We had a lot planned for our second day in Hokkaido. We had a lovely breakfast at the hotel. There were only a couple of other guests, so we had most of the dining hall to ourselves. You could choose between a Japanese style breakfast or a Western style breakfast. Breakfast included everything from yogurt, bread and eggs to rice and curry.
Furano Cheese Factory
First up was the Furano Cheese factory. We were at the factory at the opening time, 9 0’clock in the morning. Well, we were a little bit early, so we could walk around a little bit. Around 9 though, more and more (Japanese) visitors also drove up to the parking lot. And even a bus full of Japanese tourists arrived before we even entered the factory.
The milk in Hokkaido is quite famous, thus you’ll be able to find cheese factories all over the place. The factory in Furano was quite small, but it is nonetheless nice to visit the factory. The Japanese tourists from the bus tour all went inside, bought the presents for the families and coworkers and left immediately afterwards. Just to show that they were there, they didn’t really look around at all…
The factory had a small cheese shop as well. You can buy all sorts of cheese and ice cream inside the shop. Even though it was very cold outside and it was still early in the morning, we tried the ice cream. We tried the grape flavor and the cheese flavor. The grape one tasted like white wine, but then in the form of ice cream. What a wonderful combination haha! The cheese flavor was very creamy, but also very tasty (coming from someone who does not like normal cheese, only melted cheese on pizza / lasagna / grilled ham-cheese sandwich, et cetera). I also tried some other cheese products, but I wasn’t very fond of them.
The next activity that we planned for this day was a visit to Asahikawa. Especially to the zoo of Asahikawa: Asahiyama zoo. The zoo is located on the eastern side of the town higher up on a mountain. This means that you will have a nice view over the city! The first part of the zoo was completely closed off. There were no animals there: the cages were empty and the roads blocked by the snow or a chain.
A lot of times I don’t really enjoy going to zoos, because I think that the cages and habitats of the animals are just too small: then you can clearly see that the animals are not enjoying themselves. Luckily, a big part of the animals inside this zoo looked pretty happy in the snow. Like this stag for instance: he was playing with the blue plastic and just throwing it in the air and pushing it around. He was having a great time!
I really enjoyed seeing the wolves in this zoo. They were beautiful and looked happy as well. Their fur is big enough to keep them warm outside, so they were either just walking around or sleeping in the snow. One of the wolves was also checking up on the other wolves and he just started licking the black wolf out of nowhere. This was very cute to see!
Just when we walked away from the wolves, they suddenly started a big howling parade. They were all standing on a big rock in the middle of their habitat and just howling in the air. Very funny to see the smoke coming up from their mouths as the warm air leaves the wolves and comes into contact with the cold air outside.
Eating and pandas
No we didn’t eat pandas, but we saw a group of small red pandas at the zoo. Most of the time they were just eating some leaves, but some of them also played around. Running in the snow and climbing up the tree or running over the suspension bridge that connected their habitat to another one. At least they were having lots of fun with their food and the other red pandas!
We did enjoy a lunch at the cafeteria in the zoo though. We had some lovely animal pancakes with hot chocolate!
The other animals that we saw included jaguars, seals, giraffes, some birds of prey like owls and eagles, polar bears and tigers. The polar bears looked really sad and I still don’t understand why you would force giraffes to be outside in the snow when it’s that cold. The jaguars and other big cats were just sleeping. One of the seals though was very enthusiastic. He kept swimming up to the shore, snorting in the snow on the shore and turning around in a weird way back to the water.
And last but definitely not least: the penguins. Some people have dogs and they will go out of the houses to walk the dogs. Well, the zoo keepers did the same with the penguins. The zoo keepers asked the visitors of the zoo to stand in two lines in front of the penguin habitat. After the line was long enough, they opened up the gate and the penguins could walk out and enjoy the fresh snow. And they did, they really really did.
Especially the small baby penguin that was in the group. He kept running around and trying to do everything the zoo keepers didn’t want him to do. He tried to move out of the line, or he just stayed behind lying down in the snow. If he was too far away from the group, the zoo keepers would move closer and closer to him to try to get the baby to move again, even throwing / pushing some snow to the penguin. In the end it worked and the baby would start moving again.
It was also very funny to see how the other older penguins just followed each other. Even sometimes forming a line of penguins themselves! There was always one penguin who led the way and the other followed him.
I was really surprised that they actually led the penguins out of their habitat, but it was a wonderful activity for both the visitors of the zoo and the penguins themselves. Really amazing to have seen such an event and I really hope that they do this more often.
Furano’s Ningle Terrace
The last place that we visited this day was the Ningle Terrace in Furano (again). We visited the terrace the day before as well, but because we liked it that much and we didn’t have enough time to visit the houses, we decided to go there again!
Ningle Terrace is a small ‘town’ built on a mountain in Furano. In the town, you can find small wooden houses that act as shops. These shops sell hand made items. You can find products like wooden figures that are playing musical instruments, post cards that depict different scenarios (like snow, trees, etc.), beautiful candles and all sorts of other crafts.
Especially since there was a big layer of snow in the area, the Ningle Terrace looked stunning with all the lights. We also had a delicious cup of hot chocolate inside one of the shops. This also contributed to the magical atmosphere.
Visited on the 24th of November, 2016