About 50km north of Asahikawa on Route 40 and JR Soya Line, the city of Shibetsu (士別) is home to sheep farming and training camp for Japanese top athletes. A few attractions are dotted around the town.
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Sleeping in Shibetsu
There are a few nondescript hotels in Shibetsu. The pleasant hotel Shibetsu Inn Suigetsu is a popular place to stay for Japanese athletes.
01 SCENIC FARM
羊と雲の丘 / 5351 Nishi-Shibetsu-cho / 9am-6pm / FREE / hitsuji.tesio.net
The main attraction in Shibetsu is its idyllic Hitsuji-to-Kumo-no-Oka (meaning the hill of sheep and clouds), called the Suffolk Land. This hillside farm has a grand pastoral scene.
The World Sheep Museum (¥200) is raising rare sheep of the world. In the shepherd house, there is also a barbecue restaurant (11am-7pm) that serves local suffolk dishes.
This farm is 3.5km west of JR Shibetsu Station, a taxi will cost around ¥1500 for up to four people. Shibetsu Hire (士別ハイヤー: Tel 0165-23-5000: www.shi-hr.com) operates the Sahotchi Taxi (さほっちタクシー: 3 daily: need to make reservation) from JR Shibetsu Station for ¥500 per person.
02 ONSEN & SKIING
日向温泉 / 10am-9pm / Closed 2nd Tue / Day bathing ¥450 / 1-day ski ticket ¥1600 (10am-8.30pm)
On a pleasant hillside setting overlooking the Nayoro Basin, this modern public onsen has ski slopes and a shokudo. There are two free local buses from JR Shibetsu Station (28min).
JR Soya Line local and rapid trains run roughly hourly from Asahikawa to Shibetsu (70min). Limited express trains from Sapporo, Asahikawa or Wakkanai stopping at Shibetsu.
If you are an antique bus nerd, Shibetsu Kido (士別軌道) operates the 1982 monocoque bus (Hokkaido’s oldest) from mid May to late June, and early September to mid October. From JR Shibetsu Station, the monocoque bus to JR Furen Station leaves at 9.40am (54min) via Hinata Onsen. The return bus from the Furen Hospital near the train station leaves at 10.40am. For more information, check www.s-kido.jp (in Japanese).