Hokkaido Day 7: Furano & Biei
Central Hokkaido in the summertime is all about flowers. Google “lavender” and “Japan” and you’ll see pictures of lavender fields in Furano and Biei. Peak bloom is between mid-July and mid-August. Since we wanted to avoid the crowds (I read online that busloads of tourists visit the lavender fields during peak bloom), we visited late June/ early July. The flowers were just starting to bloom when we went, so what we saw wasn’t quite on par with the postcard-perfect images (but still very beautiful!).
Our first destination of the day was Biei, a small town north of Furano (where we were staying). (It was luxurious not having to pack up the car since we were staying in Furano for two nights!) We drove through two areas, Patchwork Road and Panorama Road (which is also called ‘rollercoaster’ road, due to the hills). During peak season, the fields along Patchwork Road resemble a quilt — each variety of flower providing a different color in the quilt. Since it wasn’t quite peak bloom, the area was a little underwhelming (but, Alex and I will take country roads to city sidewalks any day). Since Panorama Road is really hilly, it was a fun drive! It was a beautiful, brilliantly sunny day, with seemingly endless blue sky, but the temperature at 10 in the morning was already hovering at 80 F. We saw a few cyclists making their way up and down the hills (guidebooks do say that cycling is the best way to explore this area), but it didn’t look remotely enjoyable in the heat! I enjoyed driving around in our air-conditioned car! 😀 😀 😎 😎
Next, we drove to the Shirogane Blue Pond, famous for its bright blue color (… and made more popular because it is one of the wallpapers from the 2012 Mac operating system, X Mountain Lion). We lucked out — the color really was very blue (I had read online that depending on the weather, the color may be green, or it could be so foggy you can’t even see the water)! It’s sort of a weird looking pond, since the dead trees in the middle give it an eerie feeling.
Shikisai-no-oka flower garden was our next stop and it was the only place we went to that was mobbed with tourists, probably because the grounds are huge and there are dozens of flower fields. We opted to walk around (you can also pay to ride an open-air shuttle bus, or rent an ATV). A lot of the flowers were in full bloom, but not the lavender. We ate lunch across the street at a little cafe/farm (I highly recommend!) overlooking fields. All the produce was organic and grown right on the farm!
Furano National Highway (Rt. 237) connects Biei and Furano. Flower and produce (cantaloupe is popular in the summer) farms line this road. I quickly explored Kanno Farm (Alex drove around to let Baby M sleep), before we all got out of the car and walked around Flower Land Kamifurano, one of the larger farms. After purchasing a lavender soft serve ice cream, we wandered around the grounds. I think the location of Flower Land Kamifurano is the best, because it’s set on a hill, so the views are amazing! You can see valleys below and the Tokachi mountain range in the distance. On our way through the gift shop/warehouse, we saw people sitting at tables, making crafts. Turns out, you can take classes to make lavender soap, lavender-scented pillows, etc.
And finally, we arrived at the most popular farm, Farm Tomita, in the late afternoon. We peeked in the distillery workshop, where you can see how lavender essential oil is extracted. Then, Alex and I shared a lavender soft serve ice cream (this one was much creamier and more delicately flavored than the one at Flower Land Kamifurano), and once we finished, a cantaloupe soft serve (tasted just like the melon!). I think the lavender at Farm Tomita was a little more in bloom than elsewhere. We then shared a lavender-infused cream puff (really good)!
Just because I wanted to see, we drove the 4 km east, to Farm Tomita’s second farm, Lavender East. Since it was way past 5 PM (closing time), the place was deserted. There’s a large observation deck that you can access from the parking lot, to get a better view of the lavender fields — must be really nice during peak bloom (mid July)!
All of us loved Furano and Biei — it is definitely worth a trip to Hokkaido in the summer! In fact, I’d definitely go back (and brave the crowds) to see the lavender during peak bloom. 🙂
Summary of our Hokkaido self drive: Whirlwind Tour around Hokkaido
Rollercoaster Road MapCode: 349 667 369*
Furano flower fields: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6826.html
MapCode: 349 569 813*8
Free, plenty of parking, no public restrooms
MapCode: 349 701 186*
Free admission but 200 yen donation requested, pay for rides separately, best to leave stroller in the car (pathways uneven), get lunch across the street at Lunch & Cafe Fuu.
Lunch & Cafe Fuu: http://www.bieifuu.com/#_=_
We tried the beef katsu sandwich, beef curry, and grilled vegetable plate (each 1,200 yen) — all very good. You can get a lunch set (for an additional 300 or 400 yen) and it includes a drink (including fresh milk). Sit outside, views of fields below great.
Kanno Farm: One of the smaller flower farms, worth it for a quick stop if on the way, definitely much less crowded than Farm Tomita
Flower Land Kamifurano: http://flower-land.co.jp/en/
Large flower farm with the best view. Free to access. Lavender soft serve ice cream pretty good (but Farm Tomita’s better). You can pay for lavender-themed handmade craft classes (classes listed on the website).
Farm Tomita: http://www.farm-tomita.co.jp/en/
MapCode: 349 276 889*
The most popular (and well run/manicured) flower farm, so expect crowds. Both lavender and cantaloupe ice creams great. Try the lavender flavored cream puff (delicious). Large gift shop selling anything lavender.
Lavender East: Farm Tomita’s second location. We went right at closing, so it was deserted. Lots of lavender (only), good to visit only if you have your own transportation (not worth it otherwise).