The Best Places to Shop in Asahikawa

Hokkaido's Asahikawa offers a wide range of shops selling locally made items
Hokkaido's Asahikawa offers a wide range of shops selling locally made items | © robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Rebecca Hallett
Freelance Writer And Editor10 August 2020

From crafts to food, Asahikawa has a wide range of locally made souvenirs you can pick up. As well as all the usual chain stores, this city in Hokkaido, Japan, also offers plenty of independent shops, plus several cafés and galleries with small on-site stores.

Start your explorations on Heiwa-dori, the pedestrian thoroughfare that starts at the station and cuts north through the downtown area. Hikari no Ehon-dori (also known as Ryoku-do, or Green Street) also has plenty of independent shops and often holds street fairs or markets. If you’re not sure where to start, check out this list of the best places to shop in Asahikawa.

Asahikawa Design Center

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Out of the city centre, in the northeast of Asahikawa, the Design Center sells high-quality, locally made furniture and crafts from around 30 vendors. You can pick up small items such as hand-made wooden card holders and ornaments, or even commission a bespoke piece for your own home. Palemta, the café attached to the Design Center, has its own small shop and gallery.

Japacheese

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As Hokkaido is famous for its dairy products, it stands to reason that Asahikawa has its own gourmet cheese shop. The small store usually has samples on the counter, plus a range of fresh and mature cheeses and products such as pudding, baked cheesecake and ice cream. In the summer months, they may put a couple of chairs out front so you can enjoy your snack there.

Michihito

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Just off Heiwa-dori is Michihito, an outdoor equipment store best known for its two-tone canvas totes and backpacks. As well as bags and outdoor goods, they sell coffee beans, plus roasted soybeans that create a caffeine-free brew similar to coffee, both of which you can try at the in-store café. You can also book a spot in a workshop (from ¥3300 (£23.85)) to make your own canvas bag.

Usagiya

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You might not expect to find a tea shop in this industrial-chic space, but that’s exactly what Usagiya is. You can buy tea leaves and blends ranging from herbal teas to traditional Japanese matcha and sencha, all of which you can try in the café along with coffee and confectionery. Usagiya also sells tea passports and special bottles; bring these in and you can get the bottle filled with the tea of the day for a flat rate. They also offer a matcha experience, a modern and relaxed take on the tea ceremony.

Nihon Shoyu Kogyo Chokubaiten

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A 15-minute walk northwest of Asahikawa station is the oldest soy sauce producer in Asahikawa, still selling directly from this historic wooden building. As well as the classic salty soy sauce, you can pick up versions flavoured with mushrooms, scallops or chilli, as well as gluten-free types, generally with the option to try before you buy. More unusual products include salt infused with cherry blossoms, pre-prepared sauces for ramen or curry, and even ice creams and lollies flavoured with soy sauce – surprisingly delicious. The gift sets contain a variety of bottles and make excellent souvenirs.

Ueda-ya

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Ueda-ya is a kaku-uchi, a sake shop with a casual standing bar (both open until 8pm). The store is at the front, separated from the stylish wood-lined drinking area by a low-lit corridor and noren curtain. Simply ask for recommendations – or just pick a bottle with an interesting label – and then bring your drink to the tasting area to try at your leisure, buying a full bottle on your way out if anything takes your fancy. As well as nihonshu (the clear rice-based drink often referred to as ‘sake’), you can try shochu (a distilled liquor), beer and soft drinks, most of them made in Hokkaido. Ueda-ya also serves simple dishes like oden that pair well with the drinks, and sells beautiful wood-and-glass cups from local artisan producer Juncobo.

Sweets Shop Chiaki

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One of the best places in the city for cakes and pastries, Chiaki is located just off Heiwa-dori in central Asahikawa. With a particularly good line in airy chiffon cakes and creamy baked cheesecakes, the store also manages a good balance of traditional and Japanese-inspired sweet treats; try the matcha roll cake or amazake cheesecake if they’re on the menu. Though there is a seating area, you can buy everything to take away, the little boxes of choux buns making perfect gifts (even if just for yourself).

White Collage

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As one of the coldest places in Japan, you might expect Asahikawa’s fashion scene to be focused more on function than on form. But at downtown boutique White Collage, you can see what people here are really wearing – a stylish mix of labels, both Japanese and international, covering everything from effortlessly draped tees to boxy jackets and turned-up jeans. It’s all sparingly displayed in a pared-back yet cosy space, often alongside pop-up stands for local accessory designers.

Ishiwata Kocha

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Just out of the centre, near City Hall, this specialist tea shop has been open since 1987. It’s especially well known for its black tea (kocha), but it sells a wide range of high-quality loose-leaf and bagged tea. You can try a few different blends in the laid-back tea room, which also serves food (galettes, sandwiches, cakes, etc.) and a full afternoon tea. The sets of seasonal teas make great gifts.

Gallery PuruPuru

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This small gallery on Hikari no Ehon-dori sells a wide range of local artworks and crafts, alongside small and frequently changing exhibitions. It’s often a great place to pick up gifts for kids, from hand-made toys and art sets to picture books. Adults will enjoy the changing range of ornaments, jewellery and stationery from Asahikawa artists and craftspeople.

Feeeal

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A one-stop shop for fashion, food and gifts, Feeeal is an independent department store on central Asahikawa’s pedestrianised Heiwa-dori. Though there are plenty of high-end goods available, there’s also a ¥100 (£0.75) store where you can pick up small, cheap souvenirs, from notebooks and toys to chocolates and kitchenware. The basement floor is home to the food court, where you can try samples of fresh and prepared foods and pick up lunch boxes to take away. Milkissimo, a popular gelato shop that makes delicious ice cream from Hokkaido’s famous dairy products, is also located on the basement floor.

These recommendations were updated on August 10, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.