Obihiro: A “Model Environment City” in Japan

No matter the season, Japan is always a great country to visit. Spring season in Japan is famous for cherry blossoms and hanami festivals. On the other hand, the winter seasons signifies the time to enjoy the snow and maybe go snow skiing. Probably one of the best places to visit in Japan during the winter season is Hokkaido. Located in the northernmost portion of the country, Hokkaido is a famous tourist attraction in the winter. When in Hokkaido, there are several cities to check out, one of which is the city of Obihiro.

Overview: Map, Weather, Airport, and Transportation to Tokyo

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More commonly known as Obihiro-shi in Japanese, the city of Obihiro is located in Tokachi Subprefecture in Hokkaido, Japan. In the area of Tokachi, Obihiro is the only place that is assigned as a city. The municipality next to Obihiro based on population is the town of Otofuke, which is located just beside Obihiro. Even then, Otofuke only contains less than a third of the population of the city of Obihiro.

In the year 2008, it was estimated that the foreign residents in the city amounted to 500 people. The headquarters of the Fifth Division of the Northern Army of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force can also be found in the city of Obihiro. The city also serves as the host of the Rally Japan World Rally Championship event. The beautiful city of Obihiro was also named a “model environment city” in the country in the year 2008.

The main airport in the city is that Tokachi-Obihiro Airport. It can be found in the northeast of downtown Obihiro. Nonetheless, the said airport is still situated within the borders of the city. Coming from Obihiro Station, it takes about 50 minutes to get to the airport by car and an hour by bus.

The next major airport close to the city after Tokachi-Obihiro Airport is New Chitose Airport. The ride to the said airport from Obihiro takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes by train and more than 4 hours by car. Both airports offer direct flights to Haneda Airport and vice versa.

The government of the city of Obihiro is led by Mayor Norihisa Yonezawa since April of the year 2010. The city has a total area of 618.94 square kilometers, which is equivalent to 238.97 square miles. As of the 31st of August in the year 2011, the city had an estimated population of 168,546.

As a result, the city had a population density of 275 persons per square kilometer, which is equivalent to 710 persons per square mile. The symbols of the city include the Japanese white birch tree, the Fritillaria camschatcensis flower, and the lark bird. The address of the city hall is West 5 South 7-1, Obihiro-shi, Hokkaidō.

The main industry that the city dabbles in is the agricultural sector. Mostly, it involves farming operations at a vast scale. Just within the city, the farms have approximately 24 hectares of arable land on average. This number exceeds the average arable land in Hokkaido, which is only 17.41 hectares. In fact, the national average of arable land is only 1.57 hectares.

 The city primarily produces wheat, beets, potatoes, and beans. Recently, the farms have also improved in terms of producing nagaimo, also known as Dioscorea polystachya, and gobo, also known as Arctium lappa. These two are actually specialty products of Tokachi. Three famous pastry companies also have their headquarters situated in Obihiro. These three are Rokkatei, Cranberry, and Ryugetsu.

Obihiro is also a good place for children, ass it houses 26 public elementary schools and 14 public middle schools. Five prefectural high schools, one municipal high school, and two private high schools can also be found in the city. The only university not just in the city but in the whole subprefecture is the Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine.

The city experiences a humid continental climate. With a Köppen climate classification of Dfb, the city of Obihiro experiences warm summers and very cold winters. Precipitation can be seen throughout the year. However, it is considerably higher at the end of the summer season as well as the beginning of the spring season.

Points of Interest When Visiting Obihiro

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There are several must-see attractions in the city of Obihiro. Probably the most popular one is Kofuku Station. Dubbed as one of the most romantic train stations in the country, Kofuku Station is widely popular among couples. The station has been featured in several programs on television as well as in documentaries. The term “kofuku” translates to “happiness.”

A primary local attraction in the city of Obihiro, Kofuku Station welcomes thousands of visitors from different parts of the world every single year. Initially, the station had already closed in the year 1987. However, because of its immense popularity, the government opted to improve the station and make it more modern before opening the station again to the public. It is customary for couples to take photos in the station.

Aside from the romantic station, Obihiro also has something to offer to guests who love horses. Residents of the city are highly dependent on horses, as the animals are used for farming as well as transport. There are farms in the city that teach visitors how to ride a horse. This is perfect for people who are interested in learning how to properly ride a horse.

Guests can also watch draft horse racing known as Ban’ei. This distinct type of horse racing is unique to only Obihiro. One can visit the local horse racing track to watch the horses compete against each other and run amidst the cold weather.

In addition to a horse racing track, one can also learn more about horses by visiting the Obihiro Horse Museum. It would be best to bring a Japanese companion when visiting this museum as it does not offer English translations. The museum offers free admission so anyone can enter and explore the place without having to pay for anything.

