In Japanese mythology, vengeful spirits of the dead. They were originally thought to be spirits of nobles who had been killed unjustly and who avenged themselves by bringing about natural disasters, disease, and wars. Identified by divination, they were appeased by being granted status as gods. Later the belief arose that anyone could become a goryō by willing it at the moment of death or by meeting an untimely death. Various forms of exorcism and magical practices, such as the Buddhist recitation of nembutsu (invoking the name of the Buddha Amida), have been used to ward them off.
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Goryōkaku is famous as the site of the last battle of the Boshin War. On December 9 (lunar calendar October 26), 1868, Ōtori Keisuke and Hijikata Toshizo and their troops entered the fort. A week after Hijikata's death, on June 27 (lunar calendar May 18), 1869, Goryokaku fell to the new army of Japan, and much of it was reduced to ruin.
Today, Goryōkaku is a park. It has been declared a Special Historical Site and is home to the Hakodate city museum. The grounds are a favorite spot for hanami.