- 3 min read

Hakodate Fish Market

The little squid that could

If the thought of eating a still "alive" squid makes you squirm, there are other ways to get close to the freshest seafood this side of Toyosu. In the middle of this diverse collection of market stalls, there is a small oval-like aquarium, a large blue tank with see-through windows where you can see squid swim in a circular motion, like a kindergarten racetrack where none of the "racehorses" will do as they are told.

What happens next is a tragi-comedy. The class clown in your group, or just someone who pulled the shortest straw, is given a simplified fishing rod with a small bit of bait. Their job is to catch one of the few squids that are swimming around. There aren't that many squids, so you just have to be patient. It isn’t an impossible task, but one that takes long enough to build up a bit of drama. Remember, Hokkaido is a place where people, and possibly squid, slow down. They didn’t even have bullet trains there until 2016.

Hakodate, like the endearing squids swimming happily around the tank, is the little city that could. Despite being six times smaller than Sapporo, this compact port of 270,000 packs its punch with attractions like the Victorian-era mansions of Motomachi, waterfront Beer Halls, the Mount Hakodate ropeway, and Yunokawa Onsen. If you are staying at the onsen, imagine the delights of bathing while gazing at the fishing boats nearby, their lanterns attracting those miniature squids to the surface.

A variety of ma and pa stalls create a friendly local atmosphere
A variety of ma and pa stalls create a friendly local atmosphere

Back on shore, the local ma and pa stalls give an authentic old-school feel to the market, though you won't see the live auctions and wholesale traders that Tokyo's Toyosu are famous for. As Hakodate is a popular cruise ship port, the markets can be swamped with waves of tourists. There is a network of alleyways that make up this market, giving you the option to go off the beaten track.

While the Japanese call this the Asaichi or Morning Markets, many stalls stay open for lunch, making it a treat for late-risers. Like Toyosu, there are various areas--from fish to vegetable markets--as well as a number of restaurants on the side streets. There is plenty to do here, from fishing to eating at the food court or chatting with the local vendors. In honor of our playful squid, maybe it should be renamed the "Fishing Markets".

Getting there

The Hakodate Fish Market (otherwise known as the Ashaichi or Morning Market) is a 10-minute walk from JR Hakodate Station, Hakodate Bus Terminal, or the Eki-mae Tram Stop.

Was this article helpful?
Help us improve the site
Give Feedback

Join the discussion

Elena Lisina 3 years ago
Gorgeous fish market!!!
Bonson Lam Author 2 years ago
Naruko Onsen has some stunning waterfalls. It is still a long way from Hokkaido, but you will make your way there slowly, like Basho the poet.
Kim 5 years ago
Went here a couple of years back and my husband had one of the best seafood ramen bowls of his life! You can't get much fresher - once he ordered, the store proprietor literally crossed the street to pick out the fresh seafood from another vendor to put in his ramen!
Bonson Lam Author 5 years ago
Wow, that is service with a smile. It reminded me of my childhood, one of my favorite memories was having dinner on a dinky boat, with fish vendors coming alongside to catch and sell their fresh produce. It was al fresco dining at its freshest.

Thank you for your support!

Your feedback has been sent.