Preamble: I posted part 1 of the trip here. You might want to check that first.
On the 4th day, I woke up early and checked out after a hearty breakfast at the business hotel to catch the earliest bus to Mt. Asahidake. The bus can be found in the bus terminal right in front of Asahikawa train station. There is a park behind the station, the perfect place to stroll about in the late afternoon just to kick back and relax.
Now the place I was going to, within Daisetsuzan national park border, is the last stop of the bus, and there lies a ropeway station that would take visitors to the climbing base. The ropeway ticket is quite costly, but it is the only way to reach Mt. Asahidake. Now I have been on many hikes with friends before but as this was the first time for me hiking solo I was a bit jittery and pumped up at the same time. I was told that it would take around 2,5 hours to reach the very peak of Asahidake.
It was a bit cloudy as I forayed into the wild, pristine base of Asahidake. The place is chock full of sightseeing spots. I noticed a lot of circular trails that take you into observation decks where you could see ponds, calderas, and even sulfur-spitting vents. It is said that through the seasons you will see different views. I skipped all those to see later after the climbing except Sugatami Pond which you would stumble anyways if you plan to climb.
The ascent was rough in the beginning due to the abundance of slippery small rocks. I saw some hikers lost their balance when stepping on them, so I kept a wary stance at all times. One hour into the hike the path became smoother as the small rocks are replaced by big craggy stones jutting out from the ground. Near the top, the trail turned flat and I could slow down and enjoy the sights, yet the sweeping clouds made everything impossible to see.
After 1,5 hours of climbing, I reached the peak. Out of breath yet satisfied, lunch was the only thing on my mind. Minding my own business I sat down on a big rock and opened my packed lunch. I was halfway through eating when suddenly out of nowhere a swarm of dragonflies gathered at the peak area. Everyone was in astonishment seeing dragonflies at such an altitude. It was awesome. They flew gracefully yet perched flimsily upon any surface they could find.
I spent like 30 minutes resting at the top before deciding to descend, which was considerably faster as I tried to challenge myself by running non-stop to the bottom. There were a few times when I slipped and almost fell down but in the end, I managed to get to Sugatami Pond in under 1 hour. Big accomplishment!
This time I had buffer time to kill before going down via ropeway so I explored all the sights at the base that I missed before. There are numerous ponds with interesting names like ‘husband and wife ponds’. I was intrigued to capture them in their majestic sight, but sadly the cloudy weather did not allow me to get the best shot.
I caught the last ropeway down to the terminal near Asahidake Onsen, then took the bus back to Asahikawa. From there, ignoring my fatigue I rode the train to Sapporo. It was already nightfall in Sapporo by the time I reached the city. One of the guys at the guest house I stayed in was very nice to me and he recommended to me a park which I should visit the next day. My leg muscles were tense due to the hike so an early bed was all I wanted.
Day five began with me waking at 7 AM to get the free breakfast, then heading to Sapporo station where supposedly I could rent a bicycle there. The rent was slightly cheaper compared to other rental places I have visited, though the bicycle was not exactly the best. So I went around a bit by cycling.
Nearing noon I went back to the city center for a quick lunch, then I darted out again to go to the Botanical Garden located in front of the former Hokkaido Government Office. On the way I stopped by Odori Park, arguably the most famous park in Sapporo where various events are held throughout the year there, just to complete my sightseeing in the city. The popular Sapporo Snow Festival is held there as well — hopefully, I could come next time for that.
The Botanical Garden itself belongs to Hokkaido University and overall was quite a good place to visit if you have spare time during your stay. Even though it is located downtown, it felt very spacious due to hundreds of trees towering high, making you forget you are actually in a city. The garden also has a small museum dedicated to the Ainu people.
After the Botanical Garden, the next place to visit was another park — Moerenuma Park. Now you see why the title is ‘Exploring Parks in Sapporo’. I really devoted my time staying there just to go far and wide for the parks. In particular, I was interested in Moerenuma Park because of its uniqueness. Apart from being huge, this park was designed by Isamu Noguchi, a world-renowned landscape architect just shortly before his death in 1988. That alone is enough to attract me. I even met a girl who said she came to Sapporo just to visit Moerenuma.
To reach the park, you would have to take a bus. From Kanjodori-higashi subway station there is a bus terminal where you can ride the bus to Moerenuma Park. After 30 minutes I arrived in the park. I was amazed. The park has plenty of dramatic features to keep you entertained and a huge tract of land with greenery everywhere. It was such a one-of-a-kind public space. I had to admit I could not possibly visit all the interesting spots in the park.
In the end, I decided to climb Play Mountain, the highest point at the park where I could gaze into the night view of Hokkaido over yonder. Of course, the night view from the summit of Mt. Moiwa is supposed to be the deal-sealer for all romantic people, a reason to visit Sapporo. However in my opinion being alone at the top of the artificial ‘mountain’ was something you do not get very often. The solitude, the howling wind, the chill you get when you look afar; the only thing that stopped me from staying there for too long were the vicious mosquitoes.
The last day of my trip began with the visit to the last parks on my list: Hitsujigaoka Observation HIll. This is where the statue of Dr. William Smith Clark, celebrated for his illustrious words ‘boys be ambitious’, lies at the top of the hill. To visit the park you can take a bus from Fukuzumi subway station. Nearby the station you will find Sapporo Dome, a side attraction worth a visit.
In Hitsujigaoka I treated myself to various Hokkaido indulgences, such as soft ice cream and Jingisukan aka ‘Genghis Khan’, a Japanese grill mutton dish. It was the last day and I had plenty of time to kill before I needed to make my move towards Tomakomai for a ferry.
Before 5 PM I found myself riding the train to Tomakomai, from which the ferry to Sendai departs. Initially, I wanted to go around Tomakomai, but as I was hard-pressed to board the ferry as soon as possible, I scrapped the idea of doing so. Plus, the city is not exactly a tourist place. A quick Google search shows the sightseeing spots are in the vicinity of the city, not inside the city itself.
With the departure of the ferry at 7 PM, I said my goodbye to Hokkaido. It had been a hell of a ride as I got to see Hokkaido in its glorious beauty in summer. From Hakodate to Sapporo, I could not pick which city to be my favorite. Each has its own distinct flavor and sights to behold.
Before the ferry’s arrival to Sendai at 10 in the morning the next day, I explored the ship and found the ship is not lacking in entertainment. From hot bath, karaoke, cinema, game parlor to small classical music performance, the ferry has it all. The food is served in buffet style, although you would have to pay quite a handsome price of ¥2000 for dinner and slightly less for breakfast.
When I reached Sendai the next day, I was super exhausted as all the ‘adventures’ that I did in Hokkaido started to take their toll. Even so, I was craving for more. I did not have the chance to visit the remote part of Hokkaido such as Wakkanai or Abashiri. For now, to me, those parts of Hokkaido are still shrouded with mysteries. But who knows, maybe one day I get to unveil those mysteries.
More useful information:
Asahikawa tourism website (English)
Sapporo official website (English)