Playing with the sand at the side of the road

Japan 2017 Redux: Day 3 "Accidental descent"

Day 3: 2017-04-30 Sunday

Lots of early starts on this leg of the journey. This morning I’m off to Mt. Asahidake. Not only is it Hokkaido’s highest mountain, it has a cable car to get to the top!

Nice map of bus stops at Asahikawa station:

07:40 - 09:06 Ideyu-go no. 66a 10:10 - 11:36 Ideyu-go no. 66 Asahikawa Station Stop 9 - Mt. Asahidake 旭川駅 - 旭岳 1430 yen - Buy ticket at Lawson opposite the bus stop

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Asahidake ropeway 大雪山旭岳ロープウェイ First car up at 09:00, last car down at 17:00 1800 yen round trip

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I wasn’t quite in time for the first ropeway car, but was on the second one at 9:20. Asahidake has a walking course at its summit that allows a hike around the top, but is only open (and passable) in summer. It’s almost May, I thought. Maybe it might be open?

Taking the ropeway up Mt. Asahidake
Taking the ropeway up Mt. Asahidake

Not a chance. It was freezing up there! The entire summit was covered in snow. I took a picture of a marker that showed the snow level at 4 metres!

A piece of advice I’m glad I took was to take shoe spikes with me. It made walking around much much easier, and they really felt like an essential item for someone like me who otherwise came pretty ill-prepared. I’ve written down that there is “boot rental at the summit”, but in the end up the spikes made up for it.

The breathtaking view from the summit of Mt. Asahidake
The breathtaking view from the summit of Mt. Asahidake

The views from the mountain are spectacular. If anything I think the low hanging clouds actually improve these pictures. While it was windy, there were patches where the wind died down, and in those moments, there was absolute silence—the kind you just can’t get in the city.

Do you ever have those times when you know you’ve absolutely got something wrong, because literally everyone else is doing one thing, and you’re the only person doing the other? Yeah, that was me, up this mountain.

Everyone else was skiing or snowboarding.

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I’ve been matter-of-fact about it here, but I was walking on one of the available mountain courses, and many, many people passed right by on skis, but I never, not once, saw another walker. Because who comes to a snowy mountain on a ropeway to walk, right?

In fact, I was even loudly greeted with an American accented “hello” by a skiier who overtook me. Yes, the only other westerner on the mountain was actually doing it properly, so I’m glad at least one of us wasn’t letting the side down.

For reference, I ventured on to the “A” course (standing for Advanced) for about 10 metres, before coming to a downhill slope that was so steep I had trouble even making it back up when I decided this was Not The Thing I Should Be Doing.

The other course downhill was a lot of fun. Because the snow was so soft, and the spikes gave some grip, I ended up really booking it around the course.

Kind of accidentally walked down from the summit station to the bottom station.

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I started walking on the “B” course, and on the map there’s a point at which it turns onto a different course to get back to the summit. Clearly I was having too much fun and totally missed this.

So when I came across a building, and wondered why there was a building on this mountain course, then got even more confused when there was a car park on this mountain course, the realisation set in. I had indeed walked down the mountain to the base station from where the cable car goes. Whoops.

It was just as well that I walked down, as when I reached the bottom the ropeway was closed because of high winds.

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I hadn’t expected to have a big brain moment where I avoided being stuck on a mountain by inadvertantly walking down the mountain, but hey, I’ll take serendipitous moments like this where I can get them.

Hot spring at hotel beamonte One day starts from 12 Price: 1080 yen + 220 yen for bath towel + 110 yen for face towel Price was actually 100 yen more than this and there was a sticker changing the public time to 12.30. outdoor bit had a cover on the pool that could be moved, but i didn’t try.

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Where better to relax after barrelling around a mountain than in a mountain onsen? The ambience of being in the bath surrounded by snow was highly appealling, and it delivered.

As the note says, the onsen is usually reserved for hotel guests until a certain time, so I waited around in the lobby until I was able to go in.

The lobby of Hotel Bearmonte
The lobby of Hotel Bearmonte

The place was deserted. I’m glad that my first experience of public bathing didn’t have any witnesses to my probably many breaches of protocol, but is it truly public bathing without walking around naked with strangers? I was happy in the moment, at least.

Lovely sauna though. And the place was empty; I only saw another person when I was leaving, thank God.

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I got the 14:30 Ideyu-go no. 66 bus back to Asahikawa, getting there at 15:56, for ¥1430.

Later that evening, dinner was something I was massively looking forward to. A Hokkaido specialty - jingisukan. It’s grilled lamb on a personal skillet. The lamb is delivered to you raw/frozen, and you grill it yourself, along with the provided veg.

Jingisukan Daikokuya,142.3577405,17z

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Lamb and veg on the skillet at Jingisukan Daikokuya
I'm drooling even now

Oh boy the lamb is good. Really good. And you get to do it yourself.

Oil/spray/smoke gets everywhere, but boy is it worth it.

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Yes. My advice—do not go to Jingisukan Daikokuya in your Sunday best.