Saturday, 16 August 2008

函館 Hakodate

My final stop in Hokkaido was in 函館 Hakodate. Because of successful hitchhiking, I managed to get to Hakodate with some spare time, before I needed to go on and again cross the undersea tunnel...

函館 Hakodate

Hakodate city is very special and unique because of several aspects.
It was the first big city in Hokkaido and became the seat of the Matsumae Clan, who ruled over Hokkaido until the Meiji Period.
Then it was among the first three cities (the other two are 横浜 Yokohama and 神戸 Kobe), who had to open their port in the second half of the 19th century because of outside pressure from Commodore Perry and thus shows early and strong influences of western architecture and culture.
And third is was the short lived capital of the rebellious Republic Of Ezo and the last hold out of the Shogunate Rebels during the Boshin War.

戊辰戦争 Boshin War

I already talked a lot about the Meji Revolution in my previous posts about Hagi and 長崎 Nagasaki, and I will continue there and talk about the last efforts of Tokugawa Shogun Yoshinobu.

Thanks to 坂本龍馬 Sakamoto Ryouma two provinces, which had been archenemies, allied together against the Shogunate. Ryouma later was able to add his home province 土佐藩 Tosa to the revolutionary fraction and win the favor of Tenno Meiji. Indeed one of the main goals of the revolutionary forces was the restoration of the Tenno in power, why the Meiji Revolution is also often called Meiji Restoration.

Shogun Yoshinobu tried to fight down the revolution and eventually saw himself forced to launch a full fledged attack against Tenno Meiji in Kyoto. However the revolutionary forces eagerly trading with western powers, were better armed and had the newer better tactics concerning fighting with these new arms and thus were able to defeat the Shogun's forces. Eventually after a siege, Edo (former name of Tokyo) surrendered and Shogun Yoshinobu agreed to give up the power hold by his dynasty for more than two and a half centuries.

However many parties were not content with the results of the revolution and gathered around the defeated Yoshinobu who fled with his forces to northern Honshu and then Hokkaido. In Hakodate they formed the rebellious Republic Of Ezo (the former name of Hokaido) and made their last stand 1968-1969 in the recently completed 五稜郭 Goryoukaku, which was built according to newest western architecture techniques from France, and therefore in accordance with heavy use of artillery from both sides.

artillery firing from Goryoukaku

However the new Imperial Forces of the new Meiji Japan mobilized 120.000 men, which were able to also crush this last stronghold of the opponents of the revolution. But the opposing forces were not crushed, because prominent revolutionary leader 西郷隆盛 Saigo Takamori pleaded for clemency and eventually many of the opposing leaders even found their way to offices in the new government. By this last step the power of the new Meiji Japan was secured. This was already foreseen and tried to be achieved by Sakamoto Ryouma, who thought the best way to defeat your enemy, is to let him work for you by giving him responsibilities.

Although the revolution started from a group of people called 尊王攘夷 Sonoujoui Force to restore the Tenno and expel foreigners, they retreated from the second goal, as during the revolution they made many important relationships with western powers. However as an important long term goal they established the renegotiations of the very unfair trading conditions Commodore Perry first set up with Japan.

五稜郭 Goryoukaku

As I mentioned above, the last holdout for the Shogun rebels was the 五稜郭 Goryoukaku fortress in Hakodate. It is unique among Japan, as having been completed as late as 1866, it was the first Japanese fortress built after modern western architecture plans to account for heavy usage of artillery on both sides.

It is shaped like a five edged stars and allows for artillery to be placed all along the fortress wall to be able to quickly fire in any direction. Being placed on a hill further sets the castle's artillery in an advantage against the enemies.

However such technique does not help if one is outnumbered by the enemy almost 100 to 1, and the enemy could theoretically hold a year long siege of the castle. The rebels seeing this surrendered and the castle's interior was demolished afterwards. But the star shaped castle walls still stand and the interior was turned into a public park hosting a tiny museum today.

inside the small museum

and the park,
you can even take boat rides of the castle moat

There is also a tower that allows you to see the castle from a high altitude and thus marvel about its wonderful shape. However the cost for the tower's elevator is 850 Yen, and thus I was happy enough with taking pictures of the pictures advertising the view ^_^

the expensive tower

and the view


and thus my second great journey through Japan came to an end and I returned to Atsugi. In my next post I will tell you my experience in traveling in Japan and give you tips where to save money.


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