Asahikawa Japan – Asahikawa is yet another northern city that doesn’t get as much rep as its sister city Sapporo. But being the second largest populated area in Hokkaido means that Asahikawa actually presents quite a fulfilling and entertaining visitor’s destination for foreigners. It’s tipped as being one of the coldest cities in the entirety of Japan, having experienced a record of temperature of -41 in 1902. Rest assured, however, that in winter today it doesn’t reach anywhere near that level – you’re looking more at the -20 range on the coldest of days.
Winter is the best season to visit Asahikawa, because like Sapporo, it is home to some of the best powder in the world. The fresh and abundant snowfall is simply stunning, especially in the thick of winter. Unlike most cities in Japan on Honshu, you can wake up right in the middle of the city and be able to witness snowfall right outside your window, in thick layers on the footpaths, covering the roofs, and even on the roads where cars are driving by. Just imagine living in a snowglobe, because that’s what it’s like!
Outside of winter, Asahikawa is definitely still worth a visit. The cherry blossoms bloom a little later, but positively brighten the whole city during spring. It’s a city rich in history and surrounded by nature; you will only need to drive a short distance away and you will be able to witness so many different attractions, such as mountain, museums, zoos, and fantastic dining options not readily available around other parts of Japan.
How to get to Asahikawa Japan
The easiest and quickest way to get to Asahikawa would be to fly into the city. Prices of flights from Tokyo to Asahikawa can begin anywhere around the 10,000-yen range. Otherwise, you can fly into Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport, and take a limited express train from Sapporo to Asahikawa. This ride will take 80-minutes, cost around 4,500 yen, and is covered by the JR Pass and Hokkaido Rail Pass.
Where to Stay in Asahikawa Japan
Guesthouse/Hostel – 9 C Hotel
This boutique hostel accommodation has only been around the block for a year (since late 2018), but it’s made a big splash in the rather traditional scene of Asahikawa with its ultra-modern facilities and decor. 9 C Hotel is located only 2-minutes from the station, equipped with an onsite bar, and provides a Japanese breakfast every morning for its guests. Most rooms are spacious enough to be comfortable but of course they’re shared so that’s something to keep in mind.
Why Guests Love It: The free amenities in the bathroom was a pleasant surprise for many, the breakfast was simple but lovely, the rooms (including bathroom and lounging areas) were new, clean, and well-maintained.
Book It Now: 9 C Hotel Asahikawa
Hotel – Hotel WBF Grande
The hotel WBF Grande is the epitome of Asahikawa: clean and beautiful without being too flashy; all comforts attended to without the luxury price tag. Hotel WBF is located right next to the station but also provides private parking options if required (at an extra charge). Here, all rooms come with a flat screen TV, a private bathroom, and free Wi-Fi.
The accommodation also has a wellness area where guests can take advantage of the traditional onsen bath and luxe sauna. The rooms are quite spacious, and most come with a sitting area where you can retire back to after a long day out. At Hotel WBF there’s also the option to choose between western style bedding and sleeping on traditional futon mattresses.
Why Guests Love It: If you’re looking at booking something of standard hotel quality, then Hotel WBF fits the bill. All guests agree that its location is probably the best thing about it (100m from Asahikawa Station), and the additional unexpected onsen bath and sauna adds that little touch of finesse.
Book It Now: Hotel WBF Grande Asahikawa
Ryokan – Takasago Onsen
Quiet and unassuming from the outside, Takasago Onsen ryokan offers a very traditional and no-frills Japanese inn choice for those after a rustic experience. The inside is as authentic as ryokan’s get, with tatami floors, traditional lowered wooden furniture, wide windows, and large rooms. However, there are Western-influenced rooms also, that offer raised beds and cupboards.
Here, for the ultimate relaxation experience, you can utilise the gorgeous indoor onsen, the sauna, and the hot tub at any time. There’s even an ashiyu (foot bath) for those who just want to soak their feet! There’s also a restaurant onsite, room service available for guests, and a flat-screen TV in all rooms.
Why Guests Love It: As it is a region where getting around by car is easy and preferred, the free parking situation here is bliss for guests. Also, the hot spring bath is amazing, especially since Asahikawa gets extremely cold in winter!
