Asahidake to Asahikawa
Distance: 39 miles
Total Distance: 1968 miles

We woke up to a beautiful morning with clear blue skies, and despite the cool weather we were packed up and ready to go at a decent hour (spurred on in part by a small leak that had sprung in the bottom of our tent–it was hard to relax too much with a small puddle between our sleeping bags). We were on short rations for breakfast so eating didn’t take long, but stopped for a little while to talk with the only other occupants of the campground–a friendly German family who were planning on hiking to the top of Daisetsuzan that morning.


Finally a clear view of Daisetsuzan!

The descent back down the hill was a lot of fun–steep but little traffic, and great views of the mountain behind us. We had to stop periodically to warm up our hands (and take pictures)–cycling gloves do little to protect from the cool air and wind chill of a fast descent. After just a couple of hours, we were riding in the flats through the small town of Higashikawa. We stopped for a snack at the road station there, and then rode on to Asahikawa, our destination for the day. The ride was easy, and we got there in the early afternoon, ready to check in to a hotel and explore the area.


Riding back down the mountain


Daisetsuzan over Lake Chubetsu


Manhole cover in Higashikawa

We found a relatively cheap hotel but could not check in until 4pm (although they let us leave our bags in the lobby), so we decided to do some sightseeing instead. One of the items on our “things to do in Japan” checklist was visiting a sake brewery, so we set out on a mission. According to our guidebook, there were several in the area. The first we tried was a sake brewery in name only–as far as we could tell it was more of an upscale art gallery, and the brewery section functioned more as a pretense for bringing in busloads of tourists and selling them overpriced sculptures. Needless to say, we did not fit in as we tromped around in our cycling shoes and dry-fit T-shirts.

Off we rode across town to another suggestion from the guidebook. This one was much better–a multi-story museum and sake brewery, with plenty of rooms to wander through. Unfortunately, we made one critical mistake as we entered the brewery. The kind woman at the front desk–after doing a double-take at the two sweaty foreigners who had just wandered in–bowed and cheerfully asked us, “did you drive here today?” “Oh no!” I replied proudly, “We came by bicycle!”. Her face fell in disappointment. “Oh, that’s too bad…if you came by vehicle we cannot offer you any samples of our sake…”. Such a disappointment. Although we enjoyed wandering around the museum, a glass of cold sake would certainly have put it in better perspective.


Touring the sake brewery

We eventually made our way back to the hotel, where we took a short nap and then got ready for a night out on the town. We try to take advantage of our hotel stays to get out and enjoy a new restaurant or see the sights in the area, and tonight we had decided tonight was a sushi night. And so off we went to Asahikawa’s night district (Sanroku), where after some wandering we found a sushi restaurant with decent prices. After some great mixed sashimi and sushi, we sat and talked for a while, and then finally made our way back outside to head back to the hotel. Unfortunately, we realized that we were still hungry! I had been telling Vicky that at some point we needed to experience McDonald’s in Japan (the menu is pretty different here), and we realized that the time had come. After a fun ordering experience, we managed to get a hamburger for Vicky and some fries for myself to take back to the hotel.


Asahikawa in the evening


Sushi and Sashimi in Asahikawa

After our midnight snack and a few minutes of staring blankly at late-night Japanese television, we got pretty tired and were ready for a good night’s sleep. Asahikawa was our last big city stop in Japan; after tonight we were headed for the sparsely populated area of northern Hokkaido and our goal of Cape Soya.