Wednesday, July 27, 2016
KH had planned a day of physical exertion on Mount Asahi-dake. Before leaving Furano, we topped up our fuel. Our first experience was at a full-service Japanese petrol station by Idemitsu. Upon driving in, grim-looking staff gave a deep bow and directed us to an available island. While one guy was filling our tank, another jumped to the front and started to rub our windscreen rigorously. Bug splatter is really difficult to clean. When we were ready to go, they gave us another deep bow. Didn't even need to get out of the car. Fantastic.
The drive up to Asahi-dake Ropeway was quite leisurely with many slopes and tunnels. The slopes have timber fencing at regular intervals to avoid snowfall from inundating roads during winter. Along the way are also parking areas where drivers can stop to put on snow chains on their wheels.
The gondolas at the Asahi-dake Ropeway were large and empty. Perhaps not the season to be at Asahi-dake. But even in spring, the snow on Mount Asahi-dake seems untouched. The mountain was white all the way with just a few patches of evergreen. We were not expecting snow hiking. Seriously, we did not have the right gear. Walked out of the station in our sneakers and it was super hard to progress. Kept sinking into the 2 metres of snowfall and our feet were getting wet. Thankfully, a Japanese tourist pointed us to the back of the station to collect gum boots which made it easier to walk in the snow. However, for proper adventuring, snowshoes and poles were needed.
With the gum boots, we were able to make it to the first view point with ease. However, KH wasn't as sure-footed, waddling like a penguin. Although there was snow all around us, we didn't feel cold. Actually sweated. Amazing. Halfway to the second viewpoint was a steaming pond. Snow there is the powdery type, owing to the Arctic winds. KH says it's the best for skiing.
For our return trip, KH seemed to have misplaced our Ropeway tickets, but the conductor recognized us so he let us board anyway. Back at the Sugatami Ropeway station, we did some souvenir shopping. The short hike in the snow had left us hungry, so we drove to Asahikawa Ramen Village for lunch. The collection of ramen shops was established in some years back and is made up of around 8 renowned restaurants. With limited tummy space, we only managed to try two shops, one being Saijio and the other Ittetsu-an. The former specializes in broth made from ukkekei (silky fowl) while the latter uses pork bones. Truth be told, we were not very impressed with both choices. The Asahikawa Ramen Village also has a souvenir shop and a shrine to the ramen gods. If the brochure is to be believed, lovers pray there so that "their relationships will be as hot as ramen broth and last as long as noodles".
In the vicinity of Asahikawa Ramen Village is several shopping joints, e.g. Uniqlo, Aoki, Ashbee, a supermarket, and a drug store. Bought some beauty products at the drug store and experienced first hand the new Japanese tax free procedures. Rebate of the 8% consumption tax can be processed at any of the 29,000 odd tax free shops in Japan. One just needs to spend ¥5,000 on either consumables/food or general items. Both categories cannot be combined. The staff will require your passport and issue a special invoice that will be attached in your passport. The consumable products will be sealed and the package should not be tampered before leaving Japan. At the airport, one should submit the invoice to customs but product inspection is not required. The trust system! Haha.
On the way back to Furano, we stopped at countless convenience stores and supermarkets along the way just for fun. Dinner was bought at Bestom, some 10 KM out of town. Really makes me wonder how much the Japanese drink with booze the size of cooking oil containers. Interestingly, they use a hybrid check out counter approach. Staff scan and pack the goods but when it comes to payment, customers are directed to a separate self-service payment station. Cuddled on the bed and had a spread of pork katsu, grilled chicken skewers, seasoned seaweed, Hokkaido beer, Hokkaido apples, and mochi. A simple day out.