Central Hokkaido: Furano, Biei, Asahikawa
Sapporo, the biggest city in Hokkaido region of Japan, is a perfect city as a base to explore the rest of the island. It’s a big city, which means the facilities, be it transportation or accomodation are top notch.
It’s very easy to go from Sapporo to some of the most interesting area in Hokkaido. One of the highlight day trips from Sapporo is the central region of Hokkaido: Furano, Biei, and Asahikawa.
Furano is a famous town in Hokkaido for a reason. That reason is maybe unthinkable for a Japanese town. It’s kind of out of place, but it’s amazing nonetheless.
Furano is famous for its Lavender farms.
During the summer time, when the Lavender blooms, Furano is a lively town. The Lavender fields are indeed beautiful.
Furano can be reached by train from Sapporo Station in just around 2 hours. During the summer time, which signify the high tourist season, there is a special train that will carry tourists directly from Sapporo to Furano in just around 2 hours. The train’s name is of course Lavender Express!
It costs around ¥2,500 one way. Not exactly cheap, but it’s free with Japan Rail Pass. So, there’s no reason not to go to Furano if one is holding a Japan Rail Pass.
Immediately after arriving at Furano, one can feel the mountainous feeling of central Hokkaido. Even in the summer time, those mountains were still capped by snow! Winter time in Hokkaido would be amazing experience, I could imagine.
It is, however, advisable to hop to the next local train from Furano Station directly, and alight from the train two stations after Furano. It’s called Naka-Furano Station. It’s where the main attractions of Furano are.
Walking around 20 minutes from the Naka-Furano Station, those famous Lavender fields could be seen.
It is indeed amazing. With the hilly terrain, bright color of Lavender, small town in the background, and high rising mountains looming in the horizon; it’s perfect.
Going back to Naka-Furano Station and hopping to the next local train bound to the north, one can go to another interesting city in Central Hokkaido.
If Furano is known for its Lavender fields, Biei is known for the the gently rolling hills. It is indeed, similar to Furano, looks out of place.
The best way to enjoy Biei is to rent a bicycle and just explore Biei to its fullest.
Directly in front of Biei Station, there are some bicycle rentals. You can rent for ¥200 an hour for the usual city bike, or ¥600 an hour for the electric bike.
Due to the hilly terrain and summer heat of Biei, it is of course advisable to hire the electric bike. It’s would be much more easier, I could imagine.
It is amazing indeed, the scenery of Biei. Everywhere one can see, it’s picturesque.
Two hours of bicycling around the hills of Biei is a reasonable amount of time. Just don’t forget to bring plenty of waters and two onigiris or three!
Put the bicycle back to the shop, report in, and pay the rental fare. It’s time for the next destination: Asahikawa.
Asahikawa is the second biggest city in Hokkaido. It’s very famous for its zoo! Weird, right. Every city or town in Central Hokkaido is famous for things that are out of place in Japan.
Whereas, Furano and Biei are famous for their summer attractions, Asahikawa’s Asahiyama Zoo is famous in the winter. Where there is an rather unique attraction: kawaii Penguin march! No wonder Asahiyama Zoo is the most famous zoo in Japan!
Ending the day in Asahikawa, it’s perfect to eat Asahikawa’s speciality: Miso Ramen!
It’s not a really a concern regarding the train back to Sapporo from Asahikawa. There are literally hundred of them (okay, maybe less). Every hour there are 3 trains or so bound for Sapporo. The Super Kamui train, is an express train that could get to Sapporo in just 1.5 hours for ¥2,500. Again it’s free for JR Pass holder!
Central Hokkaido Budget
It comes down to budgeting. With JR Pass, all the trains are free, so JR Pass holder will save as much as ¥5,500.
All the attractions in Furano and Biei are free, so it food and rental bicycle are the only things that matters. Around ¥2,500 is abundant for that.
Without JR Pass, I personally don’t think that this trip would be worth the money, as the train is really expensive. However, if you have JR Pass, or even Hokkaido Rail Pass, go for it! It definitely will be one of the best day trip ever!