A Few Days

Hokkaido, Japan: Mynn’s Top 10 Things to Do and Eat in Furano and Biei

Furano city and Biei town are one of the most popular places to visit in Hokkaido during the summer months. This is because the entire area is just filled with a myriad of hues and blossomy fragrance, from the beautiful flower fields that cover the area like a natural carpet. So during my visit to Hokkaido in the summer of 2019, I made it a point to add these two towns into my itinerary. I was self-driving my travel group around the island, and we spent 3 days exploring (and eating) around Furano and Biei.

Top 10 Things to Do and Eat in Furano and Biei

Furano and Biei are known as the navel of Hokkaido; and are located in the center of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, within the Kamikawa subprefecture. During summer it is popular for its flower fields; and in winter, it becomes a skiing resort town. The area is surrounded by large mountains, like the Tokachi Mountains of Daisetsuzan (you can read about my previous autumn visit to the National Park here), Mt. Ashibetsu and Mt. Yubari — so you can imagine its breathtaking landscape and views. I for one, was totally mesmerised while driving around the area!

So after soaking in much of its beauty, I’ve come up with a list of the top 10 things to do, see, admire, and most importantly eat, when you visit Furano and Biei. Make sure you don’t miss any of them…. especially that sweet, sweet melon!

Mynn’s Top 10 Things to Do and Eat in Furano and Biei
1. Admire the Shirogane Blue Pond
2. See Farm Tomita and the Many Flower Farms
3. Visit Shikisai no Aka and the Alpaca Farm
4. Walk Around the Ningle Terrace
5. Look for All Things Cheese
6. Eat Furano’s Signature Omukare
7. Try Biei’s Curry Udon
8. Search for the Furano Wagyu
9. Cool Down with Lavender and the Variety of Flavored Ice Creams
10. Don’t Forget the Furano Melon!

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1. Admire the Shirogane Blue Pond

Shirogane Blue Pond
The beautiful blue of the Shirogane Blue Pond, against the blue of the sky.
Shirogane Blue Pond
The Blue Pond gives a different view for every season — this is in the summer.
Blue Pond Ice Cream
The pretty Blue Pond ice cream comes in the exact color of the pond, and tastes lemonade-y.
Shirahige Waterfall
Upsteam from the Blue Pond, you’ll also get to admire the blue of the Shirahige Falls.

One of the few things that truly mesmerised me on my visit to Furano and Biei is the beautiful Shirogane Blue Pond. Located in the area around Biei, the Blue Pond is a lovely place to visit all-year round, just to admire the unreal blue hue of its waters. The pond isn’t natural. It is actually man-made as a result of the creation of a dam after the eruption of nearby Mt. Tokachi. Many ponds emerged from the incident, but none as blue and as captivating as the Shirogane Blue Pond.

The vivid blue of the pond is due to the water mixing with the aluminium from the cliffs from the upstream Shirahige Falls (that you can also visit via a high bridge over the river); as well as the sulfur-bleached rocks at the bottom of the pond that reflects its color. Funnily enough, the trees emerging from the pond all appear to be leafless and dead; and against the backdrop of the lush green trees in summer, it just adds to its charm.

The best time to visit the pond is on a clear windless day, when the water is as still as a picture. The scenery changes with the seasons, but it is just as beautiful whether in spring, summer, autumn or winter. Oh, and while you’re there, don’t forget to get your hands on the Blue Pond Ice Cream. It’s as blue as the pond itself, tastes a little lemonade-y, and comes with an “Aoigitsune” blue fox cookie! Entrance to the pond is free, and the ice cream costs JPY500 (~US$4.5/MYR20).

2. See Farm Tomita and the Many Flower Farms

Farm Tomita
The rows and rows of colorful flowers all around Farm Tomita.
Farm Tomita
Admiring the beauty from the second floor of one of the many buildings around the farm.
Farm Tomita's Lavender
And people come in summer to see the lovely lavender.
Farm Tomita
One of the shops at Farm Tomita showcases dried flowers and flower products for sale.

The main attraction of Furano and Biei during summer are the miles and miles of Lavender Fields that can be found all around the area. Lavender has been cultivated in Hokkaido for more than half a century; and most of the farms have become tourist attractions when the flowers are in full bloom. Of course there are many other beautiful flowers that grow during the summer season as well, and Furano and Biei are dotted with tons of these flower farms, but the most popular (and probably most beautiful, well-kept and with the best facilities) is Farm Tomita. They also have the biggest lavender fields in the whole of Japan!

