On the last day of our three day sightseeing trip, i.e. on 20th July, hubby and I did sightseeing at Goryokaku Park in Hakodate city of the island of Hokkaido. After having buffet style breakfast at Hotel Grantia Hakodate Goryokaku, we checked out of the hotel. We left our baggage at the front desk of the hotel as the park was just a five minute walk from the hotel. Before writing about our sightseeing experiences, I will introduce the history of the Goryokaku Fort and Goryokaku Tower, as well as a brief biography of Toshizo Hijikata, a prominent person related to the history of Goryokaku Fort.
Our breakfast at the hotel
Me standing in front of Hotel Grantia Hakodate Goryokaku
History of Goryokaku Fort
Goryokaku Park is the site of ruins of star-shaped Goryokaku Fort. It was the main fortress of the short-lived Republic of Ezo (northern Japan). The history of Goryokaku Fort dates back to 1853 when a US fleet arrived at a Japanese port, which is referred to as the ‘arrival of black ships’. Succumbing to the demands of US that Japan open its doors to the rest of the world, the Tokugawa shogunate opened Hakodate port for international trade in 1854. Aiming to maintain governance over Hakodate, the Tokugawa shogunate instituted the office of Hakodate Magistrate, which promoted industrial development while strengthening the defensive capabilities of the area. When the magistrate’s office building was later moved, Ayasaburo Takeda, a researcher of Dutch studies, was ordered to design a new fort. He devised a fort modeled after European citadel towns and adopted elements of the designs of French architect Vauban. The star shaped Goryokaku Fort was constructed from 1857 to 1864, and was the first western style fortress in Japan with an ability to withstand damage from modern weapons like cannon.
There was an upheaval during the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate. Discontent with the shogunate, which bowed to the US demands, escalated into a campaign to overthrow the shogunate. The campaign led to the outbreak of Boshin war. With the restoration of Meiji Imperial rule and the surrender of the Edo castle, the Tokugawa shogunate was in an extremely difficult position. Under those circumstances, Takeaki Enomoto, a vice-admiral in the Tokugawa shogunate’s navy, led a fleet consisting of various military units to Ezo and occupied Goryokaku Fort. In December 1868, Enomoto and his men established a provisional government and reclaimed northern Japan as a shogun Republic of Ezo. However, in the spring of the following year, the new Meiji government sent troops to the area and launched attacks against the forces consisting of Tokugawa shogunate followers, thereby causing the outbreak of the Battle of Hakodate. Despite the strong resistance of Toshizo Hijikata and his experienced troops, Goryokaku Fort was placed under siege by the new government forces, which finally forced the Army forces of the shogunate to surrender on May 17, 1869. Goryokaku Fort fell into the hands of new Meiji government and much of it was reduced to ruins. Goryokaku Fort was opened to the public as a park in 1914, serving as a place for relaxation and recreation for the people of Hakodate. In 1952, it was designated as a special historic site by the national government. Now only the walls of the Goryokaku Fort remain in the park. But in the spring over 1500 cherry trees bloom in the park, making it a famous tourist destination.
A short biography of Toshizo Hijikata
Toshizo Hijikata was born in Tokyo in 1835 into the family of a wealthy farmer. In 1863, he was recruited into a band of masterless swordsmen to escort the shogun going to Kyoto. Hijikata’s group evolved into the famous Shinsengumi, a small-built and talented Japanese military, to maintain the public peace of Kyoto. Hijikata eventually became the deputy leader of Shinsengumi. Power was restored to the Emperor in 1867, but the Shinsengumi and some shogunate forces rebelled and fighting erupted in Kyoto. The rebels, overpowered and losing, retreated to Tokyo, Aizu, Sendai, and Hakodate. Hijikata met and befriended Takeaki Enomoto in Sendai, and after merging forces they made their way to Hakodate and overtook Goryokaku Fort. In 1869 in the battle of Hakodate, Hijikata served as one of the men of Enomoto and led 3000 troops against the Imperial forces. However, his troops were outgunned. On 11th May, Hijikata boldly left Goryokaku Fort to back up his comrades and was shot dead.
History of Goryokaku Tower
Near the Goryokaku Fort, stands Goryokaku Tower with an observation deck 90 meters above the ground that provides a panoramic view of Mount Hakodate and the Tsugaru Strait along with a bird’s eye view of the Goryokaku Fort. Looking down, the star-shaped vista that shines on the grounds of the Goryokaku Fort can be seen. Goryokaku Tower was originally opened on December 01, 1964 to commemorate 100 years of the construction of the Goryokaku Fort. On April 01, 2006, a new 107 meters tall tower (including the lightning rod) was opened that replaced the 60 meters high former tower.
Our sightseeing experience
After checking out of the hotel, hubby and I walked towards the Goryokaku Park. Just after two minutes of walk, we could see the Goryokaku Tower. The tower looked very new and majestic. On our way we saw a famous and very colorful Japanese-style hamburger and curry fast food restaurant chain named Lucky Pierrot. This restaurant is favored by local people for its fresh, hot and hearty burgers. After another 2-3 minutes of walk, we reached the tower. At the entrance hall of the tower building, we bought tickets worth 840 Yen per person for admission to the tower observatory. A shop was located at the first floor of the tower building, which had a rich lineup of original Goryokaku goods. We bought a few souvenirs from the shop. Next, we went to the atrium that was just adjacent to the shop. The atrium was an all-weather glazed square with lots of plants and a statue of Toshizo Hijikata, a prominent figure related to the history of Goryokaku Fort. Hubby and I were delighted with the atmosphere of the atrium which was a comfortable sun soaked space that brimmed with greenery. Later we went to a cafe named ‘Cafe 107’ that was located in the second floor of the tower building. We had coffee and snacks (just after the breakfast!) while enjoying the leisurely atmosphere.
