Observe Amazing Animals in Realistic Habitats
Innovative 'behavior exhibits' demonstrate natural animal actions
Located on the eastern side of central Asahikawa, Asahiyama Zoo has become well known for highlighting the animals' natural abilities and personalities, and adopting 'behavior exhibits' specially designed for optimal viewing. The zoo has become one of Hokkaido's foremost sightseeing destinations, and continues to draw great numbers of tourists from throughout Japan and around the world. As of September 2020, the zoo's exhibits feature 677 animals representing 100 species. The zoo's design, which is compact compared to zoos in other countries, offers breathtaking views of the animals so close that individual hairs can be distinguished -- a truly amazing experience.
New facilities scheduled to open in spring 2022
Asahiyama Zoo's most popular exhibits include 'Penguin Hall', an underwater tunnel with 360-degree views of swimming penguins, 'Seal Hall', where visitors can observe charming seals moving between the marine way (round aquarium), and 'Polar Bear Hall', renowned for dynamic scenes of polar bears plunging into its giant pool. In Spring 2020, the new 'Ezo Brown Bear Hall' (tentative name) is scheduled to open. By providing chances to observe the ecology of the Ezo brown bear, one of Hokkaido's iconic animals, the zoo aims to enhance appreciation of Hokkaido's magnificent natural environment.
Plenty of events showcasing animals' nighttime behavior
Of the plentiful events at Asahiyama Zoo, we particularly recommend 'Yukiakari Zoo' (Snow Light Zoo), scheduled for February 3-7, 2021. Droplet-shaped candles, handmade by the zoo staff, gently illuminate the energetic animals amidst the intense cold of winter. Another wonderful event is the 'Nighttime Zoo' held every summer, scheduled for August 10-16. Zoo hours are extended until 9:00 in the evening, allowing chances to experience animal behavior that would otherwise be very difficult to observe. You are sure to be amazed as you discover the differences in animal behavior between day and night.
Shirogane Blue Pond
Enigmatic and Enchanting Blue-Surfaced Pond
The pond renowned for its dreamlike blue color
The fairytale scene of this strikingly blue lake is created by aluminum-containing water from Shirogane Hot Spring mixing with the water of the Biei River, creating the pond's signature color as it reflects light. At some point in time, the pond became known as 'Aoi Ike' (Blue Pond), and as word spread through television and magazines, it attracted more and more visitors, eventually becoming one of Biei's best-known sightseeing spots. We recommend visiting on clear, windless mornings, when the calm lake surface clearly reflects the skies and trees, creating a scene of breathtaking beauty.
Enjoy the breathtaking scenes of the four seasons
As the seasons and weather change, so does the remarkable color of Shirogane Blue Pond. As runoff from melting snow increases in spring, the pond takes on a slight green tint. In summer, the lake surface may seem light blue contrasted against the vibrant new greenery. In autumn, the foliage of the surrounding forests turns crimson, and in winter, the lake freezes as the whole world turns silvery white. Enjoy the magical 'Biei Blue' of the pond amidst these breathtaking seasonal scenes.
Blue Pond nighttime illumination, only in winter
Every winter from November to April, Shirogane Blue Pond is illuminated until 9:00 in the evening. A variety of lighting effects and patterns create a story that can be enjoyed over the course of about ten minutes. The weather and other changing factors contribute to the atmosphere of the presentation, creating unique scenes every night. And, as snow accumulates, the illumination program changes from mid-December. The surrounding Japanese larches cast sharp shadows over this artistic scene.
Live the 'Slow Life' in Biei's Idyllic Countryside
Private, fully-detached country cottage style accommodation
Since Spoonvalley opened in 2007, this cottage-style accommodation has become very popular among residents of Hokkaido. These five buildings are located right in the middle of the hills of Biei, with their browned-butter colored plaster walls creating a scene right from a fairytale. Each building is privately rented to a single party, allowing guests to enjoy the sensation of staying in their own second home. Rustic interior features, such as floors and tables, create the atmosphere of a lovingly used home, evoking nostalgia even on the first visit. There is even a hammock in the generously-sized sun room.
Everything is made by hand -- from the buildings to the food, and even the scenery
Each building was handmade by the owners, making use of old homes from Hokkaido's pioneering days. Meals are also made from scratch, avoiding ready-made products whenever possible. During the green season, rustic western-style dishes feature fresh vegetables from the owners' own garden, or ingredients sourced from personal friends. (Dinners 3,900 yen extra.) And, so that visitors may relax as they enjoy scenes of Biei's renowned wheatfields, the owners took up farming from their mid forties, and now run their own agriculture business. The warmth of human touch can be felt throughout the entire experience at Cottage Spoonvalley.
