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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hokkaido Autumn Road Trip 2016 (Part 3)- Asahikawa and Sounkyo

The view , around 85% up Mount Kurodake. Notice the stones....


Asahikawa (旭川市) is the second most populous city in Hokkaido. Most people will visit Asahikawa for its zoo that has penguins and polar bears. Tour groups will mostly stay in neighbouring Sounkyo and bring the tourist to Asahikawa zoo. But we won't be going there, maybe next time with the kids.

Weather for the day we were there

Asahikawa Station

Asahikawa is a city of Ramen. Hokkaido has 3 man types of ramens and Asahikawa is famous for its soy sauce ramen, and the noodles are curly! There is a Ramen Village , quite far from the city center, but if one is in the city center, just drop by the actual stalls.

all the famous ramen near Asahikawa station

Baikohken Ramen at Asahikawa

We arrived in Asahikawa at around 6.15pm. It was dark. After checking in to JR Inn, we walked over to the town area for food. Asahikawa is absolutely famous for ramen, especially soy sauce ramen.

I looked at my prepared map and decided to walk to Tenkin for ramen. The skies began to drizzle and I told my husband to run into Baikohken. LOL. Not only us, We saw two other couples as well. Read here about local reviews.

There was a queue but the queue was moving quite fast. We were seated in about 10 minutes. We were seated right infront of the chef. I love it!

I know that Asahikawa was famous for Soy sauce ramen, but since I'm not going to Hakodate, I want to try salt ramen instead. But Hakodate's salt ramen is clear, unlike this milky white broth.

Top (soy sauce) is his, bottom (salt) is mine.

I love the ramen here more than Sumire's in Sapporo. I love the silky pork broth, and the bamboo shoots come in bigger pieces. At 730 yen each, it's a good meal!

Aeon Asahikawa

After eating, we walked around a bit.....
Shopping centers in Asahikawa are plenty near JR station, but they close at about 7 or 8 at night, of which is quite early by Malaysian standards, haha. The one that has a later closing time will be Aeon.

The fresh food section

Wagashi or Japanese kuih. All neatly wrapped.

This price is quite affordable, compared to how much I paid in a sushi restaurant. 
Read about that when I get to Abashiri.

I bought this to try... arrghhh... didn't like it

I wanted to have another round of ramen after Aeon, but nature called..... Sigh.
So we ended up eating Aeon supermarket food for supper.


Sounkyo (層雲峡) is a touristy gorge located in Kamikawa, well known for its onsens and the nearby mountains has two spots which displays the earliest Autumn foliage, namely Ginsendai and Kurodake. Many tour groups stay in this area for the night and visit the waterfalls the next morning for pictures.

Typhoon Mindule and Lionrock has wrecked some roads leading to tourist spots, namely Obako and Ginsendai.

Today's weather in Kamikawa

Mount Kurodake at Sounkyo

We checked out after having a heavy buffet breakfast at JR Inn. A little bit behind schedule.
The weather forecast for that day was good!

I checked this website before we came

Bought our ropeway tickets

The ropeway. 
There were only 4 passengers on that weekday

Here is a video of the ride up to 5th Station

Ride the ropeway until 5th Station. 
Left: There are walking paths around 5th station.
Right: Then we followed this path and walk to the chairlift station

Then buy the another ticket for chair lift. 
Are the dates correct?  I came on 12 Sept 2016

Attendants are there waiting to push visitors onto the ever moving chairs.
I was nervous, the clumsy me might not get on

I got on! 
There are no restraints on the chairs and we're quite high up from the ground. 

View from 7th Station

The clouds were beneath us at 7th station. 
If we came here using the 6.30am ropeway, we will be able to catch the sea of clouds.
I should've just stopped here. I really should've.

Sign in before hiking

Oh this looks easy, so I thought

Nightmare begins... 
Wet round rocks. And it's steep!

Beautiful creeping pine when it's almost to the summit

The leaves just died.... instead of turning into a beautiful colour

I arrived at the Summit! 

Nice view!
I was looking in my bag to get our snacks.
Chocolates and cheese for lunch. LOL. 

