Asahikawa is Japan’s saké-brewing, seafood and ramen noodle centre. Amuse yourself at its zoo, sculpture museum, pottery village, ski slopes and beautiful gardens.
Asahikawa is a city in picturesque central Hokkaido, Japan’s second-largest island. The town is crisscrossed by streams and rivers and surrounded by mountains. It is home to the Otokoyama Saké Brewery and famous for its ramen noodles.
The first stop for saké lovers is the Otokoyama Brewery and Museum where you can learn both modern and traditional processes of saké making. Tasting is a big part of any tour. You can also purchase impressive drinking cup sets at the shop.
Your next mission is to enjoy Asahikawa’s typical ramen noodle soup, infused with soy, pork and seafood. You’ll find the highest concentration of ramen restaurants in Asahikawa Ramen Village in the suburb of Nagayama. Visit a few restaurants to find your favourite taste.
Check out polar bears, spotted seals, penguins and orang-utans at Asahikawa’s zoo. The zoo showcases the animals’ natural behaviours in specialised enclosures such as a vertical swimming tube for the seals. Note that the zoo closes throughout October and November for winter preparations.
Warm up in the Asahikawa Sculptural Museum, housed in an old World War II officers’ club, where you’ll see the works of the master Rodin and the Japanese artist inspired by him, Nakahara Teijiro. See stunning textiles hand-woven by local women at the Yukaraori Folkcraft Museum or watch ceramicists and glass blowers at work. Try your hand at throwing a pot at the Arashiyama Pottery Village.
If you’re visiting in early February, don’t miss the Asahikawa Winter Festival, where you’ll see astoundingly intricate ice sculptures, light shows, cultural acts and almost life-sized snow buildings. There are also several ski areas nearby, the closest in Kamui Links, offering backcountry slopes.
You can fly into Asahikawa Airport from Tokyo and some other domestic locations. Trains run between Hokkaido’s major cities. On the outskirts are breathtakingly beautiful country towns such as Biei, with artists’ communities, craft workshops and galleries along with flowering farmlands creating patchworks of colour.