Japan 2023 Winter Day 5: Hakodate to Aomori

As we weren’t able to spend any time in Hakodate the previous day we decided to get up early before our shinkansen left at 12:48pm. We paid an extra 2000Y to check out later, at midday rather than 11am so that we could keep our luggage in the room until we returned from our excursion. Our of all the spots in Hakodate we decided on going to Goryoukaku, the five-pointed fort.

Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station was a little more lively in the morning rush hour than it was at night, which meant there were about five other people at the station. We took a local train for 20 minutes towards Hakodate and got off at Goryokaku Station which is a 30-minute walk away from the fort. It was a lovely walk through mainly residential areas, the snow meant everyday objects, such as vending machines and bus stops, looked super cute buried in the snow.

We made it to Goryokaku without slipping in the snow and ice, the best way to see the shape of Goryokaku is by accessing Goryokaku Tower. The tower is 107m tall and overlooks all of Hakodate, the five-pointed fort, and on a clear day, you can see all the way to Aomori. The entrance fee for an adult was 1,000¥ and includes access to both observation towers. We went up in the elevator and were some of the only people there as the tower was only just open, and it was a weekday. The tower gave stunning views of the surrounding area, but it was absolutely boiling inside, so we had to quickly shed our thermal layers before we melted!

The views were stunning! The fore itself was enormous, and the floor to ceilings windows allowed uninterrupted views of the vista. The fort was so large I had to change to my ultra-wide angle lens to get the whole thing in the frame. But not only was the fort stunning, but the surrounding city, mountains, and sea were all visible. I really enjoyed watching the traffic below from a birds-eye view.

We spent so much time (and money!) in the gift shop that we didn’t have time to explore the fort itself, which is a good excuse to return one day. We did the 30-minute walk back to the station, and the ensued some of the usual lost-in-translation problems that are common when foreigners speak Japanese. The station worker was telling me I couldn’t return on the same train, to use a JR pass, and all sorts of things. Luckily another station worker came and told me I was correct and directed me to the platform I was heading to.

We got back to the hotel, so handy to be able to extend our check out, got all packed, and headed down to the Shinkansen station. I was very excited to take the Hokkaido Shinkansen under the Tsugaru Strait. As this is the terminus on the Hokkaido Shinkansen we were the only people in our carriage which was lovely. Snacks in hand we got settled and started our 50-minute journey to Shin-Aomori station.

This is my second time in Aomori, visiting last in October 2019, during autumn. Seeing Aomori under the snow was beautiful, it was snowing very heavily when we came out of the Seikan tunnel, going so fast made it even better. It was surprisingly difficult to get to the hotel from the station, even though the hotel was only a few hundred meters away from the station thanks to the enormous snow banks. Every time we thought we found a route to the hotel, which we could see the entire time, we were met with another snow bank. In the end, I ran across knee-deep snow to figure out a route that we could drag the suitcases. We were too early to check-in but the hotel held out luggage for us. We walked to the local Starbucks and I met up with my pen pal, it was great to catch up.

After spending a few hours catching up my brain was exhausted from speaking in Japanese for so long. We walked back to our hotel so we could check in and plan our evening. I really wanted to try the vegan apple sorbet at the A factory in Aomori City. Unfortunately, due to the infrequent trains between Shin-Aomori and Aomori station, we missed the last order for sorbet but happily settled for an assortment of apple-based goods.


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