Asahikawa Travel Guide: Top Things to Do in this Beautiful Japanese City
When people think of Hokkaido, they think of Niseko's powder ski resorts, Sapporo's amazing food scene, Hakodate's proximity to Tokyo by Shinkansen, and even the natural hot springs in Noboribetsu. But what you absolutely cannot miss on your next trip to Hokkaido, Japan is Asahikawa - the gateway to the northern island's marvelous natural sites.
Asahikawa is a beautiful city located in the northern part of Japan's Hokkaido island. It's the second-largest city in Hokkaido, and it's a popular tourist destination for both Japanese and international visitors. The city has something to offer for everyone, from nature lovers to foodies and culture enthusiasts. In this travel guide, we'll cover the top things to do in Asahikawa, including its must-see attractions, best food spots, and hidden gems.
How to get to Asahikawa in Hokkaido, Japan?
First up, we'll explore how to get to Asahikawa!
By Air: The closest airport to this northern city is Asahikawa Airport. You can easily find direct domestic flights from major Japanese cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. The airport is located just 20 minutes from downtown Asahikawa by car or bus. If you're coming from outside Japan, do note that most international flights actually fly into New Chitose airport and not directly into Asahikawa, you can refer to the next few ways to get from Sapporo to Asahikawa!
By Train: Asahikawa Station is the main train station in the city and is serviced by the JR Hokkaido railway network. The station is on the Sekihoku Main Line, which connects Asahikawa to other major cities in Hokkaido such as Sapporo and Abashiri. There are also express trains, such as the Super Kamui, that connect Asahikawa to Tokyo and other cities on Japan's main island of Honshu. If you're intending to travel within Hokkaido by train, then you must get the Rail Pass to save on your fares.
By Bus: There are also several bus companies that offer services to Asahikawa from major cities such as Sapporo and Tokyo. The bus is a convenient option for those who prefer not to fly or take the train. But when you're in Japan and with the efficiency of the Shinkansen, why say no to trains?
By Car: Asahikawa is accessible by car via the Hokkaido Expressway, which connects the city to other major cities in Hokkaido such as Sapporo and Otaru. The journey from Sapporo to Asahikawa takes slightly over 2 hours of car ride away.
How to get around Asahikawa?
Once you arrive in Asahikawa, there are several options for getting around the city, including buses, taxis, and rental cars. Many of the city's top attractions are located within walking distance of each other, so walking is also a great option for exploring the city.
Since most visitors to Asahikawa wish to explore beyond the city, we definitely recommend renting a car. Travellers in groups of 4 also get to save some money as compared to transiting via the Japanese trains!
Where to stay in Asahikawa?
Asahikawa has a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences. Here are some popular options for where to stay in Asahikawa:
There are several hotels in Asahikawa, ranging from budget options to luxury hotels. Some popular choices include the Asahikawa Grand Hotel and the Art Hotel Asahikawa. These hotels offer comfortable rooms, on-site dining, and convenient locations for exploring the city.
For a more traditional Japanese experience, consider staying at a ryokan in Asahikawa. Ryokans are Japanese-style inns that typically feature tatami mat floors, sliding doors, and communal baths. Some popular ryokans in Asahikawa include the Mimatsuoso Ryokan, Asahikawa Ryokan Toukouen and the Ospa Court Miyamae.
Guesthouses and Apartments
Guesthouses are a great option for budget travelers, as they typically offer affordable accommodation in a communal setting. Some popular guesthouses in Asahikawa include the Asahikawa Guesthouse Hutte and the Asahikawa Youth Hostel.
For those who prefer the comfort and privacy of their own space, apartments are a great option in Asahikawa. We personally stayed in TKD House in Asahikawa and really enjoyed the space it offers. The apartment fits a family of four, includes a dining room, 2 toilets, 1 bathroom, and even has a sauna!
Pro Tip: When choosing where to stay in Asahikawa, consider factors such as location, amenities, and budget. It's also a good idea to book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak travel seasons such as winter and summer.
Why Visit Asahikawa?
Asahikawa is a beautiful city in Hokkaido, Japan, that offers visitors a wide range of experiences. From stunning natural attractions to delicious food and cultural experiences, there are plenty of reasons to visit Asahikawa.
Furthermore, basing yourselves in Asahikawa allows you to visit the wondrous attractions in the nearby cities in Furano and Biei. Because Asahikawa is a much bigger city, you'll still be able to find things to after coming back from your tours and day trips.
We'll now go through some of the top attractions in and around the city.
