JAPAN: DESTINATION HOKKAIDO PART 2

NISEKO AND HIRAFU 2012

First Stop on my 2 month Japan Adventure was to Hokkaido, September 2012. Domestic flight from Narita to Sapporo City then a train out to Niseko which is a ski resort, out of season the ski lodge in Hirafu was a good price at £12 per night, The was a good Onsen down the road and some nice restaurants.

Whilst there the Japanese Tour bike race was in town. 

Set against the backdrop of Mt. Yotei – an active volcano which is so similar to Mt. Fuji, known as Ezo Fuji – the Niseko region is a feast for the eyes. In winter, the champagne powder snow and pristine ski slopes attract skiers and snowboarders from all over the world. And in summer, visitors are drawn by the comfortable temperature, serene country atmosphere, farm-fresh produce and wide variety of activities.

OTARU

Otaru (小樽) is a small harbor city, about half an hour northwest of Sapporo. Its beautifully preserved canal area and interesting herring mansions make Otaru a pleasant day trip from Sapporo or a nice stop en route to or from Niseko or the Shakotan Peninsula.

From the early days of Hokkaido’s colonization in the late 1800s, Otaru served as a major trade and fishing port and terminal station of Hokkaido’s first railway line with Sapporo. Many old warehouses and former office buildings by shipping and trade companies give Otaru’s city center a special character reminiscent of past decades.

ABASHIRI, HOKKAIDO

Mount Tento

At a mere height of 207 m, it’s no surprise that Mt. Tento’s name is derived from the Japanese meaning “as comfortable as heaven.” In 1938 it was nationally recognized as a “place of scenic beauty.” The observatory at the summit has great panoramic views of Lake Abashiri, Lake Notoro, the Sea of Okhotsk, the Shiretoko Mountain Range and the mountains of Akan.

The summit observatory, Okhotsk Sea Ice Museum, Hokkaido Northern Ethnic Museum, Lake View ski area, flower garden Do-tent, in addition to other park facilities are in place, on the hillside, Abashiri Prison Museum is there. The Tianyama area is the main tourist destination of Abashiri city.

 

There are NHK Kitami Broadcasting Station and private TV broadcasting station in the vicinity of the summit.

Abashiri Prison Museum

 

Abashiri Prison was constructed in the 1890s to hold more than one thousand dangerous criminals.

 

 

Following a major modernization of the Abashiri Prison in 1984, the prison’s old buildings were moved into the Abashiri Prison Museum (博物館 網走監獄, Hakubutsukan Abashiri Kangoku), which opened its doors to the public in 1985 as an open air museum. 

The Abashiri Prison Museum illustrates the daily life of prisoners and exhibits more than a dozen buildings and structures of the old prison, including the main prison building with its five radially constructed wings, a law court, bath house and a punishment chamber.

ASAHIKAWA CITY AND ASAHIYAMA ZOO, HOKKAIDO

 

On August 1, 1922, Asahikawa was founded as Asahikawa City. As the central city in northern Hokkaido, Asahikawa has been influential in industry and commerce.

There are about 130 rivers and streams including the Ishikari River and Chubetsu River, and over 740 bridges in the city. Asahibashi, a bridge over Ishikari River, has been one of the symbols of Asahikawa since its completion in 1932.

Asahikawa (旭川) is the island’s second largest city after Sapporo. The city is not known as a leading tourist destination, but Asahiyama Zoo, is among Japan’s best and most popular. The local noodle dish, Asahikawa Ramen, is also quite well known.

 

Asahiyama Zoo (旭山動物園, Asahiyama DObutsuen) is a very popular zoological garden just outside of central Asahikawa City. Its popularity lies in the enclosures which allow visitors to observe the animals from various angles, many of which are unique to Asahiyama Zoo.

 

Highlights include a glass tunnel through the penguin pool that allows visitors to observe the birds’ underwater flights, and small glass domes in the middle of the polar bear and wolf enclosures that can get visitors right among the animals. 

HAKODATE, HOKKAIDO

Hakodate (函館) is Hokkaido’s third largest city, located at the island’s southern tip. Hakodate is best known for the spectacular views to be enjoyed from Mount Hakodate and its delicious, fresh seafood.

 

 

As one of the first Japanese harbor cities to be opened to international trade after the country’s era of isolation, Hakodate has experienced notable influence from overseas, and the foreign population’s former residential district and a Western style fort are among its main tourist attractions.

Goryokaku fort and tower

Fort Goryokaku (五稜郭, Goryokaku) is a massive, star shaped, Western style citadel, which was built in the last years of the Edo Period for the defense of Hakodate against the imperialist threat posed by the Western powers.

A few years later, the fort became the site of a civil war between an army of the shogunate and the superior troops of the newly established Meiji government.

Fort Goryokaku (五稜郭, Goryokaku) is a massive, star shaped, Western style citadel, which was built in the last years of the Edo Period for the defense of Hakodate against the imperialist threat posed by the Western powers.

A few years later, the fort became the site of a civil war between an army of the shogunate and the superior troops of the newly established Meiji government.

After the fort had lost its military importance, it was eventually turned into a public park in the 1910s. At the center stands the Former Magistrate Office, from where the officers of the shogunate administered Hokkaido. It was  reconstructed as a part of the complex and opened it to the public in 2010.

For a bird’s view of the huge fortress, access the observation deck of the nearby 107 metre Goryokaku Tower

HAKODATE YAMA

Mount Hakodate (函館山, Hakodateyama) is a 334 meter high, wooded mountain at the southern end of the peninsula on which much of central Hakodate is located.

On clear days and nights, in particular, the views from the mountain are spectacular and included among Japan’s three best night views.

 

Facilities at the summit, which is accessible by ropeway, bus or car, include observation platforms, souvenir shops, a cafe and a cafeteria style restaurant.