There are three famous night views in Japan, that of Kobe, Nagasaki and Hakodate. In this trip I’ve managed to see two of these three night views: Nagasaki and Hakodate.
The night view of Hakodate is seen from the top of Mount Hakodate, a 334m high mountain that overlooks the city. In winter, the only way to go up is by the ropeway, which costs Y640 single way, Y1160 (approx S$18) return.
The lower terminus station of the ropeway is a 10-minute walk away from Jiujigai tram station, located in the vicinity of Hakodate’s famous churches and red-brick warehouses.
It’s quite a modern ropeway, but Y1160 is still expensive. Here's another travel tip: when in Japan, ask for discount coupons. Most paid travel attractions have discount coupons somewhere you can use, including the ropeway to get up Mount Hakodate. You can get this coupon easily from any hotel in Hakodate or the tourist information centre at the train station. After the discount, its Y1050 for a return trip.
Still very pricey. So why pay this amount just to see the night view, when you can also see an equally stunning day view as well by just going a bit earlier before sunset? That’s what we did. They have this graph printed on the ropeway brochures and on the website which tells you exactly what time the sun sets during different months of the year -- just go 10 minutes before.
As we went up the ropeway, the houses got smaller and smaller, and we could see the mountains beside us clearly. Could even see Cape Tachimachi!
Finally, the view from the top:
Pretty, isn’t it? I like the way Hakodate city is spread out below in an hourglass shape, flanked by the sea on both sides, and bordered by snow-capped mountains in the distance.
Unfortunately the sun sets on the other side, so you don't get to see the sunset over Hakodate city. But the observatory at the top of Mount Hakodate affords a 360-degrees view, and go before dark to see this:
Its very, very cold in winter up on the top, but I discovered a self-service cafe one floor below with the same good view. I'm ashamed to say that I sat down by the window for about ten minutes to admire the view without ordering anything (but quickly vacated the table to a group of Korean tourists who came in).
This is how the cafe looks like:
It soon became dark. The night view wasn’t too bad, but I personally liked the one in Nagasaki better. Still, its wonderful by most standards.
At the foot of the telecommunications tower on the top of the summit, they installed some sculptures which were illuminated at night, adding to the atmosphere.
It was really, really picturesque just gazing at the twinkling lights of the city below with the distinctive hourglass shape. Photos don’t do it justice; it is definitely one of the best aerial night views I’ve seen. The trip up Mount Hakodate was worth it, but in summer, I’d rather hike up than pay Y1050 for the ropeway!
Looking at those pictures, you might think I was all alone in quiet solitude to ponder the meaning of life atop Mount Hakodate. Uh-oh. I forgot to mention the 1,000 other people on packaged tours complete with flag-waving guides:
The cable car was packed on the trip back down, which is another reason to come up the mountain before sunset, when you don’t have to share it with thousands of tourists from China, HK and Taiwan. This was on a weekday evening in February; I can only imagine the crush of people during one of those long weekends.
But even with all these other camera-toting tourists around speaking at the top of their voices, was it still worth it? Well, yes, it was worth every single yen for the view alone. If its foggy, though, there's no point coming up – after we descended by ropeway, another one of those fickle storms came crashing into Hakodate and the summit was no longer visible from ground level.