A thriving city of artisans, with a major zoo and world-class powder snow
Asahikawa, the second-largest city in Hokkaido, is a vibrant and bustling city located to the northwest of the Daisetsuzan mountain range. It serves as a major gateway for exploring the scenic Sounkyo Gorge and the picturesque Furano area. With its abundance of natural beauty, thriving arts and crafts scene, and a major zoo, Asahikawa offers a unique experience for visitors.
One of the highlights of Asahikawa is its thriving arts and crafts center. The city is home to a large number of renowned artists, craft workers, and sculptors who produce high-quality handcrafted goods. As you wander along Heiwa Street, also known as Peace Street, you will be greeted by a multitude of sculptures that line the main road from Asahikawa Station. These sculptures showcase the creativity and talent of the local artisans. In addition to the sculptures, there are also numerous small galleries and stores where you can find unique mementos and souvenirs.
Another must-visit attraction in Asahikawa is the Asahiyama Zoo. Known as japan‘s northernmost zoo, it is famous for its natural animal environments and interactive exhibits. The enclosures are designed to provide visitors with unusual views of the animals, allowing you to get up close and personal with them. From polar bears diving for food to spotted seals swimming above you as you walk through a large transparent tunnel, the zoo offers a truly immersive experience. The zoo is also home to many animals indigenous to the region, including cranes, eagles, and Hokkaido deer. Make sure to check the feeding times for the different animals as they vary throughout the day.
Asahikawa is also a paradise for food lovers, especially ramen enthusiasts. The city is famous for its soy sauce-based ramen, and you can find a wide variety of delicious ramen shops scattered throughout the city. One of the must-try dishes is the “double soup,” a blend of seafood soup that was introduced to Asahikawa about 50 years ago. This unique and flavorful dish has become a local specialty and is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
For those who enjoy sake, Asahikawa is the perfect place to sample Japan’s rice-based brew. The city is home to three breweries with established brands that are popular both domestically and internationally. These breweries offer sake-tasting experiences, where you can try a variety of sake flavors. Takasago Brewery, located in a traditional white-walled building just minutes away from Asahikawa Station, is known for its atmospheric ambiance. Otokoyama Brewery, on the other hand, offers a museum where you can learn about the brewing process and discover the history of sake production. Taisetsu no Kura Brewery, the youngest of the three, has an on-site Japanese restaurant, a beautiful garden, and a well-stocked shop where you can purchase a variety of sake, shochu, plum wine, beer, and handcrafted glasswork.
Asahikawa is also a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts. The city offers great runs for skiing and snowboarding, with world-class powder snow that attracts visitors from all over the world. The winter season is also when the Asahikawa Winter Festival takes place. Although not as well-known as the Sapporo Snow Festival, the Asahikawa Winter Festival features impressive snow sculptures and a wide range of winter activities. From snow slides and snowmobile rides to horse-drawn sleigh rides and barhopping in igloos, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
In terms of transportation, getting to Asahikawa is relatively easy. You can fly into Asahikawa Airport or take a train to JR Asahikawa Station. From there, you can reach central Asahikawa by bus. If you are traveling from Tokyo, the journey by train takes approximately 10 hours, including an 80-minute ride on the JR Hokkaido train from Sapporo Station. The Japan Rail Pass covers all JR train legs, making it a convenient option for travelers.
In conclusion, Asahikawa is a city that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, thriving arts and crafts scene, and exciting attractions. Whether you are exploring the stunning Sounkyo Gorge and Furano area, immersing yourself in the vibrant arts and crafts culture, or enjoying the interactive exhibits at the Asahiyama Zoo, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Asahikawa. Don’t forget to try the delicious ramen and sample the region’s sake during your visit. With its world-class powder snow and winter festival, Asahikawa is also a great destination for winter sports enthusiasts. Start planning your trip to Asahikawa and discover the charms of this vibrant city in Hokkaido.
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