Western Asahikawa is home to Kamikawa Ainu. You will find Japan’s first Ainu culture museum, re-created small Ainu and craft villages around Chikabumi district. Kamuikotan is a legendary scenic gorge along Ishikari-gawa.
01 AINU CULTURE
Kawamura Kaneto Ainu Museum
川村カ子トアイヌ記念館 / 1 Hokumon-cho / 9am-5pm, to 6pm Jul & Aug / ¥500 / k-aynu-mh.jp
Founded in 1916 as Japan’s first Ainu culture museum, it houses a one-room displays of about 500 artefacts and documents collected by the region’s Ainu chief Kawamura Kaneto (1893-1977) who was a railroad engineer. All exhibits have English placards and there is also a thatched dwelling called chise.
Take bus 24 (for the Aeon-nishi) from 1-jo 8 bus stop near JR Asahikawa Station to the Ainu Kinenkan-mae (12min / hourly / ¥200).
02 SCENIC PARK & AINU CULTURE
嵐山公園 / Arashiyama Koen, Takasu-cho / 24hrs / Closed in winter / FREE
Named after Kyoto’s popular neighborhood district of Arashiyama, this mountainside park incorporates the Northern Wild Plants Garden (北方野草園: Hoppo Yaso-en / 9am-4.30pm 29 Apr-15 Oct) with more than 600 species plants and a re-created small Ainu village.
The park is about 6km west of the center. From 1-jo 8 bus stop, take bus 3 to the Hoppo Yaso-en-iriguchi (27min / ¥220).
Hiking trails lead from the Park Center (パークセンター: 9am-5pm) to Arashiyama Observatory on the summit that offers the city’s best view.
03 SCENIC GORGE
神居古潭 / Kamuikotan / 24hrs / Closed in winter
Kamuikotan (meaning ‘God Lives’ in Ainu) is a legendary scenic gorge along Ishikari-gawa with unusual geological features and rocks. From Asahikawa Station stop 8, take bus 56 for Rumoi to the Yumedono Kannon-mae (夢殿観音前: 25min / ¥510), from where it is a 10-minute walk along the river. Chuo Bus (for Fukagawa or Ashibetsu) also runs from Asahikawa.
Crossing the footbridge (built in 1938: closed in winter) from a right bank of the river, you will find the rebuilt Old Kamuikotan Station (旧神居古潭駅), platforms and steam locomotives on a cycle path that has been utilizing a railway track of the old Hakodate Line (changed to the current route in 1968).
Near the locomotives, there is a circuit trail to the rock of Kamui-iwa (神居岩) with spectacular views.
04 PUBLIC BATHHOUSE
高砂温泉 / 8-231-1-5 Takasagodai / Day bathing 9am-1am / Adult ¥600, child ¥250 / www.takasagoonsen.com
Known as the ofuro-no-depart (spa complex), this Showa-style popular bathhouse on a hill is not real onsen except the kazoku-buro (private baths: from ¥1500), but locals much loved the daiyokujo (communal baths) that has a wide variety of unique indoor and open-air baths like a maze. An entrance hall is filled with old machines and mysterious objects.
To get there, take bus 53 or 630 to Takasagodai 8 (高砂台8丁目) terminus from 1-jo 7 bus stop near JR Asahikawa Station (9 daily / 25min / ¥320). The last bus from Takasagodai 8 to the city center is around at 8.35pm.
Western Asahikawa Map