Though short, I enjoyed my jampacked trip around the ski resorts of Central Hokkaido but I still had one last mission. That was to spend time in Asahikawa. Asahikawa lies in the heart of Hokkaido and is the second largest city after Sapporo. Aside from ski resorts, it is filled with various other sights to see and forms a great base for a stay in Central Hokkaido.
After leaving Mt. Asahidake it took me an hour to reach Asahikawa by car. The scenery changed from mountainous natural surrounds to a residential area and, before I knew it, I’d arrived at a snow covered city. I’d spent the last few days driving through unfamiliar mountainous areas that the sight of a snow covered city was somehow refreshing to me.
While Asahikawa is a popular base for travels to nearby ski fields, it also has plenty of sights to see, making it a great tourist spot as well. However, because I had a midday flight to Tokyo the next day I could only enjoy the night time sights of Asahikawa.
The beautiful, quiet view of the snow covered town completely decorated in lights juxtaposed with the lively skaters in front of the train station left a lasting impression on me. Asahikawa is well known as the distribution point for seafood caught in Hokkaido as well as fruits and vegetables grown using the delicious water from Daisetsuzan. Sake is also another famous Asahikawa export. Scores of izakayas and restaurants using these fine ingredients line the streets of the entertainment district. The food at the place I dropped by that night was no exception – the food was exquisite.
Although I wasn’t able to truly experience Asahikawa’s delights in just one night, I still had a great time.
The next morning, I had two things I wanted to do before I flew out. One was to eat Asahikawa ramen. As previously mentioned, Asahikawa is renowned for producing famous and popular ramen, so there was no way I was going to leave without having some for myself. I visited an old, popular favourite – AOBA. The soy sauce flavoured ramen soup made from a pork and fish broth was very delicate and complex yet had a significant kick to it making it a highly delectable bowl of ramen. I thoroughly recommend it.
Asahikawa is also known for producing great sake, so the last place I visited was a famous sake brewery – Kokushi Muso. I wanted to make the most of this trip and since sake produced in Hokkaido has built up a good reputation in recent years, I figured that a brewery visit would be enough to satisfy my curiosity. Breweries often offer tours and generally provide tasting opportunities as well. If you’re ever in Asahikawa it is definitely worth your while to do some sightseeing of the city.
My trip to Central Hokkaido was, above all, very exciting and fulfilling. In fact, I want to go back many times over so I can discover more of what the region has to offer. My driving trip around an unfamiliar place was made possible thanks to advances in GPS technology such as those offered in car navigation systems and Google Maps. In fact, it might have been near impossible for foreign visitors to navigate the roads in the past because of their inability to read signs in Japanese. So now is the time for ski and snowboard junkies alike to pick up their navigation devices and tour the ski fields of Japan!