Book It Now: Takasago Onsen
Asahikawa Japan – Visit Asahiyama Zoo
While zoos are plentiful throughout Japan, Asahiyama Zoo holds a special place in our hearts. There are multiple reasons why this particular one stands out, but we’ll start with the layout. It’s incredibly well-thought out so that you visit a great mix of dedicated animal areas without getting too bored with being indoors or too hot/cold being outdoors for too long. It’s a huge zoo, so simply walking around is an adventure in itself, and its mix of various types of zoo animals is a feat in itself.
Whilst there are so many aspects of the zoo that deserve individual attention, we’d like to highlight two attractions that you absolutely cannot miss:
These majestic creatures have an entire field section to themselves, and you can view them from outside the cages, if you’re lucky enough, there’s a raised clear plastic hub right in the middle of their grounds where you can stand underneath and be able to witness them living in their habitat just a few metres away from you. This viewpoint is incredibly popular so you may have to wait in line, and by the time it’s your turn, they may be long gone, but it’s definitely worth a shot!
The famous ‘Penguin Walk’
This is absolutely iconic in all of Asahikawa. It only happens during the winter season whilst there is snow. Twice a day, the zookeeper’s lead a waddle of penguins out from their section to parade through the zoo. Whilst seeing them up close from behind a gate is amazing enough, being able to witness them at a distance where you could almost reach out a hand and touch them (please don’t do this though!) is a whole new level.
They’re absolutely adorable, with some even waving their flippers at the crowd. There is a designated pathway on which they walk, which you’ll be able to see on the map of when you’re there. It usually happens at 11:00am and 2:30pm, but people usually line up at least 30 minutes before so that they get a good viewing spot along the pathway.
- Address: Kuranuma Higashiasahikawacho, Asahikawa, Hokkaido 078-8205, Japan
- Access: From Asahikawa Station Bus Stand No. 6, catch the Asahiyama Zoo Line 41-47 to the zoo. The ride will take 40-minutes, and will cost 440 yen one-way.
- Hours: 9:30am – 5:15pm
- Price: 820yen
Asahikawa Japan – Asahikawa Winter Festival
Hailed as the second biggest winter festival in all of Hokkaido (the title is owned by our very own Sapporo Winter Festival), this celebration happens every year in February, and it never ceases to amaze its visitors. Whilst it may not be the absolute leading winter festival in the north, it sure is a massive contender for hosting some of the biggest snow sculptures in the world.
You see, during this festival, there’s also a major Snow Sculpting competition going on as well, with sculptors working hard during the first few days of the festival filing away at their ice block to produce something of premium quality. These sculptures then stand on display for the entire festival, visited and admired by thousands of national and international visitors.
During the day, there’s plenty to explore, but during the night is when the festival come alive. There are stunning illuminations everywhere you look, and firework displays light up the sky. There are food stalls and performances and plenty of activities for the entire family to enjoy. The theme of the festival changes every year as well, so make sure you’re on the lookout for the current theme!
The festival is generally held at the same time as the Sapporo Snow Festival, so we suggest (if you have the time, budget, and energy) visiting both whilst you’re in the north during winter.
Asahikawa Japan – Explore the Snow Crystal Museum
This snow museum is easily one of the most aesthetic museums that we’ve ever come across. From the moment you enter the grand entrance doors and make your way down the spiral staircase (design to look like a snow crystal), you’ll begin to feel like Elsa from Frozen. At the end, you’ll really feel the chill.
There’s an ice corridor that you can wander through before you hit the main part of the museum. There’s an auditorium where showcases and photo-shoots may sometimes take place, there’s a costume hire section where you can dress up like a princess to take some photos inside the incredible interior of the museum, and there’s a section of information where you can learn about the different shapes of snowflakes and how they come about.
The highlight, though? The Snow Crystal Room, a room designed purely to take some gorgeous photos in. It’s walls feature crystals shaped like snowflakes, which change as the temperature changes. It’s quite a magical room.
- Address: 3 Chome-1-1 Minamigaoka, Asahikawa, Hokkaido 070-8028, Japan
- Access: From JR Asahikawa, take the bus to Takasagodai Iriguchi bus stop, and alight there. It is a 10-minute walk there.
- Price: Adult: 700 yen, High School Student: 500 yen, Elementary Student: 400 yen, Infant: Free
- Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Asahikawa Japan – Shred the Slopes at Furano Ski Resort
Whilst there are a few closer resorts to Asahikawa City, we highly recommend doing the day trip to Furano Ski Resort because a). It’s a huge ski field, and b). We reckon it’s one of the best ski fields in the entire country.
