Furano in Japan, is only 2 hours by train from the capital of Hokkaido: Sapporo. In the center of the beautiful island of Hokkaido, you can enjoy a lot of Japanese natural wonders. Furano is one of our favorite place in Japan besides Niseko.
Although Furano is popular in all seasons, in this post we will describe the best things to see in Furano in Winter, when everything is covered in beautiful snow. And yes, there are many more things to do besides winter sports 🙂
Visiting Furano in all 4 seasons:
In July, it is the peak season for the lavender fields in bloom. They stretch for miles and attract curious, photographers and nature lovers. From May until October you can enjoy fields of flowers.
But in winter, this is for us where it is the most magical, like everywhere else in Hokkaido. The abundance of snow, makes this island a true Winter Wonderland. The atmosphere is so special, serene and gorgeous. We can’t recommend enough visiting Furano during Winter.
Its location in central Hokkaido and its high latitude position gives Furano a cold continental climate. Temperatures vary considerably between summer and winter. They can rise to over 30° C during the summer season and drop to -30° C during the cold period.
In spring and summer, the days are generally warm, but cool in the evening; thus, always plan for clothes with long sleeves. Snowfall begins around the end of October.
If like us, you are also the sporty type and enjoy some actions such as snowboarding or skiing, then Furano is one of the best place for winter sports!
How to get to Furano in Hokkaido?
The best way to get to Furano, is to start from Sapporo. There are many flights from Tokyo, but since Sapporo has an international airport, you can also land directly there. Another option is to fly to Asahikawa Airport (AKJ) which is then only 1h away from Furano.
Check out and compare flights here to get the best deals.
From Sapporo, here are your options:
In summer there are a couple of direct JR “Furano Lavender Express” trains. The one way trip takes about two hours and costs around 5000 yen.
During winter take a JR limited express from Sapporo to Takikawa and then transfer to a local train to Furano.
The trains are fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass and Hokkaido Rail Pass. The train station is pretty much in the center of the town. Simply get a taxi or bus to reach your hotel.
BOOK: if you intend to visit more places in Japan, traveling by train is the easiest way. You can purchase your JR PASS at cheaper price here. The JR Pass allows you to take all trains in Japan as a multi-use ticket. Buying a JR Pass offers the best value for money!
Hokkaido Chuo Bus operates about a dozen direct highway buses between Sapporo (Sapporo Station Bus Terminal,) and Furano (Furano Station). The trip takes 2.5 hours, costs 2500 yen one way or 4720 yen for a round trip.
We usually book on Hokkaido Resort Liner here. They are always so reliable and everything is in English.
This is definitely the most flexible way, which we actually recommend. Furano is only 2h drive from Sapporo and the drive is actually beautiful, crossing all these mountains and snow everywhere. Of course, you must drive carefully, as the road will most likely have tones of snow. But this is common in Hokkaido.
Just make sure to have your international driving license with you when driving in Japan. You can rent a vehicle directly from the airport at Sapporo.
If you are traveling in Furano as a group, or you don’t want to be bothered driving by yourself (especially in winter when the road are icy), you can opt for a private driver who will take you around Furano to visit the main highlights! For more information, click here.
Introduction of Furano
Due to its location in the center of the island of Hokkaido, Furano received the nickname of Heso no Machi or “belly button city”. This city was born on May 1, 1966 in the sub-prefecture of Kamikawa. Agriculture and ski-related activities are the basis of its economy.
Furano has some of the most beautiful landscapes in Hokkaido with the Tokachi and Ashibetsu mountains as a backdrop. In July, lavender blooms in the fields that stretch for miles.
The best place to admire the blossoming lavender is the Tomita farm. In addition, the place offers you a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. On site, you have the opportunity to discover the essentials to know about the cultivation of these shrubs and to visit an essential oil distillery. The farm also offers various gourmet lavender products such as ice cream, cakes, tea, cheese-cakes, etc.
Do not miss the Furano vineyard either, which has produced its own wine for over 40 years. The estate uses rare grape varieties to obtain wines with a unique taste.
