The small capital of Hiyama Region (檜山地方) on the west coast of the Oshima Peninsula, Esashi (江差) was Hokkaido’s main trading center from 17th- to 19th-century, when Japanese merchants brought herring and woods. Those days this 30,000-strong town was called ‘Even Edo is not as busy as Esashi in May’. Esashi makes for pleasant strolling on the Inishie Kaido (いにしえ街道) street with historic houses.

Old Nakamura House

(旧中村家) Dating from the late-Edo period, once the wholesaler’s house of Kyu-Nakamura-ke offers insight into Esashi’s heyday history of trading and herring fishing. Those days the house was facing the sea and a barge of cargo ships landed here.

Old Hiyama-Nishi-gun Government Office

(旧檜山爾志郡役所 · 江差町郷土資料館) Once the region’s government office, Esashi’s historical museum occupies a Western-style beautiful timbered building dating from 1887, designed by a Russian architect. You can tour the restored interior, local-history artefacts and verandah.

Yokoyama House

(横山家) Yokoyama family has been business since 1822 and this traditional house was built in the late Edo period (currently closed).

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Old Sekikawa Summer House

(旧関川家別荘) Completed in the mid-Edo period, this small wooden summer house contains relics of the Sekikawa family who once Matsumae’s richest marchant. In the grounds there is a Japanese garden (Ezodate Park: えぞだて公園).It is about a 10-minute walk northeast of the town center.

Getting There

Nakauta-cho (中歌町), in front of the Esashi Oiwake Hall, is the main bus stop of Central Esashi. Buses from and to Central Esashi:

  • Hakodate: 5 daily; 2hrs 15min
  • Kikonai: 6 daily; 1hr 40min
  • Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station: 5 daily; 1hr 15min
  • Yakumo: 2 daily; 2hrs