In Japan, there are three cities that are popular for their night views. Known as the Three Major Night Views of Japan (Nihon Sandai Yakei), and also known as the “ten million dollar view”, the three cities are Nagasaki, Kobe, and Hakodate.
Out of the three views, the view from Mount Hakodate Observatory is the only one that has been awarded as a 3-star experience by Michelin.
So if you’re visiting Hakodate, going up the mountain is a must!
Hakodate Travel Guide: Check out my post on Hakodate to find out more about what to do around the city!
Getting to Mount Hakodate Observatory
To enjoy the view, you’ll want to get to Mount Hakodate Observatory. Entry to the observatory itself is free of charge, but the ways to get there are not free – except for hiking.
Tip: Aside from the ropeway, it is possible to go up the mountain by road which could save you some money, but during wintertime (Mid-dec to mid-April) the roads up to the mountain are closed for safety.
From Hakodate, here are the various ways to reach the observatory:
Mount Hakodate Ropeway – You can take the ropeway up the mountain from Motomachi. A trip on the ropeway takes about 3 minutes, and costs 900 yen one way for each adult (kids travel free as usual). You can find out more about the ropeway here.
Hiking (Free) – If you’re feeling adventurous, you could hike up the mountain on foot. It takes about an hour. You can check out the trail map here.
Mount Hakodate Sightseeing Bus – Another way to reach the observatory is through a sightseeing tour bus with a guide. The bus picks you up from Kanemori Red Brick, which is more convenient than having to go to the base of the ropeway. However, during wintertime, you’ll still have to use a combination of the bus and the ropeway to go up, which means you’ll still need a ropeway ticket.
Mount Hakodate Climbing Bus (non-operational in Winter) – From Hakodate Station, you can catch the bus to the observatory for 500 yen one way.
Taxi (non-operational in Winter) – You can also take a taxi up to Mount Hakodate. From the observatory to Hakodate station, the taxi runs on meters and costs around 8,000 to 16,000 yen depending on traffic.
The best time to go to Mount Hakodate Observatory
My recommendation is to go up to the observatory 30 minutes before sunset. This way, you’ll get to experience both daytime and nighttime views. However, it will also be very crowded during this time.
If the weather is not clear that day, you can monitor the live cam from the Ropeway website, which is updated every 2 minutes. From this live cam, you’ll be able to judge whether it’s worth going up the mountain or not.
The View from Mount Hakodate Observatory
If you’re taking the ropeway up, you’ll already be able to see the view as you gradually ascend the mountain. I recommend securing the space at the bottom of the gondola, but if it’s crowded and you can’t do this, that’s okay too! The view up at the observatory is much better anyway.
Once you’ve reached the observatory, you’ll be immediately greeted by the view. But don’t stop here, head on to the open-air observatory on the 4th floor so you’ll get the view without a glass window in front of you!
So is it the ten-million-dollar view? Having visited Nagasaki and Kobe before, I do think the view from Hakodate is better. It is indeed beautiful! It is 334 meters high, which is the perfect height for an observatory. From the top, you can still clearly see the details of Hakodate, such as the bay area, Motomachi district, and even Goryokaku Tower.
I do wish I had my camera with me because while I think iPhone cameras are fantastic, it doesn’t capture the full beauty of the view of Hakodate from above. It was difficult to keep my hands steady because it was windy and -8 degrees celsius when I visited in January!
Amenities in the Mount Hakodate Observatory
There are four floors in Mount Hakodate Observatory. The first floor is where visitors who came via ropeway will alight. The second floor has a toilet, a Cremia ice cream shop, a souvenir shop, and Restaurant Genova.
On the third floor, you’ll find Tea Lounge Legato which is only open from 5 PM to 7:30 PM. Then finally on the 4th floor, you’ll find the open-air observatory where you can take an unobstructed view of Hakodate from above.
And that’s my experience going up to Mount Hakodate Observatory. Hope this helps you in your travel planning.
If you’re visiting Hakodate, please check out my Hakodate travel guide here.
Note: I paid for my visit to Mount Hakodate Observatory out of my pocket. All thoughts and opinions are honest and remain my own.