November 21, 2019

Capstone Class of 2020: Hakodate Sightseeing

Welcome to Hakodate!! . . . . and is it cold here!

Every morning when we woke up it was a crisp 33 or 34 degrees Fahrenheit, but got up to a nice balmy 45 or 50 degrees in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the wind chill (which was considerable since we were right on the coast) brought that number back down to a more reasonable 38 or so . . . . good thing we’re from Oregon!

Our first stop was the Miraikan which is the local Science Museum. There we got to experience a lot of really high-tech gadgets including robots, virtual reality 360 rooms, and a 50 foot long interactive screen where the kids were able to play games, learn about local sea life, and compare land-speed ratings to creatures from around the world.

After lunch we ventured through the cold to the City Ainu Museum where we learned about the Ainu people, the indigenous people of Japan and Russia. There we learned about indigenous dress, pottery, weapons, and canoe building. We even each got to build a Mukkuri, a traditional Ainu plucked instrument, indigenous to the Ainu, similar to a jaw harp in other cultures around the world. It is made of bamboo that we had to carve, and the sound is made by pulling the string and vibrating the reed we helped shape.

That night we capped off our day with a trip up the “Hakodate Ropeway” for what is called the “Night View” (the dormant volcanic mountain at the end of the Isthmus of Hakodate, where the city installed a cable car that takes you all the way to the top for an unbelievable view).

The following morning we bundled up and headed to Goryokaku Fort and the Hakodate Magistrate’s Office therein. The fort itself was built in 1855 to protect the nearby Tsugaru Strait against a possible invasion by the Russian fleet. It was shaped like a five-pointed star, inspired by earlier European designs, allowing for fewer blind spots where the cannons could not fire. The entire site could be viewed by the nearby Goryokaku Tower.

The Magistrate’s Office is a recreation of the original building dismantled in the 1800s, but rebuilt by hand using the same methods and tools to build it originally. Every inch of this building was handcrafted with utter precision.

Finally we celebrated an old Hakodate tradition and built our own custom music boxes. The kids (and an occasional adult), picked out custom music players, decorations, stands and colors, and assembled truly one-of-a-kind art.