Goryokaku is one of Hakodate’s major sightseeing spots. As a regional office for the central government, it was constructed in 1864 and opened in 1866. It is a western-style fort completed almost 150 years ago, designated in Japan as a special historic site as star-shaped Western-style forts are rarely seen in Japan.
Its neighbor the Goryokaku Tower features an Observatory which commands a panoramic view of the entire beautiful star-shaped estate and surrounding moat.
Now, Goryokaku is a park blessed with nature where people come to relax and enjoy themselves. Goryokaku has a lot to offer, such as history, cherry blossoms, walking, and an illumination event in winter. If you visit it, you can have a good Japanese experience.
Cherry Blossom Season in Goryōkaku
The cherry blossom season in Hokkaido arrives a few week later than the mainland of Japan. Fort Goryokaku is located in Hakodate city, Hokkaido which usually welcomes first cherry blossoms to open, usually from late April to early May
Fort Goryokaku is one of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots in Hokkaido. There are 1,600 cherry trees in the fort along moats. Visitors can enjoy walking in the fort, riding a boat on its moats and the spectacular overlook view of star shaped pink fort. The best place to see overlook view of the fort is from the observation tower called Gokyokaku Tower which is located next to the fort.
These places are crowded with people having an outdoor barbecue called Jinghiskhan, which features lamb and various kinds of vegetables cooked in a special pan. You see the blossoms there beautifully lit up after sunset.
Address: 44 Goryokakucho, Hakodate, Hokkaido 040-0001, Japan
Opening Hours: 9:00am – 6:00pm
Architect: Takeda Ayasaburō
Cherry Blossom Period: Late April to early May
Ease of Access
15 mins by tram from Hakodate station to Goryokaku Koen Mae station then 10 mins walk
History of Goryōkaku
Goryōkaku was designed in 1855 by Takeda Ayasaburō and Jules Brunet. Their plans was based on the work of the French architect Vauban. The fortress was completed in 1866, two years before the collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Goryōkaku is shaped like a five-pointed star. This allowed for greater numbers of gun emplacements on its walls than a traditional Japanese fortress, and reduced the number of blind spots where a cannon could not fire. The fort was built by the Tokugawa shogunate to protect the Tsugaru Strait against a possible invasion by the Meiji government. Goryōkaku is famous as the site of the last battle of the Boshin War. The fighting lasted for a week (June 20–27, 1869).
The Site of Goryokaku Fort, designated as a national special historic site, is a park blessed with nature. You can enjoy walking around through beautiful scenery in four seasons: Cherry blossoms in spring, green trees in summer, autumn leaves in fall and snow in winter. The observation floors of adjacent Goryokaku Tower command a sweeping view of the huge star-shaped fort.
Entrance Fee: Free
Hours: April – October: 5:00 am – 7:00 pm
November – March: 5:00 am – 6:00 pm
This tower is 107 m high and its observatory decks command the entire view of Goryokaku Park. You can see the beautiful star-shaped fort and also Mt. Hakodate, Tsugaru Strait and the Yokotsu mountain range.
Entrance Fee: 900 yen (For elevator)
Hours: April 21 – October 20: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
October 21 – April 20: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Hakodate Magistrate’s Office
Hakodate Bugyosho was a facility used as the government of Hokkaido and the window to foreign countries during the mid-19th century. Part of the facility was restored and opened to the public in 2010. You can see the workmanship of traditional Japanese architecture.
Entrance Fee: 500 yen
Hours: April – October: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
November – March: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
January 2 – 3: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Goryokaku Tower Stores
The 1.8-km perimeter of the moat of a special historic site Goryokaku Fort is decorated with illumination to have its star shape stand out. You can command a bird’s-eye view of the beautiful star shape when looking down on it from adjacent Goryokaku Tower. In mid winter, when snow accumulates on the frozen moat, the Goryokaku star spangles more brightly, and is especially beautiful. You can take an evening walk along the star-shaped perimeter. Lighting-up is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Entrance Fee: Free
Hours 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Rough annual schedule: December 1st to late February