Aside from places related to horses, the city also consists of several scenic parks that feature ponds and gardens. These places are great for people who wish to take a stroll and unwind. The famous parks in the city are the Midorigaoka Park and the Manabe Garden. Not only are these parks great for couples but they are also good for picnics with the family. Surrounding these parks are some sightseeing locations that one can also check out.

Coming from Obihiro Station, one can also visit Lake Shikaribetsu, which can be found in Daisetsu-zan National Park. Using a private vehicle, one can reach the place in around an hour. Many tourists opt to go on a day trip to this place. Activities in the lake include canoeing and riding a hot air balloon.

When the hot air balloon is already afloat, visitors can view the beautiful scenery that the lake offers. With such a beautiful background, visitors may also opt to enjoy a picnic just close to the lake. After a day’s worth of activities, guests can go relax and unwind in the well-known Tokachi hot springs.

Other than the gardens and parks, there are also other museums in the city of Obihiro. For people interested in archaeology, they can visit the Obihiro Centennial Museum. Situated in Midorigaoka Park, this archaeological museum features several ancient tools, weapons, and pottery shards to name a few. Smaller museums can also be found in the city that showcases artifacts of agriculture machinery and beet.

More places to check out in the city include the Iwanai Nature Village and the Tokachi River. The said river is recognized as among the most pristine rivers in all of Japan. During the winter season, several swans can be found swimming in the area, which many couples may find romantic to watch.

The swans in the river are known to swim towards people who offer them food. It is important to note that when visiting the river during the winter season, guests should wear enough clothes to keep them warm. This is especially important for people who wish to stay in the area for a long period of time as the cold may be a bit harsh.

A Guide to the Culture Preserved in Obihiro

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The city of Obihiro tries to maintain its culture and heritage alive up to this day. For one, its unique style of horse racing can still be enjoyed and watch today. This began in the 1900s when farmers in Hokkaido used to participate in contests of tug-of-war using their workhorses to showcase which ones were commendable in terms of strength and value.

Gradually, this event became formalized until finally, it became known as the Ban’ei horse racing. Typically, horse racing constitutes the use of an oblong track. However, in this unique type of horse racing, Ban’ei uses a straight track 200 meters long accompanied by two hills.

Draft horses used to run in this race are known to be huge and powerful. They are made to pull sleds that have more than a ton of weight. Riders of these horses typically use a whip to make the horses run faster. Recognizing the potential of the races in terms of popularity and tourism, the city government had the track, as well as the facilities, renovated in the year 2007.

Aside from this unique type of horse racing, the city of Obihiro also consistently preserves and celebrates three major festivals. These festivals are the Flat Plain Festival, the Chrysanthemum Festival, and the Ice Festival. These three festivals showcase the history and culture of this beautiful city.

Also known as heigen matsuri in Japanese, the Flat Plain Festival is celebrated in a span of three days. Its 70th year was celebrated just last year, the year 2017. It is held in mid-August, which is also during the Obon holiday season in the city. People celebrate the festival in the downtown streets of the city.

During the festival, several performances are held. This includes a taiko drum performance. Several teams are recruited from different parts of Hokkaido to perform in the said festival. The festival also holds a parade at night known as Yume Furu Ya, which can be translated to “The Night of Raining Dreams.” This parade is done as an expression of hope for a good harvest.

On the other hand, the Chrysanthemum Festival is held every month of October each year. Also known as Kiku matsuri in Japanese, this festival is held in a span of 6 days. It commemorates the important flower known as Chrysanthemum in the culture of Japan. During the festival, guests are able to witness a display of thousands of chrysanthemums that can be seen in Central Park in the city of Obihiro.

Lastly, the Ice Festival, as the name suggests, is held during the winter season. Also known as kori matsuri in Japanese, the Ice Festival features several displays of fireworks as well as food stands. During this time, the residents of Obihiro go out and have fun in the snow.

Other Places to Check Out in Obihiro, Japan

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One other place that one can check out in Japan is the Satsunai River. Since the year 1991, this river has been chosen as the cleanest Class A river in the country for 7 times. It plays an important role in environmental conservation. The river has a length of 82 kilometers, which is equivalent to 51 miles. Most of the drinking water in Obihiro is sources from the Satsunai River.

Another place to see is the Kita no Yatai. It is an alleyway that contains several food stands that are open throughout the year. Foods offered here are sourced from different parts of the world. Foods to try in the city include butadon and jingisukan. Make sure to try these at least once when in the city of Obihiro. One can also try its potatoes, dairy products, and turnips. These products are a must-try when in Obihiro, as they are known to be of superb quality.