Peaceful Views from Hakodate’s Trappistine Convent

One fine day in junior high school, I set out for a walk, planning to go fishing for char. But the fishing spot lay beyond the hill where Hakodate’s Trappistine Convent stood, and the long, steep gravel road was so exhausting to climb that when I got to the top I lay down in the grass behind the convent, with its sprawling potato fields, and fell asleep.

When I woke up, I didn’t want to go home without even getting a nice view for my trouble, so I stood up on my wobbling bicycle and peered cheekily over the convent wall. I did not see a single nun, though; perhaps they were all at prayer, or just napping. But I do remember the white blossoms that covered the undulating fields of potatoes. (Did you know that some varieties of potato have purple blossoms instead?)

The Virgin of Mercy welcomes visitors (2018).

The Hakodate-born literary critic Kamei Katsuichirō (1907–66) chose this hill as one of the “Eight Views of Hakodate” in his book of the same name. “The potato blossoms put one in mind of a lively and innocent country maid,” he wrote. “They may seem crude, but they are anything but. . . . The blossoms bear a certain elusive resemblance to the young nuns of the convent who toil in their fields.”

Marie Antoinette famously had a rustic village built at the bottom of the Versailles gardens and would relax there, dressed up as a peasant, when tired of court life. To adorn her hair at evening gatherings, she, too, is said to have favored the simple purity of the potato blossom.

The Annunciation wall relief.

Trappistine Convent

Access: Five minutes from the Trappistine-mae stop on the Trappistine Shuttle Bus service leaving from Hakodate Bus stop no. 4 in front of Hakodate Station.

(Click to see map)

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