Asahikawa, the second largest city of Hokkaido after Sapporo, is not particularly a popular tourist destination of Japan but does house one of the best zoos in the country – the Asahiyama Zoo.
Overview of the Asahiyama Zoo
The Asahiyama Zoo, or referred to as Asahiyama Dobutsuen by the locals, is a zoological garden located just beyond the outskirts of Central Asahikawa. It officially opened its doors to the public during the year 1967 and has since become the second most frequently visited zoo in Japan.
Compared to others, the Asahiyama Zoo offers visitors with a unique experience by allowing them to observe various animals from different perspectives. Constant improvements and enclosure developments are done at the Asahiyama Zoo to keep up with the ever-changing trends and standards of the world.
A percentage of the animal species housed at Asahiyama Zoo consists of Hokkaido’s native wildlife, while other parts account for the wide array of animals that come from different parts of the globe.
Things to Expect at Asahiyama Zoo
Before exploring the Asahiyama Zoo, tourists should make sure to keep the following rules in mind to avoid being asked to leave the premises:
Pets are not allowed in the Asahiyama Zoo.
No visitor is allowed to enter the fenced or prohibited areas.
No visitor is allowed to feed the animals.
No visitor is allowed to scare the animals.
No visitor is allowed to bring in dangerous items.
No visitor is allowed to re-enter the Asahiyama Zoo once they have left the property.
Taking photographs is allowed but there should be no flash to avoid scaring the animals.
Sleds, balloons, and other unnecessary items are not allowed in the Asahiyama Zoo.
The Asahiyama Zoo covers a large land area that houses numerous sections. It usually takes half a day to comfortably go through all the things the zoo has to offer. For the convenience of visitors, a helpful brochure guide is given upon entry and indicates the locations of the following section:
Polar Bear House – houses polar bears
Seal House – houses harbor seals, ernes, and Slaty-backed gulls
Penguin House – houses King Penguins, Gentoos, Humboldt Penguins, and Crested Penguins
Fierce Animal House – houses Amur Tigers, Lions, Snow Leopards, Amur Leopards, Black Panthers, and Ezo Brown Bears
Orangutan House/Museum – houses Bornean Orangutans
Spider Monkey and Capybara House – houses Geoffroy’s Spider Monkeys and Water Pigs
Monkey Mountain – houses Japanese Monkeys
Ape House – houses Ring-tailed Lemurs and Swamp Monkeys
Children’s Pasture – houses Guinea Pigs, Chinchillas, Hamsters, Dogs, Cats, Ducks, Kohl Ducks, Goats, Sheep, and Ponies.
Gibbon House – houses Kyon Gibbons and White-Handed Gibbons
White Fox House – houses White Foxes
Lesser Panda House – houses Lesser Pandas
Chicken Village – houses Whooper Swans, Whistling Swans, National Birds, Mute Swans, White-Fronted Geese, Bean Geese, Titmouse Cancers, Indian Cancers, Snow Geese, Mallards, Spotbill Ducks, Widgeons, Ladybirds, Mandarin Ducks, and Tufted Ducks
Flamingo House – houses Bonaire Flamingos, European Flamingos, and Chilean Flamingoes
Japanese Deer Forest – houses Japanese Sika Deer
Wolves’ Forest – houses White Wolves
Blakiston’s Fish Owl Glass House – houses Blakiston’s Fish Owls and Hokkaido Snow Rabbits
Amphibians and Reptiles House – houses Japanese Rat Snakes, Japanese Four-Striped Rat Snakes, Japanese Vipers, Japanese Forest Rat Snakes, Japanese Pond Turtles, Japanese Tree Frogs, and Ezo Salamanders
Reindeer House – houses Reindeers
Snowy Owl House – houses Snow Owls
Giraffe House – houses Reticulated Giraffes, Great White Pelicans, and Guinea Fowls
Hippopotamus House – houses Hippopotamuses, Ostriches, and Warthogs
Peacock House – houses Indian Peacocks
Hokkaido Animal Houses – houses small mammals, eagles, hawks, and owls
The Asahiyama Zoo’s Winter Penguin Walk – Details and 2018 Walk Schedule
Among the Asahiyama Zoo’s many attractions, the penguin walk it hosts every winter season serves as its most popular one.
If all is well, visitors can expect to see the penguins march across the snow twice a day, first at 11:00 AM and again at 2:30 PM. It should be noted that the Asahiyama Zoo Penguin Walk is not meant to be a show to entertain visitors but is actually an exercise activity that keeps the animals fit and healthy.
