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10 Unforgettable Things to Do in Asahikawa: The Pristine 'Roof of Hokkaido'

10 Unforgettable Things to Do in Asahikawa: The Pristine 'Roof of Hokkaido'

Date published: 15 June 2022

Asahikawa is one of northern Hokkaido's central, core cities. Sometimes called the "roof of Hokkaido" (Hokkaido no yane), Asahikawa is surrounded by snowy mountains and lush nature, which provide endless things to do.

You can climb Mt. Asahi or Mt. Kuro, sample sake made with fresh water, ski on fine powder snow, or warm up in the cold months with Asahikawa ramen.

Here, we've carefully selected ten unforgettable things to do in Asahikawa.

Table of Contents
  1. 1. Asahiyama Zoo: A recreation of the animals' wild habitat
  2. 2. Eat Asahikawa Ramen: A warming noodle soup for cold days
  3. 3. Kamui Ski Links: A snowy paradise in the north
  4. 4. Otokoyama Sake Brewing Museum: Taste the renowned local sake
  5. 5. Asahidake Ropeway: Take in the mountain scenery
  6. 6. UENO FARM: Collect flowers at the family-run farm
  7. 7. Heiwa-dōri Shopping Park: Talk a walk along Japan's first permanent pedestrian shopping street
  8. 8. 5-7 Alley Furarito: Immerse yourself in the Asahikawa of old
  9. 9. Dog Sledding: Speed through a snowy paradise
  10. 10. Kamuy Kotan: A former settlement of the Ainu people
  11. The Asahikawa area is amazing all year round!

1. Asahiyama Zoo: A recreation of the animals' wild habitat

1. Asahiyama Zoo: A recreation of the animals' wild habitat
Feel the power. (Photo: Tsuyoshi Yoshida)

About 40 minutes by car from JR Asahikawa Station, Asahiyama Zoo is one of Hokkaido's most popular spots. Here, you can find "behavioral exhibitions" that focus on the inherent abilities and behaviors of the animals themselves.

The tanks allow you to see animals acting as they would in the wild, but in a way that lets you get up close, such as the vertical pipe tank for the seals, and the tunnel passageways for the penguins.

There is also a popular "mogu mogu time" (munch munch time), where you can see the animals being fed. Sometimes it can get quite lively, with strange scenarios such as the tiger projectile peeing(?!).

In the winter, you can see the Penguin Walk (Photo: Yoshida Kajiwa)

The zoo does not keep a huge variety of different species or rare animals, but there is plenty to see year-round. In the summer you can see orangutans searching for food from high up above, and in the summer, penguins waddling across the snow for a bit of exercise.

Health & Safety Measures
Indoor disinfection measures taken - Sanitizer installed - Ventilation measures in place - Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature - Guests are required to wear masks

Multilingual support
Brochures are provided in English, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese

2. Eat Asahikawa Ramen: A warming noodle soup for cold days

2. Eat Asahikawa Ramen: A warming noodle soup for cold days
Noodles with a seafood and pork broth "double" soup (Photo: Tsuyoshi Yoshida)

Asahikawa ramen is one of Hokkaido's local specialty ramen. The complex broth is made from seafood, pork bones, chicken broth, vegetables, and other things, and is topped with medium-fine noodles that have a low water content. The surface is covered with lard oil, which is said to be a "way to stop the ramen from cooling even in the freezing temperatures of Asahikawa" (though opinion varies).

The "Asahikawa Ramen Village" is almost like a ramen theme park.

There are tons of ramen spots around the city, and the most popular ones have lines out the front before they even open. If you're not sure which one to try out, we recommend Asahikawa Ramen Village.

There are loads of popular restaurants competing with each other for the best-tasting ramen. Although Asahikawa ramen is known for its soy base (shoyu), there are no particular restrictions, and many spots also offer salt (shio) base and miso base.

Health & Safety Measures
Indoor disinfection measures taken - Sanitizer installed - Ventilation measures in place - Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature - Guests are required to wear masks

Multilingual support
Support varies by store

3. Kamui Ski Links: A snowy paradise in the north

3. Kamui Ski Links: A snowy paradise in the north
The snow is so powdery that when the wind blows, flakes dance in the sky (Photo: Tsuyoshi Yoshida)

About a 40-minute drive from Asahikawa Station, Kamui Ski Links is the largest ski resort in the northern area of Douhoku.

