“Let’s go to Hokkaido for our next summer vacation”, you might say, but where in Hokkaido? There are places like Sapporo and Otaru, which are grand cities with rich history and great food, while there are also places such as Asahikawa, where you can explore the wilderness and appreciate the landscapes of Hokkaido.
In this article, we will cover the central Hokkaido region, namely the area around Asahikawa, Biei, and Furano. A 2-hour Japan Railway train ride connects Sapporo and Asahikawa, and you can continue south from there to Biei followed by Furano via the Japan Railway. There, you will be able to immerse yourself in the splendid natural artwork of Hokkaido, along with fantastic hot springs such as Nakadake Onsen.
The emerald green lake of Torinuma Park
Torinuma Park lies quietly in Furano, where the tall trees that line the park emanate a relaxing yet romantic atmosphere. The majestic emerald-green lake you can find in the park is created by natural spring water, and is one of the rare lakes in Hokkaido that does not freeze in winter. There are also several boats around the lake that you can borrow at no cost.
Farm Tomita - the greatest lavender farm in Hokkaido
Located in Furano, carpets of lavenders decorate Farm Tomita, a lavender farm with the longest history in Japan. Not only does the natural aroma allow you to spend a relaxing and enjoyable time there, the panoramic view from the “Traditional Lavender Garden” section is simply stunning! The nearest train station is the Hokkaido Railway Lavender Farm Station, but it is recommended to drive or take a taxi there due to the limited number of trains. The lavender will start flowering during June, and it is best visited during the summer, from July to mid-August. What’s more, entry is free!
Address: 15 Go Nakafurano Kisen Kita, Hokkaido
Access info: click here
Opening hours: 9:30 - 17:00 for food and sales. Field is open for 24 hrs
Fixed holiday: nil
Contact: +81 167-39-3939
Entrance fee: free
The best garden of 21st century Hokkaido
Tokachi Sennen No Mori, literally translating to Tokachi Millennium Forest, is a huge forest located in Shimizu, south of Furano. The forest is split into 4 regions, each with a different concept: earth garden, farm garden, forest garden, and meadow garden. You can interact with the nature there in different manners. The gardens are accredited as being one of the best gardens of the 21st century, receiving lots of compliments from the British gardening society. Driving to Tokachi Sennen No Mori from Furano takes 1 hour and 40 minutes and parking is free.
Tokachi Millennium Forest
Address: Minami 10 Sen Haobi, Shimizu-chō, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaidō
Access info: 15-minute taxi ride from JR Tokachi Shimizu Station
Opening hours: 9:30 - 16:00
Opening season: April 29th to Nov 3rd every year
Contact: +81 156-63-3000
Entrance fee: 1,000 JPY (9.10 USD)
Trekking Asahidake for the Nakadake Onsen
Asahidake is a mountainous part of the Daisetsuzan Volcanic Group that lies in central Hokkaido. Located an hours’ drive from Asahikawa, the ropeway there will bring you up the 1,600-metre-high (5,249-foot-high) Asahidake. At the top, there are various natural landscapes you can view, including the Sugatami-no-Ike, a pond in a former crater. After trekking along the route for about 2 hours, you will reach the Nakadake Onsen, a natural open-air hot spring, where you can spend a cathartic time while appreciating the scenery from Asahidake. What is special about this hot spring is that there isn’t any facilities; it is completely natural. You may need to do some digging to create the perfect depth for yourself!
Access info Google map
The cave where dragons sleep- Toma Shonyudo
Toma is located right to the east of Asahikawa, and it is a city that represents Hokkaido’s rice farm industry. Found there is Toma Shonyudo, a limestone cave said to have one of the purest stalactites in Japan. The cave is about 150 million years old and was finally discovered in 1957. When the cave was found, people said that it looked as if there was a dragon lying inside, thus calling it Ezo Banryu Do. Ezo stands for olden Hokkaido, Banryu refers to a coiled up dragon, and “Do” means cave.
Address: 4 Ku Kaimei, Tōma-chō, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaidō
Access info: 30-minute drive from JR Toma Station
Opening hours: 9:00 - 17:00
Opening seasons: April 29th to October 30th every year
Contact: +81 166-84-3719
Entrance fee: 500 JPY (4.60 USD)
The ramen noodle village - Asahikawa Ramen Village
Enjoying the hot soup and chewy ramen noodles in a cold region like Hokkaido is a fantastic experience. Loved by the locals, the dish has developed into different styles according to the region, and Hokkaido is now the mecca of ramen. The three main flavours there are the miso-ramen from Sapporo, salt-ramen in Hakodate, and soy-sauce ramen from Asahikawa. A total of 8 stalls specialising in the local Asahikawa ramen can be found at Asahikawa Ramen Village, conveniently located just a 30-minute car ride from Asahikawa Airport. It is the best place to visit to experience the mouth-watering local delicacy!
The mid-20th-century-style food alley
Apart from ramen noodles, Asahikawa is also known for its various local dishes such as the Asahikawa style yakisoba (Japanese fried noodles) and shinko yaki (grilled chicken). At the mid-20th-century-style food street named 5.7 Koji Furari-to, there are numerous eateries that serve their very own local dishes. The street is designed based on the Showa era (around 20th-century Japan) and among the stalls there is Gin-Neko, one of the shops famous for the shinko yaki. At 5.7 Koji Furari-to, there are also events held during specific seasons, such as the summer festival, Halloween in autumn, and ice-candles festival in winter.
5.7 food alley
Address: 5-7 Asahikawa-city, Hokkaido
Access info: 2-minute walk from JR Asahikawa Station
Opening hours: depends on stalls
Fixed holiday: depends on stalls
The most northern zoo in Japan
With various shows and creative exhibitions, Asahikawa Zoo is not only one of the most popular zoos, but is also the zoo that is in Japan’s most northern location. One of the famous exhibitions there is the polar bear zone, where the “seals-eye capsule”, an underwater glass dome, lets you observe the polar bears from a seal’s eye view.
Address: Higashiasahikawacho ,Kuranuma, Asahikawa, Hokkaido
Access info: Bus ride from JR Asahikawa Station (440 JPY (4 USD) per ride)
Opening hours: 9:30 - 17:15
Opening season: April 29th - Nov 3rd
Contact: +81 166-36-1104
Entrance fee: 820 JPY (7.50 USD)
The European-style Asahikawa Grand Hotel is best-known for the beautiful interior and luxurious breakfast it provides. Designed by Thomas Edison’s great-grandson, Canadian designer John Edison, the majestic hotel lobby is sure to enchant you. Breakfast is served in a buffet style, with choices including freshly baked croissants, local vegetables, and the coveted Ikura red caviar.
Mount Tokachi is an active volcano that spans across the Kamifurano, Biei, and Tokachi regions. The Ryounkaku Onsen, about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Asahikawa, is an onsen / hotel found on Mount Tokachi, with not one but two natural hot spring sources. With an altitude of 1,280 metres (4,200 feet), the open-air onsen there gives you a marvellous panoramic view of the mountains that surround the area. Minerals such as sodium and calcium give the onsen its light brown colour, and they are said to have healing effects such as easing muscle fatigue and improving blood flow.
Hokkaido - the epitome of nature
Driving from Asahikawa to Furano takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes, making the region relatively convenient despite the distance. On the other hand, travelling without a vehicle might be slightly tough for places like Tokachi Sennen No Mori or Ryounkaku Onsen due to their location.
Central Hokkaido, with the numerous mountains in Daisetsuzan National Park, has plenty of fantastic natural landscapes to offer. With great local food and marvellous scenery, it is the perfect place to spend about 3 to 5 days away from your hectic urban life!
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