Pedal Your Way Around Furano
Bike rental at train stations is a common service in Japan. In Furano, it’s a fantastic way to explore and has a good value at 200 yen per hour. Because Furano has rich and delicious food at many attractions, bike riding is also a good way to sample local delights without adding to your waistline. In Japan, helmets are not compulsory for adults so if you prefer to wear one, bring it along.
Once you hire your bike, you’ll need to warm up. If you haven’t ridden a Japanese jitensha before, they are low-seated and the rider sits upright. This means your visibility and road awareness is very good. Even for tall people, the posture soon becomes comfortable. Rental jitenshas usually feature huge baskets on the front. That’s helpful because shopping will be hard to resist. In Furano, the ring-road along the train tracks is quiet, with wide pathways and few distractions. Get your balance and find your rhythm then head off to enjoy your day.
Assuming you’re visiting between May and October, a trip to a flower farm is almost obligatory in Furano. The peak flower viewing month is July because the blooms will be at their best. But even in spring and autumn, the flower farms are uplifting so hop on your bike and let’s pedal to Farm Tomita.
You can of course skip this one if 10 kilometres is daunting for you, but it is not a hilly ride. The way follows the Sorachi River Valley and there is a pathway for cyclists and pedestrians if the road’s shoulder intimidates you. When you arrive at Farm Tomita, treat yourself to a lavender ice cream, lavender cheesecake, lavender coffee, or any of the other concoctions on offer. Then walk among the fields feasting further on the perfume and beauty.
From Farm Tomita, we are heading for the local winery. It’s about six kilometres away back towards Furano. There is a short and sharp hill to climb on arrival but you can always hop off and walk it. If you don’t drink alcohol, swap the winery for the sweet shop nearby, called Campana della Vigna Rokkatai. Here they make innovative confections featuring grapes off their vines. But if you want to taste the local wines or buy some souvenir ice wine, keep pedaling until you reach the winery.
From here we coast back down the hill, taking in the views to the Tokachi mountain range in Daisetsuzan National Park, and head to Ningle Terrace. It will be about six kilometres, flat with a gentle climb at the final stretch. Here you will find artists in log cabins in the woods making souvenirs by hand. The ropeway up Furano’s ski resort is nearby and operates year round. This gives you the chance to walk a further 500 metres or so up Nishi Dake, and summit the highest peak at Furano. Or, if your legs are already grumbling a bit, just enjoy the view from the top of the ropeway. There is a café at Ningle Terrace for light refreshment but save some of your appetite for the next stop.
The Furano Cheese Factory is a lovely, coasting ride from Ningle Terrace and when you arrive there head straight to the restaurant for a meal. They really know cheese, and their richly topped pizzas are a hit with locals and visitors from all nations. Once your lunch is settling, visit the shop and try their signature black brie. Buy yourself some treats and before you leave, visit the ice cream making section. If you are lucky, or have made an advanced booking, you can help make cheese, ice cream or butter, and learn these culinary arts.
After the cheese factory, our ride is nearly over. About three more kilometres to go, at first downhill and then on the flat, and this will bring you to the Furano Marche. Here, vendors sell souvenirs, food, drinks, flowers, and local produce in a farmers’ market. It’s a popular meeting spot for locals and a great place for visitors. The double espresso at the Furano Café is a good pick-me-up if you’ve been craving strong coffee or try a fruit smoothie on a hot day. Use their free wifi to share your adventure on social media. The Marche buildings are all air conditioned so it’s a comfortable place to relax.
When you are ready, gently trundle your jitensha down the main street towards the station. It’s the same road you came in on from the cheese factory. You might see a shop to investigate or just stop to feel the sun on your face and soak up your final minutes in Furano. When your pedaling day is done, return your bicycle and hop on your bus or train home. Feel the fresh air in your lungs and the resting tingle of your legs. Survey your souvenirs and treasures and start planning your next trip to Furano.