I was visiting the area in mid-August during the end of the lavender season; so unfortunately for me, the fields were mostly empty. During my visit to Farm Tomita though, I did manage to catch at least one field filled with lavender so I was fairly satisfied. The other beautiful flowers that are lined in such gorgeous colors at the farm more than made up for it!

Farm Tomita also has lots of shops and buildings around the farm that sells Japanese food and snacks, flower souvenirs, lavender gifts, and of course the popular lavender ice-cream (but that’s for another point on this list)! Entrance to Farm Tomita is free. However, during the season, there’s a tractor bus that runs along its Lavender East Fields for JPY200 (~US$2/MYR8).

3. Visit Shikisai no Aka and the Alpaca Farm

Shikisai no Aka
The huge Shikisai no Aka Farm was packed with visitors during my visit.
Shikisai no Aka
It was just amazing to see hills and hills of flowers… everywhere!
Shikisai no Aka
The Shikisai no Aka is so big that we needed a cart to get around!
Alpaca Farm
We also dropped by the Alpaca Farm in the vicinity and said hello to this little cutie.

Another flower farm that you should visit when you are at Furano and Biei, is the Shikisai no Aka Farm. Despite the crazy crowds at the entrance of the farm, they slowly disperse as you head further into the farm. After all, it is a garden on 7 hectares of rolling hills filled with seasonal flowers of many different species. Because Shikisai no Aka is so huge, the best way to get around the entire farm is via the few transports they offer.

The Norokko (tractor bus) is the most popular, as you just gotta hop on and it’ll take you for a slow 15-minute ride along the farm’s breathtaking fields, including one photo stop amongst the flowers against the Mt. Daisetsu backdrop. However, as there were 4 people in my group, we decided to go for the self-drive 4-seater Cart so that we could drive to any part of the park we want (and stop for pictures anywhere). I have to say, it was extremely fun to be the driver! There’s also the 1-seater Buggy for rent on a fixed garden circuit. I would suggest to forgo the walking, as the gravel paths around the farm are difficult to thread on.

And while you’re at the farm, don’t miss the chance to drop by the Alpaca Farm to have a glimpse of these cute creatures. It was my first time getting up and close with the alpaca; and I also had the opportunity to ‘try’ and feed it. Entrance into Shikisai no Aka is free, but entry into the Alpaca Farm costs JYP500 (~US$4.5/MYR20) per adult. The Norokko ride costs JYP500 for adults (JYP300 for kids); the carts are JYP2000 (~US$20/MYR80) for a 15-minute rental; and the buggies are JYP500 for one circuit.

4. Walk Around the Ningle Terrace

Ningle Terrace
Entrance to the Ningle Terrace, a fairytale arts and crafts village.
Ningle Terrace
This little village is nestled within the forest… isn’t it just enchanting?
Ningle Terrace
Walking along the boardwalk of Ningle Terrace that connects the little huts.
Ningle Terrace
When the sky turns dark, the pretty fairy lights all around the village comes on.

The Ningle Terrace in Furano is located just below the New Furano Prince Hotel. It is a picturesque collection of timber cottages showcasing and selling specialty arts and crafts, and connected by a boardwalk through the forest. There are 15 cottages altogether, and the local artisans are usually based in their own space, creating and working on their nature-themed products like leather, iron, paper, wood and wax works (which makes unique souvenirs).

It was an enchanting experience just walking around the tiny ‘village’ surrounded by tall trees shielding the area with their canopies, and peeking into the cottages to see all the pretty handicrafts on display. We arrived in the late evening and managed to see the lovely fairy lights that decorate the entire village come on. Some of the cottages also house a couple of cafes; and they serve a variety of goodies like cakes and ice creams, as well as drinks like baked milk.

Ningle Terrace is named after the Ningle people of the forest. They are believed to be tiny ‘wise’ people living in the forests of Hokkaido. The word comes from the Ainu (a Japanese ethnic tribe) language that roughly translates to “shrunk humans”. Entrance is free.

5. Look for All Things Cheese

Cheese Factory
Found some little birdie statues outside the Furano Cheese Factory and its vast grounds.
Cheese Factory
You can buy some Furano Cheese as souvenirs — they even put them in pretty boxes.
Furano Yukidoke Cheesecake
You can buy a whole cake, or a slice of the Furano Yukidoke Cheesecake at the Shinya Store.
Furano Yukidoke Cheesecake
I got myself two slices of Shinya’s Furano Yukidoke Cheesecake! Yum!