The location is excellent with its views of the Ishikari Plain and Mt. Tokachi, and snow glittering like diamonds on cold days.

There are 25 courses, with 9 beginner courses at 8-20 degree inclines, 8 intermediate courses at 20-30 degree inclines, and 8 advanced courses with 30-35 degree inclines. There is also a wide variety of groomed trails and un-compacted trails.

Overlooking the magnificent scenery of the Asahikawa River (Photo: Yoshida Tsubawa)

If you get hungry after hitting the slopes, you can visit Centre Lodge, Trattoria Pizzeria Monte 751 near the gondola's peak station, or Ramen noodle bar NOBU, offering authentic Asahikawa ramen right there on the mountain! You can also rent out equipment for skiing and other fun snow activities.

Health & Safety Measures
Indoor disinfection measures taken - Sanitizer installed - Ventilation measures in place - Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature - Guests are required to wear masks

Multilingual support
The official website is available in English, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.

4. Otokoyama Sake Brewing Museum: Taste the renowned local sake

4. Otokoyama Sake Brewing Museum: Taste the renowned local sake
The entire place is surrounded by the aromas of sake fermentation (Photo: Menzan Co., Ltd.)

About a 15-minute drive from Asahikawa Station, or a 30-minute drive from Asahikawa Airport, you'll find the Otokoyama Sake Brewing Company, where, starting with their famous Otokoyama sake, a wide variety of sake is produced.

Next to it is the Otokoyama Sake Brewing Museum, displaying their most prized possessions from the Edo period, documentation, and sake sets to pass on the culture and meaning behind it. Here, you can even see the sake brewing in action during their preparation periods.

Otokoyama has a history of around 350 years behind it (Photo: Menzan Co., Ltd.)

The space is divided into three floors. On the first floor, your can sample their Otokoyama nihonshu, which is where it all started. On this floor, as well as their T-shirts and sake sets, you can also buy seasonal items and museum-exclusive products that you can't find anywhere else.

On the second floor, you can walk through their historical exhibits to learn about the origins of Otokoyama Sake. The company is said to have a history of around 350 years, and you'll even find ukiyo-e paintings on some of the walls depicting Otokoyama Sake.

On the third floor, old sake brewing tools, mainly barrels, are on display. Here you can truly feel the history and charm of Japanese sake.

Health & Safety Measures
Disinfection measures taken - Sanitizer installed - Ventilation measures in place - Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature - Guests are required to wear masks

Multilingual support
The process of sake making and the history of Otokoyama Sake is provided in 5 languages: Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean, Thai) (video tape recording)

5. Asahidake Ropeway: Take in the mountain scenery

5. Asahidake Ropeway: Take in the mountain scenery
The autumn leaves of Mt. Asahi can be seen in early September (Photo: Yoshida Tsubakiwa)

Located 1 hour and 10 minutes by car from JR Asahikawa Station and 1 hour by car from Asahikawa Airport, Mt. Asahi is the tallest mountain in Hokkaido at an altitude of 2,291 meters.

The ropeway goes up to 1,600 meters, so you can enjoy gorgeous mountain scenery without breaking a sweat.

Just after getting off the ropeway, you'll find Sugatami-no-ike, a pond or small lake surrounded by alpine plants that can only usually be seen on mountains taller than 3,000 meters elsewhere in Japan.

Bring suitable equipment and clothing for hiking (Photo: Yoshida Takuwa)

On average, the third weekend of June is when the mountain is open to hikers, and is closed at the first snow towards the end of September.

At the peak on a clear day, there are spectacular views of the Daisetsuzan mountain range as far as the eye can see.

The nearby Asahidake Ski area is open in winter from December to May. It boasts some of Japan's finest powder snow, and is world-renowned for its excellent skiing.

After getting a workout in the mountains, you can head to Asahidake Onsen. But of course, in this area surrounded by mountains, nature can be harsh and change in an instant, so make sure to come prepared, and always put your safety first.

