Fort Goryokaku is an enormous star-shaped citadel built over 150 years ago as a defensive fortress for Hakodate’s government offices. After a brief period of wartime turmoil and imperial threat, the fort was transformed into a stunning public park, distinctive for its elegant architecture, magnificent cherry blossom trees, curving moat and pleasant grassy lawns. Stroll on the promenades along the moat, visit the site’s museum and enjoy the scenic park area and historic architecture.
Built in a Western style, the star-shaped fort was planned to defend against enemies arriving from any direction. The fort was the famous site of the final 1869 battle in the Boshin War and was repurposed as a public garden in the 1910s. Explore the fort’s outer perimeter to find a tranquil oasis of deciduous trees and over 1,000 cherry trees planted along the moat. Stroll along a charming footbridge onto the fort’s main area and wander amid Japanese pine trees and manicured gardens.
At the center of the fort, find a replica of the Former Magistrate’s Office. This traditional and ornate red-tiled building was used by the shogunate for the administration of Hokkaido, but the original was destroyed after the shogunate’s fall in 1871. The office is open to the public and houses a small museum dedicated to the history of the site and the city.
The sprawling Fort Goryokaku grounds are stunning year-round. Visit in spring to experience one of Hokkaido’s most famous cherry blossom viewing spots, or in summer for the lush greenery of the surrounding gardens. In fall, the colors of the fort’s deciduous trees transform into brilliant red and gold hues. A magical carpet of white snow falls upon the area in winter.
Fort Goryokaku is located in Hakodate, a large city in southern Hokkaido. Catch a 10-minute tram to Goryokaku Koen Mae from Hakodate Station. Reach the fort after an additional 15-minute walk. The Former Magistrate’s Office is open year-round except for a short period around New Year’s. For panoramic views of Fort Goryokaku and the surrounding cityscape, visit the neighboring Goryokaku Tower.