Daisetsuzan National Park
At 2267.64 square kilometers, Daisetsuzan is the largest national park in Japan. The name means Great Snowy Mountain(s), an apt description of these peaks — 15 of them over 2000 meters — that offer some of the most rugged hiking in Japan. The Ainu name for Daisetsuzan, kamui-mintara, translates to "playground of the gods".
Flora and fauna
Few birds, but when hiking you are likely to see foxes, and might even see bears.
The mean annual temperature observed on the top of Mt. Kurodake (1,984 m) from October 1989 to September 1990 was -2.3°C. The lowest temperature was -21.8°C in January, and the highest one was 18.7°C in July. From October to June is a harsh season, with severe cold and snowfall. The monthly mean temperature was below zero from October 1989 to April 1990, and the study area was completely under snow until early May in 1990. Winter snow usually starts disappearing in May with some snow patches remaining year round.
There are no train lines within the park. The nearest stations are Asahikawa (west), Furano (south) and Rubeshibe (east). The best way to get to the park is the 9:10AM bus from the front of the Asahikawa Station to the Asahidake Ropeway (¥1300) or to Sounkyo Onsen. There is also a bus from the Kami-Furano Station to the trailheads of Tokachi-dake and Furano-dake.
If you plan to stay at one of the onsens, enquire before travelling since some of them offer a discount for the bus, or they may even provide a shuttle bus from Asahikawa Station to the onset.
There is no park entry fee. Free parking is available. Some parking lots are not free, but they are obvious and can be easily avoided.
- Sounkyo Onsen. Famed hot spring resort on the far north park of the park close to Kuro-Dake. See Sounkyo Onsen.
- Asahi-dake (旭岳). The tallest mountain in Hokkaido (2,290m) and one of its main attractions. The easiest way to reach Asahidake is by bus from the city of Asahikawa. Catch a Chuo bus from outside Asahikawa JR station to Minamikawa, and catch a coach fom there into the park. The coach runs twice a day in the off season (about November to May) and three times a day in the on season (about May to October). Chuo buses to Minamikawa run every hour. The bus will take you to the beginning of a cable car ("ropeway", 2000Yen return). The top of the cable car leads to a plateau with a short scenic walk to a set of fumaroles, and a longer walk to the summit of Asahidake. The walk continues all the way to Sounkyo Onsen through scenic mountain tops.
- Tokachi-dake (十勝岳).
- Furano-dake (富良野岳).
Furano, on the southern side of the park, is a popular ski resort. Asahidake and Sounkyo Onsen also have ski slopes. Asahidake is particularly popular for snowboarding.
If you want to try something different, join a guided your to walk down from the top of the Asahidake cable car using snow shoes. You will have time to enjoy the breathtaking scenery and walk on deep powdered snow. You can enquire at the visitor center in Asahikawa.
Daisetsuzan has very fine hikes. The most popular hikes are at Sounkyo Onsen and Asahidake.
There are no stores of any kind on the hiking paths, so bring your food with you. You will have to keep your trash until you come back to a city.
Sounkyo Onsen has a wide range of lodging and is a good base for shorter hikes in the park. There are other options within the park, too.
- Hakuginsō, Tokachidake, Kamifurano, Hokkaido 071-05 (Non-drivers should take the train to Kamifurano Station and take a bus (9:22AM, 1:19PM, 4:29PM, 30 min, ¥500 — ask the driver to let you know when to get off)), ☎ , fax: +81 0167 45-6634. This hostel has dormitory style rooms with bunk beds and 2 private Japanese style rooms for 4. It also has a huge tatami room for large groups. Camping is available in summer. There are onsen and rotemburo (outdoor baths) — men, women, and mixed (swimsuit required) — and saunas. It is located at one of the trail heads for hiking Mt. Tokachidake in the summer, or for a backcountry ski ascent in the winter — they also rent snow-shoes. Shared kitchen facilities are available, with pots, pans, microwaves, rice cookers and gas hobs (¥50 for 20 minutes of gas). There is a small shop with chocolate, drinks, and microwavable rice. Not much English is spoken. ¥2,600-2750.
- Hokkaido brown bears (Ezo-higuma). These bears roam the park, although in smaller numbers than in Shiretoko. You are very unlikely to be attacked, but it's wise to take the usual precautions: don't keep any food in or near your tent, and wear a small bell to warn the bears about your presence.
- Echinococcus. This is a dangerous and sometimes fatal parasite that can be found in streams and lakes in Hokkaido. The parasite shows symptoms only after many years, and at that point not much can be done. Boil your water.
- Mountain awareness. The mountain range can be busy in summer and there are decent trails and several signposts (in Japanese), but plan your hike properly. The terrain is steep in places and substrate varies as well. Remember to take water, a snack, and a decent map. There are mountain huts available but these can get full early in summer so plan ahead if you wish to use them. In winter the mountains can be especially dangerous due to the amount of snowfall (although this is also why it is so beautiful) so be careful of avalanches, etc. — one ridge route is currently closed because a group of winter hikers died there.