Hokkaido is known for its dairy products, and one of the known places to get your hands on some of the best milk and cheese is at Furano. During my visit, I dropped by the Furano Cheese Factory; a facility opened to the public that manufactures and sells dairy products. The factory is located within a shaded park (that was packed with people picnicking and just hanging out during summer).

The main building has two floors — the first floor is the cheese production area, and the second floor is the sales and products area that also has an exhibition on cheese history and production, as well as the workshop studios. I wished I had more time to join a workshop (making butter, ice cream and cheese) that happens at fixed times during the day for JPY880 (~US$8/MYR35). There’s also an ice cream parlour and a pizzeria on the grounds of the factory (because well, cheese). Entrance to the factory is free.

Another cheesy delight you shouldn’t miss while in Furano is the Furano Yukidoke Cheesecake. Sold at the confectionery store Shinya that has been opened since 1954, the four-layered cheesecake is named after the thawing snow of Furano. The cake takes 3 days to make; and has a fresh cream top, covering the baked cream cheese above a special jam, held together by a delicious crumbly crust. The cheesecake is sold as a whole cake for JPY1450 (US$14/MYR60), or in slices for JPY270 (US$2.5/MYR11); and comes in original, chocolate, strawberry, matcha and even melon flavors. I bought 2 slices to try!

6. Eat Furano’s Signature Omukare

Yuiga Doxon
From the exterior, you can’t tell that Yuiga Doxon is one of Furano’s most established eateries.
Yuiga Doxon
Just look at how rustic the restaurant is!
Yuiga Doxon - Omukare
It’s famous for the Furano Curry Omelette — this plate is full of gorgeousness.
Yuiga Doxon
I really can’t wait to dig in!

One of the few things you should eat while in Furano is the curry! The city is known for their Curry Omelette Rice (Omukare), and the best place to have it is at Yuiga Doxon in the center of town. Housed in an unassuming, rustic, wooden two-storey ‘cottage’, the restaurant is a stark contrast to the concrete buildings surrounding it. We arrived at Yuiga Doxon at 6pm or so, and there was already a short queue just starting to form for dinner. It wasn’t too long a wait though; and we were soon escorted to the second flour of this cramp but cozy restaurant. They have English translations on their menu, so we had no problems ordering; and I picked the most delicious sounding choice, the sausage-ox tongue-omelette curry with grilled potatoes and salad for JYP2160 (~US$20/MYR87).

My meal was a little pricey, but it was incredible. The restaurant is reputed to use 29 different spices to make their home-made curry sauce; and it’s almost black in color with a rich and smokey taste. The smoked sausage was delicious, the ox tongue was tender and flavourful, and the omelette was soft and fluffy. Everything on my plate just paired together so well with the curry — and I was a very happy and contented girl. Other dishes served at Yuigo Doxon include combinations of chicken, pork, vegetables, or seafood curry; with prices starting from JYP900 (~US$8/MYR36). I will definitely come back again if I ever return to Furano.

7. Try Biei’s Curry Udon

Daimaru Biei
The exterior of the Daimaru Family Restaurant in Biei.
Daimaru Biei - Curry Udon
Curry Udon for the win!
Daimaru Biei
Our table laden with food… from grilled pork, to chicken kaarage, and of course the curry udon.
Daimaru Biei - Curry Udon and Tonkatsu
Would you like a piece of my tonkatsu pork cutlet?

During a visit to Biei, make sure you drop by one of the restaurants in the area to try the town’s popular Curry Udon. I had my taste at the Family Restaurant Daimaru; and they also offer many other dishes with local products on the menu. We had to wait more than half an hour to get a seat inside the packed restaurant, as there was a long waiting list during lunch time. Once inside though, service was fast and efficient, and ordering was easy with the availability of an English-translated menu.

We ordered a dish each amongst the five of us in our group — everyone decided to go for a different meal so that we could share and taste all the different food on offer. Of course I went with the signature Curry Udon. It was served together with a delicious slab of pork tonkatsu for JPY950 (~US$9/MYR38). We also selected the set of Curry Udon with vegetables and a glass of Furano Milk, the seasonal (summer only) Cold Curry Udon, the grilled pork set, and the chicken karaage and tempura set; all ranging from JPY700-850 (~US$6.5-8/MYR28-35).

The curry was mild and sweet, and delicious. I loved dipping the udon made with local ‘koumugi’ wheat into that bowl of delectable curry; and then taking a bite of the crispy tonkatsu — made with local Biei-Pork. All the dishes were absolutely delightful; and everyone agreed that the meal was pretty affordable by Japanese standards, and worth the wait.

