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Hakodate, Japan

In 1854 Hakodate became Japan’s first port to open to foreign trade as the country’s era of isolationism came to an end. The resulting influx of traders and merchants from Russia, China and Western countries imprinted the city with a mélange of cultural styles that now distinguish Hakodate’s unique atmosphere. Star-shaped Goryokaku Fort was designed in the European style – even as its purpose was to defend Japan from foreign imperialism – and is now flanked by thousands of native cherry trees. The Russian Orthodox Church stands just blocks from the Chinese Memorial Hall, and nearby you’ll find traditional Japanese markets selling the signature Hakodate shio ramen, a salty noodle dish that is the city’s specialty. Beef lovers will want to try the famously flavorful Hakodate Onuma beef, which happily can be savored in restaurants overlooking scenic Lake Onuma.