Japan’s second smallest city by population, however Mikasa holds some of the first-in-Hokkaido: a fledged underground coal mine (1879), railway line (1882), telephone service (1883), water supplies (1888) and a roadside station (1993). The area is known for both its fossil-rich mountains and the birth place of Hokkai Bon-uta (folk song for coal miners).
BOOK YOUR STAY ONLINE
Sleeping in Mikasa
Next to the Michi-no-eki Mikasa on Route 12, the onsen complex Taiko-no-yu has a modern hotel. There are also mid-range accommodation around Iwamizawa and Bibai stations.
PLAN YOUR OWN TOUR
Mikasa at a Glance
START: Iwamizawa Terminal (9am)
FINISH: Michi-no-eki Mikasa (Around 5pm)
DURATION: 8 hours
BEST TIME TO VISIT: May to mid October
- Mikasa Shimin Kaikan Bus Stop
- Crawford Park (Old Mikasa Station)
- Mikasa City Museum
- Ikushunbetsu-cho Bus Stop
- Mikasa Modern Art Museum
- Mikasa Railway Museum
- Old Horonai Coal Mine Natural Park
- Old Monbetsu Coal Mine
- Michi-no-eki Mikasa
- Iwamizawa Station
- Sennin-zuka Historical Park
- Yamazaki Winery
- Aeon Shopping Mall
All buses for Mikasa continue to Ikushunbetsu-cho leave from Iwamizawa bus terminal next to the train station. If you start a day trip from Sapporo, take the JR local train (departing at 7:58) to Iwamizawa (arriving at 8:42).
NEXT ›› From Iwamizawa terminal, take the Chuo Bus 22 (9:00) to Ikushunbetsu-cho terminus (9:58 / ¥570). From where, it is a 5-minute walk north to Old Monbetsu Coal Mine or a few minutes’ walk east to Mikasa City Museum. Ikushunbetsu-cho bus stop has a seasonal take-away ice cream stand (10am-6pm / Closed Mon).
COAL MINE HERITAGE
Old Ponbetsu Coal Mine
旧奔別炭鉱 / 260 Ponbetsu-cho / Not open to the public
Old Ponbetsu Coal Mine sits 51m-tall and 735m-depth mining pithead (built in 1960) with a 100m-long coal hopper. This coal mine was closed in 1971 and not open to the public today. You can see it from outside the premises.
Mikasa City Museum
三笠市立博物館 / 1-212-1 Ikushunbetsu-cho / 9am-5pm / Closed Mon, holiday Dec-Mar / ¥450 / www.city.mikasa.hokkaido.jp/museum/
This museum has a wide range of ammonite collection, history of coal mines and Sorachi shujikan (prison). From the museum, a 40-minute return footpath (Closed in winter) runs on the former forest railway track, with old coal mines and geological sites.
NEXT ›› Head back to Ikushunbetsu-cho bus stop. Take bus (11:40 *11:10 on Sat & Sun) to Mikasa Shimin Kaikan (三笠市民会館 / 19min / ¥360), then 650m walk south to the Crawford Park across the river. You can buy a bento box at the A-Coop in front of the Shimin Kaikan.
OLD TRAIN STATION
クロフォード公園 / 971-1 Hon-cho / 24hrs
This park is the site of old Mikasa railway station (旧三笠駅) scrapped in 1987, with several vintage trains. In old days, the rail tracks head east to Ikushunbetsu and head south to Horonai. You have about a 15-minute to explore in the park.
NEXT: From the Crawford Park bus stop facing the old train station, take the municipal bus (三笠市営バス / 12:30 *11:55 on Sat & Sun) for Horonai 1 (幌内1丁目) and get off at the Tetsudo Kinenkan (鉄道記念館 / 8min) near the railway museum.
RAILWAY HISTORY & LUNCH
Mikasa Railway Museum
三笠鉄道村 / Mikasa Tetsudo-mura / 2-287 Horonai-cho / 9am-5pm 16 Apr-15 Oct / Closed Mon / FREE (Memorial Museum ¥530) / www.s-304.com
Located in old Horonai Station (幌内駅: 1882-1987), this open-air railway museum has about 30 historic carriages including coaches, diesel cars and freight trains. In addition to a 600m-return steam locomotive train runs every 30 minutes on weekend.
The little red brick memorial museum (¥530) exhibits on Hokkaido’s railway history, geolamas and model trains. It is about 3km southeast of the city center.
On weekend (Sat, Sun, holiday and event day), this museum operates a shokudo in an old dining car that serves ramen.
NEXT ›› Walk 500m ahead from the railway museum to the valley. Watch out for brown bears.
COAL MINE HERITAGE
Old Horonai Coal Mine Natural Park
幌内炭鉱景観自然公園 / Horonai-Honsawa-cho / 24hrs
This isolated natural park is the historic heritage site of Horonai Coal Mine (幌内炭鉱), Hokkaido’s first fledged coal mine (1879-1988). You will find 20 remnants such as a preparation plant, thickener, transformer substation and tunnels, deep in the valley.
DETOUR: LOCAL ART
Mikasa Modern Art Museum
ミカサ · モダンアートミュージアム / 3-3-58 Horonai-cho / 1-5pm weekday, from 9am Sat & Sun 16 Apr-15 Oct / Closed Mon / FREE
In an old Horonai junior high school (旧幌内中学校: built in 1983), former classrooms and a gymnasium are now houses works by local artists. It is about 800m west of Mikasa Railway Museum on a hill overlooking the old mining town. You can catch a bus for Mikasa from Horonai 3 (幌内3丁目) bus stop after visiting.
NEXT ›› Head back to the railway museum and catch a Mikasa-bound bus (14:35 *14:05 on Sat & Sun). Get off the bus at the Shimin Kaikan (市民会館 / 8min).
三笠フットパス / 9.4km / 2.5 hours / www.sorachi.pref.hokkaido.lg.jp/ts/tss/soracchi/file/mikasa_foot.pdf
From the Mikasa Shimin Kaikan bus stop, A 9.4km-long hillside footpath follows the prisoner’s cemetery of Sennin-zuka Historical Park (千人塚史跡公園), lovely vineyards and farms. Tappu-yama (達布山: 144m) is the highest point on this route overlooking the Ishikari Plain.
FINISH: ROADSIDE STATION & HOT SPRING
道の駅三笠 / 1056-1 Okayama / 8.30am-6pm, to 5pm Oct-Mar / Closed Mon / Wi-Fi
Finally you will reach Hokkaido’s first michi-no-eki (roadside station) on Route 12 around 5pm or late. This place has a tourist information office, farmer’s market and ramen shop (11am-11pm).
Behind the michi-no-eki, the modern onsen complex Taiko-no-yu (太古の湯: 10am-11pm / ¥780) is an ideal place to go to recover.
CONTINUE ›› From Mineoka (峰岡) bus stop near the michi-no-eki on Route 12, take bus 22 (18:21) to Iwamizawa terminal (18:43 / ¥310). Otherwise, there are also several buses for Iwamizawa from the Aeon Shopping Mall South Gate (イオン三笠店南口) opposite the michi-no-eki.