Halfway between Nukabira Gensenkyo and Sounkyo in Daisetsuzan National Park, Kamishihoro’s northernmost area makes a wonderful drive and rewards with spectacle views.
Points of interests in Northern Kamishihoro
From Asahikawa, the intercity bus North Liner Mikuni-go (via Sounkyo: ノースライナー層雲峡経由) runs for Obihiro and passes through Mitsumata, Horoka Onsen-iriguchi, Gonosawa and Nukabira Gensenkyo (2.5hrs). Compulsory reservation.
Old Horoka Station
(旧幌加駅) Horoka Station was used as a timber transport point from 1939 until 1978. Today the area is uninhabited land and it holds an old platform and restored railway track. It is just a short walk from Horoka snow now removal station (幌加除雪ステーション) car park near Dai-san Otofuke-gawa Bridge.
Horoka Onsen Kanoya
(幌加温泉鹿の谷) Hidden away at the end of the road above the gorge, 1km off Route 273 (Horoka Onsen-iriguchi bus stop), Kanoya is Tokachi’s most nostalgic and atmospheric onsen, with mixed indoor and open-air baths. On tap are waters from four different springs. Women are allowed to take modesty towels or use a female-only small indoor bath.
Tatami-mat rooms are simple and there are shared kitchens and toilets. You will need to bring your own linen (or sleeping bag), or pay extra to hire futon.
The owner and volunteer staff are friendly. Nonguests can use the baths for ¥500.
(十勝三股) A tranquil settlement between Nukabira and the Mikuni Pass on Route 273, the former forestry town of Mitsumata was once 1200-strong and the terminus of old Shihoro Line (1939-1978), but today just two households live here.
You will find an old forestry railway car shed and several remnants around an old train station.
Located in front of the old train station, the wooden cafe Mitsumata Sanso (三股山荘) serves coffee and some meals. It displays railroad diorama of old Tokachi-Mitsumata Station.
(三国峠) At the gateway of Northern Tokachi, Mikuni-toge is Hokkaido’s highest pass (1139m) on the border of Tokachi and Kamikawa regions. The pass makes a pleasant drive and rewards with expansive views of beautiful forest and surrounding mountains.
At the foot of the pass, the winding Matsumi-ohashi (松見大橋) bridge is a striking spectacle on the route.
(三国峠café) Open from late April to early November, this neat and welcoming cafe on the Mikuni Pass has a good selection of great coffee, tea, ice cream, curry and soba.
Take-away is available and there is an English menu. The friendly owners sell local crafts and potteries. Highly recommended to stop by your road trip.