On the craft side, Furano has several glass workshops where you can learn to work with blown glass. These are inspired by “Diamond Dust” to make the famous Shibare garasu ice crystals.
Another space for discovery and sharing, the Furano market is located near the JR Furano station. Local products are sold on the premises: vegetables, seasonal fruits, pastries, ice cream, smoothies, etc. It is at the same time a good meeting point for exchanging know-how.
Winter Sports in Furano
Furano, like most places in Hokkaido (check out Niseko here), is a snow powder paradise. Furano ski resort is one of the most beautiful ski areas in Japan. The slopes are full of snow and made for all level.
With its 24 slopes, 11 ski lifts and 2 ski areas linked by shuttles, the resort of Furano is a ski lover’s paradise.
The ski area is located on the slopes of Furano-Nishidake, between the Tokachi and Yubari mountain ranges. Its strengths? The great variety of terrains, as well as the different types of slopes, make it possible to satisfy both children and beginners, as well as the pros.
But also the quality of its snow, which falls in abundance. Every winter more than 8 meters of light and dry powder fall in Furano, which promises beautiful descents!
It was in 1931 that the first skiers hit the slopes of this now renowned resort of Furano, which over the years hosted various international events such as the Snowboard World Cup.
Here is what to expect during a ski trip to Furano! Simply Paradise!
The resort is therefore equipped with many ski lifts, but above all it has the fastest cable car in Japan! It takes skiers to the top of the area at a speed of more than ten meters per second.
It is also possible to take ski lessons there, thanks to various schools located in the resort. And, for snowshoe enthusiasts, hikes are also regularly organized with tour guide.
For the most adventurous, head to Asahidake. The Asahidake Ski Resort in Hokkaido Japan is a haven for powder hounds, but it’s not really a resort. It’s mostly backcountry which has tones of snow every year.
The good thing, is that it has a cable car (the Asahidake Ropeway). Asahidake has some of the best powder in the world. For the first time, you can hire a guide to show you the best tracks and safest areas.
Other things to do and see in Furano during Winter
If you want a break from riding on the slopes, there are many things to see around Furano ski area. We recommend to rent a car, which can be done near the Furano Train Station from Toyota Rent-a-Car here.
So here is our top recommendations of things to see in Furano during winter:
1. Biei blue pond
In the hilly country of Biei, due to the blessings of the Tokachidake mountain range, there are many mysterious and fascinating places including the blue pond of Biei. After an eruption in 1988, a pond was built to prevent volcanic erosion of sand and when the river water started to accumulate, something interesting happened by chance. Initially entry was prohibited, but in 2010 it was reopened to the public and became a very popular tourist spot.
The blue color of the water comes from the aluminum of nearby sources and reflects the color of the blue sky. The sulfur and lime turned the pond bed to white and this brings out the blue color.
There are many sights around the Blue Pond, such as Shirohige Falls, Shirakaba Kaidou Refreshing Walk (Birch Road) and Tokachidake Observatory, a sublime view of the Tokachidake Mountain Panorama. We will describe all these spots below.
2. Shirohige Falls
The Shirohige was the highlight of our trip to Furano in winter. It is a 30-meter tall waterfall. Its waters come from the spring waters running beneath Mount Tokachi.
The beautiful blue colors of the falls come from the aluminum particles in the water that reflect the sunlight to create this stunning blue shade. In the winter with the snow, the sight is truly magical.
Although Shirohige waterfalls is beautiful in all four seasons, in the winter, Shirahige has a special light event which creates a romantic atmosphere.
The Shirohige falls are a must see while in Furano.
3. Biei Shrine
Next, continue your trip to Biei Shrine. Hokkaido is more known for its natural wonder rather than cultural tour in comparison with the main island of Japan. However, the Biei Shrine, is a beautiful place which is worst a visit.
The particularity of the Biei Shrine, is that it is one of the most famous shrine for marriage and love. This is one of the seven major love shrines in Japan. A hidden version of love is carved on the front pillars. It is both solemn and cute. Biei Shrine in winter looks even more solemn and more wonderful.
