When you look into the vast land of Hokkaido with a lot of fascinating cities, central area around Asahikawa seems quite unique in its climate. The great Daisetsu mountain range divides Hokkaido almost right in the middle, and affects the amount of snow, rain, and the temperature. That produces an obvious gradation of four seasons and makes diversity in food and culture. In order to feel the nature with your skin, it is better to drive a car and go close to it. Open your mind and all the senses to maximize the experience in this trip!
Otokoyama sake brewery
Let us first taste the nature of Asahikawa in Otokoyama sake brewery, 30-minute drive from Asahikawa airport. To create good sake, besides high-quality rice, sufficient supply of water is indispensable. In Otokoyama brewery, they draw subsoil water of melted perpetual snow from Daisetsu mountain range. The crisp air finishes the sake dry and refreshing. Otokoyama is also known as one of the pioneers of selling sake internationally. After starting to export sake to the United States in 1980s, Otokoyama has expanded its market to over 20 countries. You can learn more about them in the museum above the brewery. There is a sake tasting area, but those who are driving can try sake ice cream instead and buy some bottles at the shop for souvenir.
Asahiyama zoo is one of the most famous sightseeing spots in Asahikawa. It is widely known for its display style that shows animals in unique ways. Seals swimming through a clear pipe vertically, huge polar bears diving into the water in your eye-level, penguins “flying” above your head that you can see from a transparent tunnel under the water, monkeys swinging the aerial bars at 14 meters above the ground, and a lot more others! Another popular point of the zoo is the events called “mogu mogu time” in which breeders feed animals while explaining their features. You can check which animals will have the event on a board around the entrance. Active animals are interesting to watch of course for kids, but even for adults.
After getting excited with adorable animals, how about watching some flowers and relax? Ueno Farm is a garden where you can enjoy a variety of plants in each season. It originally started as a rice farmer in 1906, and gradually expanded the garden to entertain its customers. The farm identify itself as a “Hokkaido style”. Although the farmers aimed to build an English garden at beginning, they realized that the climate, culture, and all the elements are original. Even if they are the plants you have seen in other place, they are completely different in the soil and the air of Hokkaido. Going through beautiful flowers and trees, it’s time to climb up a hill to observe the entire garden. A big swing upon the hill is cute and pleasant to ride on.
Kitanosumai Sekkeisha Café
For lunch a café of Kitanosumai Sekkeisha provides excellent menu with local ingredients. As
the company name means “designing northern housing”, their main business is to make
wooden furniture and buildings. The café itself is of course their artwork. Having a delicious
and nutritious meal in a cozy warm café is certainly a refreshing moment.
Ropeway of Mt. Asahidake
The highest peak of Hokkaido, Asahidake, rises along the Daisetsu mountain range. The mountain has a sacred atmosphere as it’s called Kamui Mintara in Ainu, which means “a garden where gods play around”. Yet, it is accessible by a car and ropeway. Ropeway is easy and nice way to feel the change of the season. In the end of summer to beginning of fall, summit starts to wear a white crown while the foot is still energetic green. The main part is the middle of gradation. Patchwork of green pine trees and autumn color leaves look like an elegant carpet leads to the gods’ yard. Around 10 minutes of aerial walk brings you to the upper station of ropeway. From the station, there is a hiking course going up to Sugatami (mirror) pond and come back, which takes approximately an hour. If you look up, the magnificence of Asahidake overwhelms you, and if you look back, entire Hokkaido is below you.
Gourmet around Asahikawa station
Once you come back down to a normal world, you would notice how hungry you are. Even though it requires you some more drive, it is better to go down to Asahikawa station because there are plenty of good restaurant, bars, and comfortable hotels to spend night. If you are exhausted and needing energy for next day, the best lamp barbeque restaurant, Jingisukan Daikoku is highly recommended. The combination of tender meat and the secret sauce is a real feast. You would need a reservation as the restaurant is very popular. If you rather want to experience Japanese authentic izakaya with local foods and sake, Dokushaku Sanshiro is a good choice. Traditional building with tatami seat creates a nostalgic Japanese mood.
Second day of the trip starts from Tomita Farm; well-known with the largest lavender fields in Japan. Although the best timing for lavender is summer, there are various kinds of flowers to see throughout the seasons. There are fourteen different gardens and woods in the farm, and there are a gallery and shops too. Especially the distillery of lavender is the only one place to extract essential oil of lavender in Japan. You can purchase some perfume and soap of lavender at a shop. Lavender flavor soft served ice cream is one thing you must try here.
When you are in central Hokkaido, Blue Pond is a place you cannot miss. This is literally a pond with blue water located in Biei town. Stand decayed larch trees in the pond produce mysterious atmosphere. The color of pond is called Biei Blue, and best timing to see it is in a calm sunny day morning. Even in other time, the blue still twinkles and attracts your attention. It is nice when you walk around the pond and feel the power of nature of Hokkaido. After you have inhaled clear air enough, we will head further down to Obihiro area.
MEMU EARTH HOTEL
Driving southeast to the coast area of Pacific Ocean, there is our destination of this trip. MEMU EARTH HOTEL is organized with a concept of link-earth, link-district. It is a compound challenge of human, landscape, food, experience, engineering, biology, architecture, and art to approach the interactions of human and nature. This resort can be divided into HOTEL AREA and STABLE AREA where horses live. As the history of this hotel started ss a horse pasture, there are plenty of activities including the interactions with horses. Besides that, you can also go fishing, canoeing, vegetable picking, and many others are available. There is a spa with Ainu style building supervised by Kengo Kuma’s office as well. Anything you experience there would be new and deeply related to the nature of Hokkaido. If you enjoyed well, it’s time to head to the Obihiro airport.
UNKAI TERRACE by Hoshino Resorts
In this trip, you will be able to enjoy the nature of Hokkaido with your eyes, ears, tongue, nose and skin. Feel the beauty of the air, and the taste of the earth. Now, it’s time to pack your luggage.