If you ever travel up to the north of Japan, to the lovely island of Hokkaido, Furano is not to be missed. Whether you land in New Chitose Airport or Asahikawa Airport, catch a JR train to Furano. Spend 4 days, 5 days, a week! You won't be bored.
First thing to do once you alight from JR Furano is to visit the Tourism Information Center which is packed full of information on the interesting activities and places in Furano. During my trip there, the two main publications that helped me the most are: the English Tourist Map, and the FURANO Area Guide, which looked like a magazine and is unbelievably, totally free of charge. If you are not a fan of reading through tons of information, just approach the friendly staff by the counter, and you would be able to speak to someone in English, Japanese or Chinese.
The next thing to do is probably rent a car. If you are visiting during the summer, there are plenty of tour buses like the Twinkle bus available, which stops at a few stops and gives you time to tour around. However, at other times, or if you would like a bit of flexibility, car rental helps you get around Furano easily. Many rental car services are conveniently located near JR Furano.
Summer and winter are arguably the best seasons to visit Furano.
During summer, Furano is packed with activities. Visit the famed lavender fields of Furano. From JR Furano, there is a special sightseeing train that runs in the summer called Furano Lavender Express. It stops at the Furano-Batake station, which is within walking distance from Farm Tomita. Yes, it will be crowded, but it will be worth it. Summer is also the time to bare your tummy, draw a face and take part in the Furano Belly Button Festival, held not far from JR Furano.
In winter, Furano's skiing slopes are padded with beautiful powder snow and attracts professional skiers much like Niseko. But, unlike than Niseko, it is not overpopulated with Australians. During ski season, a free shuttle bus also operates between JR Furano and New Prince Hotel. Enquire at the Tourist Information for updated information.
Throughout the year, there are a few key attractions that you can go to. Furano Marche, which is walkable from JR Furano, offers yummy fresh produce as well as ice cream, snacks and other famous Furano souvenirs. The Cheese Factory, the only one in the world that sells Squid Ink Camembert Cheese, opens all year round. The Ningle Terrace, a beautiful cluster of cottages that sells handicrafts is also not to be missed – especially at night. You’ll see why Furano was the shooting location of so many beautiful Japanese dramas after visiting it!
From Furano, you can easily hop on another train to visit the next beautiful city in Hokkaido. If you came from Asahikawa, continue south to Obihiro, the sweets kingdom! If you came from the south, or from the main city of Sapporo, head over to Biei and then Asahikawa.