Hokkaido is the largest prefecture in Japan. As such, there is much more to see and do outside of the largest city, Sapporo. While you’ll need more time to properly visit all of Hokkaido, there are many worthwhile excursions and places to visit with Sapporo acting as your home base.
Asahikawa is the second-largest city in Hokkaido. It’s a little under two hours away from Sapporo if you take the Hokkaido Chuo bus. A return trip ticket to Asahikawa will cost you 3,750yen, and buses depart around every 20 minutes. You can check out the bus time table here.
So, what is there to do in Asahikawa? Well, Asahikawa is home to a few festivals all its own. First and foremost is the Asahikawa Winter Festival, which began in 1947 as the ‘Iyomante‘– or ‘Bear Festival’ in Ainu. The 55th Asahikawa Winter Festival will be held from February 6-11 (how convenient!). The festival includes an international ice sculpture contest, a snowman garden,
fireworks, oh– and just the world’s largest snow sculptures (as declared by the Guiness Book of Records). Sculptures here measure around 130 metres in length!
Beyond the ice and snow, Asahikawa is also home to the second most visted zoo in all of Japan. The Asahiyama Zoo is famed for it’s penguin marches throughout the park, and underwater viewing enclosure.
The park is open from 10.30-15.30 with entry costing 800 yen.
Tired of the cold and interested in warming up your old bones? Make sure to check out “The Den” International Bar for an Irish coffee, or some on-tap Guiness.
Feel like being traditional and warming up your bones at the same time? How about checking out the
Otokoyama Sake Brewing Museum? The museum has free sake sampling (a small fee involved for certain products) and information available in English.
Inside Look to the 2014 Hokkaido Trip Part 1- Snow Festival Part 2- Sapporo Part 3- Dressing for the Trip