Hakodate is a port city on the southeast side of Hokkaido, home to a few hundred thousand people and a large star fort. It’s had a long history as a port city trading with the rest of the world, and is the gate to the north for Japan and much of its tourism industry. It’s unsurprising, then, that Hakodate and Halifax are sister cities: they’ve got a lot in common. Goryokaku Park is a great parallel to Citadel Hill. Both started as military forts to defend the city from invaders (though Goyokaku actually saw a battle), and both have been converted into national historic sites for tourists and locals.
The park itself is free to get into, and there’s a small museum in the central building that costs $5. The grounds have lots of info plaques for many of the older buildings that no longer exist – each part of the fort is explained in English and Japanese, and copies of original blueprints are there as well if you’re feeling super architectural.
After lunch at a Bento Box shop I went down to a meeting with HUE’s international office where they were presenting on their JICA program. JICA, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, connects Japanese institutions with peers in other countries, building bridges and the opportunity to share ideas across borders. HUE has worked with JICA to build teaching collaborations with countries in Africa and Polynesia. Most of the presentation was in Japanese, but some was in French and my hosts helped with the rest – so in short it was a great chance to learn about the work that HUE does with other programs around the world.
After the seminar the folks at HUE invited me to join them for dinner at a local restaurant. This was by far the most “Japanese style” restaurant I’ve been to so far, and it’s easily one of my favourites. After eating with the team and chatting with them about their work, their lives, and their families, we finished the night by going around the table and saying some closing words to the group. This was mostly Japanese-only (so they chuckled when it was my turn), but again it was a great way to thank the team for their work and get a better sense of how they interact with one another outside of the office. My hosts have been kind, generous, and great to learn from, so tonight was an especially nice treat.
Two more days in Japan – more news tomorrow!