This guide covers three municipalities in Furano basin: Furano, Nakafurano and Kamifurano.
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, in recent seasons. At least 2,000 Australians are visited Furano in the 06/07 winter. 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.
By trainFurano 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 8:19PM and Sapporo at 9PM. In the winter, there is also a Ski Express Train from Sapporo which leaves at 8:04AM, and can also be accessed from the local airport train which leaves New Chitose at 6:53AM. There are 12 direct trains from Asahikawa, with the last train leaving JR Asahikawa Station at 10:37PM.
Lavender Express BusThis 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.
By taxiIf you are arriving at New Chitose Airport after 8PM, 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.
By carFurano 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.
By trainThe 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, 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.
By taxiDue 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 (10pm to 5am) or winter (Nov 25 to Mar 31) services.
By carFurano 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.
By bicycleRental 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.
On footIt'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.
address: 字中５区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.
phone: +81 167-22-3242Watch the bottling of wines, sample the locally made wines, and buy bottles to take home.
Kami-Furano Pioneer Memorial Museumaddress: North 28, West 3, Kami-FuranoThis 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.
In Furano area, there are many flower farms and tourist flower gardens. The best time to see is around July.
phone: +81 167-39-3939address: KisenKita-15gō, Nakafurano (中富良野町基線北15号)Fields of lavender and other flowers. Pioneer of flower gardens in Furano area.
address: 41-1 Miyamachi, Nakafurano (中富良野町宮町1番41号)Located in the slopes of Mount Hokusei, a small mountain. The chair lift to the mountaintop passes over the flower garden.
Kan'no Farmphone: +81 167-45-9528address: Bibaushi-tōge Kamifurano (上富良野町美馬牛峠)Fields of many species flowers.
Winter sportsFurano 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.
HikingFurano 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.
Ningle TerraceThis 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.
phone: +81 167-23-4485address: Hinode-chou 12-20, Furano-shiA 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.
phone: +81 167-23-4464address: 富良野市日の出町１１－１５An okonamiyaki shop that is very with locals and travelers. The owner is very entertaining and speaks excellent English.
phone: +81 167-22-5599address: Kitanomine-chou 20-29, Furano-shiThis restaurant, also known as the Furano Beer Hall, has microbrews on tap, fresh bread, smoked meats, local cheeses, and other food.
phone: +81 167-22-8005address: Shimo-Goryou 2156-1Sells milk pudding and cakes.
phone: +81 167-23-3143address: Kitanominecho 21-7Serves a range of ramen and Japanese curries. Great food, English speaking waitress and menu. Also offers lodging.
Tirol Lamb BBQKorean-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.
PanierIt serves a little of everything, including pizza and pasta as well as Japanese style curries — including their special, a black curry. Cheap and tasty.
address: 空知郡上富良野町東6線北16Plenty of vegetables! And curry dishes with more vegetables.
TomizushiA large range of fantastic sushi even including the surprisingly delicious raw horse. Has an English menu.
JUN RestaurantThis hotel restaurant is rather expensive, but conveniently located for skiers.
phone: +81 167-39-2345address: 3-22 HinodemachiFriendly 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.
phone: +81 167-22-3242address: 富良野市清水山1161-140These wines can be bought from the winery itself, 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.
phone: +81 167-22-5599This 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.
The Bridgeaddress: 8-3 Saiwai-choAn 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.
Soh's Barphone: +81 167-22-1111A cigar bar.
Café and Bar – TirolIce bar.
phone: +81 167-44-4441address: 3-20 Okamachi, Nakafurano-Chō (中富良野町丘町3-20)
Alpine Backpackers HostelA 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.
Cottage North Hill SasakiA house good for families, short term or long term.
New Furano Prince HotelThis upmarket hotel has a bakery and large gift shop.
New Furano HotelWhile 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.
address: 8-13 Midorimachi, Furano, Hokkaido 076-0021, JapanThis 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.
phone: +81 167 23-4738address: 14-26 KitanomineSelf-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.
Taiyo no Sato Campgroundaddress: Nishi 19, YamabeThis 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.