The third day in Hokkaido was definitely the busiest one. The plan that day was to visit Biei and Furano. When people think of Hokkaido in the summer, they usually picture beautiful, large plains and hillsides and an endless sea of flowers. Biei and Furano are the most well-known areas to see such things. However, they are pretty far away from Sapporo (give or take a couple of hours) so if you want to really explore them, you need to make a day out of it just to visit one area. I was planning on visiting both. Needless to say, I had to get up early and catch the 7:00 AM train to Biei.
After riding a modern train for an hour, I had to transfer at an older station. The second train ride was very relaxing and gave me a sense of nostalgia of how transportation used to be back in the day. The train I was on was a very old-fashioned one that only had four or so carts. There was no air-conditioning, but instead we had all the windows open. Let me tell you something, there wasn’t anything better than feeling the cool summer breeze of Hokkaido while looking outside and seeing the peaceful countryside. It became one of the highlights of the day.
My first stop was Biei. Biei is known for their grassy plains and sunflowers. However, since the area is so vast, getting around is really difficult without a car. You can rent a bicycle and go through a bicycle path but it’s pretty long, probably at least 10 kilometers. I opted to take Twinkle tour bus which was included in a nice round trip package deal if you ever decide to go to Biei and Furano. You should look into it if you ever head over there in the summer!
The first bus tour involved going around the Patchwork Road area. It was my first experience on a Japanese tour bus. Everyone was very courteous and polite except whenever it came to passing by a landmark. Whatever side of the window it was on, everyone would rush to it and pull out their camera; it wasn’t a surprise to see a camera shoved by your face if you’re sitting in the area. Other than that though, it was a good way to get around.
Biei has a lot of obscure landmarks that even some Japanese people don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t blame them because a couple of the things I saw were only famous because they were featured in old advertisements. Take for example, the Seven Star Tree over in Patchwork Road. It’s a nice-looking tree that was promptly featured in a cigarette ad. There’s also two trees next to each other called the Ken and Mary tree from a car commercial. Even if you didn’t know these things, Patchwork Road was really nice because of the hills and plains that completely surrounded you. Maybe if you’re a country boy, it wouldn’t be a big deal but when you’re a city guy like me, it’s a big change of pace compared to the city life. I love the countryside, so I took way too many pictures of the area:
Another nice area in Patchwork Road was the Hokusai Hill Observatory. It’s a triangle-shaped building where people can go to the top and just enjoy the panoramic scenery around them. If I wasn’t on a time limit, I could’ve stayed there for hours:
After the Patchwork Road tour was done, I hopped on another bus to take the Panorama Road tour. Panorama Road is similar to Patchwork Road (beautiful rural scenery) that I would’ve enjoyed to bike around if I had more time. Alas, the bus had to do.
Shikisai Hill was our first stop in the tour. This area was gorgeous because of the endless amount of flowers that occupied it. There was a wide variety of them and completely surrounded you:
Further down was a sunflower field but since it was a cloudy day, a lot of them were facing down. It was still pretty regardless:
Apparently the area is well known for their croquettes and also features lavender ice cream. Both were delicious:
While we were on our way to our next destination, we passed by a humongous sunflower field. Unfortunately we were only passing by so I had to take a quick picture from afar:
Our final stop was Takushinkan, a building that exhibits the works of landscape photographer Maeda Shinzo and his son, Akira. The pictures themselves were gorgeous. They didn’t allow pictures inside but I highly recommend searching for them online. I wanted to buy a print but they were super expensive!
By the time both tours were over, it was around 2 PM. I had to hurry to Furano if I wanted to see the famous lavender fields. What I didn’t realize though was that the train to get to the fields from Furano had long passed so when I got there and the next one wasn’t coming in an hour and a half. I needed to get back to Sapporo by the evening so I wasn’t able to get to see the lavender fields, sadly. Instead, I walked around Furano and enjoyed the peaceful little city. There was a nice river and hills as well:
On the 2 hour train ride back, a rainbow appeared outside of the window. It was a great way to conclude a hectic, but gorgeous day in Biei and Furano. There are still many things I didn’t get to see besides Furano lavender fields (for example, the famous sunflower fields in Biei and another section in Furano) so I definitely want to visit there again. It makes me happy that there are still areas like this in such a technologically-driven world.