Mount Hakodate (Hakodateyama) is a 334 meter high, wooded mountain with a nine kilometer circumference at the southern end of the peninsula on which much of central Hakodate is located. Its location allows an unobstructed view of both the city and the Tsugaru Strait. The volcanic activity of the mountain ceased about two million years ago. “Gagyu-zan” is one of the many names of Mt. Hakodate; it means “Lying Cow Mountain” in Japanese, hence its shape.
On clear days and especially nights, the view of Hakodate from the mountain is spectacular. If you translate the local tourist brochures, you’ll note that they say that the night view (yakei) from here has often been compared to that of Hong Kong or Naples. They say that this wonderful view is due to the fact that the scene is viewed at 8-10 degrees below eyesight. They say that this angle coincides with the view of an airplane pilot engaging in a stable landing, and so the city lights remind the viewer of a runway, giving the viewer a mixture of tension and relief. But what would “they” know anyway. All in all, it is simply beautiful.
At the mountain top, the cable car is connected directly to an all-weather observatory. If you plan to take a walk about outside the facility, it would be wise to bring a light jacket or a windbreaker. The temperature at the mountaintop is no more than 60 degrees Fahrenheit during summer (June – Sept.), but the strong winds will drop the sensory temperature a few degrees. In the winter time, it is brass monkey cold.
Since 1964, Mount Hakodate has been assigned National Reservation for Birds and Animals; there are about 600 species of plants, and about 150 species of animals reside in Mount Hakodate. Also there are the memorial monuments of a zoologist Thomas W. Blakiston, who discovered a distribution limit of Japanese animals in Tsugaru Strait, and a topologist Tadataka Inoh, who published the first surveyed map of Japan. There are souvenir shops, a restaurant with the finest view, and an events hall where 12 monitors produce a multi-vision presentation that introduces the four seasons of Hakodate.
The ropeway to the peak of the mountain departs from the Motomachi District, a 5 minute tram ride from JR Hakodate Station. Alternatively there is a direct bus from the station to the peak during the warm seasons of the year. There is also a hiking course to the top that takes about an hour. The cable car station is about ten minutes walk from “Jujigai” streetcar stop. The Mt. Hakodate Ropeway station is situated near the top of the Nanbuzaka-slope; the Nanbuzaka-slope lies next to the city hall branch office of Suehiro-cho (old Marui-Imai department store). The cable car, which rides 125 people, departs every five minutes in rush time.