The penguins that are guided across the zoo are of the King Penguin species, which can be found in Antarctica. In their natural habitats, these penguins usually make their way towards the sea to catch some fish. According to various report studies, groups of King Penguins sometimes travel as far as one kilometer.
Another interesting fact about King Penguins is that they tend to walk in a straight line when there are ice mountains or snow mountains present on either side. As such, visitors are encouraged to line up along the sides of the walking path of the penguins as a way of guiding them from end to end.
The Penguin Walk goes on for about five hundred meters, starting from the Penguin House, passing behind the Seal House, and back again to the Penguin House.
The actual dates of the event vary from year to year but usually starts from late-December to mid-March, on days when there is snow. Other factors that may affect the schedule of the Penguin Walk include the health of the animals and the harshness of the weather.
Penguins are not selected or forced to join the Penguin Walk. As such, the number of penguins that participate in the exercise varies from day to day, depending on their mood and health. There are also some instances that other kinds of penguins such as the Gentoo Penguins join the activity.
More Information about the Asahiyama Zoo – Hours, Ticket Price/Entrance Fee, Etc.
The Asahiyama Zoo is open every day of the year, except for the New Year holidays which run from December 30 to January 1. During the summer and winter seasons, the zoo is also closed for a few days, typically from the 9th to the 27th April and from the 4th to the 10th of November.
Tickets are priced at 820 yen per person, for adults, while children may enter free of charge. Groups with more than 25 people are entitled to a discounted rate of 720 yen per person.
For those who plan on going back to the Asahiyama Zoo during their next trip to Japan, a Zoo Passport may be availed for the price of 1,020 yen per person. This passport is valid for one year from the first day of use.
The Asahiyama Zoo also offers other facilities such as parking, lockers, transportation, toilets, cafeterias, shops, ATMs, vending machines, mobile phone charging stations, nursing rooms, and drinking fountains for the convenience of visitors.
Map & Access to the Asahiyama Zoo – Train, Bus, Etc.
As with other tourist attractions of Japan, the Asahiyama Zoo can be accessed through different modes of transportation, depending on one’s preference.
From Furano, tourists can take a train on the JR Furano Line to the Asahikawa Station for 1,070 yen per person, one-way. The train ride takes about seventy minutes of travel time from end to end. Afterward, a bus can be taken from the Asahikawa Station to the Asahiyama Zoo.
At the Asahikawa Station, tourists should hop on Bus Number 47, 42, or 41, all of which pass by the Asahiyama Zoo. The one-way trip costs about 440 yen per person and takes forty minutes to reach the Asahiyama Zoo.
For those who will be coming from the Asahikawa Airport, direct buses to the zoo are available for 550 yen per person, per trip. These buses only take about 35 minutes to reach the Asahiyama Zoo but follow irregular schedules.
Alternatively, a bus may be taken from the airport to the Asahikawa Station for 620 yen per person.
Tourists may also choose to rent out a car or take a taxi to the Asahiyama Zoo from Central Asahikawa. The trip usually takes about half an hour of travel time.
Although convenient, tourists should expect to pay higher fees; the usual taxi fare for a one-way trip to the zoo costs around 3,500 yen.
Accommodation Options near the Asahiyama Zoo
Aside from the Asahiyama Zoo, the city of Asahikawa offers tourists with many other attractions to explore such as the Winter Festival. There are also several places located near the city which serve as great side trips.
As such, tourists may want to consider spending a night or two at one of the many hotels, inns, and guest houses Asahikawa has to offer, the best of which include the following:
P-Dash Garden Backpackers
P-Dash Garden Backpackers is situated in a charmingly quiet area of rural Higashikawa. It houses several rooms that may be rented as a shared dormitory or as a private room.
The dormitory type rooms feature tatami floors and bunk beds, while the private rooms are equipped with wooden floors, framed beds, and a work desk. All rooms have access to the property’s free WiFi connection.
Shared areas of the hotel include toilets, bathrooms, and lounge. P-Dash Garden Backpackers also has its own bar and barbecue area, for the enjoyment of their guests. However, it should be noted that no meals are served by the hotel and the nearest convenience store is a 10-minute drive away.
In addition, given the property’s location in the countryside of Higashikawa, accessing it can be quite difficult and requires the use of a car. Fortunately, free parking is also offered by P-Dash Garden Backpackers.
Rating: 8.1 out of 10
Access: 3.3 kilometers away from the Asahiyama Zoo; 7.5 kilometers away from the Ueno Farm.
Address: 37 Nishi 11 Gokita, Higashikawa-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido, Japan 071-1411
Hotel Trend Asahikawa
Hotel Trend Asahikawa is one of the most popular business hotels in Asahikawa. Each unit of the hotel comes complete with a private bathroom and flat-screen TV.
