Furano (富良野), which is in the geographical center of Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, is an amalgamation of several quaint farming towns around a small municipal center. Furano is famous for its remarkably light and dry powder snow, beautiful fields of lavender, entirely domestic vineyards, and its unique Hokkaido Belly Button Festival
This guide covers three municipalities in Furano basin: Furano, Nakafurano and Kamifurano.
Furano is known as Heso no Machi (the Belly Button Town) due to its central location. Furano's inland location (almost 100 km -- about as far inland as Japan gets) and high elevation result in a continental climate, the reason behind Furano's successful ski hill and wine industries. There is a very large temperature variation, so a light jacket is recommended even in the summer. Summer midday temperatures may exceed 30 °C, and midwinters will drop below -30 °C. Furano has very heavy snowfall in the winter.
The population is approximately 26,000, including the incorporated communities in the outskirts. The population of the main municipal area is said to be about 16,000. Don't expect to meet a large number of English speakers outside of the major hotel and tourist areas.
There has been a substantial increase in foreign skiers and snowboarders, particularly from Australia. Furano seems set to enjoy the same skiing success that Niseko has.
Meanwhile, the Furano Basin has become more and more famous for its summertime lavender fields, which draw multitudes of visitors from Taiwan and China as well as from all over Japan.
Furano has indirect train service from Sapporo and New Chitose Airport. All trains require a transfer at Takikawa station. The last trains leave New Chitose Airport at 20:19 and Sapporo at 21:00. In the winter, there is also a Ski Express Train from Sapporo which leaves at 08:04, and can also be accessed from the local airport train which leaves New Chitose at 06:53. There are 12 direct trains from Asahikawa, with the last train leaving JR Asahikawa Station at 22:37.
- Furano express, Chuo Bus (中央バス高速ふらの号). 08:00-19:20 (departure time at Sapporo). This bus connects Sapporo and Furano in 2½ hr Approximately hourly service from Sapporo Station bus terminal. ¥2,260.
- Lavender Express Bus. 09:35-19:25 (departure time at Asahikara Station). This line provides connections from Biei, Asahikawa Airport, and JR Asahikawa Station. Approximately hourly service. Take care not to confuse this with the JR Lavender Express train. Asahikawa Airport-Furano Station ¥770, Asahikawa Station-Furano Station ¥880.
If you are arriving at New Chitose Airport after 20:00, an expensive taxi ride might be necessary. It may cost ¥25,000-35,000 depending on season if booked in advance, and more if not.
Furano is accessible by Highway 237 and Highway 38. There is no direct expressway. The closest expressway exit is Takikawa, about 45 minutes away. In good weather, it takes about 3 hours to reach Furano from Sapporo and 1 hour from Asahikawa. Driving to Furano in winter can be quite dangerous and is generally not recommended — unexpected blizzards, snow drifts, and icy roads are common.
The JR Furano Line runs north to Asahikawa, through the scenic Furano Valley, full of flower fields in the summer. The Furano-Biei Norokko tourist train runs daily from June through August and on weekends into the fall. It stops at Nakafurano with its lavender slopes, at the seasonal Lavender Field station near Farm Tomita[dead link], and at Kamifurano near Flower Land Kamifurano. Yamabe Station on the JR Nemuro Main Line east (toward Obihiro) offers access to mountain-climbing trails on Mount Ashibetsu, which is located within the Taiyou no Sato park, about 45 minutes' walk from the station.
Furano Bus provides most local bus services. The office is located directly across the street from the entrance to JR Furano Station. Conveniently, their office is shared with the Furano Tourist Association, which can provide advice on how to reach tourist attractions by bus. Overall, the bus service is poor, with only a few buses each day going to many of the major destinations.
Due to the lack of effective public transportation, taxi services in Furano are very good. The largest carrier, Furano Taxi, has a cell-phone interpretation system which can provide service in English, Chinese, and Korean. Their fleet also contains wheelchair-accessible and other special-needs vehicles. For a small group, taxi can be quite affordable, with fares to many tourist attractions under ¥2,000 yen per trip. There is a 20% fare increase for late night (22:00 to 05:00) or winter (Nov 25 to Mar 31) services.
