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Asahikawa is a large city in Hokkaido and great for travel. Surrounded the Taisetsuzan mountains, the area is blessed with powder snow in the winter and stunning scenery year-round, making it an ideal spot to visit. Learn nine places to see and things to do in this nature-filled, modern city.
Asahikawa is a large city in Hokkaido, known for its natural and urban appeal. It is popular with travelers for its sightseeing, like the Asahiyama Zoo, and skiing and snowboarding resorts in winter.
The agriculture industry prospers in Asahikawa, thanks to the snowmelt and underground water from the Taisetsuzan (also called Daisetsuzan), along with the cool climate. As it is the second-biggest city in Hokkaido, stores sell rice, vegetables, and seafood from all over the prefecture, and there are many restaurants serving local ramen.
Domestic and international airlines at Asahikawa Airport support the city, welcoming upwards of five million visitors annually.
This article is about nine must-visit spots in Asahikawa to add great memories to any Hokkaido trip.
1. See Animals Roaming at Asahiyama Zoo
2. Tour Otokoyama Sake Brewery Museum
3. Eat Regional Noodles at Asahikawa Ramen Village
4. Frolick in the Flowers at Ueno Farm
5. Souvenir Shopping at Asahikawa Heiwadori Retail Park
6. Mountain Views and Pleasant Strolls at Asahidake
7. Take Workshops at Arashiyama Pottery Village
8. Learn Ainu Culture at the Fall Kotan Festival
9. Skiing and Snowboard Areas in Asahikawa
Picture from Flying... Penguins? Many Unique Exhibitions at Asahiyama Zoo!
Asahiyama Zoo, the northernmost zoo in Japan, may be the most famous spot in Asahikawa. The zoo is one of the most prominent facilities in Japan.
At this zoo, animals can behave naturally in an ecological environment with the large enclosures, which helps to lessen the stress on them. Also, visitors can observe the animals up close.
The adorable polar bear is the most popular animal here. Visitors can enjoy watching the bear diving into the huge pool, or observe them through the "seal's eye," which offers a low perspective of the polar bear similar to that from a seal.
Picture courtesy of the Snow Museum
At the Snow Museum, a hexagon-shaped spiral staircase resembling a snow crystal welcomes guests. The temperature drops during your descent and a corridor of ice appears at the end.
The ice is created from groundwater, using a special spray nozzle. Visitors will feel as if they have wandered into the world of the Disney movie "Frozen" here! You can enjoy the changing scenery throughout the year.
The highlight of this museum is the Snow Crystal Museum, shown in the picture above, which displays 200 cinemicrographs of snow crystals like stained glass. The snow crystals change in accordance with the temperature.
There are many ways to enjoy the museum, from a Princess Experience, allowing guests to change into a dress and have your photograph taken, to musical concerts at a grand hall.
The Snow Museum is temporarily closed due to COVID-19. Please check their official site for more information.
Visitors can enjoy Otokoyama drawn in the ukiyo-e, and ancient documents about sake brewing on the second floor. Picture courtesy of Otokoyama Co., Ltd.
Taisetsuzan is one of the hundred most celebrated mountains in Japan. The beverage Otokoyama is brewed using the underground water from this mountain, and the harsh, frigid climate of Asahikawa is perfect for Japanese sake brewing. Otokoyama has a clear, dry taste, and is light on the tongue.
Otokoyama Sake Brewery Museum displays materials about the history of Otokoyama and Japanese sake brewing culture. Rare documents from the Edo Period and sake drinking sets are also on display.
The third floor displays various tools for sake brewing, such as a huge barrel. A multilingual (Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean, and Thai) video introducing the brewing process and the history of Otokoyama can also be viewed on this floor.
Visitors can do tastings of Otokoyama on the first floor. The museum shop offers seasonal sake, as well as numerous products that can only be purchased at the museum.