Toiletries, towels, and bed linen are provided for free on a daily basis. Other services and facilities of Hotel Trend Asahikawa include a 24/7 front desk, a shared lounge, luggage storage space rental, and Asian breakfast options every morning.
The Asahiyama Zoo is located about six kilometers away from the hotel.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Access: 3.6 kilometers away from the Asahikawa Ramen Village, 4 kilometers away from the Ueno Farm, 7 kilometers away from the Asahikawa Yojo Station
Address: 19-1-2 Nagayama 3 Jo, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido, Japan 079-8413
Toka-en is a traditional Japanese inn (ryokan) that offers guests access to its large public baths and stunning Japanese gardens.
All of its rooms feature a simple, traditional Japanese arrangement, i.e. tatami flooring and futon bedding. Each unit is also equipped with a TV, a small refrigerator, green tea, and yukata robes, for the convenience of guests.
Shared spaces of the property include toilets, bathrooms, and a dining area. Seasonal Japanese dishes are available for breakfast and dinner.
Other popular services and facilities of the ryokan include free WiFi connection, free parking, coin-operated launderettes, table tennis, and luggage storage space rentals.
Rating: 8.6 out of 10
Access: 12-minute walk away from the Asahikawa Yojo Station; 2.4 kilometers away from the Asahikawa Station; 7.6 kilometers away from the Asahiyama Zoo
Address: 25 5 Jodori, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido, Japan 070-0035
Yado Retro House Ginza Asahikawa
Yado Retro House Ginza Asahikawa can be accessed from the JR Asahikawa Station in just fifteen minutes by foot. It offers tourists with simple dormitory rooms that are equipped with bunk beds. Other facilities of the property include a shared kitchen, shared lounge, shared toilets and bathrooms, and a dining area.
Tourists should note that Yado Retro House Ginza Asahikawa does not serve any meals but there is a convenience store located near the area.
Rating: 7.6 out of 10
Access: 7-minute walk away from the Asahikawa Yojo Station; 15-minute walk away from the JR Asahikawa Station; 30-minute car ride away from the Asahikawa Airport
Address: 14 4 Jodori, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido, Japan 070-0034
Hoshino Resorts Asahikawa Grand Hotel
Hoshino Resorts Asahikawa Grand Hotel offers guests with modern rooms and facilities including a spa, a wellness center, a sauna, a restaurant, and a bar. Previous guests have praised the hotel numerous times for its team of staff, which is made up of friendly members who can understand and speak English.
Each of the rooms housed by Hoshino Resorts Asahikawa Grand Hotel carries a classic ambiance and is equipped the basic necessities.
Rating: 8.3 out of 10
Access: 10-minute walk away from the Tokiwa-koen Park; 13-minute walk away from the JR Asahikawa Station; 30-minute car ride away from the Asahikawa Airport; 40-minute bus ride away from the Asahiyama Zoo
Address: 9-1 6 Jodori, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido, Japan 070-0036
Hotel Crescent Asahikawa
Hotel Crescent Asahikawa has been providing pleasant accommodation options to locals and tourists of the Asahikawa area for more than five years. Its air-conditioned rooms are fitted with carpeted floors, private bathrooms, and the standard household essentials.
Some, more expensive, units are equipped with free wired internet connection, but free WiFi connection can be accessed from any part of the property.
Other facilities and services of Hotel Crescent Asahikawa include coin-operated launderettes, drink vending machines, a sauna room, a restaurant that serves Western and Japanese cuisine, and a spacious public bath.
Rating: 7.0 out of 10
Access: 10-minute walk away from the Asahikawa Station and the Tokiwa Park; 25-minute car ride away from the Ueno Farm and the Asahiyama Zoo
Address: 8-1703-49 5 Jodori, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido, Japan 070-0035
Kuretake Inn Asahikawa
Kuretake Inn Asahikawa is 3-star hotel that is considered to be among the best accommodation in Asahikawa.
Each of its air-conditioned rooms comes complete with a flat-screen TV, kettle, desk, and private bathroom. To make things more convenient, guests also have access to free WiFi connection throughout the entire property.
The hotel also houses its own on-site restaurant which serves European and Japanese dishes, among other cuisines.
Rating: 8.3 out of 10
Access: 1-kilometer away from the Tokiwa Park; 10-minute walk away from the Asahikawa Station; 10 kilometers away from the Asahiyama Zoo
Address: 9 -1704-18 4 Jodori, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaido, Japan 070-0034