Asahikawa Ueno Farm

Asahikawa In Hokkaido - 7 Wonderful Places To Explore

Hokkaido 2018.07.25

Asahikawa is the second largest city in Hokkaido. It is surrounded by the mountain ranges of Taisetsuzan, and blessed with beautiful scenery throughout the year, making it an ideal spot for visitors.

Translated by Shinji Takaramura

Written by Satoko Nakano

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Asahikawa - An Accessible and Popular Spot

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Asahikawa is a unique city in Hokkaido, known for its natural and urban appeal. It has become popular with travelers, as there are many different activities to enjoy here such as sightseeing, dining and shopping.

The agriculture industry, beginning rice cultivation, 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 largest city in Hokkaido, there are countless stores handling rice, vegetables, and seafood from all over Hokkaido.

Various airlines support the city, as there are more than five million domestic and international visitors annually. In November, 2018, an international terminal will open at Asahikawa Airport, making the visit much easier.

This article is about seven must-visit spots in Asahikawa.

1. Impressive Exhibits at Asahiyama Zoo

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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. There were times when not many people visited, but thanks to creative renovation, the zoo has turned into one of the most prominent facilities in Japan.

At this zoo, animals are allowed to behave naturally in an ecological environment, 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.

2. Take a Trip to a Frozen World at the Snow Museum

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Picture courtesy of the Snow Museum

At this 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 a stained glass. The snow crystals change in accordance to 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.

Snow Museum
Address: Hokkaido, Asahikawa, Minamigaoka 3-1-1 Google Map
Access: A fifteen-minute bus ride from JR Asahikawa Station. After getting off at Takasagodai Iriguchi bus stop, it is a ten-minute walk to the museum. / A forty-minute car ride from Asahikawa Airport.
Official Site: Snow Museum (Japanese)

For information about admission fees and discounts, please check this page (Japanese).

3. Otokoyama Sake Brewery Museum

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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.

Otokoyama Sake Brewery Museum
Address: Hokkaido, Asahikawa, Nagayama Nijo 7-1-33 Google Map
Access: A twenty-minute bus ride from JR Asahikawa Station. After getting off at "Nagayama Nijo Rokuchome" bus stop, it is a two-minute walk to the museum./A thirty minute car ride from Asahikawa Airport.
Official Site: Otokoyama Sake Brewery Museum

4. Asahikawa Ramen Village

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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.

Asahikawa Ramen Village
Address: Hokkaido, Asahikawa, Nagayama Juichijo 4-119-48 Google Map
Access: An eight-minute walk from JR Minami Nagayama Station. / A twenty minute car ride from JR Asahikawa Station. / A thirty minute car ride from Asahikawa Airport.
Official Site: Asahikawa Ramen Village (Japanese)

5. Asahikawa Heiwadori Retail Park

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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.

Asahikawa Heiwadori Retail Park
Address: Hokkaido, Asahikawa, Miyashita Dori/Hachijodori Nanachome/Hachijodori Hatchome Google Map
Access: A one-minute walk from JR Asahikawa Station.
Official Site: Asahikawa Heiwadori Retail Park (Japanese)

6. Beautiful Views and Pleasant Strolls Asahidake

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Picture from Asahidake (Taiwanese)

Asahidake (Mt. Asahi) is the highest mountain in Hokkaido and rises 2291 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 finale for your trip.

Asahidake
Address: Hokkaido, Kamikawa-gun, Higashikawa-cho, Asahidake Onsen Google Map
Access: A seventy-minute car ride from JR Asahikawa Station./A sixty-minute car ride from Asahikawa Airport.
** 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.

7. Ueno Farm

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Photograph courtesy of Ueno Farm

Ueno Farm is a garden filled with flowers. More than 2000 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 season 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 cancelled according to the performance of the crops.

Stay Another Night in Asahidake

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.

Asahikawa Winter Festival: The Major Winter Event

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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 are 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 Winter Festival
Site: Tokiwa Park Google Map
Access: During the festival, a free shuttle bus will run between JR Asahikawa Station and Tokiwa Park. The bus runs at thirty-minute intervals, and the ride takes about twenty minutes. Please note that there are no parking lots at Tokiwa Park.
Official Site: Asahikawa Winter Festival

Access to Asahikawa

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.

From Asahikawa Airport to JR Asahikawa Station

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.

From JR Sapporo Station to JR Asahikawa Station

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 will take 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.

From New Chitose Airport to JR Asahikawa Station

From 2018, 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).

Using Public Transportation with a Rental Car

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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 - A Convenient Base for Your Trip

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/Biei area.

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