Hakodate (140.735E 41.803N) is a major coastal traffic port on the southern coast of Hokkaido, and had twelve rail ferries permanently assigned to carry traffic between Honshu and Hokkaido during the war years. Among other things, these brought iron ore and coal from Hokkaido to the factories of Honshu. Capacity was 200,000 tons per year, of which 80 percent was coal. This constituted about 30 pecent of the coal trade between the two islands. Hakodate was also the major port for Japan's northern fishing fleet.

Hakodate was one of the first ports in Japan opened to the West under the treaty negotiated by Commodore Perry in 1854. It had some of the first Western-style fortifications built in Japan, centered on a pentagon-shaped fortress built in 1857-1864 against the perceived Russian threat. In 1869, during the Boshin Civil War, the last of the Tokugawa forces took refuge here, but were starved out and forced to surrender on 25 May.

The port included a naval base for light forces, which helped keep an eye on the Russians to the north. The port and the nearby Tsugaru Strait were guarded by a heavy artillery fortress regiment.

Despite its coastal location, Hakodate experiences some rather cold weather due to its high latitude and proximity to Siberia. Like most of Japan, it receives ample moisture throughout the year.

On 14-15 July 1945, carrier aircraft from Task Force 38 struck at Hakodate, sinking a destroyer, two frigates, a number of merchantmen, and eight of the rail ferries. The other four were severely damaged, and movement of coal from Hokkaido to Honshu dropped to 18 percent of its previous level. This was evaluated as the single most damaging strategic mission flown against Japan during the war.

Hakodate was one of eleven cities over which the Americans dropped leaflets on 27 July 1945 warning of an impending strategic bombing raid. However, it was not one of the six cities on the list that were actually bombed.


Floor Space
Building Way Length
Merchant Tonnage
Naval Tonnage

Rail connections


Climate Information:

Elevation: 109'

Temperatures: Jan 32/19, Apr 51/35, Jul 73/61, Oct 62/44, record 92/-7

Rainfall: Jan 13/2.6, Apr 9/2.8, Jul 10/5.4, Oct 11/4.7 == 46.6" per annum


Craven and Cate (1952; accessed 2011-8-9)

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