Furano has a high traffic accident rate and one of the highest fatality rates for accidents in Japan. Rights of way are often confusingly marked on back and rural roads, where locals will often drive in excess of 100 km/h. Driving is not recommended during the peak summer holidays (o-bon or local festival periods) due to the severe traffic congestion. If you are unfamiliar with winter driving in Japan, do not start here. A four-wheel drive vehicle is highly recommended. Many minor roads will be solid ice, and major roads may ice or drift over during the evening and early morning. The stop lines and center lines will be completely invisible at many intersections — look for the blue signs which designate them. With that said, Furano has a generally poor public transit system, and many of Furano's unique attractions are best reached by car. Be careful when drinking — even a sip of wine puts one over the legal driving limit in Japan.
Rental cycles may be found near the train station. With the station at your back, several souvenir shops on the left side have bicycles for rent. They may not offer a helmet (adults in Japan almost never use bicycle helmets) but helmets may be available if you ask. Many hotels and pensions will also lend out bicycles. It's safest to stay on sidewalks wherever possible.
It's quite possible to explore the small downtown area on foot. The Kitanomine ski village is also very accessible by foot, although winter conditions can be severe. Other areas, such as Rokugo, are quite spread out, with several kilometers between points of interest. During winter, one should be very careful of footing, as paths and streets are often slick ice.
Furano's main attractions are outdoors, though there are a few other options.
- 1 Furano Cheese Factory (富良野チーズ工房 Furano Chizu Kobo), 字中５区 (near the New Furano Prince Hotel), ☏ , email@example.com. Apr-Oct 09:00-17:00, Nov-Mar 09:00-16:00. This factory and small museum was built in the 1980s. You can see the cheese getting produced downstairs, while upstairs you can buy from the shop. A specialty item is the cuttlefish ink cheese, Camembert-style with white mold and black cream colored by cuttlefish ink. If you have time, a hands-on project — making cheese or ice cream — could be fun. Tours are free; workshop prices vary.
- 2 Furano Winery (3 km from Furano Station), ☏ . Watch the bottling of wines, sample the locally made wines, and buy bottles to take home.
- 3 Kami-Furano Pioneer Memorial Museum (上富良野町開拓記念館 Kamifurano-cho kaitaku kinenkan), North 28, West 3, Kami-Furano (on the east side of Highway 291, 200 m S of the junction with Highway 237), ☏ . May Jun Sep Oct: Sa Su 09:00-16:00; Jul-Aug: Tu-Su 09:00-16:00. This small museum is dedicated to the history of Kami-Furano, the northern part of the greater Furano area. There are photos of (locally) famous people and of volcanic eruptions that impacted the region in the last century. The garden outside has lavendar and other flowers, and also some shaded picnic tables. Free.
In Furano area, there are many flower farms and tourist flower gardens. The best time to see is around July.
- 4 Farm Tomita (ファーム富田), KisenKita-15gō, Nakafurano (中富良野町基線北15号) (near the "Rabendā Batake" train station), ☏ . 24 hr. Fields of lavender and other flowers. Pioneer of flower gardens in Furano area. Free.
- 5 Nakafurano Town Ownership Lavender Garden (中富良野町町営ラベンダー園 (Nakafurano chōei labendā-en)), 41-1 Miyamachi, Nakafurano (中富良野町宮町1番41号) (600 m from Nakafurano Station). 24h. Located in the slopes of Mount Hokusei, a small mountain. The chair lift to the mountaintop passes over the flower garden. Admission free. Chair lift round trip ¥300.
- 6 Kan'no Farm (かんのファーム), Bibaushi-tōge Kamifurano (上富良野町美馬牛峠) (700 m from Bibaushi Station), ☏ . Fields of many species flowers. Free.
- Hokkaido Belly Button Festival (北海へそ祭り hōkkai-heso matsuri). 28-29 July.
- Winter sports. Furano is great for skiing and snowboarding, because of its deep and dry powder snow. If you go in peak season you can expect up to at least a meter of snow to fall in a week, making for fantasic fun! There are 2 areas for skiing in Furano: Furano Zone and Kitanomine Zone. One lift ticket is good for both areas. Also, a ski run goes from the Furano Zone to the Kitanomine Zone, and a lift connects the two. Both areas have several lifts, Kitanomine has a gondola, and Furano has a rope way. There are rest areas and restaurants at both ski areas.
