March 21, 2017

Capstone 2017: March 19-21 Hakodate

We arrived in the historic port city of Hakodate via express train and was welcomed with brisk temperatures but plenty of sunshine.  Weather-wise, this trip has been excellent so far though some of us wished we had not sent off our mittens and heavier gear to Narita when we departed Chitose.  

Hakodate is the third largest city in Hokkaido and sits close to the most southern tip of the island.  It is famous for marvelous seafood; crab, squid and sea urchin in particular.  Many of us enjoyed freshly caught & prepared breakfasts from the many restaurants in the Morning Market.  It doesn’t get fresher than this!

Hakodate was founded in the mid-1400s and was Japan’s first city open to foreign trade in 1854 when US Commodore Matthew Perry arrived.  There was much western-influenced architecture and commerce that is still evident today.  One example is the Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward, a large Victorian-looking building complete with reception areas, dining rooms and a formal ballroom.  The kids felt as if they were whisked back in time during the tour of this building. 

Due to its strategic location near Russia, long history of indigenous Ainu culture and encroachment of Japanese from the south, the area was the scene of many key points in the region’s history.  One example is Goryokaku, an impressive five pointed star-shaped fortress, originally built in the mid-1800’s by the Tokugawa shogunate based on a French design.  This fort was meant to protect the area from possible Russian invasion.  The kids toured the vast grounds leading to the large and beautiful governmental hall/castle built Japanese style using traditional woodworking methods.  The children were impressed with the skill and craftsmanship of the many tradesmen and artists from all over Japan who were commissioned to work on this facility and asked many thoughtful questions about why certain methods were used and what responsibilities those working in the hall had.  

Our last evening in Hakodate was amazing, as we took a ropeway (tram with capacity of 125 people) about a mile up Mt. Hakodate at 7 meters/second.  Our kids (and adults!) were thrilled with the gorgeous aerial views of the bay area, with lights twinkling from the city and from fishing & cruising ships in the water.  The ride was extremely smooth, and the observation deck provided spectacular 360 degree views. 

The children overall have stayed pretty healthy during Capstone and we parents have been monitoring their rest and eating habits.  Many kids (including mine) keep wanting to eat certain local dishes over and over (ramen!) but everyone really enjoyed the seafood here as it’s hard to resist such beautiful and fresh fare.  It will be sad to leave Hakodate, but the wonderful experiences the kids had here will never be forgotten. 

– TIS parent, Yuri Dyson