Day 4: Exploring Farmlands & Going Up a Mountain

Our Plan for the day

Our original plan for the day was to go up Mount Asahidake immediately after breakfast. We could spend half a day up the mountain or a full day if we felt that there was more to see. After visiting the mountain we would drive to Asahikawa City for night

Well we did not adhere to our original plan. We made some adjustments so that we could include some sightseeing of Patchwork Road and Panorama Road of Biei which we missed the day before. In the afternoon we would go up to Mount Asahidake. The distance travelled would be about 85 km.

Route for the day

Route for the day

We achieved our revised targets!!!

Breakfast 

Breakfast at Hotel Lavenir Biei, was part of the room package. I was a bit disappointed with the breakfast as the room rates of Hotel Lavenir was rather costly so I expected better breakfast spread. The breakfast was very simple as for taste wise quite nice.

      
Patchwork Road of Biei 

Patchwork Road and Panorama Road of Biei are not two particular roads, they are two sectors of areas, one north and the other south of Biei town. In these two sectors there are specific locations to visit to view the best of Biei. I found these locations listed on this website, http://www.travel-around-japan.com/k11-72-biei.html.

It had rained in the night before and the weather in the morning was cloudy and wet. We started out on the Road of Patchwork which would take us to Northwestern Hill Observatory Park, Zerubu Garden, Tree of Ken and Mary and Mild Seven Hill. 

It was still drizzling when we reached the Northwestern Hill Observatory Park, we went up the triangular observatory to look at the “Patchwork” fields. The sky was still gloomly and the view of the “patchwork” remained misty. From the high vantage point in the observatory we could see the wideness of the land, the many layers of mountain ranges one behind another and the sky that stretch on and on. 

View as seen from Northwestern Hill Observatory (MapCode 389 070 337)

View as seen from Northwestern Hill Observatory (MapCode 389 070 337)

Though we did not see a scene of fresh green fields and brilliant blue sky the greyish scenery that we saw evoke sense of mysterious calmness.The Hill of Zerubu was a flower garden on the slope of a hill. The garden looked prettier than I expected. Though it was still drizzling, the brilliant colors of the flowers stood out vibrantly. I thought this garden was prettier than Farm Tomita and Lavender East.

Hill of Zerubu (Mapcode 389 071 725)

Hill of Zerubu (Mapcode 389 071 725)

The entire place was very large and was partially on a slope, so for those that did not want to walk they could take the jeep transport at a fee of ‎¥500. We found it more enjoyable to walk up the gentle slope especially with a milky ice cream in my hand. At the entrance of the garden was a cafeteria selling Hokkaido Milk ice cream and other beverages. I loved Hokkaido Milk ice cream, the strong milk favor enhanced the taste of the ice cream. At the top of the hill we strolled from one end of the garden to the other end until we saw a “no entry sign” before going back. 

When we were about to leave the garden we stumbled upon a huge field of lavender. It was behind the cafeteria at the entrance of the garden. At the cafeteria we caught a glimpse of the lavender field so we walked down a path by the side of the cafeteria to its back and “Wow!” we saw a huge lavender field.

Lavender Field at Zerburu Hill

Lavender Field at Zerburu Hill

We drove along the “Panorama” roads visiting several two other landmarks – Tree of Ken and Mary and Mild Seven Hill which did not look as spectacular as they would in autumn and December. 

As we drove on we came across a quaint cafe (Biei Land Cafe) that look so enchanting. Though we did not went in for coffee, we stopped to take some photos. Peering into the glass panel on the green door, I could see that the interior of the cafe looked more like a cosy home than a cafe.

A quaint Cafe out of nowhere (co-ordinates: 43.605312, 142.407416)

A quaint Cafe out of nowhere (co-ordinates: 43.605312, 142.407416)

Panoroma Road of Biei

In the later part of the morning after we had completed our round of the Road of Patchwork, we drove south toward “Panorama Road” of Biei. This was a scenic drive, to us it was not a drive from one destination to another. The driving process was a sightseeing process so though the distance was short we made many stops, to get out of the car, to breath in the cool air, to feel the tiny rain drops on our face, to admire the scenery from near to far and to take photo as though we might not ever come back there again. Our car was practically the only car on the road, so we could stop freely and safely with no hurry to get out of the way.

There were many scenic spots, out of which we felt that three of the best scenic spots to view the beauty of the Panorama Road were:

a) Shinei Hill Observatory Park,
b) Sanai Hill Observatory Park and

c) Chiyoda Hill Observatory.

