Goryokaku Fortress Hakodate

Japanese Castles: Goryokaku Castle

Goryokaku 五稜郭

The Goryokaku Fortress in Hakodate, Hokkaido was Japan's first western fortification, designed by Takeda Ayasaburo (1827-1880), and based on the work of the French military engineer, Vauban (1633-1707), who he had read in translation from Dutch. Goryokaku bears a resemblance to the much later Pentagon, the HQ of the US military, in Washington, DC.

The Goryokaku was the scene of the relatively bloodless last stand of the Tokugawa shogunate and remnants of its Shinsengumi special forces during the short-lived Boshin War of 1869, which saw the victory of anti-Tokugawa, pro-Imperial forces and the establishment of a new, reforming Meiji government.

View of Goryokaku, Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan.
View of Goryokaku from the viewing tower, Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan

History of Goryokaku

The Goryokaku was constructed along with the nearby Benten Daiba under the supervision of Takeda Ayasaburo, a Rangaku (Dutch learning) scholar and architect, in 1855. The purpose of the two fortifications was to protect the island of Ezo (present-day Hokkaido) and the Tsugaru Strait from encroachment by the encircling western powers, in particular, Russia.

The Goryokaku grounds were turned into a public park in 1914 and are a well-known place now for cherry-blossom viewing (hanami) in May, as hundreds of cherry trees were planted along Goryokaku's surrounding moats.

Goryokaku Tower and Park, Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan.
Goryokaku Tower & Park, Hakodate, Hokkaido
Hakodate Bugyosho, Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan.
Hakodate Bugyosho, Hakodate, Hokkaido

The grounds of Goryokaku also contain the the Former Magistrate's Office (Hakodate Bugyosho), from where the Tokugawa regime administered the area of Hokkaido they then controlled. The building was demolished in the 1870s, along with much of the military and administrative heritage of the Edo Period, but has been carefully restored and re-opened in 2010.

The Goryokaku Tower is a 107m-tall viewing tower (admission 900 yen), which was built in 1964 and offers wonderful views of the fortress and surrounding area of Mt. Hakodate and the Tsugaru Strait below.

The Hokkaido Hakodate Museum of Art, in Japanese, the Hakodate Bijutsukan, (Tel: 0138 56 6311; admission 170 yen) is also located just outside the grounds.

Goryokaku Access

Goryokaku is situated to the north east of Hakodate Station. Buses from Hakodate Station to Goryokaku Koen-mae cost 200 yen or take a street car (220 yen) to Goryokaku Koen-mae and walk about 10-15 minutes. The Hakodate Rich Hotel Goryokaku is close by to the fortress. Hotel Nets Hakodate Hokkaido and Hotel Hokke Club Hakodate are close to the Goryokaku Koen-mae tram and bus stop.

Goryokaku-cho 44
Hokkaido Prefecture 040-0001
Tel: 0138 21 3456

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