• A sign that reads ‘Beware of Wild Animals’ established near the enclosure, expressing the proximity of bears to human living spaces

    Asahiyama Zoo in the city of Asahikawa opened for the summer season on April 29, with the Ezo Brown Bear Enclosure attracting the attention of visitors. Hokkaido’s natural environment – in which th...

  • Asian fawnlily (Erythronium japonicum) are in full bloom at Otokoyama Nature Park on the south side of Mt. Tossho, which straddles the border between the city of Asahikawa and the town of Pippu in northern Hokkaido. Blue Ezo-engosaku (Corydalis fumariifolia) and yellow forked-stem adonis (Adonis ramosa) flowers can also be seen amid the pale purple carpet of flowers, heralding the arrival of spring.

  • A picture scroll depicting Shiretoko, where brown bears and humans live closely together, will be exhibited in the Ezo Higuma (brown bear) Hall, a large-scale exhibition facility that will open at Asahiyama Zoo (Asahikawa) on April 29. The Shiretoko Nature Foundation and picture book author Akashi Nobuko, who lives near the zoo, were involved in the production of the scroll, which introduces issues involved in the coexistence of humans and brown bears, through pictures with a gentle touch.

  • My first recollection of contact with the Ainu was when I was 10 or 11 years old, during a visit to Shiraoi on a school study trip. I can remember an enormous statue standing tall at the entrance of Poroto Kotan, a former cultural site now replaced by Upopoy, the National Ainu Museum. You may think that 10 years old is a little late considering I grew up where the Ainu's presence is supposedly the strongest in all of Japan. If you take New Zealand as a contrast, children grow up watching the All Blacks perform the haka, and many learn to sing the national anthem in the Maori language. That kind of quotidian contact with the indigenous culture didn't occur in my childhood, something I only started questioning after living in New Zealand.

  • This year sees the 100th anniversary of the birth of Asahikawa-born writer Miura Ayako (1922 – ‘99). A special exhibition “Prism – Light, Love, and the Brightness of Life,” which introduces various aspects of Miura’s life, opened on April 1 at the Miura Ayako Literature Museum in the city of Asahikawa. On the first day, many fans visited the exhibition, which features displays related novels such as ‘Shiokari Pass,’ ‘Deiryuchitai,’ and the like, which are set in various locations in the Kamikawa region.

  • Asahikawa-based Takasago Sake Brewery has dug out two types of snow-stored sake that had been ageing for approximately three months under the snow in the town of Biei in the Kamikawa region. The sake was unaffected by the relatively low levels of snowfall, and the taste is said to be as mild and mellow as in previous years.

  • Furihata Hidekatsu (78), who remained in Karafuto (Sakhalin in the Russian Far East) after World War II and later lived in Ukraine for more than 50 years, has returned to Japan after escaping the military invasion by Russia, and arrived at Asahikawa Airport on March 20. His sister, Hatakeyama Reiko (70) lives in Asahikawa. Two other sisters from Sapporo also came to the airport that day and were happy to be reunited.

  • Asahiyama Zoo has two ‘rare’ animals on display. They are pigs from the ‘No.2 Children's Farm’ and their names are Yuzu and Ume. Both are 4-year-old females. When you see them, the common image of pigs “just eating and sleeping” will change. They are highly intelligent and have a mischievous side, breaking down the fences in their pens so that their keeper spends his days pitting his wits with against the pigs.

  • Fujita Yuhei, a native of Asahikwa competed as a guide skier at the Beijing Winter Paralympics, guiding Ariyasu Ryouhei in the men's 12.5 km visually impaired Free Cross-country Skiing event on March 12. Although the pair finished 16th in their third and final event of the competition, Fujita was praised by locals in Asahikawa for his all-out support, saying that his skiing is a “role model for children” and that it will surely lead to future success on the world stage.

  • It’s 3:15 p.m. ‘The glow of the firefly’ is played through the speakers to signal closing time at Asahiyama Zoo, and the wolves begin to howl in deep, sharp tones, as the breath they exhale turns white in the cold. The howls and barks come from the timber wolves.