Given the highest possible rating of three Michelin stars in the Michelin Green Guide Japan (published by the world-famous French company Michelin), the views from Mt. Hakodate (函館山), especially at nighttime, are spectacular and deserve to be on every traveler’s must-see list when traveling around the Hokkaido region. This article presents all the information you need to know about this stunning destination, which is also widely regarded as one of the top three night view or “yakei (夜景)” spots in the whole of Japan, alongside Mt. Inasa (稲佐山) in Nagasaki (長崎), on the island of Kyushu (九州), and Mt. Rokko (六甲山) in Kobe (神戸), on the island of Honshu (本州).
To access the point of embarkation of the ropeway, you can either ride a tram or a bus.
If you choose the tram route, you will need to reach Jujigai Tram Station (十字街停留所), which is just a five-minute tram ride from Hakodate Station. Then, you will have to walk to the lower station of the ropeway. Note, however, that there is a slightly steep incline just before arriving so do your best!
If you would rather ride the bus, just hop onto one running directly from Hakodate Station. The bus ride will approximately take ten minutes.
Once you reach the lower station, you have to take the ropeway – the most popular means of transport in order to access the observatory which runs all year long. The journey to the top takes less than five minutes and the journey itself offers jaw-dropping views of the city. One ropeway car comes every five to 10 minutes.
Pro tip: To make the most of your ropeway ride, try to stand at the back-end side of the ropeway because it will face the city and offer you breathtaking views. If you stand at the front end, all you will see are trees.
A round-trip ropeway ticket for an adult will set you back 1,280 yen (but is completely worth it!), while a round-trip ticket for a child is half the price so it will cost 640 yen.
Bonus tip: If you are traveling in a group of 15 or more people, then you can avail the special discount group pass which is just 980 yen per adult and 490 yen per child (round-trip).
From April 25 to October 15, the first departure of the ropeway to the top is at 10:00 AM, the last departure to the top is at 9:50 PM, and the last departure going back to the lower station is at 10:00 PM. Whereas from October 16 to April 24, the first departure to the top remains the same, but the last departure to and from the observatory becomes an hour earlier.
The ideal night viewing time is from around 30 minutes after the sunset until the last ropeway departs back (though many travelers flock to the top before the sunset so as to catch a glimpse of the sun setting).
Bonus tip: If you are visiting Mt. Hakodate in June or July, according to the ropeway website, 7:00 PM is the ideal time to soak in all the beauty!
There is a luxurious restaurant called Genova on the second floor of the observatory, so if you would like to dine while enjoying the amazing views, this is the perfect option for you. It is also a super romantic spot for a date!
If you would rather go to a gift shop in search of souvenirs, just head over to the Sancho Store (山頂ショップ), which is also located on the second floor of the observatory. They offer a variety of stuff for you to choose from and the shop is tax-free for foreign travelers so you can shop your hearts out!
There is also a small takeout store that sells drinks and ice cream. Hokkaido is famous for its dairy products so it is highly recommended that you try some super oishii (tasty) ice cream. And yes, you can see Japanese people happily enjoying a cone or cup of ice cream even in winter when it is already freezing cold!
Now that you know almost everything there is to know about this fantastic night view spot, you should make visiting Mt. Hakodate a priority if you get an opportunity to travel around Japan!