Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hokkaido Winter 2013 北海道冬季之旅 - Goryokaku Tower 五稜郭タワー, Goryokaku Park 五稜郭公園

Visited 13.02.2013
Number of castles visited to date: 1
Top 100 castles in Japan: #2

Goryokaku Tower is an observatory building overlooking Goryakaku Fort. This two storey observatory which stands at 90 m tall, is actually pentagon in shape, synonymous to the fortress beside it.  

History of Goryokaku Fort (extracted from information brochure): 
Construction of the fort dates back to 1853 when a US fleet arrived at a Japanese port. Succumbing to US demands that Japan opens its doors to the rest of the world, the Tokugawa Shogun concluded the Treaty of Peace and Amity between United States of America and Japan in 1854, and opened Hakodate Port for international trade. Aiming to maintain governance over Hakodate, the Tokugawa Shogun instituted the Hakodate Magistrate's Office, which promoted land reclamation and industrial development, while fortifying the defensive capabilities of the area. Ayasaburo Takeda, a researcher of Dutch studies, was ordered to design a new fort when the Magistrate's Office was slated for relocation. He devised a fort modeled after European citadel towns, which took seven years to complete construction.

Left: Mount Hakodate in the background. 
In 1952, Goryakaku Fort was designated as a special historic site by the national government. Goryokaku Tower was originally opened in 1964, but later replaced by this newer landmark in 2006. The observatory commands an excellent view of star shaped fortress, Mount Hakodate and the Tsugaru Straits (a channel between Honshu and Hokkaido, connecting the Sea of Japan with Pacific Ocean). Did not believe such impressive looking fortress actually existed when I first saw it in books. Was totally speechless when I finally got to see this in real life -  the contrast between the majestic looking and well defined five pointed star and the surrounding buildings. Another attraction not to be missed when you visit Hakodate!

Goryokaku Fort is decorated different every season. There are about 1,600 cherry trees planted within and on the perimeter of the fortress and this promises a beautiful scenery in spring. In winter, the star fortress sparkles brightly at night as illumination are installed on its perimeter. Exhibits were also on display on the observatory levels, explaining the history of Goryokaku and Hakodate.

Though we managed to visit the fortress later (which is converted into a community park), I found it difficult to relate what appears on the ground level to what was seen overhead from the observatory tower a while ago. Therefore, I will still recommend visiting the observatory tower first before making your way to the fortress. The restoration of the Magistrate's Office, which is located in the centre of the fortress, showcased the sophisticated architectural skills during that era. Decided to give this a miss due to time constraints (and additional admission fee...) - had one more attraction to cover (Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse) before making our way to Hakodate Airport in the late afternoon.

Top right: Restoration of Magistrate's Office

Goryokaku Tower 五稜郭タワー
Opening hours:
0800 - 1900 hrs (21 Apr - 20 Oct);
0900 - 1800 hrs (21 Oct - 20 Apr);
0900 - 1900 hrs (during the "Dream of Pentagonal Stars" event)
Admission fee = 840 yen

Hakodate Magistrate's Office 函館奉行所
located within Goryokaku Koen.
Opening hours:
0900 - 1800 hrs (1 Apr - 30 Oct)
0900 - 1700 hrs (1 Nov - 31 Mar)
Closed on 31 Dec - 3 Jan for maintenance.
Admission fee = 500 yen


How to get there? 

(1) By Hakodate streetcar:
Take either line 2 or 5 from Hakodae ekimae, heading for Yunokawa Onsen (湯の川). Alight at Goryokaku koen-mae, follow the directions and walk for another 15 mins.
Hakodate ekimae <> Goryokaku koen-mae; Fee = 230 yen

(2) By local bus: Goryokaku Tower, Torabisuchinu Shuttle Bus (五稜郭タワー・トラピスチヌシャトルバス). Bus departs from Hakodate JR Station. 
Hakodate bus website:


Commemorative stamps:

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