Though Asahikawa is the second largest city in Hokkaido it is a quiet laid back city, that is not usually on tourist itineraries. It is mostly known for its zoo, but for us, it served as the base for our jaunts to the nearby mountains.
Day trips from Asahikawa
This is Japan’s largest national park, and a mountainous area of unspoiled beauty. As far as the eye can see, there are mountains of different heights, some with peaks over 2,000 m and capped with snow. There is a wide network of trails making it a hikers paradise.
We rented a car to be able to explore the length and breadth of the park, and decided to hike the highest peak in the park, Asahidake.
Asahidake (Mount Asahi)
Asahidake is an active stratovolcano located in the northern section of Daisetsuzan and stands at 2,291 m. While we could have hiked from Asahidake Onsen, the small town at the base of the mountain, we took the ropeway up to a height of 1,600 m. Close to the ropeway is Sugatami pond, which usually has great reflections of Asahidake, but was covered with snow when we visited. The area near the pond is also covered with wild alphine flowers, a number of sulfurous vents and can be explored by several hiking routes.
The hike to the peak took us about 1 and a half hours, and was over a steep rugged ash covered trail. We were joined by several older local hikers, who came equipped with all the hiking gear imaginable, including little bells to ward off the brown bears the park is known for.
Once we reached the peak, the breathtaking view made the effort all worth it.
Ropeway fee: Y 2,900 (roundtrip)
Getting to Asahidake
Asahidake Onsen is just over an hours drive from Asahikawa. A paid parking section is available at the front of the ropeway station.
Daisetsu Kogen Onsen
Located at 1,260 m above sea level, this small place is considered the highest hot springs in Hokkaido. There is not much here aside from a small inn and a patrol office. The area is the trail head for several hikes. Some leading to Mirodake and others circling an area filled with ponds that is considered to be one of the most beautiful in autumn.
Prior to starting the hike we were required to receive a lecture on brown bear safety, since the area is the home to several brown bears. There had been some sightings of brown bears shortly before our visit, and therefore since we did not have the required bear bell, as we made our way through the snow filled trails, we attempted to make as much noise as possible. While we did not see any bears, we came across two wild foxes.
Getting to Daisetsu Kogen Onsen
Located about 3 hours 30 minutes from Asahikawa, off Highway 273. The final 10 km leading to the onsen is unpaved, and several times we thought our tyres had been punctured.
Sleeping in Asahikawa
Court Hotel Asahikawa
For our base in Asahikawa, we were looking for an affordable hotel close to the station with parking. Court Hotel was a fairly decent hotel almost opposite the station. The rooms were of a decent size and clean. Breakfast was available at an additional charge, so as usual we visited the nearby grocery store for breakfast items. Laundry facilities and parking were available.
Dining in Asahikawa
Aeon Shopping Mall Food Court
Since we spent most of the day out on the trails we settled for dinner at the mall. The food court had several different options, and was relatively clean. Similar to all food courts we visited in Japan, free drinking water and table cleaning supplies were provided.
Getting to Asahikawa
The trip to Asahikawa from Lake Toya took about 4 and a half hours. We caught an early bus to the Toyaka Onsen bus terminal and from there another bus to the JR Toya station. From there we caught the Hokuto limited express train to JR Sapporo station (1 hour 50 minutes), where we had about 15 minutes to transfer to the Lilac limited express train to JR Asahikawa station (1 hour 25 minutes).
Getting around Asahikawa
We rented a car at Nissan Car rental which was about a 5 minutes walk from JR Asahikawa station. Unfortunately, the GPS provided with the car was only in Japanese, therefore we had to make use of Google maps on our phones.