Asahikawa is one of the largest cities in Hokkaidō, second to Sapporo. It was built on a flat plain along the Ishikari River and was once one of the biggest Ainu settlements. It carries the dual honour of having the most days with snowfall, as well as the record for the coldest temperature (-40°C). Though less picturesque than other Hokkaidō cities, Asahikawa is interesting both historically and as a jumping-off point to other parts: Wakkanai to the north; Daisetsuzan National Park to the southeast; and Biei and Furano due south.
In addition to its Ainu heritage, Asahikawa was also an important part of Meiji-era settlements and has a long history of sake brewing. It was the location of the first ski area in Japan. It has since become one of the major industrial cities of the island, with associated urban development.