Making time for truly heartfelt relaxation
When they planned to open their cottages, the owners considered why people visit Biei. They reached the conclusion that people come in search of opportunities for heartfelt relaxation. This might be time spent sharing stories with loved ones, becoming absorbed in the pages of a favorite book, or simply gazing into the starry skies. Cottage Spoonvalley was created as a venue to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, escape the constant clamor of information, and truly unwind amidst the tranquility of Biei.
Panoramic Flower Garden Shikisai-no-oka
Sightseeing Gardens Capture the Beauty of the Four Seasons
Overlooking Biei's iconic patchwork fields
Panoramic Flower Garden Shikisai-no-oka is situated overlooking Biei's iconic scenery of gently rolling hills covered in a patchwork of farm fields. In the green season, dozens of varieties of flowers come into bloom, with vast flower fields and wide-open spaces creating an unparalleled experience. The snow season has its own appeal, with beautiful scenes of snow-covered fields awaiting, and exciting activities (fees apply) such as snowmobiling on offer. You can also meet and feed adorable alpacas at the Alpaca Ranch.
Savor seasonal local flavors
At the onsite 'Shikisai-no-oka Farm', you can enjoy seasonal fruit and vegetables grown by the garden's company, such as asparagus (around mid May to mid June), corn (around mid August to late September), and melon (around mid July to mid September). At the farmer's market on the first floor, you can try special 'Oka no Jagaimo Croquettes' made from prestigious 'danshaku' and 'kita akari' potatoes. The restaurant on the second floor offers authentic Hokkaido dishes such as heartwarming 'soup curry' and barbecued 'venison Genghis Khan'. The souvenir corner is packed with perfect local gifts, such as lavender goods.
In winter, you may even see the rare 'sun pillar' phenomenon
Shikisai-no-oka also includes accommodation, with guest rooms offering panoramic views of the hilly countryside together with the magnificent Daisetsuzan Mountain Range. Of course, views during the green season and autumn leaf season are wonderful. And in winter, you might even be lucky enough to see the 'sun pillar' phenomenon, when dancing 'diamond dust' ice crystals scintillate under the sunlight -- a scene that only occurs a few times each year. The elegant beauty of nature changes with the seasons, and you will discover new, heartmoving experiences every time you visit.
Hot Spring Village at the Foot of the Daisetsuzan Mountains
The largest hot spring village in Daisetsuzan Mountain Range, nestled amidst a vast canyon
Discovered between 1954 and 1960, Sounkyo Onsen is the largest hot spring village in Daisetsuzan Mountain Range. Set amidst magnificent nature, the village includes a variety of accommodation options, ranging from hot spring hotels to family-run lodges, pensions, and auto camping sites. Located in the village center, 'Sounkyo Canyon Mall Shopping Street' is lined with shops offering a range of services, including restaurants, diners, cafes, and rental bicycle offices, just like a world-level alpine resort. Visitors are sure to enjoy these features which create a truly unique hot spring village atmosphere.
Experience the beauty of freezing winter at the Sounkyo Hyoubaku Matsuri (Ice Fall Festival)
Sounkyo Onsen is one of Hokkaido's leading cold-climate destinations, with average lows of -14 ℃ in February. From time to time, temperatures even dip below -20 ℃. As an event to celebrate the beauty of this region, the highly-recommended Sounkyo Hyoubaku Matsuri (Ice Fall Festival) is held for a one-month period from late January every year. This festival features colorful illumination of sheets of ice that form from the freezing waterfall, creating a truly magical scene. With a wide range of attractions and events including the 'Northern Ice Bar', a bar built entirely of ice, you are certain to find plenty to see.
Enjoy memorable events throughout the year
In summer, the 'Sounkyo Onsen Valley Hi-Matsuri' (Fire Festival) re-creates the Ainu tradition of the 'Owl Ritual', a ceremony in which a Blakiston's fish owl is sent to the land of the gods. The festival includes many attractions, such as fire performances that colorfully illuminate the valley and traditional Ainu dance. This festival is particularly recommended as an opportunity to observe Ainu dance, which has been designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties of Japan, and is also registered as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage. Observing this solemn and profound dance is a truly rewarding and memorable experience. The festival also features beautiful nightly fireworks.
These are some of the destinations in Hokkaido served by AIRDO.
Watch some videos that showcase their appeal.