After leaving my sleepy little inaka (countryside) town to discover Asahidake, or Mt. Asahi, I was able to experience part of the gloriously large Daisetsuzen National Park of Hokkaido. Asahidake is the tallest mountain in Hokkaido, and if you are able to strategically plan a fall trip, it is a mesmerizing place for viewing Autumn leaves. At the foot of the mountain, there is a small “village” that has tourist information, hotels, a youth hostel, onsen, and the ropeway that leads to the top of the mountain.
If leaving from Sapporo, you can reach the ropeway by taking the national expressway (though I recommend the free, somewhat slower highway 12) the entire way past Asahikawa airport. It’s possible to reach Asahidake by bus if you are leaving from Asahikawa, but I believe they are few and far between. If leaving for the ropeway on a three-day holiday weekend, you face the possibility of having to wait at the back of a very, very long line of cars that takes over an hour to clear up, until you can finally park. Like me.
The opening times of the Asahidake ropeway vary according to the season, but it is generally open a standard of 9 am to 4 pm during the cold season. It runs every 10 to 15 minutes and during the high season (June through October) it costs 2800 yen for a round trip and 1600 hundred for a one way trip. If you are an experienced hiker and can navigate your way down the mountain, feel free to do so, but according to the receptionist it would take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours. If you are inexperienced and just want to see the height, beauty, and do some light walking, you can explore the pathways around the top, which are connected to the ropeway.
With my inexperience, I decided to pay the 2800 yen over the possible two hour hike down the mountain. When the ropeway began climbing up the side of the mountain and revealed the brilliant fall colors covering the trees and shrubbery, the long wait in the car and the expense of the trip became completely worth it. Despite the crowd of people, the walk around the top of the mountain was delightfully serene. That particular day was very cloudy and had an eerie effect, but this was offset by the serene beauty, leaving Asahidake’s visitors enchanted.