Asahikawa Station is by far the newest station in Japan that I’ve been to. Apparently, the whole station complex was recently completed in the fall of 2011. Apart from its spanking new interior, the station complex boasts various facilities such as a post office, souvenir shops, a tourist information center and even art galleries.
The tracks and station have woody theme, contrasted against dark blue hues. The first time I exited the platform and walked through the spacious lobby, I felt that the station looked like an airport.
I was very impressed by the Tourism and Local Products Information Center located near the south exit. Once you step inside, you will see friendly staff, conversant in English, Chinese and Japanese waiting by the counters to serve you. There is also an entire rack of brochures and information dedicated to travel in Asahikawa and the whole of Hokkaido. Even though the Asahiyama zoo was closed when I visited, the staff were very knowledgeable about their city and quickly suggested great alternatives for me.
During my visit, the station gallery was displaying the works of the late sculptor Teijiro Nakahara. Entrance is free; art is not a domain of the rich in Asahikawa station.
Next to the gallery, there is a tribute to Hokkaido’s Ainu peoples called the Ainu Cultural Information center. It is definitely not as big as the Kaneto Kawamura Ainu Kinenkan, but it is a beginner’s introduction to the Ainu lifestyle and culture.
The major attractions in Asahikawa include the renowned Asahiyama Zoo, the Otokoyama Sake Brewery, the Ramen Village and the Kaneto Kawamura Ainu Kinenkan. These attractions are serviced by public buses that depart from bus stops near to the Asahikawa station. The Tourism and Local Products Information Center in the station will give you the best-updated information on the timetables.
The station also directly connects to the main shopping street, Heiwa Shopping Street. If you are looking for good Asahikawa ramen, many can be found within walkable distance from the Asahikawa station. Santouka, for instance, arguably a global favourite, can be found at 1-jo 8-chome, a quick 5-minute walk from the station. (北海道旭川市1条通8丁目)
Asahikawa station is the end point for several JR Hokkaido lines such as the Hakodate Main Line and the Furano Line, so even if you're not already visiting Asahikawa, it is not uncommon that a trip around Hokkaido by train will pass through Asahikawa station. If time allows, do take some time to tour around this impressive station complex.