Asia > East Asia > Japan > Hokkaido > Northern Circuit > Kamikawa (Hokkaido)
- For other places with the same name, see Kamikawa (disambiguation).
Kamikawa is a small town that shares its name with Kamikawa Subprefecture in Hokkaido's Northern Circuit.
Kamikawa is situated in a steep-sided valley carved through Taisetsu Highlands by the Ishikari River. The town fell into a steady decline after its heavy industries shuttered in the 1970s. However, Kamikawa is now enjoying a recovery thanks emerging small-scale industries and an influx of visitors to the neighbouring Daisetsuzan National Park. While not a major destination in itself, Kamikawa is a useful transit point and makes for a pleasant place to break up a journey and stock up on food or gas before heading to Sounkyo Onsen or destinations further east.
Kamikawa Station is served by the Sekihoku Main Line with regular local trains to Asahikawa Station. There are also express services to Sapporo and Abashiri at least once daily. Kamikawa Station is the main point of access for rail passengers visiting Sounkyo Onsen and the northern section of Daisetsuzan National Park.
All public buses running the route from Asahikawa to Sounkyo Onsen make a stop at Kamikawa Station. Some buses from Sapporo and Asahikawa to Monbetsu, Engaru, and Kitami in the Okhotsk region make scheduled stops in Kamikawa as well. These buses may only allow customers to board (and not disembark) at intermediary stops or vice-versa. Please confirm with the bus company before planning your itinerary.
Kamikawa is on a toll-free portion of the Asahikawa-Monbetsu Expressway. The town is also served by Japan National Route 39.
The incomplete Asahikawa Sounkyo Bicycle Path passes through Kamikawa. In some sections it is merged with Japan National Route 39.
The townsite is small enough to get around on foot. Other attractions in the area are best accessed by private transport.
- Bell of Espoir, a bell tower in the hilltop park northwest of the town centre that affords dramatic views of the townsite with the peaks of Taisetsuzan in the distance.
- Daisetsu Mori no Garden, a botanical garden on top of Asahigaoka hill a few kilometers southeast of the town. The garden hosts numerous events from spring and autumn. There is a gift shop, cafe, and Michelin-starred restaurant on site.
- Kita no Mori Garden, a roadside rest area that is confusingly unaffiliated with the garden listed above. The area includes some shops, a restaurant, an admission-free bear enclosure, and a reconstruction of a cise, a kind of Ainu house made with the leaves of locally abundant sasa bamboo.
- Hokkaido Ice Pavilion,
- Alpine River Guides offers rafting tours on the Ishikari River in English and Japanese.
The best hiking trails in the area lie within Daisetsuzan National Park and are largely accessible from Sounkyo Onsen. Note that Kamikawa's townsite is on a wildlife corridor and bear sightings in residential areas on the edge of town are not uncommon in the summer.
The Ishikari River and its tributaries are popular among anglers, however fishing within the boundaries of the national park is illegal. There are also two trout hatcheries near town with stocked ponds where you can keep what you catch.
- Akashi Hatchery, a hatchery near central Kamikawa with a fishing pond and equipment, for both fishing and cooking, available for rent.
- Taisetsu Hatchery, a hatchery in the mountains south of Kamikawa where the staff can cook your catch for a fee.
Most local restaurants sell the regionally famous Kamikawa ramen in addition to other dishes. Opening hours for most places vary wildly, so it helps to do as the locals do and wander around the town centre until you see a place with its noren out and its lights on. Many restaurants have English menus provided by town hall. These may not reflect recent changes in content or price.
- Asahi Shokudo is a ramen shop run by Mr. Kamada, local celebrity and chairman of the Kamikawa Ramen Association. Mr. Kamada has put a lot into developing his menu and offers service in English. There is sometimes an impressive experimental Japanese French tasting menu available in December. Ramen.
- Akashi is a restaurant that serves the local ramen, but is best known for its set meals and good value à la carte options. Ramen.
- Don is an izakaya that serves dishes including their housemade sausage and bacon. This place has the best sake selection in town is one of the few places around serving the locally-brewed Kamikawa Sake. Weeknights only. No ramen. Cover charge but good value overall.
- Fratello di Mikuni [dead link] is a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Daisetsu Mori no Garden complex. It bills its fare as French-Italian, but the Michelin Guide classifies it as Modern Hokkaido Cuisine. Ramen status unconfirmed.
- Hakusen offers the town's best seafood dishes and has a section on the menu dedicated to Kamikawa's premium miton pork. No ramen.
- Ikoi is a cozy izakaya offering ramen, rice bowls, and small plates. Often very convivial on weekend nights. Ramen. Cover charge but good value overall.
- Kiyoshi offers ramen and a few dishes made with a local variety of wild garlic. Ramen.
- Satsuki has some interesting varieties of ramen available. The black salt ramen and white soy sauce ramen are particularly popular. Ramen.
- Taisetsu Gyogyo is a newly-opened restaurant specializing in local river fish and soba. Ramen status unconfirmed.
- Tomochan is an izakaya with an expansive menu. It's known for being consistently open and open late. Ramen.
The local spring water is bottled and distributed across Hokkaido.
Kamikawa boasts Kamikawa Taisetsu Sake Brewery, one of the few newly established breweries to find success in Japan's dwindling sake market. The brewery takes advantage of the local spring water and rice from the neighbouring town of Aibetsu. Kamikawa’s frigid climate affords a long brewing season used to make a range of fine sakes considered sweet yet clean tasting by connoisseurs. The brewery has a publicly accessible viewing gallery and a shop on site.
Much of the drinking in Kamikawa happens at the establishments listed in the Eat section, but there are also a few snack bars in the town.
- Romance is a snack bar run by Aiko, an erudite lady who has taught herself excellent English over the years.
Most visitors stay at one of the large hot spring resorts in Sounkyo Onsen, however Kamikawa does have a business hotel, a handful of minshuku, and a campground in the townsite. There are also villas for rent in the Daisetsu Mori no Garden complex.
There is a small visitor centre and an office for Daisetsuzan National Park near Kamikawa Station. Slow public WiFi is available at Kamikawa Station and 7-11. The only 24hr international ATM is at the 7-11 on Route 39 opposite the bridge over the Ishikari. This is about 15 minutes on foot from Kamikawa Station.