After five glorious days in Sapporo I was ready for a new environment and luckily the plan was to head to Asahikawa. Unfortunately I managed to get pretty sick when I was in Sapporo with the flu but I tried to be a champ and sported the ‘sick mask’ everyone wears in Japan. No one wears these masks in Canada, except for if there is a SARS/H1N1/Super-flu-of-choice outbreak and even then its only people in doctors offices and hospitals. I don’t know if it actually makes a difference to the rate of spreading/catching the flu but I felt peer pressured into wearing one because I didn’t want people staring at me while I was coughing like an old smoker hag on the train. To remind me of how stupid I looked, Nick decided to sport the mask too. Even though he was 100% healthy, not even a sniffle. He told me it was a sympathy mask. Nice.
Asahikawa is the second largest city in Hokkaido, and they also had a Snow Festival going on in February but we missed it by a couple of days which was a bit of a shame. The other big happening in Asahikawa is the Asahiyama Zoo! I was a bit torn about the zoo considering it’s like prison for animals but I decided to go anyways for my own personal enjoyment of seeing cute furry things. Sorry animals.
All the animals had these weird tics: one of the seals swam in the same pattern over and over again, one of the polar bears paced the same walking pattern and then swung his head up and down every time he turned, and one of the red pandas licked himself for about half an hour. Maybe that last one wasn’t a weird tic. The wolves just stared out at me like they were drooling over dinner. The only animals that looked like they were having a good time were the penguins. It seemed like they enjoyed the attention they were getting from onlookers.
I’ve never been to the Vancouver Aquarium but I like to watch the penguin cam from time to time because I think penguins look absolutely ridiculous when they walk. Clearly everyone at the Asahiyama Zoo thinks so too because there was a whole spectacle where the penguins walk about half a kilometer around the zoo. Those birds should stick to swimming.
Sapporo, Asahi and Kirin are literally the only beers sold everywhere in Japan so it was great to find the Taisetsu Craft Brewery in Asahikawa. I literally enjoyed every single one of the beers they had for tasting. We also managed to find the famed shoyu (soy sauce) ramen that Asahikawa is known for at cheap and semi-hard to find Sugawara. Nick tried curry ramen, which turned out to be the best thing to beat the cold weather.
We hopped on the cutest smallest one car train to Furano, a quaint town just south of Asahikawa. Travelling by train is a real novelty for me, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it!
In Furano we stayed in a super luxurious hotel called the Natalux just across from the train station. It was Valentine’s Day. Nick surprised me with an indoor picnic of local treats and goodies from made in the Furano area. Everything was very unique and delicious. I especially loved the squid ink brie and the wormwood Daifuku (rice flour ball). The wine wasn’t too bad either!
We went to visit the local wine kojo the next day to sample a few more blends. I’d imagine Furano has a similar climate to the Okanagan and thats why they have good crop weather. The wine could be better to be honest.
We had to try the local specialty while we were in town: オムカレ Omlette curry– an omlette on top of rice with curry sauce and homemade sausages. Arteries clogged!
Furano was so adorable I didn’t want to leave but there also wasn’t much to do there other than R&R so it was time to move on!