Morning everyone! We all woke up early to catch the long awaited Hakodate Asaichi (Morning Market). It’s actually primarily a fish market that opens from 5am every day, with fishermen bringing in fresh fish from the bay and farmers with their produce from the nearby mountains. We can’t wait to have our sushi breakfast!
The market was actually not far from the train station and our hotel, so we simply took a stroll there. It was actually a pretty big complex, housing around 300 stores.
As soon as we reached it, Aina got mesmerized by the aquarium filled to the brim with freshly caught squid. These squids were super active, darting about endlessly and even interacting with visitors. She just stood there in front of the aquarium, until we found other aquariums also filled with squid. There were lots and lots of squid!
As we walked inside the main structure, we realized two things at the Donburi Yokocho restaurant arcade. The first, was that these 15cm squids seemed to be the main menu here. We saw that almost every store selling sushi or sashimi had these squids. There were even posters of the donburi dish that was supposed to be the most popular here. It consisted of rice on the bottom, then layers of sashimi, squid parts, and finally topped with the live squid head! Next to some of the posters, there were videos that showed people trying to eat the dish as the squid head flopped about, trying to get away. I guess the Japanese have taken the meaning of fresh seafood to a whole new level.
The second thing we noticed, was there were just too many choices. All of these sushi stores seemed to be very similar to each other. So we just picked one that had cooked food options as well since Noushka and Ditha didn’t like raw fish. Booo! Thalia has had here mind set on eating lots and lots of uni (sea urchin) which this area was also known for. I ordered half and half, uni and ikura. Aina had her usual salmon don.
After having our fill, we went out to walk around the complex. Out the side door, we were presented with many more amusing delicacies from the area. Alaskan king crabs, hairy crabs, fresh uni, countless fish species, shellfish, as well as fresh dairy and, of course, the famously expensive (and yummy) Hokkaido melon!
But before we got to the melon, the girls got some Hokkaido soft ice cream. Flavor of the day: squid ink! However, the vanilla soft ice cream won the taste test.
After walking about for some time, we went back inside to see the produce and fruits area. Thalia bought some bottled uni for later and Ditha had bought some cherries for everyone to try. I have never seen a cleaner market in my life. There wasn’t a drop of water on the floor. Everything was arranged and displayed neatly on wooden racks or in styrofoam boxes. And it actually smelled really nice and fresh in here.
Then we stumbled on to the main “arena” in the middle of the building. It was a large pool/aquarium filled with live squid. Visitors can actually fish for their squid then and there, get them prepared the way they want them, and then eat them on the side tables.
When we went outside again, we decided to try the melon. The Yubari melon is well known for their expensive price and buttery, almost honey-like sweet taste. These melons are groomed for months and timed perfectly for their ripeness for entering a Japan-wide competition every year. In 2014, the winner was auctioned for 25,000 USD. No, we didn’t get the expensive Yubari melon. Our’s costed us 200 yen a slice. But still, it was pretty good.
After breakfast and sightseeing at the market, we made our way to our next destination, Goryokaku Fort. We were delighted to find out that we needed to go there by using an old-fashioned wooden tram across town. These trams were as amazing inside as they looked from the outside, all the fixtures were still using the original parts made of wood and iron. It felt like a trip back in time.
Hopping off the tram, we stumbled past some interesting stone statues. Of course, we took a couple of silly photos of Puni with them. Hakodate had public statues sprinkled everywhere. They capture the essence of the city and were a delight to stumble across for tourists like us.
We reached the Goryokaku Tower located nearby the fort. It was a tower made for observing the fort and it’s surroundings. On the ground floor the modern structure housed some artefacts from the era, models of the fort, historic photos and a gift shop. It also had lockers for transiting tourists.
The Goryokaku Fort is unique that it has a star-shaped footprint. It was probably designed this way to make defence of the castle more effective. It’s actually not very big for a castle. Right outside the fort, We found a field of dandelions again. So of course, Aina had to do the the obligatory running and jumping around there.
After crossing the wooden bridge that spanned across the moat surrounding the fort, we went through the front gate.
The trees there were very old, you can tell by their size. There were many traditional buildings on the fort ground, the biggest one was the former Magistrate Office that survived the fire and restored. This fort was one of the key locations of the Japanese civil war, between the Imperial army and the Meiji forces. In 1910, the fort was transformed into a public park. It was a beautiful park. There were lots of cherry blossom trees, perhaps one of the popular spots to see the blooms in May.
As we walked around, an old lady and her husband who were sitting on the grass, approached us. She gave two paper cranes that she made to Aina. What a beautiful gesture – this captures the perfect picture of the friendly residents here at Hakodate, and also other towns that we passed through. We thanked her and waved goodbye as she walked back to her husband who was sitting in the shade next to their bicycles.
Other entries of this trip is at Hokkaido Trip Summer 2015.