Hokkaido’s widest city (1427-sq-km) of Kitami (北見) makes a convenient stopover point for the beautiful lakes of Chimikeppu-ko, Saroma-ko and Akan-ko. The city has a few interesting sights and a large number of yakiniku restaurants.
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Sleeping in Kitami
Kitami has a number of business hotel near the train station. The reason to stay in the city itself is if you are going to yakiniku restaurants or izakaya at night. Most hotels are less crowded than Abashiri throughout the year.
01 LOCAL HISTORY
Kitami Mint Memorial Museum
北見ハッカ記念館 / 1-7-28 Minami-Nakamachi / 9am-5pm May-Oct, 9.30am-4.30pm Nov-Apr / Closed Mon / FREE / www.kitamihakka.jp
Kitami has been a peppermint producing area for centuries, which supplied 70 percent of the world in the 1930s. An old mint factory office now houses a collection of peppermint, processed goods, old machines and photos.
The Mint Distillery (薄荷蒸留館) demonstrates the distillation of peppermint. It is a 10-minute walk south of JR Kitami Station.
02 HISTORIC BUILDING
Pierson Memorial House
ピアソン記念館 / Pierson Kinenkan / 7-4-28 Saiwai-cho / 9.30am-4.30pm / Closed Mon & 30 Dec-6 Jan / FREE / www.npo-pierson.org
Designed by William Merrell Vories in 1914, American missioners Pierson and his wife lived in this Swiss-style lovely wooden house on a hill for 15 years. Their historic photos, letters and books are on display. It is about 1km northwest of JR Kitami Station.
03 HERB GARDEN & HISTORIC BUILDINGS
Nikoro Mint Park
仁頃はっか公園 / Nikoro Hakka Koen / 301 Nikoro-cho / 10am-4pm May-Jun & Sep-Oct, 9.30am-4.30pm Jul & Aug / FREE
About 15km north of the city center, this park tells the heyday of peppermint producing with a relocated marchant mansion (built in 1937), and ezo-misohagi (lythraceae mint) garden that blooms from late July to late August. On-site information center sells local peppermint products.
To get there from Kitami, take the bus for Tokoro to Nikoro Hakka-koen (仁頃はっか公園: 4 daily / 28min).
Getting There & Around
Limited express trains make the trip to Kitami from Sapporo (2 daily / 4.5hrs), Asahikawa (4 daily / 3hrs) and Abashiri (4 daily / 50min). If you save money or use the Seishun 18, there is a tokubetsu-kaisoku (特別快速: rapid train) from Asahikawa (3hrs 20min).
Buses depart from Kitami bus terminal (tickets 6.40am-6pm) beside JR Kitami Station. All local buses and some intercity buses are operated by Kitami Bus (www.h-kitamibus.co.jp).
The city center is easily walkable in a matter of hours from JR Kitami Station. Otherwise, taxi tours around the city are also good.