Asahikawa (旭川)  is the second-largest city on the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan. It is located at the confluence of four rivers and is surrounded by hills. It is located near the centre of Hokkaido, and it is a good base to visit the nearby Taisetsu-zan mountain range and the picturesque Biei-Furano area. The place has few foreigner visitors, though Asahiyama Zoo attracts scores of Japanese tourists.
- Higashikawa Information Center (東川町インフォメーションセンター 道草館), Higashimachi 1-1-15, Higashikawa, Kamikawa (On Highway 1150 SE of central Asahikawa, not far from Asahiyama Zoo.), ☎ +81 0166 68-4777. This rest area and information center has maps and information on the area. It also has extensive free indoor and outdoor seating, a gift shop, and a small deli selling fried food and ice cream. In the evening, the parking lot is quiet, and there is little road traffic.
Get in 
By plane 
By train 
Asahikawa is the terminus of the JR Hakodate Main Line to Sapporo, Otaru and Hakodate. The station hosts a tourist information centre. As per July 2011, the station is undergoing major renovation works and some of its businesses, including the tourism information centre, may be closed.
The Super Kamui limited express service departs from Sapporo to Asahikawa every 30 minutes. The journey takes 80 minutes and costs ¥4480. This is the best way to travel between these two cities by train, as local train service is sparse and can take anywhere from three to five hours of traveling time. As the local train fare is ¥2420, you might want to take the bus unless you are on a Seishun 18 Ticket.
Hourly rapid trains from Sapporo's New Chitose Airport continue as Super Kamui trains to Asahikawa, with no transfer necessary in Sapporo; the journey takes two hours.
By bus 
Chuo Bus Service and JR busses offers frequent (every 20 minutes or so) bus service from the Sapporo JR Station for ¥2000 (¥3750 round trip). It takes just over 2 hours. In the winter, the trip takes 2 hours 25 minutes.
There are some bus services to Daisetsuzan National Park.
Get around 
- Tourist Information Center (In Asahikawa Station.), ☎ +81 0166 26-6665. This center is a good place for information on transit and lodging. As of July 2011, it is has been relocated to a portable trailer in front of the Esta building in front of Asahikawa Station, while the station itself is being renovated.
By bus 
The city has an extensive bus network. All attractions are easily reached by bus from the main train station.
- Sightseeing Bus Fun Fun , ☎ +81 0166-23-4161. Jul 1-Sep 30. This bus service covers three circuits in a hop-on hop-off style and takes you to the main attractions, including the zoo. The buses have an hourly frequency. 1 day ¥800, 2 days ¥1000.
On foot 
Most of the sites are easily accessible by foot from the main train station, though others like the zoo, Otokoyama brewery, and the ski resorts need a bus or taxi.
By bicycle 
Most of the town is in flat land and cycling is easy in summer. Cycling is allowed in the pedestrian lane of all streets, and some streets have special bicycle lanes. There are also dedicated lanes along the embankments of most of the rivers (and there are many). Some hotels offer free bicycle rental. Note that the region is covered in thick snow in winter.
- Hokkaido Traditional Art Craft Village.
- Asahikawa Furniture Center.
- Romantic Road. Romantic Road (Tree tunnel and Churches)
The road that leads from Kaguraoka forest to the residential area of Midorigaoka is known as the “romantic road”, because of the trees that line both sides of the street, and the two wedding chapels close by. In the summer time, the trees on either side of the road create a tunnel of green over the entire road.
Address: Kaguraoka Park~ Midorigaoka, Asahikawa
- Otokoyama Sake Brewing Museum (男山), 2-7 Nagayama (North of city along the 39 highway, 30 min by bus Dohoku Bus from city, get off at Otokoyama Koen), ☎ +81 0166 48-7080. An award-winning and the most famous sake brewery in Asahikawa. It has 340 years of history and has been portrayed in Japanese block prints (ukiyo-e) of the Edo period. Sake tasting and purchase of special editions. There is a museum in the upper levels portraying historical scrolls, ukiyo-e, and sake-brewing tools. Free visit and sake tasting.
- Asahikawa Winter Festival, Tokiwa Park (North of the city, near the Asahibashi bridge). Second to Sapporo's snow festival in popularity, this festival attracts ice sculpture artists worldwide and hosts the largest snow sculpture in Japan. The festival is held at the start of February.
- Asahibashi Bridge (follow Route 40 to the north until it meets the Ishikari river). This is one of the three most famous bridges in Hokkaido and the only one still unchanged since it was built.
- Asahiyama Zoo (朝日山動物園), Higashi Asahikawacho Kuranuma (Take Asahikawa Denki Kido Bus for Asahiyama Zoo at Bus Stop No. 5 in front of Asahikawa train station; bus departs hourly and the ride takes about 40 minutes. There is another bus from the airport, also hourly, that takes about 35 minutes), ☎ +81 0166 36-1104. Summer 9:30AM-5:15PM, winter 10:30AM-3:30PM, closed Apr 8-Apr 28, Oct 19-Nov 2. The most famous zoo in Japan and the second most visited. This is a small zoo with few enclosures. The star attractions include the polar bear enclosure that allows to see the bears underwater, the seal enclosure that seems that people are in the enclosure and the seals are around them, and the penguin enclosure including a glass tunnel through the pool. ¥800, season ticket ¥1000.