1. Relax at Asahikawa Park
Asahikawa Park is a beautiful green space located in the heart of the city. The park is a popular spot for locals to relax, exercise, and enjoy the outdoors. It features a large pond, walking paths, and a variety of trees and flowers. The park is especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season in April, when the trees are in full bloom.
2. Explore the Kamikawa Shrine
Kamikawa Shrine is a hidden gem in Asahikawa that is definitely worth a visit. This beautiful shrine is located in the Kamikawa district of the city and is dedicated to the god of agriculture and the sea.
The shrine dates back to the Edo period and is surrounded by lush greenery and towering trees. As you walk through the torii gate and approach the shrine, you'll be struck by the tranquil atmosphere and the sense of history that permeates the area.
3. Visit the Otokoyama Sake Brewery
Sake is a traditional Japanese drink made from rice, and Asahikawa is home to the Otokoyama Sake Brewery. The brewery has been producing sake for over 340 years, and it's one of the most famous sake producers in Japan. Visitors can take a tour of the brewery and learn about the sake-making process, as well as taste different types of sake.
4. Ski or Snowboard at Asahikawa Ski Resort
Asahikawa Ski Resort is a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts. The resort features 29 ski courses, including a 3.6-kilometer-long downhill course. There are also snowboarding courses, as well as areas for sledding and snowshoeing. The resort is open from December to March, and it's a great place to enjoy the snowy Hokkaido winters and powder snow!
5. Discover Local Art at the Asahikawa Museum of Art
The Asahikawa Museum of Art is a must-visit spot for art lovers. The museum features a collection of modern and contemporary art, with a focus on artists from Hokkaido and northern Japan. It has a permanent collection that includes works by renowned Japanese artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Tatsuo Miyajima. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year, showcasing works from both local and international artists.
6. Experience Traditional Japanese Culture at the Asahikawa City Museum
The Asahikawa City Museum is a great place to learn about the history and culture of the city. The museum features exhibits on the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido, as well as displays on local industries such as agriculture and forestry. Visitors can also learn about traditional Japanese culture, including tea ceremonies and calligraphy.
7. Take a Stroll at Heiwa Dori Shopping Street
Heiwa Dori is a lively shopping street located in the center of Asahikawa. The street is lined with shops selling everything from souvenirs to clothing and accessories. It's a great place to pick up gifts for friends and family back home, or to indulge in some retail therapy. Heiwa Dori is also home to a variety of food stalls, selling local treats such as yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) and takoyaki (octopus balls).
8. Enjoy the Views at Asahikawa Observation Hill
Asahikawa Observation Hill offers panoramic views of the city and surrounding mountains. It's a great place to take in the beauty of Asahikawa and to snap some photos. The observation hill is accessible by car or bus, and there's a parking lot at the top.
9. Visit Asahiyama Zoo
Asahiyama Zoo is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Asahikawa, and it's a must-visit spot for animal lovers. The zoo is known for its unique exhibits, which include having being up close and personal with penguins and other animals. And if you are visiting Asahikawa in Winter, don't miss the penguin parade! You'll get to see penguins walking through the zoo. Even though Asahiyama Zoo is open all year round, it's especially beautiful during the winter months when the animals are at their most active.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time there in the zoo and got to see all the animals up close! The zoo had a very "open" layout and is suitable for families with children. The zoo also isn't too big so you can probably complete seeing all the animals in half a day - perfect to plan between nap times for your little ones!
Asahiyama Zoo is located a little bit further away from the city so the best way to visit the zoo is to do a day trip, either with a tour, or a self-drive trip to visit the nearby Furano and Biei attractions.
10. Experience Hokkaido's Stunning Landscapes on the Asahidake Ropeway
If you're looking for stunning views of Hokkaido's natural beauty, the Asahidake Ropeway is a must-visit attraction. Located in Daisetsuzan National Park, the ropeway takes visitors up to the summit of Mount Asahidake, which is the highest peak in Hokkaido.
Unfortunately on our trip there, the ropeway was closed and we weren't able to make our way up to the summit. Nonetheless, the region around the ropeway is a popular spot for onsen lovers!
There are several hot springs located in the area, including the Asahidake Onsen, which is known for its healing properties and stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
We also enjoyed a lovely drive up, taking in the first sight of snow when we were there in November.
All in all, Asahikawa is a beautiful city with plenty to offer for travellers of all interests. Whether you're into nature, food, or culture, you're sure to find something to love in this charming northern Japanese city. Make sure to include these top things to do in your Asahikawa travel itinerary for an unforgettable trip!