- Hiking. Furano is close to many great hiking trails, including: Furano-dake, Ashibetsu-dake, and Tokachi-dake. The tourist office next to the station has the contact details of an outdoor activity center. In winter, snow-shoe hiking is especially good. You can be picked up from your hotel, driven to a remote location, and make fresh tracks up quiet and surreal snow-covered mountains. Hike over the top of bamboo forests, completely covered with snow.
Other winter activities include snowmobiling and ice-hole fishing.
Local goods include Furano Wine and carrot juice. Hotel shops and grocery stores sell these.
- 1 Ningle Terrace (ニングルテラス Ninguru Terrace) (near New Furano Prince Hotel.). 10:00-20:45 in July and August, 12:00-20:45 the rest of the year. This collection of small shops, built in small log huts, sells various items. One lady makes snowflakes out of silver, with a unique mold for each flake. Another shop sells rural landscape pictures. There's also a small glass maker.
- 1 Seoul Terrace (ソウルテラス), Hinode-chou 12-20, Furano-shi (between the hospital and Furano Station on 5th Street), ☏ . 11:30-14:30, 17:00-22:30, closed Wednesdays. A Korean restaurant operated by a Korean couple. Nearly everything is handmade. Authentic Korean dishes and Japanese fusions. Portions are a little small, so order a side dish. ¥800-1500.
- 2 Masaya (まさ屋), 富良野市日の出町１１－１５ (between Furano Marche and Furano Station on 5th Street), ☏ . Closed Th. An okonamiyaki shop that is very with locals and travelers. The owner is very entertaining and speaks excellent English. ¥800-1000.
- 3 Yama no Doxon (山の独尊), Kitanomine-chou 20-29, Furano-shi, ☏ . Tu-Su 17:30-22:30, also lunchtime on Sundays. This restaurant, also known as the Furano Beer Hall, has microbrews on tap, fresh bread, smoked meats, local cheeses, and other food. Lunch ¥600-1000, dinner ¥1200-1400, all you can eat and drink ¥3000.
- 4 Furano Delice (フラノデリス), Shimo-Goryou 2156-1 (Kitanomine), ☏ . Sells milk pudding and cakes. Snacks ¥400 and up.
- 5 Syoujiki Mura (正直村), Kitanominecho 21-7, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 11:30-22:00. Serves a range of ramen and Japanese curries. Great food, English speaking waitress and menu. Also offers lodging.
- Tirol Lamb BBQ (ちろる chiroru) (downstairs from Cafe Tirol, Kitanomine). Korean-style "cook it yourself on the table-top" restaurant. Little English is spoken, though the staff are friendly. Local wine by the glass or bottle. Lamb sirloin ¥650, lamp chops ¥980, 90 minute all you can eat and drink ¥4000.
- Panier (tucked away off the main roads of Kitanomine). It serves a little of everything, including pizza and pasta as well as Japanese style curries — including their special, a black curry. Cheap and tasty.
- 6 [dead link] Farm Restaurant Azemichi-Yorimichi (あぜ道より道), 空知郡上富良野町東6線北16. Apr-Oct: 10:30-18:00, Nov-Mar: 10:30-16:00. Plenty of vegetables! And curry dishes with more vegetables. ¥1000-2000.
- 7 Tomizushi (富鮨) (near 7-11, Kitanomine.). A large range of fantastic sushi even including the surprisingly delicious raw horse. Has an English menu.
- JUN Restaurant (New Furano Hotel, Kitanomine). This hotel restaurant is rather expensive, but conveniently located for skiers.
- 8 Kumagera (くまげら), 3-22 Hinodemachi (turn left [toward Obihiro] on main road by station, then right at the first corner), ☏ , email@example.com. Friendly staff offers many local specialties and nabe (hotpot) meals cooked at the table. Bar in basement. Multilingual menu: Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean. A good place to pass the time between trains. Look for their black woodpecker logo.
Alcohol can be bought from convenience stores or most hotels, either in the restaurants or via vending machines. There are several local businesses, as well.