Picture courtesy of Asahikawa Ramen Village
Ramen plays a crucial role in the local cuisine of Asahikawa. Dashi made from pork bones and chicken stock, along with dashi made from fish is used in the soup. Shoyu (soy sauce), a staple of Asahikawa ramen, is added as the finishing touch.
Lard is also added to the soup, forming a protective film against the cold climate of Asahikawa, and keeping the soup hot and delicious.
There are eight ramen restaurants at Asahikawa Ramen Village, each with their own characteristics and different menus. They all offer a small size ramen for customers who want to taste dishes at multiple restaurants.
The village is located near Asahiyama Zoo and Ueno Farm, so the visitors can go sightseeing after having their fill of ramen. You may want to make another stop on the way back.
Picture courtesy of Ueno Farm
Ueno Farm is a garden filled with flowers. More than 2,000 types of plants bloom throughout the year on its spacious grounds. The scenery changes every month, making for a nice visit throughout the year.
At this garden, the flower colors are darker, and plants with different flowering seasons in other areas bloom at the same time. This is made possible by the local climate, so the gardeners refer to this garden as the Hokkaido Garden.
NAYA café, renovated from an old barn, offers snacks and confectionaries made from Hokkaido products. Weekend Marche, where the local farmers gather to sell their fresh products, is held every weekend from June to September. Visitors can enjoy conversing with the producers here as well. Please note that the Marche may be canceled according to the performance of the crops.
Picture courtesy of Asahikawa Heiwadori Shopping District Promotional Association
Asahikawa Heiwadori Retail Park, established in 1972, features the first pedestrianized road in Japan. The park has been a city fixture for a long time, with a wide variety of restaurants and stores carrying everyday times. The park stretches for one kilometer starting at JR Asahikawa Station.
If you are looking for souvenirs, visit the Machinaka Koryukan Shop (Japanese). The store handles goods featuring Asahikawa characters, processed goods, and handicrafts, so it is entertaining just looking at the merchandise.
Benkei, famous for its lamb shabu-shabu (Japanese hot-pot dish), is another popular spot. This is different from a mutton barbecue, as the lamb is well-seasoned and soft.
The park draws many visitors as the site of various events, such as the Snow Sculpture Contest in February (held along with the Asahikawa Winter Festival), the Asahikawa Summer Festival in August, and the Asahikawa Food Market in September.
Picture from Asahidake (Taiwanese)
Asahidake (Mt. Asahi) is the highest mountain in Hokkaido and rises 2,291 meters above sea level. The mountain is located in Higashikawa-cho, which neighbors Asahikawa City. It is also one of the hundred most celebrated mountains in Japan.
The climbing season is from late June to early October. The third weekend in June usually marks the beginning of the season. The alpine flowers bloom in late July, and the colorfully decorated scenery will make the climbers feel as if they are in paradise. It is no wonder that this mountain is called the Garden of the Gods.
Asahidake is also known as a spot to view autumn leaves early in the season. The time to view leaves starts from mid to late September, drawing a large number of tourists.
There is an hour-long trekking course, and the Asahidake Ski Course is open from December to May, offering the longest ski season in Japan.
There are nine lodging facilities in the area, complete with onsen (Japanese hot springs). Soaking in the onsen, after enjoying various activities at Asahidake will make a memorable evening.
** Ideyu-go, a shuttle bus runs between Asahikawa Station/Asahikawa Airport and Asahidake, four time a day. The timetable is available at this page.
Official Site: Asahidake Ropeway
** For information about the ropeway timetable and fare, please check this page.
The Arashiyama Pottery Village in Asahikawa is an area with several craft workshops. Visitors can learn different styles of pottery, glass blowing, cloth dying, and even matcha making, taught by passionate, independent artists. There are also cafes and galleries to browse as well. Stop by to spend a calm afternoon filled with hands-on experiences and beautiful Hokkaido crafts. Please refer to the official website (below) for details on class reservations.
