Hakodate occupies a unique place on the Japanese landscape, both literally and gastronomically speaking.

Facing the Tsugaru Strait from its position on the southern shores of Hokkaido's Oshima Peninsula, the city grew from a small Ainu fishing village to become, in 1854, Japan's first port open to foreign trade after the Sakoku Edict restricted such commerce in 1635.

The center of town sits on a narrow isthmus between the mainland and Mount Hakodate, which towers over the city and surrounding waters below. Visitors come for a combination of this unique scenery and superb food, as the city's reputation for some of Japan's freshest seafood far precedes itself and, as I recently learned, exceeds all expectation.