Gaze down over Hakodate, from the heights of its namesake peak - Mount Hakodate - to see the city stretching out spectacularly, with back-to-back twin bays splitting the ocean. Hakodate port was one of the first to open Japan up to the world, and to international trade in 1859 - a fact reflected in the architecture, with its influences from the West and beyond. The port area is a redbrick wash of warehouses turned shopping malls, all observed by the onion domes of the city's Russian Orthodox church. Elsewhere, the star-shaped Goryokaku fortress glows with natural colours and a beautiful haze of cherry blossom during the season. Goryokaku Tower, which rises up beside it, offers a sweeping bird's eye view of the green fortress and mountain backdrop.
Buses trundle up the 335-metre incline to the top of Mount Hakodate, but the best way to reach the views is to jump on the ropeway, which swings high above downtown's buildings, over a carpet of pine trees. Head up to the mountain's heights as sunset approaches. With darkness sweeping in, and the lights flickering to life, the panorama is one of Japan's most spectacular. Soak it all in, and look out to the horizon, dotted with the shimmering lights of ships hauling in harvests of the city's renowned squid.
The plankton-rich waters attract a delicious variety of feasting sea life to Hakodate's coast, which is then plated up in the city's numerous, skilled restaurants. For an eye-opening, whirring morning, see the freshest produce being doled out at Hakodate Morning Market – amid a cacophony of noise and activity.