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Hot Springs in the Snowy Mountains: Exploring Asahikawa and Sounkyo Gorge

Hot Springs in the Snowy Mountains: Exploring Asahikawa and Sounkyo Gorge

TripBlog
Dec 3, 2019400

Asahikawa is located in the middle of Hokkaido. It is one of Hokkaido’s transportation hubs and it is also a doorway to the Sounkyo Gorge.The Sounkyo Gorge is about an hour's drive from Asahikawa. The hot springs town in the snowy mountains is Hokkaido’s most famous spot for maple viewing in autumn, and it hosts the famous Ice Waterfall Festival in winter.

Table of Contents

Asahikawa: Popular Zoo and Snow Mountain Doorway
Sounkyo Gorge: A Hot Springs Town in the Snow Mountains
Watch Penguins Strutting About at Asahiyama Zoo
Asahikawa — Ramen Kingdom: A Bowl of Michelin-Starred Ramen
Participate in the Sounkyo Ice Waterfall Festival and Watch Fireworks in Winter
Mount Kuro from Sounkyo Gorge: See the First Autumn Leaves in Japan
The Wonder of Ice and Snow — Asahikawa’s Snow Museums

Asahikawa: Popular Zoo and Snow Mountain Doorway

Asahikawa is located in the center of Hokkaido, about 2 hours from Sapporo. Its highways and railways are well developed and it is also very convenient to go to Furano, Biei or the Sounkyo Gorge from here, making it an important transit stop in Hokkaido.The most famous attraction here is the Asahiyama Zoo. You can take a little train that will fill you with childlike wonder to this very cute zoo. It would definitely give you a pleasant surprise, and you can even see penguins walking in front of you at a close distance in winter!

Hot Springs in the Snowy Mountains: Exploring Asahikawa and Sounkyo Gorge

Sounkyo Gorge: A Hot Springs Town in the Snow Mountains

The Sounkyo Gorge, which is located in Daisetsuzan National Park, is one of the best hot springs destinations in the middle of Hokkaido. The sulfur springs have a good effect on neuralgia, rheumatism, skin diseases and gastrointestinal diseases.The hot springs hotels along the street have affordable hot springs for around JPY 5,000 per person. You can also take a cable car or gondola lift from the street of hot springs to a height of 1,700m above sea level to enjoy the magnificent scenery of the snow mountains along the “Hokkaido Ridge”.The Ice Waterfall Festival is held in Sounkyo every year from the end of January to March. It is one of the most important festivals in Hokkaido. You can play with ice, watch fireworks, and enjoy a relaxing and warm soak in a hot spring after having fun at the winter festival. How enjoyable would that be!

Hot Springs in the Snowy Mountains: Exploring Asahikawa and Sounkyo Gorge

Watch Penguins Strutting About at Asahiyama Zoo

Asahiyama Zoo, with its animal world of ice and snow theme, is one of the places not to be missed in Hokkaido during winter.The famous penguin walks come to mind when one mentions Asahiyama Zoo! Imagine dozens of penguins strutting in front of you in the snow. Sometimes sliding on the snow, sometimes jumping up the snow mountain, the adorable manner of the penguins draws bursts of laughter from tourists.You can reach Asahiyama Zoo in about 2.5 hours from Sapporo. In winter, there is also the Asahiyama Zoo Train, which has a unique animal theme and lots of cute stuffed toy animals for each cabin. It is also one of the train lines in Hokkaido that is only available in winter!

Hot Springs in the Snowy Mountains: Exploring Asahikawa and Sounkyo Gorge

Asahikawa — Ramen Kingdom: A Bowl of Michelin-Starred Ramen

Ramen is also one of the must-eat dishes of Hokkaido. Asahikawa is known as the kingdom of ramen. “Baikohken”, which is recommended in Japan by Michelin, features tonkotsu soy-sauce ramen, where the flavorful soup is made by boiling pork and chicken bones. It is the most famous of the many ramen stores in Asahikawa.

Hot Springs in the Snowy Mountains: Exploring Asahikawa and Sounkyo Gorge

Participate in the Sounkyo Ice Waterfall Festival and Watch Fireworks in Winter

The Sounkyo Ice Waterfall Festival is one of the biggest festivals in Hokkaido in winter. It is held in the hot springs town amidst the mountains and valleys, and the lights illuminating the ice waterfalls in Sounkyo are very beautiful. You can rent tires to slide down ice ramps, and enjoy various performances, activities and fireworks.Sounkyo Gorge is a small town in the center of the Daisetsuzan National Park in the north-central part of Hokkaido. It is famous for ski resorts and hot springs hotels. It can be reached by taking Japan Rail from Sapporo to Kagawa Station, followed by a bus after alighting from the train. Hotels provide a shuttle bus to and from the Ice Waterfall Festival.

Hot Springs in the Snowy Mountains: Exploring Asahikawa and Sounkyo Gorge

Mount Kuro from Sounkyo Gorge: See the First Autumn Leaves in Japan

Located in the foothills of the snow mountains of the Hokkaido ridge, Sounkyo Gorge is the central attraction of Daisetsuzan National Park. Every September to October, the red leaves of the forest coat this area in flaming red, so it is also known for having the “first autumn leaves of Japan”. The best viewing point for the autumn leaves of the Sounkyo Gorge requires a climb to the top of Mount Kuro, which will require a cable car ride and a hike to reach. In addition, the hot springs here are also very famous.A transit at Asahikawa is required for the journey from Sapporo to Sounkyo Gorge, which takes about 3 to 4 hours. Tourists usually include Asahikawa in their itinerary. The Asahiyama Zoo is the most popular zoo in Japan.

Hot Springs in the Snowy Mountains: Exploring Asahikawa and Sounkyo Gorge

The Wonder of Ice and Snow — Asahikawa’s Snow Museums

There are a total of 3 snow-themed art museums. Of which, the most famous snow museum is built like a European castle with snow-themed décor, domes, oil paintings and crystal lamps. Photos and paintings of all kinds of snow and ice crystals are displayed in it. There is also an ice corridor, which allows you to experience the coolness of Hokkaido’s winter even in summer.There are few visitors to the museum, which makes it very suitable for taking photographs.You can also have coffee and dessert at the cafe on the ground floor, and buy a variety of small gifts related to snow and ice in the snow crystal room.

Hot Springs in the Snowy Mountains: Exploring Asahikawa and Sounkyo Gorge

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