It took Commodore Perry and American gunboat diplomacy to open Japan to the outside world after two centuries of self-imposed isolation. In 1859, the port of Hakodate became the first Japanese city fully opened to Westerners under the Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Foreigners soon flocked to Hakodate, and today visitors wandering the cobblestone streets of the city's Motomachi District can view their Western-style frame houses. Hakodate, once a fishing port famed for its high quality fish and shellfish, quickly became Hokkaido's largest city and one of Japan's most important ports. The Great Hakodate Fire of 1934 dealt the city a near fatal blow - a blow from which Hakodate was slow to recover. Today the city is Hokkaido's third largest - surpassed by Sapporo and Asahikawa - but retains its foremost position as the finest Japanese producer of sushi's raw product: the high quality seafood caught in Hokkaido's cold waters.
It may not compare to Tokyo's Tsukiji's Fish Market, but at Hakodate's four-block-long Morning Market, vendors offer a stunning array of fresh fish and shellfish prized for sushi including salmon roe, sea urchin, scallops and crab. Restaurants and food stands prepare a wide arrange of dishes including domburi topped with fresh seafood.