It’s that time of the year again when people start wishing for winter to end and spring to come soon. Spring is, indeed, one of the enjoyable seasons to cherish in Japan. But with so many parks in the country, it becomes hard to know which one provides that coveted authentic Japanese spring experience. If you want to see cherry blossoms, you will never go wrong if you head to the northern area of the country in Hokkaido. The number one park for cherry blossom viewing in the area is Goryokaku Park in Hakodate!
Hakodate is one of the major cities in the northern area of Japan. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful places in Japan and was even voted as the country’s most attractive city in 2015.
Lying in the area is a historic place called Goryokaku Park. It is a public park that is conveniently located next to the Goryokaku Tower, which is designated as a national special historic site. The park used to be a fort which looks like a star when viewed from above, influenced by European forts built during those times. It served as the main stronghold of the Republic of Ezo, a short-lived state established in 1869. After being defeated by Imperial forces, the Republic of Ezo lost and the fort stands as a reminder of their existence.
Goryokaku Park’s grounds are open to the public and are actually perfect for strolling, especially during the spring season where cherry blossoms can be seen covering the place.
With all the cherry blossoms, Goryokaku can offer two things to visitors: history and the beauty of Japanese nature. One of the best things about this place in Hakodate is that, since Hokkaido is so far north, the cherry blossoms take a bit longer to be in full bloom. So if one is in Honshu, sadden because the trees no longer have the beautiful pink flowers, it’s still possible to travel north and enjoy the beauty of sakura one more time during the same year.
If you’d like to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding place, you can climb the neighboring Goryokaku Tower that provides an observation deck which allows guests to see the sweeping view of the star-shaped fortress. It is 107 meters high, with a seating capacity of 500 people on the deck.
The observation deck’s glass windows will allow you to see the whole park as it is surrounded by a pink carpet of cherry blossoms. Besides this, you can also see Mt. Hakodate from afar, a popular mountain for its view of the surrounding bay and the city. You’ll also be able to witness many people enjoying a picnic under the cherry blossom trees and riding rowboats.
The tower has a mascot called Gota-kun, whom you should also check out.
Admission fee: 900 yen
8:00 AM to 7:00 PM (April 21 to October 20)
9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (October 21 to April 20)
6:00 AM to 7:00 PM (January 1 only)
Goryokaku Park can be reached by train or by bus. If you ride the train, you can take the Hakodate city tram from Hakodate Station to Goryokaku-koen-mae Station, which will take 15 minutes. You can also ride a shuttle bus from Hakodate Station, get off at Goryokaku Station, and walk for 15 minutes. Or get off at Goryokaku Koen Iriguchi Station and walk for seven minutes.
You shouldn’t miss Goryokaku Park in spring. You can just sit on the lawn and enjoy a picnic with your family and friends. However, if you have other plans, you can visit the park during another season. The place creates an extremely beautiful vista regardless of the season so there’s no need to worry!