Because we were so high up, clouds come and clouds go in a jiffy.

Shooting in the clouds, hahaha!

I thought that the way up here is like this!
Not that wet big rocks path!
This way leads to a stone house, for hikers who wish to stay overnight,
And if one wishes to go over to Asahidake, this is the way used to crossed over.

There's ice in those mountains. 
The flora here is alpine. The air is soooooo fresh.

Started to descend...... the easy path from summit to 9th station

I'm so slow!

The only red leaf I saw this day! 
The view, as we descend, we are above the clouds

Don't they look like human heads? 
Reminds me of Easter Island

And the nightmare begins after this signpost. Flat steps are now rocky. 
I'm glad I got gloves on, so that I can just grab anything I can to maintain my balance.

We are back to the ropeway station.... So relieved.

Frankly, I didn't know that the hike up will be thattttt challenging. I read it was one hour up and one hour down. But we took more than two hours up and two hours down. The locals with their hiking sticks were so fast!

We did train a bit by walking up Maxwell Hill in Taiping, but this is different. I thought it's a paved trail, instead, it was mostly rocks, like climbing rocky stairs that I could easily twist my ankle. I am the clumsy type and I am infamous for that.

My husband wanted to give up by 8th station, but I was adamant and kept on telling him to go on. I thought the summit was very near, 600m only, and we've already covered some distance. But no, in actual fact, the trail was 1.7km up. We were totally physically unprepared for this grueling trek.

Because of the unprecedented long hours of hiking, we missed the activities lined up for the day. It was also because of my yearning to see Autumn leaves, thinking and hoping I could see some the further I go up. But no, there was really non that time. This year, it was around 3 weeks late, sad isn't it?

The view on the summit was so beautiful. The sun feels different, the glare is intense! The air feels different. I have never hiked so high up in my life, although the Cameron mountains I hiked during my teens were not as tall as Mount Kurodake. But was it worth it? I think, if one is well prepared, it's worth it. But if one has some health issues, I think it's a risk, that's why husband was thinking twice to proceed or not, and I being silly thinking that it's just a little bit more.

We got to the base station by 4.30pm. And the road towards Kitami will be having a curfew and will be closing by 5pm. My husband sped and we managed to pass the curfew block on time. The whole area is mountainous, and if we can't get through, I don't know where we'll sleep that night, because our booked room is the other side of the mountain range.

Onneyu Onsen Michi No Eki

It was a long drive from Sounkyo to Abashiri. We took a break at Onneyu Onsen Michi No Eki and sadly, commercial area was closed by then. We were too late. I wanted to get the 'deep sea flavour' soft serve that I saw on Tabelog, but instead I got a Ramune flavoured one. I didn't know how to tell, as long as it's blue, I just grabbed it. But since only one shop is left, I guess beggars can't be choosers.

This michi no eki has a freshwater aquarium center. It's closed by then too.

It was getting dark very quickly and the cuckoo clock will be cuckooing at 6pm. We were there at around 5.15pm and we can't stay around for so long. After we got our ice cream, I saw hot fresh milk. I was feeling so cold and the cup of warm milk was great. We were about to leave and we saw the clock lit up against the dark skies. I took a shot of the lit clock from afar, with my car window wound down.

See you next time cuckoo clock.

For more information about this road station, do visit their website :


Useful links
1. Sounkyo Tourism
2. Asahikawa tourism
3. Kurodake Ropeway

Hokkaido Early Autumn Road Trip 2016

1. Planning the trip - 9 things to think of
2. Driving in Hokkaido - 9 points to consider
3. Part 1 - Sapporo
4. Part 2 - Furano and Biei 
5. Part 3 - Asahikawa and Sounkyo
6. Part 4 - Abashiri
7. Part 5 - Teshikaga (Kussharo, Mashu, Mount Iou)
8. Part 6 - Kushiro
9. Part 7 - Obihiro and Tokachi Subprefecture
10. Part 8 - Yoichi and Otaru
11. Part 9 - Sapporo again and going home.
12. Hotels we stayed in Hokkaido
13. Shopping in Hokkaido
14. Things to Eat and Drink in Hokkaido


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