A Stamina-Building Local Obihiro Favorite
A local dish invented for the pioneers
'Obihiro Buta-don' is a dish of pork glazed with a sweet-and-salty, soy-based sauce and served atop a bowl of rice. This local Obihiro cuisine was invented in 1933. The chef of an inexpensive, local restaurant set his heart to creating a new dish to help the hard-working pioneers build stamina. At first, the chef tried using eel, but this luxury ingredient proved too expensive. Instead, pork became the star, roasted over charcoal, then glazed with a sweet-and-salty sauce, similar to kabayaki-style roast eel. When the chef served this specially-prepared pork as a rice bowl, buta-don was born.
'Pancho', the birthplace of buta-don
Throughout Obihiro, over 200 restaurants serve buta-don. Each offers its own unique flavor and style, for example by using special cuts of pork or unique sauces. Of the many wonderful options, we recommend not to miss 'Ganso Buta-don no Pancho' (Higashi 1-jo Minami 5-chome-13-1, Obihiro). They serve the classic style of buta-don, unchanged since the dish was first conceived. If you have confidence in your appetite, try challenging the large size, which is topped with about eight slices of pork for a surprisingly generous serving.
'Butahage', located within JR Obihiro Station
If you don't have much time to look for a restaurant, you can't go wrong with 'Buta-don no Butahage Honten', conveniently located in Nishi-kan of Obihiro Esta within JR Obihiro Station. (Nishi 2-jo Minami 12-chome, Obihiro). Established in 1934, this time-honored restaurant uses only the best ingredients, painstakingly simmering down their unique sauce according to a generations-old secret recipe -- the perfect complement to fragrant pork roasted slice by slice on the grill. After the first bite, you will find yourself unable to stop until the last morsel is gone. The restaurant is quite small, so we recommend parking any luggage in a locker before you visit.
One-in-the-world Races between Astonishingly Powerful 'Banba' Large Draft Horses
Locals and fans from around the country flock to this unique racecourse
Throughout the year, Banei Racecourse features races between horses dragging metal sleds, in a one-in-the-world display of speed and strength. Roughly twice the size of a thoroughbred and weighing over a tone, the 'banba' draft horses once served as workhorses during the pioneering of Hokkaido. Race days attract crowds to witness these competitions of astonishing strength, including passionate fans from the local area and nationwide.
'Fureai Zoo', a favorite relaxation spot
The racecourse also includes a venue for interaction with animals, known as 'Fureai Zoo'. Of course, this is a favorite for children, and it's also available for race fans who want a moment of respite from the crowds of the grandstands. At the zoo, you can see the massive banba horses up close, feed carrots to the animals, and even try pony riding. Stop by and create special memories of your trip. (* Due to COVID-19 countermeasures, some services may be temporarily suspended.)
Take a break at 'Tokachimura'
After watching the races, head to 'Tokachimura', also located within the racecourse site. This charming sightseeing village combines a number of unique Tokachi attractions, such as the 'Uma no Shiryokan' horse museum. Of the many places to see, we particularly recommend trying the excellent sweets at 'Shichiku Garden Cafe'. Enjoy handmade sweets such as scones and chiffon cake, have a sandwich, or try the rose flavored soft-serve ice cream. The pressed flower coasters are also popular as souvenirs.
Ikeda Grape & Wine Research Center (Wine Castle)
Understand, Savor, and Appreciate Tokachi Wine
Producing original wines such as the renowned 'Yamasachi'
This winery produces the 'Tokachi Wine' brand. In the early 1950s, when the town of Ikeda faced a financial crisis due to major natural disasters, town government employees turned to winemaking as a way to save the town's economy, creating Tokachi Wine. Ikeda is an extremely cold region, and in general, grapes are not resistant to cold. The winemakers succeeded in developing a proprietary grape variety to suit this climate, which they named 'Yamasachi' (literally, 'mountain happiness'). As an example of growing worldwide attention, in 2020, the Yamasachi varietal was registered in lists maintained by the 'International Organisation of Vine and Wine' based in the prominent wine country of France.
