Day 7 September 14th.
Today is zoo day, so we drive back towards Asahikawa. This involves driving down the long valley of rice fields that stretch to the wooded hills that rise sharply on either side. The fields are dotted with tacky tin buildings, farm house and sheds. There are many abandoned structures too. Some of these completely collapsed presumably by the weight of winter snow.
The zoo is well signposted and has many large car parks. Asahiyama zoo is famous, at least in Japan, for the ingenuity of some of its enclosures. This zoo attempts to shows the normal behaviour of the animals. Impossible, of course, in an enclosure, but feeding time is very popular with the visitors.
I was immediately taken with the wolves and spent a lot of time just absorbed in these creatures. There is a tunnel under their enclosure and it is possible to view the group from underneath and at ground level. Very beautiful animals that need much more space.
Gibbons and Orangutans.
The White Handed Gibbons and Orangutans also have novel quarters. these include high structures that bridge outside the main areas. This means the animals are outside the cages but high in the air above crowds. In the Gibbons case,high speed aerial chases occur and, I admit, I was concerned they might fall.
The Orangutans are more sedate but still thrilling. For the punters, the animals appear more naturally mobile and there is the added attraction of being shat on from a great height.
Penguins and Polar Bears
The enclosures and pools for the polar bears and penguins are also well conceived. In both cases the Perspex tunnels allow you to view the animals from under the water. My impression of Polar Bears quite changed by the sight of these magnificent creatures exploding into the water in a maelstrom of bubbles. Superb.
All in all we spend far too much time at the zoo if we are to get back to the campsite and cook before dark. So we are in a hurry to find and nearest onsen. This turns out to be an industrial onsen. That is an onsen in an industrial area. The water is orange, I guess with iron and it is very functional and decidedly down market. The customers appear to be from the surrounding factories and they all are prepared with their own soap and shampoo. We expected these to be provided, as in most areas of Japan, but in Hokkaido we find this is not always be case.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.