The Hakodate morning started around 15C and never got any warmer. On top of that clouds crammed the skies. Many of them hung low enough to cover half of any mountains (hills, really) that would have been visible. And just to add one more little nuisance to the day, it was raining. On the plus side, we had no tours planned for the day so there would be no subsequent disappointments over things paid for that were not visible. The cable car tour, to the top of Mt. Hakodate for the (what would have been) fabulous view below, being at least one of those things.
No tour also meant just a day to wander about somewhat aimlessly. We took a shuttle from the ship to the downtown area and found a streetcar (reminiscent of San Francisco) to take us to the Red Brick Warehouse waterfront district. A couple of blocks later found us staring at the ocean, brick buildings on either side of us.
This historic area is where shipyards and foreign settlements were once plentiful. Now, those same buildings house shopping plazas and (of course!) the Hakodate Beer Hall. Walking through the area provides more than just a tourist shopping experience however. Locals abound as well, so the sense of how people live their daily lives creates an atmosphere that is more than just commerce.
Now it is late in the afternoon so a pause is made at a little restaurant for a small bite. Having not eaten since breakfast and then walking for the better part of the day, food seemed like a good idea. Surprisingly we weren’t as hungry as we would have thought. A little sushi and a little tempura were chosen to do a little magic. The restaurant staff spoke no English and their menus didn’t either but, fortunately, the pictures provided were universal. As it turns out they were also very accurate in their appearance. Judging by the empty plates at the end, both the stomach and the palate were pleased.
The strolling continued. Soon a food truck appeared. Not hungry anymore, certainly, but curious as to why there seemed to be so many venues that sold soft ice cream in cones. As this happened to be one of those suppliers, 1 was purchased so we both could enjoy. At least as soft as ANY back home, it also had a creamier (almost…buttery?) texture, fuller and with a slight flavor sensation that was not quite identifiable. Should an occasion arise, don’t hesitate. 🙂
Darkness is beginning to fall and shops are either closed or in the process of doing so. Along the way there are maps at almost every local bus stop pointing out not only where you are, but businesses and points of interest close to you. One place that was now close and on our list was the Morning Market. Ok…it’s not morning any more (by a Long shot) and everything is likely to be shut down as it is best known as the local fish market. However a walk through the area still seemed a good idea. Wellllll…as it turns out it is almost directly beside where our shuttle bus had originally let us off.
The streetcar earlier had taken us to the far end of the warehouse district. Hours had been spent leisurely walking back, enjoying the sites, sounds and smells that enveloped us. Had we simply walked in the opposite direction first thing, the start of our journey could have been right at the market. That would have made for an even better day. And the restaurants that lined the streets at that end would have led to an entirely different meal. As Agent 86 was so fond of saying, “Missed it by That Much”.
There is never a shortage of things to do and see when at port and usually not enough time and/or good weather to enjoy all. But, as always, a little of the flavor of the area can easily lead to a decision to return. Japan presents no reason not to.