Friday, April 2, 2010

Day 12 - Motomachi (Hakodate)

11th February, 2003 - Looking for inspiration, and a little more interesting things (compared to Goryoukaku fort) we headed out early in the morning by bus to the Motomachi district. Here is perhaps the heart of historic "european" Hakodate. Good ol' Perry - he'll look after us. Though I'm not sure if it's the cold, or the feeling someone's looking overy my shoulder, but I don't feel too comfortable here.

In fact there was something about the whole experience that left me thinking that people were watching me. The four kings of Hakodate (who amongst other things published the first newspaper in Hokkaido... hmmm - I hope their ghosts aren't haunting these pages) collectively stand - and sit - in silent reproach at all us undesirables looking over their old town.

And they have good cause to be boastfully proud of their community - it's a beautifully maintained neighbourhood with a strong mix of the traditional Japanese and the colonial western influenced buildings. Perhaps one of the most recognisable is the Old Public Hall of Hakodate which was constructed around 1910 - once again, whilst of european appearance, this was designed by a Japanese architect. Apparently it's about 300 yen to enter.

At this time however, we were starting to get a hankering for a mid-morning pick-me-up-coffee. One problem with having a historic district is that they didn't often have cappucino's back then. Not a Starbucks in sight. Having said that we did find a quaint cafe tucked not that far away.

Perhaps the MOST distinctive building in Hakodate is the Russian Orthodox church - seen here with the Hakodateyama lookout as a backdrop. This church is apparently known by locals as the ding-dong church.

 This church was first constructed around 1859 - at that time there was very much a thriving trading partnership between Japan and Russia... in only 40 or so years that relationship would come to a bitter end. This church itself was burnt down in a fire, and re-built in 1916... one year before the Russian revolution that would start to tear down the fabric of the Russian Orthodox Church.

There are other famous religious sites here - including the Roman Catholic Church. Strangely enough it's not a cross that adorns the hexagonal church steeple, but rather a weather-cock... I wonder which way this chill wind is blowing today? The church here was completed in 1924, however the original Roman Catholic Chapel was constructed around 1859. The West wasted no time in battling over the souls of the heathens!

Not too far away you find reminders that you are in Japan... and that the Buddhist religion has existed here for about 1,500 years before.

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