While getting my hair done today — a 3-hour affair where we often share our life stories — I passionately recounted my recent road trip across Hokkaido. My hairstylist (shoutout to Issey at Gold Salon in Tokyo who gave me the best haircut and balayage I’ve ever had) informed me that no one at the salon had ever been to the northernmost island of Japan. He asked for recommendations, which finally pushed me to publicly share the itinerary I meticulously planned for this trip.
I love planning. It’s why I’m such a damn good teacher. I never feel more energetic and invigorated than when researching a new place and trying creative methods to find hidden gems. This is how I’ve learned so much about the world. I have an insatiable hunger to know as much as I can possibly know about any wonder that pops into my head at any moment.
Ok, to avoid wasting your time like some annoying recipe blog that details their family history back into the dark ages, let’s get to the trip.
Day 1: Leaving Sapporo
Obviously, for this trip you need to rent a car. My husband and I settled on a van that didn’t break the bank — $400 for 6 days. We also opted to sleep in the car to save money on accommodation. We didn’t bring our tent because we didn’t want to haul it through the budget airline we flew. You are welcome to not be as cheap as we were.
Leaving Sapporo, I planned to hit up 3 flower farms that all seemed to be located in the same general area.
- Hokuryu Sunflower Village (ひまわりの里)
- Tomita Farm (ファーム富田)
- Shikisai no Oka (四季彩の丘)
Sadly, I believe COVID-19 ruined 2 out of 3 of the farm experiences. I checked the sunflower village’s website before we arrived, and there was no mention that the sunflowers had already been harvested. We pushed through our disappointment to reach Tomita Farm… only to find they had harvested all their lavender!
Perhaps it was for the best. Perhaps if those two farm had been full, we would have wasted too much time there to see the best of them all — Shikisai no Oka. This flower farm boasted rolling hills with several square kilometers of flowers. In the late summer, some fields were empty, but the view was breathtaking.
Hokuryu Sunflower Village is also large and may be worth visiting in the right season. Tomita Farm, however, is tiny and might just be a waste of time considering that this place is nearby. It’s so large that there are golf cart rentals offered. My husband was most excited about spending time with the llamas randomly hanging out in one section of the farm.
The omiyage (gift) shop had some interesting items unique to the Furano area. There were tons of lavender products which the area seems to be known for, and makes sense considering it was all harvested. I was intrigued by the canned bear meat for sale.
Yes, I did buy some bear meat. I don’t think hunting the bears is very ethical in Hokkaido… it’s usually done because humans are encroaching on their habitat and have knee-jerk reactions to bear sightings. However, it’s just one of those things you have to try once. The meat is usually flavored with something like miso and I think it tastes pretty good. It’s almost similar to beef, but still unique.
There is a restaurant on site which is convenient after working up an appetite walking up and down the hills. I opted for a deer meat set, but regretted it after seeing how amazing the soup curry looked. This was still delicious, but I recommend the soup curry. I think it had a whole chicken leg in it.
My favorite part of the park may have been the lavender soft cream….. ok, no, my favorite part was the vista of rolling hills, but the soft cream is a close second. It was a delicate flavor and thankfully did not taste like eating perfume.
By the time we finished at Shikisai no Oka, it was approaching evening. I planned for us to sleep at a campsite near some waterfalls and gorges we could visit the next day. This campsite turned out to be managed by a pretty good company and had lots of amenities available.
Sounkyo Auto Camping Ground allows you to sleep in your car, your own tent, their bungalows, or a yurt. The fee for staying in your own accommodation is minimal. There is also a full kitchen and timed showers. The best part– you can pause the timer! I had no idea I could fully wash and rinse myself within 2 minutes. Everyone should probably do that at home to be environmentally friendly… does everyone do that?
There is a nice river by the campsite, as well as a well known onsen nearby. I love swimming in Japanese rivers, but it was too chilly and dark to enjoy it when we arrived. The fun part was ripping my pants when I bent down to test the water temperature.
Before we tried to get comfortable in the van, I used the long exposure settings on my iPhone 11 to capture the stars. This campground was really dark, quiet, and peaceful.
I would like to keep rambling on about the rest of the itinerary, but I think this is enough for one post. Furano is doable as a day trip from Sapporo, but it’s also worth it to spend a night in the nearby city of Asahikawa. If you’re in the area, don’t forget to pick up lavender-flavored treats for friends and family.
Stay tuned for Day 2!