Day 6 (3/3).
A sudden downpour greeted our arrival to the farming community as we left Hoshino Resorts Tomamu and entered Minamifurano or South Furano (南富良野). A long and winding road cut through fields of rice paddies, wheat and corn, and passed by rows after rows of farming greenhouses against the backdrop of Tokachi Mountain Range (十勝岳). Further afield, rolling fields of summer flowers had yet reached their peak moment of summer blossom. We could imagine that at its peak in mid July, these fields could well be covered in rainbow colours: sunflower, poppies, lilies, and most famous of all, different types of lavender. At one point, we stopped the car right by a small country road, just to taste the sweetness of nature and feel the mountain air after the rain. Mist rose from the distant mountains beyond farming fields, making a perfect and dreamy picture of Hokkaido countryside. Welcome to Furano!
Located in the heart of Hokkaido Island, Furano is (富良野) a sleepy town about 100km inland from the sea, enjoying a continental climate that sees heavy and powdery snowfall in winter. Like Niseko, Furano is a popular skiing resort in winter. During summer, Furano is a rural wonderland famous for its farmlands and vineyards, especially its rolling hills of flowers that includes the iconic lavender. Drawing large amount of Japanese and Chinese tourists, summer flowers, especially lavender, have imprinted a vivid postcard image in visitors’ mind even before they arrive in Hokkaido. For the Japanese, the works of scriptwriter Sō Kuramoto (倉本 聰) have presented the beauty of Furano to everyone in the nation in the past 40 years, marking the relative sleepy town in Central Hokkaido onto Japan’s tourist map.
We stopped the car at a small country road to inhale our first breathe of fresh air from Furano.
Furano is well known for its fine agricultural produce.
Large plastic greenhouses could be seen in many areas around Furano.
No matter where in Japan, rice paddies is often the dominate landscape.
In Hokkaido, wheat is also a main staple food for noodles and bread.
In Central Furano, a complex of four retail buildings known as Furano Marche introduces local produce, snacks and souvenir for visitors and foreigners.
We got ourselves some food for a light dinner.
We got ourselves potato fries, hamburger and fried chicken (all ingredients from the region) for dinner.
From Furano Marche, we had the opportunity to try the local sweet white corn, which could be consumed raw.
In Furano, we stayed at Pension Yamasan in the village of Nakafurano (中富良野), the home of the famous lavender farms like Farm Tomita and Saika-no-Sato.
Dried lavender is used as decorations and natural air freshener.
We were free to use the dining hall for breakfast and evening television.
The common area of Pension Yamasan is full of the owner’s character.
Situated on a hill across from Mount Tokachi, Pension Yamasan offered us pleasant view of the mountain range and fields of Nakafurano.
For visitors without their own wheels, railway is their best bet for reaching the lavender farms in Nakafurano.
After the rain, Furano River was a little muddy at Nakafurano.
Despite we were a month too early to see the lavender in full blossom, other summer flowers were indeed everywhere in Nakafurano.
Day 3 (2/2).
Written by Hokkaido playwright Sô Kuramoto (倉本聰), Kita no Kuni Kara 2002 Yuigon (北の国から 遺言) is the final chapter of Kita no Kuni Kara (北の国から), a popular television drama series about a father and his daughter who moved to Hokkaido from Tokyo after divorcing his wife. The series and its special episodes were first broadcasted in 1981, and ended in 2002 with Kita no Kuni Kara 2002 Yuigon. Throughout the years, Kita no Kuni Kara and other stories written by Sô Kuramoto have become part of the cultural identity of Hokkaido, while his efforts of promoting Hokkaido have made places like Furano to become well known tourist attractions nowadays.
In Rausu, a seaside timber house that appears in Kita no Kuni Kara 2002 Yuigon has been rebuilt and converted into a lovely seafood restaurant Jun no Banya (純の番屋). Ran by several local ladies, Jun no Banya serves fantastic local seafood. During our two-day stay in Rausu, we had two delightful seafood meals at Jun no Banya that ranked among the top highlights in our Shiretoko experience.
Jun no Banya is a popular seafood restaurant housed in a rebuilt timber house that appeared in Kita no Kuni Kara 2002 Yuigon (北の国から 遺言).
The Jun no Banya is managed by several local ladies.
The interior of Jun no Banya is full of colours.
Outside the window, the sea looked calm and relaxing.
We ordered some local seafood after checking out the seafood display in the fridge.
Many decorations in Jun no Banya reveal the restaurant’s strong connection to the fishing industry.
Many Japanese glass fishing floats were handmade with recycled glass from sake bottles.
A cute little lantern.
Dried fish are also used as decorations.
A series of colourful lanterns lined along a timber beam of the house.
A poster in the restaurant reminded us that Shiretoko had been inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage sites since 2005.
Uni (sea urchin) and kani (crab) on sushi rice is definitely a signature dish of Shiretoko.
Super fresh sashimi from the area was another delight.
Shrimps from the nearby waters and oysters from Akkeshi Bay (厚岸) let us experience the true sweetness of fresh seafood from clean and cold seawater.
Located beside Rausu Shiretoko Tourist Information Centre, the Rausu Fisherman Store (羅臼(漁協)直営店 海鮮工房) offers wonderful souvenirs including the famous Rausu kelp and local salmon made from this remote fisherman village.
A map in the tourist information centre explains the main highlights of Shiretoko and the northeast coast of the peninsula.
At the tourist centre, we tried out the light blue ice-cream inspired by the famous Abashiri (網走) Ryuhyo or drift ice.
Outside the tourist centre, we quietly looked at the sea across the street, hoping the sea would calm down and the sun would come out the next morning.