Kyogoku: My First Home in Japan
Have you heard of Kyogoku? I bet not! But I do hope you're familiar with Hokkaido!
That's right--Hokkaido is the northernmost and biggest prefecture in Japan. If you look at the map closely, it's shaped like a swimming manta ray with a tiny tail.
Hokkaido is the coldest part of Japan and is one of the most popular spots for nature trips, snow sports, and snow festivals. And because it has the longest winter in the country, only a few people appreciate it and dedicate their lives there. It may not have a large population for travel, but that's what makes it special and unique.
It was the year 2015 when I first arrived this town called Kyogoku. A few months earlier before flying to Japan, I researched about this place and to my surprise, it had only about 3,000 people living there! I couldn't imagine how life would be in that place, as I grew up in one of the most populated cities of the Philippines---Manila. Kyogoku is also known to be a dou inaka, meaning, "rural area". And it's not just a countryside; it's a high level countryside, LOL 😂 That would mean more trees and less houses, more birds and lesser human beings (literally!)
So really---what is Kyogoku Town? What do you have in there? What can you do there?
Things to do in Kyogoku Town
One of the highlights of this town is Mount Yotei, also known as the "Mount Fuji of Hokkaido". This sleeping volcano had been inactive for years, but it doesn't mean it won't erupt anytime (I do hope it just snoozes forever!). It's beautiful shape attracts locals and tourists from all over the world all year. Its beautiful flat cone resembles so much like Mount Fuji, and sometimes confuses a lot of people because of its similar features. Mount Yotei can be seen in the entire town of Kyogoku; in fact, locals of this town give a huge respect to the volcano and made it an official symbol of Kyogoku Town.
Mountain hiking is one of the top itineraries of Kyogoku. You can climb Mount Yotei from spring time to autumn, but there are a few brave souls who dare to climb it during the cold, winter days. It takes about three hours minimum to climb this mountain, and about a couple of hours going downhill. But if you're slow like me, it'll take you about 6 hours each climbing up and going down! 😅
Fresh Spring Water and Nature Tripping at Fukidashi Park
Another popular spot of Kyogoku Town is Fukidashi Park. It's also open all year and it features different faces each season. You can enjoy having a picnic under the blooming sakura trees in spring, play frisbee and soccer with friends during non-winter seasons, and witness a number of festivals here. This park is very spacious, that it has it's own man-made pond and spring water garden. You can gather fresh spring water from here and drink it for free!
It's rare to open during the winter though; as snowfall is very heavy in Kyogoku. But if you're lucky and the road isn't closed, you can pay a visit and even make your own snowman or snow angel!
Fukidashi Park is one of my most favorite places in this town. Usually after work, I dropped by here just to sit by a picnic table and study Japanese and practice kanji. Sometimes I read a book, drew something, or just took pictures, went jogging around, and enjoyed looking at the ducks swimming in the pond. Fukidashi Park was such a memorable place for me.
Another trendy itinerary here is to take a dip at the onsen (public spa). It's just a few steps away the park, and at that time an adult entry fee costs 600 yen (6 USD). You can stay there as long as you want, until the store closes. There's a jacuzzi bath, an alternate lavender or yuzu (Japanese orange) bath, an outdoor spa, and a sauna.
If you're into camping (or glamping), there's a camping ground just beside the onsen where you can take your friends, family, or grab the adventure on your own for a night or two. The parking is free, and the camping spot is 500 yen (5 USD) per day.
Swim at the Pool or Spend Time at the Library
This town also features a beautiful pool and a library. Kyogoku Pool is free for residents but is also open to visitors, with a fee of 700 yen per visit. There's no time limit in using the pool. A few blocks away is also the spacious and clean Yu Gakukan, the town library. It's also free for residents, but also open to visitors.
One of my favorite recreation here was taking my bicycle on the road while viewing the amazing scenery of the town. I usually went cycling on weekends or after school from early March to late October. And as I roamed around the tranquil town, I enjoyed looking at the changing colors of each season.
Enjoy Fresh Soba and Have a Drink at the Izakaya and Snack Bar
There are a number of small restaurants in this town but my favorite ones were the soba restaurant called Nono-san and the Izakaya (Japanese pub and snack bar) at night. Nono-san is a cozy restaurant located between the boundary of Kyogoku and Kimobestu and it is very popular to locals and even some foreign tourists. They serve fresh handmade soba noodles cooked from Kyogoku's spring water and other native Japanese cuisine.
At night in some occasions, I also invited my friends for a drink or a karaoke singing at several izakaya located in the center of the town. It's open every night from 8pm to 1am. Most customers are obviously Japanese and can't speak English, so if you'd like some comfortable communication you can bring along a friend who can speak Japanese. But if you're adventurous enough, going there without any language assistance ain't a bad idea, too!
So here are some of the things to know about my first home in Japan. Kyogoku is such a wonderful place that it was hard for me to leave (I moved to Sapporo to be closer to my fiance who lives in Central Hokkaido). I stayed here for four years but to me, it wasn't enough! In fact, I keep coming back every year to see my memorable favorite spots, some friends, and even take a glimpse of my first apartment, LOL. I hope you can come here to see this beautiful town in your own eyes.
From Sapporo Station, take the train to Otaru via Hakodate Line.
You will stop at Otaru to take another train going to Kutchan.
Drop at Kutchan Station and take the Donan Bus going to Kyogoku Town.
Address: 45 Kawanishi, 京極町 Kyogoku, District d'Abuta, Hokkaido 044-0131
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/ByHDA5vdvXwCbdfcA
Kyogoku Onsen 京極温泉
Address: 〒044-0131 Hokkaido, District d'AbutaKyogoku, Kawanishi, ６８
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/sKZrH8NFchcGxmL26
Kyogoku Three Yupaku Camping Ground 京極スリーユーパークキャンプ場
Address: 68 Kawanishi, Kyogoku, District d'Abuta, Hokkaido 044-0131
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/66TsuqJi94DRzS9f6
Yu Gakukan Town Library
Address: 158-1 Kyogoku, District d'Abuta, Hokkaido 044-0101
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/HWeRSuz8eTyr7taL9
Address: 466-5 Koshin, Kyogoku, District d'Abuta, Hokkaido 044-0132
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/jHtX8JF1pM2xTaxW6
Green Bird Snack Bar スナックグリーンバード
Address: 776 Kyogoku, District d'Abuta, Hokkaido 044-0101
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/2K85oVU4wkuo5NXF8