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Come for the bullet trains, stay for the delicious seafood and anime statue.

Up until last week, Japan’s high-speed Shinkansen rail network only reached stations on Honshu and Kyushu, the country’s main and southern islands. As of March 26, though, the bullet train runs all the way from Tokyo to Hakodate on the northern island of Hokkaido, so we decided to check out the Shinkansen’s newest stop.

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We’ll get the bad news out of the way first. Being able to take the Shinkansen all the way to Hokkaido, and in just four hours, is going to be more convenient than going by boat or plane, but the station the bullet train comes in at, Shin Hakodate Hokuto, isn’t in a particularly tourist-oriented neighborhood. Urban development in Japan tends to be clustered around rail hubs, and we’re sure that in time Shin Hakodate Hokuto will be ringed with dining and entertainment options, but right now there’s not much to do except transfer to another train for the 20-minute ride to the attractions of the Hakodate city center.

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Still, the station itself is brand new, and whenever the Shinkansen comes to a new town, you can expect new ekiben, or bento boxed lunches packed with local delicacies. At Shin Hakodate Hokuto, you can get your bento fix on the second floor at the Bento Cafe 41°Garden, which gets the numerical part of its name from Hakodate’s north latitude.

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Since Hokkaido is famous for its seafood, we decided to splurge on a premium 1,780-yen (US$15.90) bento with moist scallops, salmon roe, and fresh-tasting sea urchin. It was absolutely delicious worth every yen we paid for it.

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Anime fans might have noticed that the station’s name, Shin Hakodate Hokuto, shares part of its name with the Japanese title of Fist of the North Star, Hokuto no Ken. Hakodate doesn’t have any actual connection to the classic post-apocalyptic martial arts series, as Hokuto is just the Japanese name for the Big Dipper constellation, with the hoku component simply meaning “north.”

Still, since many people can’t hear the word Hokuto without automatically thinking no Ken, on the first floor of the station you’ll find a bronze statue of Kenshiro, the wandering protagonist of Fist of the North Star. What’s more, it’s actually extremely well-done, and not the lazy half-effort to attract a couple of otaku tourists that some might have been expecting.

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▼ With Kenshiro around, is there really any need for someone else to also be standing guard?

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As part of the station’s opening festivities, tickets were being sold to come onto the platform and get a look at the bullet trains themselves for 170 yen.

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We snagged one, then took our spot at the back of a very long line made up of locals and rail fans on photo safaris.

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While this is the first Shinkansen station on Hokkaido, it won’t be the last, as the line is scheduled to be extended to the prefectural capital of Sapporo by 2030. For now, though, the attention and excitement are all Hakodate’s (and Kenshiro’s).

Follow Casey on Twitter as he fights the urge to just get up and go to Hokkaido right now for some of its delicious salmon.

Images ©RocketNews24
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