Furano Ski Resort is absolutely massive. It’s actually got two peaks which offer ten runs; some of them are super long runs that are as scenic as they are enjoyable to ride down, and others are wider, gentler slopes that people who are just starting out will be able to enjoy. For those after a bit of park fun, there are terrain sections and a half pipe to rip up.
For families who want to try some winter sports, Furano Ski Fields also offers a Family Snowland where anyone can try fun snow activities such as snow rafting, riding a snowmobile, and dog sledding.
- Address: Nakagoryo, Furano, Hokkaido 076-8511, Japan
- Access: From Asahikawa, take the train to Furano (40-minutes, leaves hourly). From Furano, catch a taxi to the ski area, which will take around 5-10 minutes and cost around 1,000 yen. There are also buses called “Lavender Go” which depart Asahikawa City for the New Furano Prince Hotel (base of the resort). Click here to book a bus ride.
- Lift Pass: Full Day: 5,700 yen, Half Day: 5,100 yen, Nighter: 2,000 yen
- Hours: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Asahikawa Japan – Go Cycling!
If you’re in Asahikawa during the warmer months, it would be an absolute crime to not hire a bike and go cycling through the countryside. The famous rolling hills surrounding the city and neighboring cities is stunning in winter, and absolutely breathtaking in summer. It can get up to 30 degrees, so it’s a great way to feel the wind in your hair as you’re breathing in the fresh air.
A popular route is cycling from Asahikawa to Kamuikotan. On this route, you will pass through tunnels and ride alongside the railway line as well as the Ishikarigawa River. You will want to make multiple stops to take photos and simply be in the moment, so we recommend that you allocate half a day for this activity.
Head to a bike rental shop in the city, ask for a map, and away you go!
Asahikawa Japan – Feed Your Bellies at the Asahikawa Ramen Village
What do foodies love more than an entire attraction dedicated to a local favourite dish? The answer is: pretty much nothing. If you’re in any way a lover of food, then we implore that you give this village a visit so that you can truly experience the local ramen dish at its best.
Asahikawa ramen is quite unlike any other ramen you’ve had before. It’s made from pork and chicken stock, amongst other ingredients, and finished off with additional lard. The lard in the soup adds additional flavour to ramen, but it also serves as a protective layer on top of the soup to keep it warm for longer – something you’ll learn to appreciate as you’re getting use to the -0-degree weather in winter there. It’s delicious but can get a bit heavy.
At the Asahikawa Ramen Village, there are eight different ramen restaurants, each with their own unique menu items. True to the Japanese efficient and considerate nature, each restaurant offers a small sample size of their dishes so that visitors can fit in more items in their stomachs during their visit.
- Address: 4 Chome-119-48 Nagayama 11 Jo, Asahikawa, Hokkaido 079-8421, Japan
- Access: From JR Asahikawa, you can catch a taxi there in 20-minutes, otherwise you can catch a train ride to JR Minami Nagayama Station and walk there in 5-10 minutes.
- Hours: 11:00am – 8:00pm
Asahikawa Japan – Climb Mount Asahi ‘Asahidake’
Mount Asahi is the tallest mountain in all of Hokkaido, and thus acts as a popular hiking spot for many visitors in Asahikawa. During the climbing season of late June until early October, expect there to be outdoor enthusiasts trekking up and down this mountain every day of the week.
From the middle of summer, the alpine flowers will be on full display. This makes the trek through the mountain pleasant for visitors, almost as if they’re hiking through a flower festival. Another popular name for this mountain is ‘Garden of the Gods’ – no wonder!
During winter, this mountain becomes a ski field, and is open from December all the way until May (yep, that’s the end of their spring season!) – this makes it the longest ski season in all of Japan (the colder northern climate probably has something to do with it…).
- Address: Nokanan, Higashikawa, Kamikawa District, Hokkaido 071-1471, Japan
- Access: The easiest way to get to this mountain would be by rental car. From Asahikawa station, it is roughly just over an hour drive away.
Asahikawa is an absolute gem in the north. It’s got all the features of an entertaining and unique city, with a variety of activities to do for solo travelers, couples, and families – during any time of the year. It’s close enough to Sapporo to be able to be visited on a day trip, but we reckon it deserves a few more days on top. It’s an adventurer’s paradise in summer, and a snow bunny’s heaven in winter, and whatever you do there in between, you’ll be dreaming of the epic mountains for months to come.
And if you are interested to visit more beautiful cities in Hokkaido, check out this place: Niseko Japan.