Many people visit the port city of Hakodate on the southern tip of Hokkaido drawn to one of the many historically important sites, the famous mountain view or its abundant and delicious seafood. People staying longer than the usual day or 2 flyby tour will be happy to know that the city also boasts a varied nightlife scene.
Whilst the city has nowhere near as many bars or clubs as Sapporo, what it lacks in scale it makes up for with charm and the area of Hon-cho near the Goryokaku tram stop has many tucked away gems that showcase the warm Hokkaido spirit—if you know where to look. Situated down the side street next to Lawsons is Bar Big Job, or BBJ to the locals. This tiny establishment towers over larger, more glitzy places by having one of the friendliest atmospheres of any bar I have ever had the pleasure of getting drunk in. It is run by a Hakodate local called Takeshi-san (or just "Boss" if you've known him for more than 5 minutes) who is an almost legendary figure in the city, a champion surfer and boxer back in the day; he can still be spotted riding waves off nearby Esan during the day before opening up the bar at night.
Within just a few minutes of stepping through the door you're bound to encounter a few local characters (some of whom are quite eccentric) who will ask you lots of questions about where you are from and why you came to town. Boss and his clientele speak a smattering of English and are only too happy to help newcomers orientate themselves and get settled in town and it good spot to learn more about Hakodate, and if you're planning on an extended stay there's a good chance that you'll make a few good friends at BBJ.
The seating is limited to 10 seats at the bar and a few more seats around 3 small tables in the corners. It can fill up quick especially in the summer months, but seating extends outside and when it is packed inside it adds to the atmosphere. There is a nice selection of Japanese and European beers on draft and bottle and all are reasonably priced, starting at 500 yen with no cover charge.
If you stay in the city for any extended period of time you will most likely become a regular here. If you are just passing through and looking for some local information, a watering hole for the night or just a window into Hakodate life that passes the tour bus crowds by then you would be strongly recommended to head to this great bar.
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I was born and raised in London, UK and developed the travel bug from a very early age on regular family trips to the English countryside. After graduating from university I worked as a wildlife biologist and was lucky enough to find jobs that let me live for extended periods of time in the Bahamas and Canadian Rockies. I came to Japan on a bit of a whim 8 years ago, expecting a fairly short stay; however, I quickly fell in love with the place and settled down with a beer in hand in Hakodate on the southern tip of Hokkaido. After my son was born I moved to Niseko and have stayed here ever since. Unlike 99% of visitors to this part of Japan I harbor an intense hatred of snow and live for the glorious Hokkaido summers and working on my BBQ skills.