8. Search for the Furano Wagyu

Kumagera
We arrived in Kumagera just in time for dinner.
Kumagera
Just gotta have a hotpot meal with some cold sake.

Every time I make a visit to Japan, I make sure that I at least try to get my hands on some of the exquisite wagyu from the prefecture. In Furano, they have their own brand of Furano Black Wagyu from cows raised in the Furano Basin at the foot of Daisetsuzan’s Mount Tokachi. And one of the best places to try this wagyu (with a variety of other meal options too) is at Kumagera in the center of Furano. We visited for dinner, and though there was a slight queue, it wasn’t a long wait and we were seated in no time.

The restaurant has an English menu, and other than serving the Furano Wagyu, which I ordered in shabu-shabu style for one person for JPY4600 (~US$43/MYR187); they also serve the most delicious Nabe meals (the restaurant’s signature dish). We ordered the 2 options available — a traditional Miso based hotpot with venison, duck and chicken meat; and the soysauce based hotpot with seafood. It comes in 2 person sizes, and cost JPY3,300 (~US$31/MYR134) per set.

This was the most expensive and probably the best meal I had on my trip to Japan this time (and it is really tough to choose because the food here is so good). As usual, the wagyu was melt-in-your-mouth perfect; and I have to say that the hotpot was so wonderfully delicious! We actually ordered the second pot after we finished the first pot because we were left wanting more!

9. Cool Down with Lavender and the Variety of Flavored Ice Creams

Lavender Ice Cream
Just look at that beautiful bright purple on this lavender ice cream.
Lavender Souvenirs
Other than ice cream, there are lots of lavender goodies for sale.
Ice Cream in Furano
Dairy is Furano’s specialty — so you can find all sorts of flavored ice cream here.
Sunflower Ice Cream
How about a sunflower ice cream too?

As I mentioned above, when you’re in Furano and Biei during summer — it’s all about lavender, lavender and lavender! You’ll find lavender souvenirs, goodies and snacks everywhere in the city; whether in the supermarkets, the souvenir shops, or the many flower farms. However, the one lavender-themed thing you should not miss during your visit is the Lavender Ice Cream! One, because you’ll don’t want to be left wondering how a lavender ice cream would taste like; and two, because ice cream is the best thing to have on a hot summer’s day.

I had my taste of this little beauty at the Tomita Farm, and a cone cost me JYP300 (~US$3/MYR12). I love the soft purple color of the ice cream, which has a strong taste of herbs, and an aftertaste like I just swallowed my lavender essential oil! That being said, I rather enjoyed the ice cream as it was indeed refreshing.

While in Furano and Biei, I also had the chance to try a range of unique flavoured ice creams; sunflower at the Hokuryu Sunflower Farm, cheese at the Furano Cheese Factory, and blue lemonade at the Shirogane Blue Pond (point above). My favourite one of all though, is the exquisite melon ice cream at the Tomita Melon Farm, which brings us to my final point!

10. Don’t Forget the Furano Melon!

Tomita Melon House
Ready to take a tractor to crash into the Tomita Melon House to steal those Furano melons!
Tomita Melon House
Look at all those beautiful melons, packed and ready to be taken home.
Tomita Melon House
Gonna get my share of these red and green Furano melons!
Tomita Melon House - Ice Cream
And yet another ice cream to drool on — this is my favourite melon ice cream!

Oh, how I love the melons of Hokkaido. It was the one thing that I craved for, and the one thing I missed when I got home, when I first visited the island. So on this second visit to Hokkaido, I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to eat as many melons as I can! In Furano, they have their own Furano Melons; and for all things melon in the city, head to the Tomita Melon House to get your fill. The Tomita Melon House sells a variety of melon-y delights, from slices of melons, to melon ice cream, melon desserts and even meals that feature melons. They also offer visitors melon packing and delivery services so that you can bring some of these delicious melons home with you.

But really, I was just there to eat ’em melons. So I bought myself half a red melon for JYP1000 (~US$10/MYR41); and then walked over to the ice cream stall and had them fill my melon half with a serving of melon and milk ice cream for JYP350 (~US$3/MYR14). I swear it was heaven filled in a bowl of heaven. The ice cream was so soft and melon-y, and the red melon was amazingly sweet, fragrant and oh-so-juicy. And after that, I went over to the dessert counter, and bought a whole lot of Furano melon desserts too. Just couldn’t get enough!

Eating the Melon Ice Cream
All ready to dig into my melon ice cream before it melts (I’ve already stolen a bite)!
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