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As of 2004, the city has an estimated population of 299,737 and the density of 442.24 persons per km². The total area is 677.77 km². Hakodate's size nearly doubled on December 1, 2004 when the neighboring municipalities of Toi, Esan, Todohokke and Minamikayabe were merged into it.
The port of Hakodate was opened to American trade on March 31, 1853 under the conditions of the Treaty of Kanagawa, as negotiated by Commodore Matthew Perry. A mariner of his fleet died during cruising and his body was buried in Hakodate cemetery for foreigners. He was the first U.S. citizen to be buried in Japan. Hakodate was later awarded the status of city on August 1, 1922.
Soon several countries settled their consulates in Hakodate. One of them, Russian Consulate had a chapel, from where Eastern Orthodoxy arrived in Japan. The Orthodox church is neighbored by several other churches, including Anglican and Catholic.
The city is overlooked by Hakodateyama (Mount Hakodate), a lumpy, totally-forested mountain. The summit of the mountain is easily reached by either hiking trail, cable car, or car. The nighttime view from the summit is renowned all over Japan as one of the loveliest sights in the country. A not-so-well known local nickname of the bumpy mountain is Gagyuzan ("Mount Cow's-back"), which alludes to the way the mountain's shape resembles that of a resting cow.
Hakodate is home to the famous European-style Goryokaku fort, which was built in the shape of a five-pointed star in 1866. During the last phrase of the Meiji Restoration, the shogunate loyalists occupied the fort, declaring the establishment of the Republic of Ezo. A handful of French soldiers,who had served as military advisers for the shogunate army, joined the rebellion led by Enomoto Takeaki. After battles with the government forces, the seccessionists surrendered the fort in 1869. It is now used as a public park. The park is a popular spot in Hokkaido for hanami (cherry blossom viewing).
The small but bustling city is also famous as the site of Hijikata Toshizo's last stand.
The city is also known for Hakodate Shio Ramen, where instead of having a pork cutlet placed inside the soup, sliced squid is used. On a similar note, Hakodate's city fish is the squid. Every year (around July) the city gets together for the Hakodate Port Festival. Hordes of citizens gather in the streets to dance a wiggly dance known as the Ika-odori (Squid Dance), the name of which describes the dance appropriately. The glowing lights of squid-catching boats can be seen in the waters surrounding the city.
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