National

Survey ranks Hakodate as Japan's top tourist site for second year in a row

by Yuka Koshino

Staff Writer

Hokkaido’s Hakodate stands out as the nation’s most attractive tourist destination for the second year in a row, according to a recent survey by a private think tank.

The ranking of cities and as tourist spots by Brand Research Institute, a Tokyo-based think tank, found that municipalities in Hokkaido grabbed top positions, with Hakodate ranking first, followed by Sapporo in second. Otaru and Furano also made it into the top 10 for the annual survey.

By prefecture, Hokkaido secured the No. 1 slot for the seventh consecutive year.

The survey, now in its 10th year, scored and ranked the tourist appeal of prefectures and municipalities by asking people to evaluate 77 criteria, including attractiveness, recognizability, ease of information access and people’s willingness to visit.

The think tank released the results last week, based on 29,046 valid responses collected from Japanese in their 20s to 60s across the nation.

This year, Kyoto and Yokohama followed Sapporo in the city ranking, while Kyoto, Tokyo and Okinawa trailed Hokkaido at the prefectural level.

The survey also focused on the impact of events — such as the opening of a major extension of the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line last March, and next year’s Group of Seven Ise-Shima summit in Mie Prefecture — on the ranking of cities in those areas.

Municipalities along the Hokuriku Shinkansen, particularly in Toyama Prefecture, increased their scores and ranking in the “willingness to visit” category. The Toyama city of Kurobe, known for its Unazukionsen hot-spring resort, also benefited from the bullet-train effect.

According to the survey, approximately 80 percent of respondents expressed their willingness to visit Hakodate, bringing the city its second consecutive win. Factors such as “willingness to visit” and “desirability of products (i.e. souvenirs)” contributed to the city’s overall appeal, said Tadashi Yasuda of the think tank.

Tourists also reported enjoying the historical buildings, beautiful landscapes and gourmet cuisine in Hakodate.

According to Hakodate official Takatoshi Motoyoshi, the waterfront and Hakodateyama, which boasts one of the world’s three great night scenes, are the city’s top destinations, while a morning market is also popular for its fresh seafood.

A rapid increase in foreign tourists has also been noted. Approximately 346,000 visitors from abroad stayed visited Hakodate in 2014, up about 20 percent from 288,000 the previous year, Motoyoshi said.

“We are glad about this result before the opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen extension next March,” he said. The new bullet-train section, scheduled to open March 26, will connect Honshu and Hokkaido through an undersea tunnel.

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