Tower mezzanine
Ducked into the beautiful Rokkatei store to avoid the rain for a while
Close up of the blossoms at the fort
Brave visitors having a barbecue picnic in the rain
There were a surprising number of people doing laps around the fort
Cherry trees draping over the moat
Pastel pink and green embankments
The rain and cold didn't bother the visitors
These blossoms should remain at their peak through the Golden Week holidays
Surrounded by sakura
A fitting umbrella for the season
Area that will be lit in the evenings
Not many picnickers today with wet picnic sheets and strong winds
Blossoms and the observatory deck
Seafood bowl for lunch at the Hakodate Morning Market