The remains of Goryōkaku (五稜郭), a late nineteenth-century Western-style fort, lie some 3km northeast of the station and around ten minutes’ walk north of the Goryōkaku-kōen-mae tram stop. The star-shaped fort was built to protect Hokkaidō against attack from Russia. In the event, however, it was used by Tokugawa Yoshinobu’s naval forces in a last-ditch battle to uphold the shogun against the emperor in the short-lived civil war that ushered in the Meiji Restoration of 1869. The Emperor’s victory is celebrated each year in mid-May with a period costume parade.
What’s left of the fort today – a leafy park planted with 1600 cherry trees, the moat and outer walls – looks best ninety metres up from the inelegant viewing tower (wwww.goryokaku-tower.co.jp) by the main entrance. On weekend evenings from late July to mid-August, open-air plays about Hakodate’s history are performed enthusiastically by five hundred amateurs; check with the tourist office for details.