Both Shinei Hill and Sanai Hill were about 5 km south of Biei town. Chiyoda Hill was another 6km south of them.

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Sanai Hill Observatory Park and Shinei Hill Observatory Park

We did not went up Sanai Hill Observatory Park as the view could already by clearly seen from the road. As and when the road reached a higher ground we would be rewarded with a vast view of the fields that stretched all the way to the mountain in the far background.

Sanai Hill

Sanai Hill

At Shinei Hill Observatory Park there was a cafe, we did not went in but stayed outside at its parking area to take scenic shots of the rolling hills.

Shinei Hill Observatory Park

Shinei Hill Observatory Park

Driving slightly south of Shinei Hill Observatory Park we came to a view nice view point where we saw two small buildings with pink and red roofs seated at the intersection of several different field.

A scenic point just south of Shinei Hill Observatory Park

A scenic point just south of Shinei Hill Observatory Park

Chiyoda Hill Observatory was rarely mentioned on the internet. I came upon a picture of it when I was “online walking” on the roads in google map. I was looking for high vantage points which should give me a good view of the Panoramic Road and I thought this high observatory deserve a visit.

Chiyoda Hill Observatory (Mapcode 349 734 844)

Chiyoda Hill Observatory (Mapcode 349 734 844)

I was not disappointed when I went up the observatory, though there was no stairway leading up to the apex of its high tower, the view was still great because the observatory was build on top of a hill.

There was a car park and a cafe at the base of the hill, parking there would mean a steep walk up the hill. We chose the easy way out and drove around in search of a road that would bring us nearer to the observatory. We found two roads, one steep and one less incline both leading up another car park that was practically at the doorstep of the observatory.  

Asahidake Mountain

Asahidake is the tallest mountain in Hokkaido. It is part of the Daisetsuzan Volcanic Group of the Ishikari Mountains and is located in the northern part of the Daisetsuzan National Park. Visiting Hokkaido would be incomplete if one do not visit Daisetsuzan National Park. The two more famous mountains in the Group are Mt. Asahidake and Mt. Kurodake. Visit to the top of both mountains will involve taking a ropeway (cable car) to midway up the mountains before hiking for several hours to reach their peaks.

Both hubby and I are able to walk for many hours as long as the ground involved mainly a gentle slope and only if there are plentiful of stops along the way. Hiking up to the peak of either Mt. Asahidake or Mt. Kurodake in summer when there is no brilliant autumn color just does not seem attractive enough for us to put in the extra effort. So we decided to go up the mountain till the ropeway ended. I found that at the upper station of Mt. Asahidake ropeway there is a gentle walking track that make a loop passing by a few ponds. So Mt. Ashidake rather than Mt. Kurodake became our destination on this trip to Hokkaido. 

It was about 1pm when we completed sightseeing Road of Patchwork and Panoroma Road. It had been drizzling intermittenly the whole morning, we had hoped that before afternoon came the drizzle would have stopped and our trip up Asahidake Mountain would be a dry experience. :-< … no such luck. 

We drove from Biei to Asahidake Station (base station of ropeway), the distance was about 40km and took about 45 minutes. The drizzle turned heavier just when we reached Asahidake Station. We were worried that going up the ropeway would be a wasted trip as the visibility might be very poor at the upper station, (Sugatami Station) of the ropeway.

Route fro Biei to Asahidake (Mapcode: 796 861 007)

Route fro Biei to Asahidake (Mapcode: 796 861 007)

We walked into the station complex and went up one level to the ticketing booth. Outside the ticketing booth there was a monitor screen showing a live view of the scene at the upper station. Though the air looked slightly misty we could clearly see patches of snow and greenery. Somehow seeing snow in summer excited us and we decided to go up Mt. Asahidake on the ropeway. The ropeway charges was ‎¥2900 per person for two ways trip.

There were no other people going up the ropeway when we rode the gondola, so we got the entire cabin that could take at least 20 people all to ourselves and the gondola operator. The gondola operator was a young Taiwanese male working in Japan and we had a great time conversing in Mandarin. He told us that in July the gondola frequency was at 15 minutes interval with the first trip up starting at 6.30am and the last trip down at 5.30pm. Before we left he helped us took photo several photo of us in the huge gondola.

Gondola on the Mt Asahidake ropeway

Gondola on the Mt Asahidake ropeway

As we stepped out of the gondola at the upper station, a female staff immediate guided us to a white board with a map of the walking trail. We were given a detailed briefing of the ground condition of the walking trail. The trail went as far as Sugatami Pond and loop back to the station.