View of the Goryokaku Tower during our walk towards the Goryokaku Park
Fast food restaurant named Lucky Pierrot
Me in front of the entrance of the Goryokaku Tower building
A shop located at the first floor of the tower building
Statue of Toshizo Hijikata at the atrium
Display of a cannon at the atrium
Next we took an elevator that went directly to the first and second floor observatories of the Goryokaku Tower, which were located at a height of 86 meters and 90 meters, respectively. The elevator was very fast and it took less than 30 seconds to reach the first floor observatory. However, we skipped seeing the first floor observatory and directly went to the second floor observatory. From the second floor of the observatory, we got an impressive and stunning bird’s eye view of the star-shaped Goryokaku Fort. The observatory is the only place where we can get a good view of the complete star-shaped structure of the fort. At the observatory, there was a seated bronze statue of Toshizo Hijikata, a model of the Goryokaku Fort accurately reproduced to 1/250 of its original size, and an exhibition space where we could learn about the history of the Goryokaku Fort. We also got a panoramic view of Mount Hakodate, the city, and the Tsugaru Strait. The star-shaped Goryokaku Fort really looked wonderful from the observatory of the tower.
A model of the Goryokaku Fort
View of the Goryokaku Fort from second floor observatory of the tower
Left side view of the Goryokaku Fort
Right side view of the Goryokaku Fort
Hubby in front of the Goryokaku Fort
Me along with the seated bronze statue of Toshizo Hijikata
View of Mount Hakodate from the second floor observatory of the tower
View of the city from the second floor observatory of the tower
Tsugaru Strait as viewed from the second floor observatory of the tower
After enjoying the view from the tower observatory for about half an hour, hubby and I went to the Goryokaku Fort Park. When we reached the park site, we saw a moat surrounding the Goryokaku Fort. The fort has only this one continuous moat all the way around. A beautiful view of the tower could be seen from the bridge above the moat. Just after crossing the bridge, we reached the entrance of the park. Entrance to the park was free and many people were taking a walk in the park. Hubby bought a softcream from a vending machine at the entrance of the park and enjoyed eating it while strolling in the park. We climbed a few stone steps and leisurely walked along the path in one of the V-shaped projections of the star-shaped Goryokaku. There were a lot of trees and shrubs and the park was full of greenery. It was a sunny day and we had a pleasant walk. During our walk we saw a number of walls of the fort ruins that were about three meters tall. Hubby climbed one of the walls. I was very surprised at his agility to climb up a three meter high wall within a few seconds. However, it was very funny to see him carefully descend the wall. After strolling in the park for about an hour, we went to the central area of the park which was a children’s play area. Here many kids were merrily playing while their parents relaxed in the sunny weather. After spending a few minutes watching the kids play, we left the park. While going out of the park, we took several photos of us at the bridge over the moat and a few photos of the nearby surroundings. The park served as a good reminder of the history of Goryokaku Fort.
Hubby walking towards the Goryokaku Fort Park
Me in front of the moat surrounding the Goryokaku Fort
Me walking towards the bridge over the moat
Hubby standing next to a stone monument sign of Goryokaku Fort ruins
Bridge above the moat
Me standing over the bridge above the moat
View of the Goryokaku Tower from the bridge above the moat
View from the Goryokaku Fort Park
Hubby eating a softcream and walking in the park
View inside the Goryokaku Fort Park
A wall of the Goryokaku Fort ruins
Boats in the moat
Hubby standing near the moat
Hubby posing after climbing a three meter high wall of the Goryokaku Fort
Sequential photos of hubby while descending the wall
View from the Goryokaku Fort Park
Hubby standing near a wall of the Goryokaku Fort
Children’s play area in the park
Me at the bridge over the moat
Another photo of me at the bridge over the moat
Hubby at the bridge over the moat
A beautiful view of the moat, flowers, and the bridge
A couple boating in the moat
A black tailed gull at the park
It was 12.30 pm by the time hubby and I finished seeing the Goryokaku Fort ruins at the park site. We were rather hungry and so we returned back to the tower building where a restaurant named ‘Gotoken Hakodate Curry Express’ was located at the second floor of the building. We had lunch sets of sea-food curry and Indian chicken curry along with rice. It tasted very delicious probably because we were very tired and hungry.
Hubby having lunch
After lunch, we returned back to the hotel to pick up our baggage and then went to Hakodate railway station by taxi. At Hakodate, we took ‘Super Hakucho’ train at about 1.55 pm that travelled through undersea Seikan tunnel and reached Aomori station after about 2 hours of travel. At Aomori, we took another train and after travelling for an hour or so, we reached Hirosaki railway station. At Hirosaki, we went to the car park next to the station where hubby had parked our car during our onward journey on the morning of 19th July. It was almost 5.30 pm and it took hubby about 4.5 hours to drive back home. Although we were tired due to three days of hectic sightseeing, hubby and I really enjoyed seeing many different places and their traditions, advanced engineering feats, romantic date spots, and historical sites in Tohoku area and Hokkaido.