- Arashiyama Pottery Village. Located on a hill overlooking Asahikawa to the north, this neighbourhood has several crafts workshops including pottery, glass craft, wood work, and textile. Some of these offer courses and many of them have a display area where visitors can see and buy their products.
Asahikawa is the coldest city in Japan, holding Japan's temperature record of -41°C (in 1902). It's not that bad most of the time though, and the good side to cold and snow is that there's some great skiing nearby. Kamui Ski Links is a local favorite just west of town, and Biei and Furano are each about one hour away. Back-country options include Asahidake and Kurodake.
If you come in summer you will enjoy fine weather with maximum temperatures sometimes exceeding 30 Celsius degrees. Take advantage of the fine cycling paths following the river banks.
- Cycling path to Kamuikotan (Starts from the Asahibashi bridge). This unpaved cycle trail follows an old rail line and tunnels downstream along the right hand side of the Ishikarigawa river as it cuts through the hills. Near the end of the path is the historical (tiny) train station Kamuikotan. About 20 km one way.
- Cycling path to Higashikagura (Starts from the cycling bridge upstream of the Twin Harp bridge). This is a paved cycle trail upstream along the right hand side of the Chuubetsu river. The path has no major slopes except the last few hundred metres and it is set between the river bank and endless rice fields, heading towards the imposing Taisetsu-san mountain. The path ends in a wooden hill with a pond and a camping site. About 15 km one way.
Asahikawa's main shopping area is just next to the train station, in what is called the Kaimono Koen ("shopping park"). When it was built in 1972 it became the first pedestrian-only outdoor shopping mall in Japan. The street is lined with department stores, shops, cafes, and restaurants. A more remote area is the Arashiyama pottery village. Located on a hill overlooking Asahikawa to the north, this neighbourhood has several crafts workshops including pottery, glass craft, wood work, and textile. Some of these offer courses and many of them have a display area where visitors can see and buy their products.
- Seibu (At the beginning of Kaimono Koen, just opposite the train station). This is the largest and most centric department store in Asahikawa. Buy groceries or sweets at the basement, or clothes and other products in the upper floors, or have lunch at the eating places at the top floor with sweeping views of the town.
- Nitta (First street to the right of the central station.). This shop features traditional Japanese toys and decorations. The upper floor showcases a collection of fine dolls in porcelain and silk.
- Juncobo (Arashiyama area.). This white buillding showcases crafted glass made in the premises. Their sake glasses made to resemble icicles are very popular.
- Taisetsugama Pottery (Arashiyama area.). This shop displays an extensive collection of fine pottery. If you cannot make it to the shop, there are some items for sale at Seibu, in the city centre.
Asahikawa is known as one of Japan's gourmet towns, and despite its small size, contains many restaurants of nearly every description. Many restaurants are clustered in the Kaimono Koen (Shopping District Park) area, in front of the JR station. This makes touring a number of restaurants on foot a viable option for a day trip. Asahikawa's ramen noodles are nationally famous, with shoyu (soy sauce) being the flavor of choice. There are also a large number of ethnic restaurants. Hokkaido is generally known for having good dairy products, and Asahikawa is no exception.
- Ramen Mura (Ramen Village) (About 6km NE of the town center.). Eight of Asahikawa's greatest ramen shops in one combined outlet.
- Santouka (山頭火) (From Kaimono Koen, turn right at the narrow street that divides the two Seibu department store buildings. The shop is at the next junction, on the left hand side), ☎ +81 0166 25-3401. 11AM-10PM. The original shop of a popular ramen shop that has opened several branches in Tokyo and overseas. Shoyu ramen ¥800.
Asahikawa is famous for its sake, especially Otokoyama (男山, lit. "man mountain"), which is probably Hokkaido's best-known label. Other local sakes include Takasago (高砂) and Taisetsu no Kura (大雪の蔵). Beer fans will wish to look for the local Taisetsu microbrew.
- Taisetsu-ji Brewery, 11-1604-1 Miyashitadori (Near the train station, past the Kitasaito Hospital), ☎ +81 0166 25-040. Set in an old brick warehouse near the railway station, this beer pub offers its own brewed beer in a western setting. Worth a visit only for beer lovers.
There is a hotel booking service at the railway station.
Go next 
Being in the center of Hokkaido, Asahikawa is a good base to explore other parts of the island.
- Furano is a village set in a picturesque landscape that is often used in Japanese dramas and advertisements about quite, rural life in Japan. A popular way to travel between Asahikawa and Furano in summer is the Norokko-go, an old style locomotive that runs purposedly at a very slow speed.
- Sounkyo Gorge and Asahidake at the Daisetsuzan National Park, with very popular onsens (hot-spring resorts) and fine mountain hiking.
|Routes through Asahikawa|
|END ←||N S||→ Takikawa → Sapporo|
|END ←||W E||→ Kitami → Abashiri|
|Wakkanai ← Shibetsu ←||N S||→ END|
|Shibetsu ←||N S||→ Takikawa → Sapporo|