Asahikawa is the second-largest city in Hokkaido after Sapporo, and best known for its natural and urban appeal. Located in the centre of Hokkaido, Asahikawa is popular with travellers for its sightseeing, like the Asahiyama Zoo, and skiing and snowboarding resorts in winter. Asahiyama Zoo is one of Japan’s most famous and best zoos. The local noodle dish, Asahikawa Ramen, is also quite well known.
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Japan's northernmost zoo, Asahiyama Zoo features many animals indigenous to the region, such as cranes, eagles and Hokkaido deer. Feeding times vary, and the keepers announce the times for the different animals on the day. The enclosures of the zoo are designed to give you unusual views of the animals so that you are essentially on exhibit to them as well. You can watch polar bears diving for food, see spotted seals swimming above as you walk through a large transparent tunnel, and explore many other similar exhibits.
Activities: Zoo visit Fee: JPY 1000 Time required: Minimum 45 minutes
Source: © ASAHIKAWA RAMEN VILLAGE
Asahikawa Ramen Village
While Sapporo is known for its miso-based broth, and Hakodate for its salt-based broth, Asahikawa is known for its shoyu (soya sauce) based broths. Visit Asahikawa Ramen Village where eight famous restaurants from Asahikawa opened a small branch store beside one another in the complex alongside a gift shop and a small ramen shrine. A bowl of ramen typically cost about JPY 800. Also, try a big bowl of the "double soup," a blend of seafood soup introduced to Asahikawa about 50 years ago.
Activities: Ramen tasting Fee: None Time required: Minimum 45 minutes
Source: © OTOKOYAMA CO., LTD.
Asahikawa is a great place to sample Japan's rice-based brew. The city is home to three breweries with established brands popular domestically and internationally. All offer sake-tasting, much of it free except for some of the highest-end varieties. Takasago is the most atmospheric brewery. To learn about the brewing process, head to the Otokoyama Brewery where there is a museum with exhibits and information in English. Taisetsu no Kura has an on-site Japanese restaurant, a beautiful garden and a well-stocked shop with everything from sake and shochu to plum wine, beer, and handcrafted glasswork. (Image Otokoyama Sake Brewery via official website) Activities: Ramen tasting Fee: None Time required: Minimum 45 minutes
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Ueno Farm is a garden filled with more than 2,000 types of plants. The scenery changes every month, making for a nice visit throughout the year. In this garden, the flower colours 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. There is also a café called NAYA Café which was renovated from an old barn, offering snacks and confectionaries made from Hokkaido products. (Image via Good Hokkaido)
Activities: Photo stop, Garden visit Fee: JPY 500 Time required: Minimum 45 minutes
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Asahikawa Heiwa Dori Retail Park
Established in 1972, Asahikawa Heiwa Dori Retail Park 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 kilometre starting at JR Asahikawa Station. The park draws many locals and tourists alike for its famed shabu-shabu restaurants, and the great variety of souvenirs, processed goods and handicrafts.
Activities: Souvenir shopping Fee: None Time required: Minimum 45 minutes
Source: © Asahikawa Tourism
Asahikawa Winter Festival
The Asahikawa Winter Festival is Hokkaido's second-largest winter festival after Sapporo's Snow Festival. Held every February in the riverside of Asahibashi Site and Heiwa Dori, this festival features snow sculptures, snow slides, snowmobile rides, horse-drawn sleigh rides and ice bars. At nights, visitors can enjoy the illuminations, projection mappings and fireworks as well as warm themselves at Winter MARCHE, where various dishes are gathered from all over North Hokkaido, including the Asahikawa Ramen. (Image via Japan Guide)
Activities: Photo stop, Snow sculptures viewing Fee: None Time required: Minimum 45 minutes
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Located in Biei, the mystical Shirogane Blue Pond gets its name from its unreal looking blue waters. Depending on the weather and the season it can change from a milky light blue to a deep green-turquoise. This artificially created pond is renowned for its colours and the dead trees that are not baring any leaves in its middle. They add to the enchanting and eerie appearance.
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Shikisai Hill is a spacious flower park with various flower fields (including lavender), which can be viewed by walking along the trails, renting golf or buggy carts or by taking a ride on tractor-pulled wagons. In winter, snowmobiles are available.