Health & Safety Measures
Indoor disinfection measures taken - Sanitizer installed - Ventilation measures in place - Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature - Guests are required to wear masks

Multilingual support
The Asahidake Ropeway website is available in English, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Tagalog, and Japanese. In addition, the precautions for entering the mountain are written in English and Chinese.

6. UENO FARM: Collect flowers at the family-run farm

6. UENO FARM: Collect flowers at the family-run farm
Flowers greet the guests every season of the year (Photo: Ueno Farm)

About a 30-minute drive from JR Asahikawa Station, you'll find UENO FARM, a rice farmhouse that has been around for generations.

In 1983, the farm started with individual sales of rice, but rather than just wanting to sell rice, they wanted the farm to be beautiful, too. So they started growing colorful flowers in between the paddies, like the vibrant lupin flowers.

Have lunch in the meadows with takeout from NAYA café (Photo: Ueno Farm)

The garden has several sections. The Gnome's Garden plays to simple beauty, with wild plants and grasses, interspersed with vibrant flowers. The magical idea of the garden is that a little gnome comes to help with the gardening at midnight.

After admiring the cute gardens, you can visit the cafes and gift shops, or get takeout to sit on the lawn and enjoy your lunch amid the gorgeous flowers. A relaxing picnic in a beautiful setting! This is really a place to feel the magic of gardening and enjoy the beauty of the seasons.

Health & Safety Measures
Indoor disinfection measures taken - Sanitizer installed - Ventilation measures in place - Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature - Guests are required to wear masks

Multilingual support
An English information board is available in the park. Brochures are available in Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and English. The cafe menu is available in English

7. Heiwa-dōri Shopping Park: Talk a walk along Japan's first permanent pedestrian shopping street

7. Heiwa-dōri Shopping Park: Talk a walk along Japan's first permanent pedestrian shopping street
Japan's first permanent pedestrian shopping street

From Asahikawa Station to 8-Jo-dori, the impressive Heiwa-dōri Shopping Park stretches for about a kilometer.

The road used to be a main thoroughfare for vehicles, but due to the rising number of traffic accidents nationwide, since the 1960s ensuring the safety of pedestrians and shoppers has become an important theme in urban traffic and city development.

Therefore, on June 1, 1972, this road became Japan's first permanent pedestrian shopping street for people to visit with peace of mind.

Discover artworks as you wander around the street (Photo: Yoshida Tsubakiwa)

With each step from the station to 8-Jo-dori you'll find the chain stores start to disappear, and are replaced with unique boutiques, restaurants, and old-style shops all around. Along the shopping park, you'll find various sculptures here and there, but it's not just stone sculptures you'll find here.

Every year, as a part of the winter festival in February, the International Ice Sculpture Competition is held here, and gorgeous works of art are created out of ice. The shopping street makes a great spot to visit even during your down time between trains.

Health & Safety Measures
Measures vary by store.

Multilingual Support
Support varies by store.

  • Heiwa Dori Shopping Park
    平和通買物公園
    • Address Asahikawa Station – 8 Jodori, Asahikawa City, Hokkaido
    • ・Hours: The street is open for pedestrian use at all hours.

8. 5-7 Alley Furarito: Immerse yourself in the Asahikawa of old

8. 5-7 Alley Furarito: Immerse yourself in the Asahikawa of old
"Furari" and the nearby "Furari-to" (Photo: Yoshida Kuniwa)

About an 11-minute walk from JR Asahikawa Station, you'll find 5-7 Alley Furarito (5.7小路ふらりーと), a pathway that has managed to keep the Showa atmosphere within its walls.

Since before the war, it made a name for itself as a fish and vegetable market, and with time restaurants and shops began to appear, turning it into a bustling shopping district.

The area came to be known as a place many business people would frequent after work, staggering from bar to bar and flopping on a bed in the nearest hotel.

In Japanese, "furari" means to stagger or sway, so in 2004, the street was named "5-7 Alley Furarito" to reflect the idea.

A comfortable line-up of watering holes (Photo: Yoshida Tsubawa)

Currently, there are 18 establishments along the street, including restaurants, liquor stores, fruit and vegetable stores, hair salons, and others. The inviting scent of yakitori (grilled chicken) will tempt you into the street, and you'll feel as though you've stepped back in time. Take in the atmosphere of Japan of old, and revel in the sound of clinking glasses and good times.

