On our last day in Asahikawa we got up nice and early to visit “Man Mountain” Sake Brewery. It is only open to the public on one day a year, and it almost seemed like fate that we would be in town for this special day. Unfortunately it seemed as if everyone in Hokkaido had the same idea as us, and the line up was literally down the block.
We decided to skip it, we’ve been drinking so much Man Mountain these past few days I’m not sure if it would be appropriate to be drinking this early.
We thought we were on our way to the airport to drop off Oji-san and Matsuo-san, but were surprised to be making a stop at the Maruichi wood processing facility where the “wrap wrap” is produced. Each wrap wrap is made from the scrap wood from this workshop. I didn’t know if we would come visit or not since the machines are very high tech, and the processes they use to make their products are top secret. It was a thrill to see everything, but we respected their wishes and didn’t take many photographs.
The technical skill here to create these tiny wooden bracelets is just extreme.
This is a cherry wine stopper designed by Rina Ono.
I was very enamored with these pieces so I was estatic when Maruichi san told me they were gifts for us to take home.
Although there are high tech machines, this is still a wood shop with lots of tried and true tools.
There isn’t a really great transition here, but our friends caught their flight back to Tokyo. I still can’t believe they flew out here for us, it was such a pleasure hanging out with them for the past few days. We dropped them off at the Asahikawa airport and headed back into town for a nice warm lunch.
Asahikawa is famous for 2 things, 1 is their woodworking and the other is their ramen. They say Hokkaido ramen is the best in Japan and there is a big rivalry between Asahikawa ramen and Sapporo ramen. Naoto told us he would take us to the best ramen spot in the city, which turned out to be a big building with a bunch of small ramen stalls. He has one he particularly likes and visits every week. We were joined with Naoto’s friend Tai for the rest of the day to build up the entourage once again.
It was old school in here, packed with people of all ages.
We ordered the Asahikawa special miso ramen of course, and it would set the bar ridiculously high for us for the rest of the trip.
Afterward we wanted a coffee but there weren’t too many amenities around so Naoto offered to buy us some BOSS coffee from a vending machine. It was served hot and besides it being a bit too sweet for our taste, it was a pretty good, umm, can of coffee.
Of course feeding a head ache with coffee isn’t a really good idea, and that’s just what happened to Juli. We stopped by a local pharmacy and picked up some aspirin with it’s own endorsement by a young J Pop super star.
We had the whole day free but didn’t want to travel far and wide. Naoto mentioned that the Asahikawa Zoo was a landmark in Japan.
Funny drawings and handmade signs everywhere.
Not sure why all the snowmen have Brooke Shields eyebrows.
Pacing polar bears.
You can enter this little space and pop your head up into the Polar bear exhibit.
Of course you are protected by plexi glass.
We don’t know what this is, but he is ADORABLE! Nearby, were our familiar raccoons in a not so appealing cage, and true to their nature ALL of them were conniving to escape, digging and jumping like a bunch of incarcerated bandits.
Yet another coffee break, with cheese toast!
The Asahikawa train station is under construction. Naturally we love the wood slats.
Apparently they are working with craftspeople to showcase and emphasize all the local talent.
We passed by a side street and noticed what looked to be a design shop (tell tale Caravaggio pendant lights were our beacon of hope). It’s another location of the previously visited Less.
The store carried a beautiful collection of Japanese clothing and Italian leather accessories, as well as a selection of design objects.
Our last night Naoto took us to a restaurant specializing in local Hokkaido ingredients.
Yebisu beer, look at that amazing logo!
Delicious buttery pumpkin soup, a really popular vegetable here in Hokkaido.
Roast chicken breast with all sorts of local mushrooms, tender and tasty.
Naoto, John, Juli & Tai. Sad to say goodbye to our friends.
Off to Otaru for a night at a gorgeous hotel, then some skiing and adventures in Niseko…and more Sapporo. Yes kids, the adventure continues!