- 1 Furano Winery (ふらのワイン), 富良野市清水山1161-140, ☏ , fax: . These wines can be bought from the winery, or in restaurants and gift shops around town. There are white, rose and red wines available, as well as the local speciality — lavender wine. The white wine can also be bought with lavender, which has a subtle undertaste.
- 2 Furano Brewery Yama no Doxon (富良野地麦酒館) (at Kitanomine Ski Area.), ☏ . 12:00-14:30, 17:30-23:00. This brewery has a pilsner, a dark ale, a light ale, and seasonal specials. If the brewery is closed but you'd like some of its beer anyway, try some restaurants around town.
- 3 The Bridge, 8-3 Saiwai-cho (on 5th Avenue, 5 minutes from the station), ☏ . Daily 20:00-02:00. An American-style pool bar in downtown Furano. The owner is an ex-pat American who has been living in Furano for a long time. A great place to enjoy cocktails and pub food while mingling with locals and foreigners. Free billiards. Smoke free. ¥500 and up.
- 4 Soh's Bar (near the New Furano Prince Hotel), ☏ . A cigar bar.
- Café and Bar – Tirol (Kitanomine). Ice bar.
- 1 Furano Youth Hostel (富良野ユースホステル), 3-20 Okamachi, Nakafurano-Chō (中富良野町丘町3-20) (walk 6 minutes from JR Naka-Furano Station), ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Dormitory bed ¥3450.
- 2 [dead link] Alpine Backpackers Hostel (close to the Furano Ski Area rope way), ☏ . A small hostel. The manager speaks some English. It has WiFi and a computer, a small kitchen with equipment, a simple onsen, a living room and eating facility where you can buy western-style breakfast. The manager organizes outdoor activities from the outfitter office next door. Dorm beds ¥2500-2700, twin ¥5,400.
- [dead link] Cottage North Hill Sasaki (80 m from Furano Ski Ground on the Kitanomine side). Check-in: 15:30, check-out: 09:30. A house good for families, short term or long term.
- 3 Furano Prince Hotel (next to the single chair lift in the Kitanomine area).
- 4 New Furano Prince Hotel (near the High-Speed Ropeway in the Furano Ski Area). This upmarket hotel has a bakery and large gift shop.
- 5 New Furano Hotel (1 minute walk from the Kitanomine Gondola). While the management is friendly, they don't speak much English. Rooms are small but clean. There are vending machines with beer, as well as a gift shop, ski and snowboard lockers, a restaurant, wireless internet at the JUN Restaurant, public baths, a game room, a tea room, and coin laundry.
- 6 Minshuku Mutsukari, 8-13 Midorimachi (Take a left out of the train station, past the bike hire place and then left again at the corner. About 10 min walk down this road you pass a post office and join Route 38. Keep going straight and the Minshuku is on the right-hand side of the road opposite Lawson.), ☏ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 10:00. This Minshuku is a further away from the ski slopes, but it's nice, has free parking and no curfew. The house leans a little and the tatami rooms are not brand new, but the landlady is lovely and you can have meals included if you wish. They have a Japanese-style (single-sex shared) bath for relaxing after a hard day on the slopes. There is a bus stop outside. ¥6000.
- 7 Fresh Powder Apartments Furano, 14-26 Kitanomine (across the street from Kitanomine Ski Hill, 40 m from Kitanomine Gondola), ☏ . Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 10:00. Self-contained apartments ranging from studio to 3BR, each with a full kitchen, private laundry, bath/shower, English TV, and internet access. Ideal for families and international visitors on long stays. Fully furnished studio from ¥16,000.
- 8 Taiyo no Sato Campground (山部自然公園太陽の里), Nishi 19, Yamabe (from Highway 38 in Yamabe, southern Furano, take Highway 706 west several kilometers), ☏ . This is a very large campground in the foothills of the mountains. There is a very small store here that sometimes has fresh vegetables and little else, so stock up in town. There are spots for tents and RVs. Free.
- Daisetsuzan National Park — Japan's largest, directly north of Furano
|Routes through Furano|
|Takikawa ←||W E||→ Obihiro → Nemuro|
|Furano ←||S N||→ Asahikawa|