The staff pointed out sections of the trail that would have fast running water and suggested that we rent rubber boots for ¥300 from them to keep dry. The staff spoke very limited English so we could only understand about half of her explanation. 

Walking Trails at Sugatami Station

Walking Trails at Sugatami Station

I had to rent their boots because my Timberland Goretex shoes failed me on the 2nd day of this trip. Half of the outer sole of the right shoe fell out on that day when I was in the middle of nowhere so I was forced to tear it off and walked around with a soleless right shoe. This was the first time a Timberland shoe failed on me and shook my trust in the brand.

It was not easy to find a new pair of good shoes so I ended up still wearing the “FAILED” shoe. I knew there was no way the right shoe could withstand the running water so I had to rent a pair of boots. Walking into the boot room I saw hundred of boots of all sizes on the rack. There are boots for guys, gals and kids. Besides boots there were also shoe inner paddings available for pick.

Though it was a wet day, we still enjoyed walking the Sugatami trail. The air was cool, the wind and the rain were gentle. Occasionally the mist would come in but soon it would be blown away.

Walking trek around Sugatami Station

Walking trek around Sugatami Station

There were many air vents on the ground spewing out white gas which was not surprising as Mt Asahidake was still an active volcano. The path was well marked so there was no worries about getting lost. We were prepared not to complete the loop if we were to encounter flooding that would be too difficult to cross we would turn back. Well, we did not have to turn back, there was some running water along a section of the trail, the water depth was not high and there were wooden blocks for us to step on without soaking our feet in the water. The trail could be completed in about 1.5 hour but we took our own sweet time enjoying the nature so we took slightly more than 2 hours to finish the trail.

Ponds along the walking trail

Ponds along the walking trail

Asahikawa City – Best Ramen

After coming down the ropeway, we drove about 47km for an hour to Asahikawa City We found our hotel easily, checked in to off load our luggage and immediately went off in search of the famous Asahikawa ramen.

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Route to Asahikawa

Baikohken Hoten was frequently mentioned as one of the best ramen stores in Asahikawa. To ensure that I would be able to find the store, I did my research thoroughly before I left for Japan. I found out that the store was located in the basement so I would not be able to see a shop front on the ground level. I was to look out for its red banner and take the stair to the basement.

Route from hotel to Baikohken

Route from hotel to Baikohken

When we were walking down the stair to the basement, we saw a signboard saying that the store would close at 8.00 pm. We still had half an hour so we proceeded on. Outside the store was a long queue of about 20 people waiting to get in. Inside the store all the tables were filled with patrons. While waiting for our turn to go in, I was surprise to hear the people in the queue conversing in Hong Kong Cantonese, Taiwanese Mandarin or English. It looked like everybody in the queue were tourists. I was wonderingly if the Ramen was truly good or was it some clever marketing (blogging) on the internet for tourists. We waited for about 35 minutes before reaching the front of the queue, behind us the queue remained as long as more tourists streamed in. It seemed that the store was not turning people away even after the store closing hour.

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Queuing outside Baikohken

We ordered two bowls of the most expensive ramen on the menu. In Singapore whenever we ate ramen, the ones that had more slices of char siew meat usually cost more. Both of us loved char siew and we were also very hungry so we naturally went for the most expensive ones on the menu, it costed ‎¥1050 per bowl. We were shocked when our bowls of ramen arrived. They were huge…the char siew were thick (1 cm) and there were six to seven slices of char siew in each bowl. Compared to the ones that I ate in Singapore, there were ten times more char siew in my bowl of ramen and it only half the price.

Most value for money Ramen

Most value for money Ramen

I found out that Baikohnen Honten had outlets in Singapore, Taiwan and HongKong too. So we told ourselves that when we went back to Singapore we are going to look for their outlets and hopefully they would serve as generously and be as cheap!!!

Our Accommodation for the Night

Our accomodation was a semi-double room at Super Hotel Asahikawa. The cost was ‎¥9500 a night and it came with ensuite bathroom and breakfast.

I expected a small room, but the size was still smaller than my expectation considering the not so cheap price I had to paid. It would be great if it was meant for a single person to stay, as for two of us and our bags plus backpacks, it was a tight squeeze. Toilet was also half size though it had everything like WC, bathtub and wash basin. The good thing was that this hotel was new so everything was in great condition.

There was car park just beside the hotel but we had to pay ¥500 for a day. This was the first time I paid for parking in Hokkaido.
Our double room at Super Hotel Asahikawa

Our double room at Super Hotel Asahikawa

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