Renovated to promote even greater enjoyment of Tokachi Wine
To make every visit even more enjoyable, Wine Castle was renovated and reopened on June 20, 2020. The first floor includes a shopping area featuring row after row of Tokachi Wine products, as well as a tasting corner where visitors may try paid samples of several dozen Tokachi Wine vintages. Experienced advisors will recommend the perfect wines to suit your taste. Also, don't miss the chance to learn more about the unique history of Tokachi Wine at the 'Corridor Museum', which is split across the second floor and first basement. Foreign language support is available for the enjoyment of tourists.
Savor pairings to match your favorite wine
When you find a new favorite vintage, how about enjoying a wine pairing at the fourth floor restaurant? Prominently featuring local ingredients such as Ikeda Beef, Tokachi Beef, Tokachi Black Pork, and Hokkaido Sika Venison, the menu offers a lineup of options to perfectly complement wine, including steak, pasta, and stew. From the windows, vast panoramas of the Tokachi Plains provide a wonderful backdrop to a memorable meal. For dessert, we recommend the soft-serve ice cream made from Yamasachi grape juice. The subtle fragrance of grape works perfectly with the flavor of milk, creating a flavor unique to Ikeda.
An Auspicious Station for Couples to find Happiness
This popular attraction served as an actual train station until 1987
'Koufuku Station' was the name of a station on the Hiroo Line of the former Japan National Railway. In 1987, the Hiroo line was discontinued, and as a result, Koufuku Station was also scheduled to be permanently closed. However, it was decided that due to the auspicious name of 'Koufuku', which means 'Happiness', this special station should be preserved as a sightseeing attraction. Since then, Koufuku Station has become one of Obihiro's prominent sightseeing spots, inspiring visits from people from all over the world to wish for happiness. It is particularly renowned as a 'sanctuary for couples', and said to bring good fortune in romance.
Can this ticket take you to happiness?
On the former Hiroo Line, there was also a station named 'Aikoku', which can be interpreted to mean 'Land of Love'. Even today, at the Koufuku Station gift store, you can purchase train tickets printed with 'From Aikoku (Land of Love) to Koufuku (Happiness)', which are known simply as 'Koufuku Kippu' ('Happiness Tickets'). The auspicious combination of the words for love and happiness is hoped to bring endless fortune to the purchaser. Since introduction, these tickets have become the most popular souvenir at Koufuku Station.
Visit the nearby 'power spots' of love and happiness
After visiting Koufuku Station, try a pilgrimage of happiness starting with a visit to nearby 'Koufuku Shrine', and a bit further on to 'Aikoku Shrine', which is particularly revered as a 'power spot' for eternal love.
Magnificent Garden Scenes that Energize and Inspire
Japan's largest circuit-style garden
Spanning about 80,000 square meters, these vast gardens include thousands of varieties of plantings gathered from around the world over a period of more than 60 years. Arranged in a 'kaiyu-shiki' ('circuit garden') style, Manabe Gardens is composed of areas such as a 'Traditional Japanese Garden', a 'European Garden', and a 'Landscape Garden'. Along the walking courses, visitors will encounter intriguing gardens featuring elements such as carp ponds, observation decks, evergreen forests, and more. Manabe Garden is a must-see for lovers of nature and plants.
Imported tree species create the ambiance of foreign conifer forests
Manabe Gardens is also renowned as Japan's first conifer garden. Hundreds of northern varieties imported from regions such as northern Europe and Canada create a particular ambiance, as if you had stepped into the pages of a fairytale. These unique gardens also serve as a venue to observe the growth of imported trees in Japan.
Take it easy at the adjacent cafe
If you become tired strolling the expansive gardens, stop by 'Cafe Green Garden' for a break. As you relax amidst the cheerful tunes of birdsong, you may even be visited by Hokkaido squirrels. Take your time, and enjoy the speciality of 'Cappuccino Mix' soft-serve ice cream, a perfect harmony of house blend coffee and milk.
These are some of the destinations in Hokkaido served by AIRDO.
Watch some videos that showcase their appeal.