Health & Safety Measures
Measures vary by store

Multilingual support
Support varies by store.

  • 5-7 Alley Furarito
    5. 7小路ふらりーと
    • Address No. 6-7, 7-chome, 5 Jodori, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido 070-0033

9. Dog Sledding: Speed through a snowy paradise

9. Dog Sledding: Speed through a snowy paradise
I can't get enough of this feeling! (Photo: Moonlight Women)

In Takasu-Cho, about a 30-minute drive from JR Asahikawa Station, the Moonlight Ladies establishment waits to welcome you onto their sturdy and unique dog sleds, for an unforgettable experience.

In an area overlooking the snow-covered mountain ranges of Mt. Tokachi and Daisetsuzan, you'll feel a sense of liberation on the 7-kilometer dog sled course, where each person rides their own individual sled, and you can go for a ride as a group. (Children can ride with a guide.)

A guide on a snowmobile leads the sled ride until the changing of the Musher (sled rider). You can see other sled riders from the front, so feel free to take some fun pictures.

Riding at full speed in the snow (Photo: Moonlight Women)

Even if you are new to sledding, there is no need to worry if you follow the thorough instructions from the guides given beforehand. The dogs are so much stronger than you might expect, and you'll quickly be zooming off into the snow.

Adrenaline courses through you as you speed through the white snowscape, and the impressive teamwork of the hard-working dogs is not a memory you'll soon forget.

Health & Safety Measures
Disinfection measures taken - Sanitizer installed - Ventilation measures in place - Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature - Guests are required to wear masks

Multilingual support
Some English available

  • Moonlight Ladies Dog Sledding Team
    ムーンライトレディース
    • Address 1 19 Sen, Takasu, Kamikawa District, Hokkaido 071-1259
    • E-mail: moonlightdogsledding@gmail.com
      Please inquire directly for business hours and holiday information

10. Kamuy Kotan: A former settlement of the Ainu people

10. Kamuy Kotan: A former settlement of the Ainu people
In the ancient Ainu language, "Kamuy Kotan" means "village of the gods".

About a 40-minute drive from JR Asahikawa Station, Kamuy Kotan is in a valley located at the border where the Ishikawa River flows from the Kamikawa Basin to the Ishikari Plain.

The dark green shimmering "greenschist" (Ryokushoku Hengan) that forms in the canyon has been eroded by the flow of the Ishikari River for over 100 million years. The fast-flowing river was a perilous point on any journey for the Ainu people who lived nearby.

Because of the many accidents that happened there, it was said to be the work of the gods, or evil spirits, so it came to be called "Kamuy Kotan," meaning "village of the gods" in the Ainu language.

The natural sights here are beautiful year-round.

Although this used to be a perilous spot to pass, there is now a sturdy suspension bridge to get across with ease.

The area is surrounded by nature, and is beautiful year-round, with gorgeous pinks in cherry blossom season, luscious greens in summer, fiery reds in autumn, and sparkling white snow in winter.

Here you can also explore the history of the Satsumon Era (7th-13th century) and the settlements, such as the remains of the Kamuy Kotan pit houses (神居古潭竪穴住居跡; Kamui kotan tateana juukyoiseki), or the former kamuy kotan station (旧神居古潭駅舎; Kyū Kamuy Kotan Eki Sha) that was discontinued in 1969.

It looks out on Highway 12, so if you happen to be passing by on your travels, it's definitely worth a visit.

  • Kamuy Kotan
    神居古潭
    • Address Kamuikotan, Kamui-cho, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido 078-0185

The Asahikawa area is amazing all year round!

In Asahikawa, no matter what time of year you visit, you'll find yourself surrounded by the beauty of nature. From the well-known Asahiyama Zoo to more secretive spots brimming with inviting natural beauty or delicious delicacies.

Stretch your reach a little further to find countless attractions nearby, such as the Izumo Strait, Furano, and Mizuno. Find your favorite spot to make your base, and make the most of your time in Asahikawa.

Original Japanese text by: Masakazu
Translated by: Cassandra Lord
Please check the official websites for the latest information.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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