This Biei Shrine is open 24h and is free. Here is the address: Hokkaido Kamikawagumbieichou Higashimachi 4-1-1
4. Alpaca farm
Alpacas are loved by everyone, isn’t it? If you want to interact with these cuties, make sure to stop at the Alpaca farm. There you can feed and touch the alpacas. You can also buy souvenirs in the shop and rent a snowmobile to go on a tour. It is guaranteed fun.
As we love Alpacas, this was also one of our favorite spot in Furano.
At the farm there is also a possibility to ride snowmobile and buggies in summer. It’s a lot of fun!
5. Asahiyama Zoo
If you like to see more animals, you can also visit the Asahiyama zoo, which is open in Winter and great for kids.
Asahiyama Zoo has a wide range of animals, including penguin, seals, polar bears, wolves, pandas and Leopards. The highlight is certainly the glass tunnel through the penguin pool that allows visitors to observe the birds’ underwater.
Another highlight is the small glass domes in the middle of the polar bear and wolf enclosures that can get visitors right among the animals. The zoo was also one of the first to organize penguin walks in winter.
6. Parents and Child tree
Although considered the symbol of Biei, there is actually not much to see except a pair of tree in the middle of vast hill. The sight is indeed beautiful, but as is the rest of Hokkaido and the region of Biei. Anyway, we made a stop there and took a quick shot.
7. Hokusei Valley Observatory Park
Hokusei Valley Observatory Park is located near Biei. It is most famous to visit the park in spring and summer, but you can also make a quick stop at the observatory in winter to admire the panorama. You can also overlook the vast hilly landscape of the Taisetsu mountain range and feel the atmosphere of Hokkaido.
You can use the pyramid shaped observatory to enjoy the colorful views
In summer, Lavender and sunflowers are planted there.
This place often appears in TV shows and commercials. It is a popular place to watch the sunset. Moreover, there is a tourist office and a glass workshop in the park, and also shops selling handmade items, cold drinks and souvenirs from Biei.
8. Mild Seven Hill
This is a site that became known in the 1970s after being used for the television commercial of the Japanese Mild Seven cigarette. The site is characterized by the row of Japanese larches. Although the advertisement ran almost 40 years ago, this site still attracts a lot of people to view this particular landscape of trees.
The hill is a different color from season to season, with black soil and greens in spring, white potato blossoms and purple lavender in summer, golden wheats in fall, and silvery snow in winter . In any season, the sunset is magnificent, and therefore it is a popular spot for photographers.
It is said that the most beautiful scenery on this hill is when viewed from a distance. The view from the entrance to the hill called ‘the hill with Japanese larches’ is more popular. The view from up the hill as you advance through the row of larches is also popular.
The site is near The Parents and Child trees.
9. Panorama Road
Panorama Road offers a beautiful rural panorama of the mountains surrounding Furano. It is worth passing by with your car during the winter. In the summer it is a popular spot for bycicle or simply hiking.
Opened in 1987, this Gallery displays works by the world famous landscape photographer Shinzo Maeda. Some sixty photographs of Biei in every season are on display.
Around the gallery there is a nice park to walk around. We took plenty of pictures there. The atmosphere was so serene. What a pleasant day we had.
Address: Takushin, Biei-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido
11. Ningle Terrace
Located right by the new Furano Prince hotel, the ningle terrace is a charming little wooden village nestled in the Furano forest. The little wooden cabins are linked with small bridges. It is best to visit at night when all the lights are turned on. Ningle Terrace has been created using natural materials with timber buildings and a beautiful plank walkway around the waterfalls and trees.
Ningle Terrace is a beautiful collection of boutique. The artists sit there in the shops displaying and making more of their products as you wander around. The forest gives off a beautiful scent with pine trees and the waterfall creating a wonderful atmosphere for wandering around or stopping in the cafe.
We really enjoyed the Ningle Terrace. It is a magical sight. After a good day of powder snowboarding, we would go there and wander around the small village. It was really romantic.
12. Furano Cheese Factory
Made from local milk, Furano cheese is renowned throughout Japan for its taste and qualities. An ice cream shop offers ice cream with interesting flavors such as cheese, corn or kabocha (Japanese pumpkin).