In September, visitors can attend the Kotan Matsuri, a festival in Asahikawa where visitors and participants can encounter the culture and history Ainu, the native people of Hokkaido. Some of the events include traditional dance performances, and regional foods are sold as well. Visitors can also see traditional Ainu clothing. The festival is held regularly.
In 2019, the 62nd installment of the festival, is on Monday, September 23 (a public holiday).
Hokkaido boasts some of the best powder snow in Japan, and the winter hills near Asahikawa are no exception. Nearby areas include Kamui Ski Links, Asahidake (mentioned above) and Kurodake, which are all high-quality areas for skiing and snowboarding. While Kamui Ski Links has routes friendly for visitors of all abilities, Asahidake and Kurodake, located in Daisetsuzan National Park, are best suited for experienced and advanced riders.
The skiing season in Asahikawa usually starts in late November and ends in early May.
Most of the locations mentioned above are relatively close to the urban areas of Asahikawa, so visiting them should be easy. However, there are spots like Asahiyama Zoo and Ueno Farm, which may take some time to enjoy, so visitors should plan their itineraries accordingly.
Asahidake is located at Higashikawa-cho, which borders Asahikawa City, and is away from the urban areas. Those who plan to visit Asahidake should make reservations for a night's stay at the local lodging facilities.
A model plan would be to stay one or two nights to visit the urban areas, and another night for Asahidake. Furano and Biei are both located nearby, so visitors planning to use a rental car should extend their schedule.
Picture courtesy of Asahikawa City Tourism Division
Asahikawa Winter Festival is held every year in February, with a wide variety of events held over a week.
The main attraction of the festival is the snow sculptures. Visitors can also enjoy the illuminations, projection mappings and fireworks at night. Visitors can warm themselves at Winter MARCHE, where various dishes are gathered from all over North Hokkaido, including the Asahikawa Ramen.
The festival theme changes every year, so check the official website in advance.
Asahikawa is known for its accessibility. It serves as a terminal station for four JR lines, and there are four national highways located nearby. The Hokkaido Expressway, connected to major destinations such as New Chitose Airport and Sapporo, has opened recently. There are many tourists who use Asahikawa as their base during the Hokkaido sightseeing trip.
Board the airport bus, which takes about thirty to forty minutes. The fare is 620 yen. The local buses bound for Asahidake (fifty-minute ride/1,000 yen) or Asahiyama Zoo (35-minute ride/550 yen) will also stop by JR Asahikawa Station.
It is a thirty-minute ride using a rental car, so visitors should choose appropriate means of transportation for their itineraries.
The JR Limited Express takes about 85 minutes. The fare is 2,490 yen, and an additional charge of 2,320 yen will be required for a reserved seat. A local train will take about three hours, and the fare is 2,490 yen, with no reserved seats.
The express bus takes about two hours, and the fare is 2,060 yen.
It will take about two hours by using a rental car on the expressway from Sapporo Interchange to Asahikawa-Takasu Interchange, and the toll is 3,320 yen. The car ride will take about three hours on the non-toll roads.
The Taisetsu Liner Bus, which connects New Chitose Airport and JR Asahikawa Station, runs four times a day.
The bus departs from both the domestic and international terminals, and the ride takes about two hours and 45 minutes. The one-way fare is 3,500 yen, and the round-trip fare is 6,500 yen. For further information, please take a look at this page (Japanese).
We recommend using public transportation inside Asahikawa City. The spots mentioned above can be reached by using buses and trains from either Asahikawa Airport or JR Asahikawa Station, so there will be no need for a rental car.
However, if you plan to visit Furano and Biei, or travel to Sapporo while making stops along the way, it might be better to use a rental car.
Asahikawa is a modern city filled with natural beauty, and visitors can enjoy the city in both summer and winter. It will serve as an ideal base for those planning to visit the areas between Sapporo and the Furano and Biei area.