Things to do in Hakodate: Watch the Nightlights from Mt. Hakodate

Japanese people love nightlights. I feel like there is something witty and clever to say about it, but I really can’t think of anything to do except state the very obvious fact that Japanese people like nightlights. On at least four separate occasions over the last year, I was dragged (usually driven) to the top of a tall mountain (or building) to watch the nightlights of Kobe, Osaka, Tokyo (twice), and now Hakodate.

Japanese people love viewing night lights.

My fiance is no exception.

While I was looking forward to dressing up like a Princess at the Old Town Hall, eating some awesomely fresh Ika squid, and lounging at the beach – the main thing he wanted to do in Hakodate was take a bus up to the top of Mt. Hakodate to watch the night lights.

Mt Hakodate Hakodate-san mountain Japan hokkaido

The mountain itself, formally known as Hakodate-san (or in awkward English signs Mt. Hakodate-san) is visible throughout the city – but on cloudy days, it is mostly covered.

For some reason, the clouds in Hakodate hang very low. As a result, you can only see the night lights of Hakodate city from the top of the mountain on perfectly clear days / nights.

How to get to the top of Mt. Hakodate

You have a couple options.

  • The Ropeway: You can get to the ropeway station by a bus from Hakodate station (230yen) or train (200yen + 5 min walk). The fare for the ropeway is pretty expensive (1160yen roundtrip), so I opted out of this one. For more information about fares, ropeway schedules, and sunset times, click here.
  • The Bus: Buses from Hakodate Station to the top of Mt. Hakodate are by far the cheapest way to go about. They recommend you shut your eyes for the trip, so you are thoroughly astounded by the view when you reach the summit (no cheating and seeing the night view while the bus climbs the mountain). Fare is 360yen each way.
  • Taxi Tour: Taxis at Hakodate station will have a set fare to drive you to the top of Mt. Hakodate (if you don’t like buses or ropeways). This can get expensive; some taxi drivers will do a 1 hour “tour” of the night lights on Mt. Hakodate. Prices vary depending on taxi and service.
  • Car (during the day time): If you have a car, try going to the top of the mountain yourself. Parking isn’t fantastic, tolls are expensive, and the road is closed to individual car traffic between 17:00 – 22:00 every day… but if you want to go up to the mountain during the daytime by car, go for it.

What to do at the top of Mt. Hakodate

Mt Hakodate Hakodate-san mountain Japan hokkaido night lights nightlighs

Most people go up to the top of Mt. Hakodate to view the nightlights. Or the “daylights” (during the day), depending on your tastes. They also have a variety of other fun things to do, from an extensive gift shop (with expensive Royce Hokkaido chocolate and cheap glow in the dark postcards that show off the Hakodate nightlights) to a walking tour around the summit, to a place where you can get commemorative photos taken.

Basically, if you go to the top of Mt. Hakodate, look at the nightlights. Or, if you don’t understand the point of watching night lights, people watch (because it’s going to be crowded and interesting).

Tips for viewing the nightlights on Mt. Hakodate

  1. Bring a Jacket (even in the summer). It’s cold at the top of the mountain. The breeze from the ocean will chill you to the bones. 
  2. Check ropeway / bus schedules. When we visited, we ended up nearly missing the last bus (and a not-so-late departure time of 10pm). Around the last couple ropeway cars it got horrible crowded.
  3. Check weather forecasts. We didn’t see the nightlights until our fourth (and last) night in Hakodate because the weather wasn’t ‘right.’ If you want a great shot of the city, wait for a night with no clouds.
  4. Bring a camera. You won’t get any good shots, they will all end up somewhat blurry. But you should try anyways, because it’s fun.
  5. Ask someone to take your picture. Selfies (photos taken by yourself) are great, but if you want a truly remarkable shot with the whole city twinkling behind you, you are going to need to ask someone to help you out. Sadly, I didn’t. This is the best we got.
    nightlights viewing on mt hakodate
  6. Get a glow in the dark postcard. Seriously, they glow and they’re awesome.
  7. Hide out on the lowest or highest level. The middle level is always crowded – you won’t get a good view of the city that way. And even if you did, there will be hundreds of people pushing at you.
    Ok, not hundreds. But still people. This was taken on a “normal” weekday in the afternoon.

Mt Hakodate Hakodate-san mountain Japan hokkaido nightlights night lights

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

2 Comments on Things to do in Hakodate: Watch the Nightlights from Mt. Hakodate

  1. Bryan Perry // 21 August, 2013 at 10:51 pm //

    I am fascinated to compare your experience of Japan vs. my own. I am from the Dallas Fort Worth area and was an exchange student to a town near Sendai in 1994-1995. What amazed me was how advanced Japan was (they already had touch screen satellite map/phone/tv in cars) and yet at the same time was behind in other ways (my school room was heated with a kerosene heater in the middle of the room).

    • I completely agree. There were several instances (for example Hakodate) where things were highly advanced (everything in the hotel worked with touchpads and numbers – there were no physical keys) while at the same time being shockingly low-tech (the attractions had a variety of bathrooms, with a lot of “Japanese styled” porta potties set up).
      I think it is even more obvious in the countryside (I knew someone whose apartment didn’t actually have hot water. They had to buy an extra “extension” to put on the faucet in the kitchen)

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