You can eat in a pizzeria to taste the 100% Furano pizza, local ingredients, with the original mozzarela from the cheese factory. We love cheese, so for us going there was a no brainer. And we did not regret it at all. Yummy cheese !
13. Furano Shrine
Furano Shrine is located in the middle of the town. It was constructed in 1902 by the pioneers who had settled in the area. It is a peaceful place to walk around and enjoy the architecture and the many beautiful trees.
On the way to the main shrine, you can find two smaller shrines, Konpira Shrine and Inari Shrine.
The path to these two small shrines passes under three red tori (Japanese gates). This area is a good spot to get some great photos of some Japanese culture.
Where to stay in Furano during winter
Furano is not as developed as Niseko (yet). Hence, the choice of accommodation is a bit more limited. However, we stayed at a few beautiful hotels in Furano, which we highly recommend to anyone.
Winery Hotel and Condominium Hitohana
New hotel which open near the slopes in the Kitanomine area, Winery Hotel and Condominium Hitohana is the perfect stay for your trip. The staff was really nice, and what we liked the most was the breakfast.
The choices of food was outstanding and the view from the restaurant was stunning. In terms of price, this is one the hotel with the best value for money. You can book here.
Brand new hotel right in front of the gondolas to access the ski areas. This hotel is practically a ski-in / ski-out. The view from the room is gorgeous on either side. We wouldn’t go wrong by booking Fenix Furano. You can book here.
The New Furano Prince Hotel
The New Furano Prince Hotel, located at the foot of the Furano resort area, is characterized by its location close to the slopes and by its magnificent panoramic views. It is home to three restaurants that showcase Hokkaido’s seasonal ingredients: the main dining room, the hotel’s restaurant with a classic menu, the French-Italian restaurant Le Gaulois and the Japanese restaurant Karamatsu.
Guests will find something to soothe their body and mind at Shisai no Yu Spa, which features several relaxation rooms, including invigorating hot springs. The Soh’s Bar, a seven-minute walk from the hotel, is the perfect place to unwind with a refreshing drink while listening to old classics alongside senior guests in a relaxed atmosphere.
If you want to relax and enjoy the city, the Furano Evening Shuttle Bus runs between the hotel and Furano town center during most of the year. This is by far the most convenient hotel in Furano. It comes obviously with a slightly higher price that the 2 other hotels above.
Best Restaurants in Furano
Here is our favorite places in Furano to enjoy a great meal after a day of sightseeing or riding in the powder:
Kaiten Suhsi Topical
This restaurant is probably the most well known when it comes to Sushi. There is usually a small waiting time, as it gets very full for dinner. Needless to say, the sushi are amazing ! The best is to take a seat at the big central bar table and watch the chefs prepare your sushi right in front of you ! Simply delicious.
Sky view 12th floor restaurant
Located at the top floor of the New Prince Hotel, this restaurant not only has a stunning view during the day, the food is also exquisite. We ordered a bowl of sushi and it was one of the best we had in Furano.
This is mongolian bbq style restaurant with a japanese fusion. You sit on the floor, and then comes a grill in the middle of a low table. There you can grill your meat and vegetables. The ingredients were super fresh. It was delicious. If you are visiting Furano this is a must experience.
In conclusion about Furano in winter
Ideally located inland, Furano Ski Resort enjoys some of the best snows in Hokkaido. The resort’s slopes are divided into two areas – the Furano area at the New Furano Prince Hotel and the Kitanomine area at the Furano Prince Hotel – which have a wide variety of runs for all skill levels, the longest of which extends stretches for 4 km.
Nearby, Furano town center has a wide range of restaurants, bars and izakaya to relax after a day of skiing.
Besides skiing and snowboarding there are many activities nearby, which makes it a perfect holiday spot in Japan. We usually traveled to Niseko every year. However, 1 year we decided to explore the rest of Hokkaido and started with Furano.
And honestly, we loved it. Much less developed than Niseko, the prices are still affordable. We were also pleasantly surprised by all the activites nearby. Renting a car and going on a road trip around Furano, was definitely one of the best thing we did in Japan in winter.
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