By Valerie Kor
The Heiwa Shopping Street in Asahikawa is an important reference point for any tourist. During my stay, I frequented the Heiwa Shopping Street daily, as my hotel, Asahikawa Grand, was just a short five-minute walk to the thick of the action. Passing through was inevitable, even if I was not shopping, as many of the buses that serve the major attractions such as Asahiyama Zoo, Kawamura Kaneto Ainu Kinenkan, Otokoyama Sake Brewery and Ramen Village depart from the bus stops inbetween the malls Seibu and Feeeal. Familiarizing yourself with the Heiwa Shopping Street area is a great way to navigate around Asahikawa.
For shopaholics, Seibu and Feeeal are probably irresistible. The two malls are just located in front of JR Asahikawa station. If a parallel can be drawn crudely, Seibu is like Ginza in Tokyo while Feeeal feels more like the Shibuya and Harajuku area. Seibu carries high-end brands like Louis Vuitton, Maxmara and Chanel, and also quality cosmetics. Conversely, the shops at Feeeal are more oriented towards younger generations. Many of the shops can also be found in Shibuya's 109 as well. In Feeeal, there are also local independent shops selling exotic apparel, like ethnic wear.
The basement of Feeeal has two fashionable dessert cafes. Between the Milkissimo gelato shop and 108 Matcha Saro, a shop that specializes in matcha desserts, I had a hard time deciding. In the end I chose a matcha dessert with azuki beans and shiratama from 108 Matcha Saro with a deliciously rich matcha flavour - a little bitter but not too sweet.
Heiwa Shopping Street also hosts the largest Junkudo in Japan, spanning five stories. Even if just browsing, you’re probably able to spend some time looking through the incredible range of literature at Junkudo.
As a traveler, 100-yen shops are extremely useful as necessities such as umbrellas, little casings, and even gloves can be bought cheaply. There are two on the long shopping street, one called Seria in Feeeal and the other called Silk, in EXC!.
The dining options are endless on the shopping street as well. Whether you are looking for a fast-food joint, a quick takeaway, a classy restaurant or a bar to socialize over nomihodai ("all-you-can-drink"), you’ll be spoilt for choice. Japanese restaurants and other international cuisines are also available. Tip: The restaurants offering nomihodai become more affordable farther away from the station.
Branching off from Heiwa Shopping Street are also some spots worthy of checking out. One is the Sanroku entertainment district, which has been likened to the Susukino area of Sapporo. Branch off 3-jo and walk west from Heiwa Shopping Street and you’ll easily recognise Sanroku, lined with bars, karaoke pubs and restaurants. Another area to check out is Fraleet Alley, where the famous Hachiya Ramen Restaurant, among other bars and restaurants, can be found. The Fraleet Alley is located on 5-jo to the west of the shopping street.
The Heiwa Shopping Street stays prominent in my memory of Asahikawa. Days after I left Asahikawa, the little jingles heard on the street were still stuck in my head. I also miss the saxophonist, with whom I’ve developed an unspoken friendship after sharing the same bench several times!
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From a tiny red dot on the map, Singapore. The size of my country is only one of the many reasons I grab any opportunity I can to travel and live in places other than home. I love photography, writing, yoga, and going to beautiful or quirky cafes. My life goal is to learn as many languages as possible!