Hokkaido: Asahikawa

Day 1: Arrival

We took an overnight flight with JAL (Japan Airlines) which transited at Tokyo Haneda Airport. The flight was smooth and service was good but we definitely need more direct flight to Sapporo as transit flights are a drag! We had to clear customs, pick up our luggages, find our way to the domestic terminal, all within 90 minutes.

With midnight flight, our little ones can sleep and we can get to Hokkaido in time to actually do something! The plan worked, as our little ones did sleep. They slept so well that they missed their meal lol.

We reached New Chitose Airport in the afternoon and the first thing we did was to pick up our rental car that we took with OTS International. Read all about our car rental experience and tips for driving in Hokkaido here. With our rental car, we set off for our first destination of the road trip – Asahikawa.

Asahikawa is approximately 2 hours drive (178km) away from New Chitose. We made it our first stop as we want to catch the autumn leaves. We were hoping to catch them at their best before all the leaves wilter and fall. Asahikawa is also home to one of the most popular zoo in Japan – Asahiyama Zoo. 

Our first accommodation of the trip is JR Inn Asahikawa. The location is great, just next to Asahikawa Station and right above the Aeon Mall Asahikawa. The rooms are compact (read small) but beds are comfy and comes with a pretty big tub. My 2 kiddos had lotsa fun playing in the tub.

They also have an excellent breakfast buffet. It was so good that I have no photos to show lol! Actually it is because their breakfast timing is really early: 6.30am – 10am. Which is 5.30am – 9am Singapore time. We managed to storm into the breakfast hall, just 30 minutes before it closes. The buffet area is not big, but they have quality over quantity. You know it’s good when the kids actually quiet down to eat and finished most of their foods.

Day 2: Asahikawa

Asahiyama Zoo 旭山動物園

After a hearty breakfast, we drove towards Asahiyama Zoo. Known for its interesting and unique ways and angles it exhibits the animals behaviour, Asahiyama Zoo is quite different from the conventional zoo that we are used to. The zoo is considered small, but we spent around 5 hours there and still didn’t managed to visit everything as we took things really slow and had a lot of fun just watching the animals. The variety of animals are not a lot, but it was interesting nonetheless. We were particularly amused by this giangetic hippopotamus that kept running in circles underwater. It was so huge but it moved amazingly graciously underwater! 

There were also plenty of ferocious animals such as the tigers, lion, snow leopards and brown bears. When we were there, the leopards were taunting the snow leopard and it was rather amusing to see them growling at each other through the barbed wired fence that separates them.

Baby snow leopard at asahiyama zoo
Baby snow leopard

But our favourite has got to be the underwater penguin tunnel. It is so beautiful, watching the penguins soaring in the water above you! We would have loved to stay in there much longer if not for the crowd that keeps coming in. There are also penguins outside the main building in the open which we spent a long time just marveling at the cute creatures who stood perfectly still. While penguins are in almost every zoo that we have been to, this is probably the first time we got to see them so close.

Also, unexpectedly beautiful koyo in the zoo itself.

The zoo closes early at 4.30pm and the kids were all sad to leave. But as the day is shorter, night falls quickly, shops close early and we quickly made our way to our dinner place.

Asahiyama Zoo 旭山動物園

Kuranuma Higashiasahikawacho, Asahikawa, Hokkaido 078-8205, Japan | Map Code 793 578 86 | Website | Opening timing varies

Asahikawa Ramen Village

4 Chome-119-48 Nagayama 11 Jo, Asahikawa, Hokkaido 079-8421, Japan | Map Code 794 104 54 | 11am – 8pm

Asahikawa Ramen Village is a short drive from Asahiyama Zoo and it comprises of 8 famous ramen stalls in Asahikawa in one convenient location. This place close at 8pm. When we were there at 7pm, some of the stalls were already closed. Those that were still open, were pretty crowded. Hence we settled for one that can accommodate our huge group of 8 pax.

The portions are big and even with the small bowl, was more than enough for my 2 kids. Taste wise, I think maybe we ordered the wrong ramen. Asahikawa is famous for their shoyu based ramen (which I only realised after our trip) which we didn’t order.

Overall, I think it is a good way to try different ramen in one location. A plus point is that there are many shopping that can be done around Ramen Village – Uniqlo, Daiso, ABC Mart and a Drug Store are all within walking distance!

Read all about our Hokkaido adventures: Tips to self-driving in Hokkaido | Asahikawa | Furano | Noboribetsu | Hakodate | Milk Kobo | Sapporo

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