An August 2007 trip
to Hokkaido by Composthp
Quote: Desperately in need of a break, we headed for Hokkaido again; this time for some serious flower healing in Rebun and Rishiri, Furano and Biei.
Barden Kamifurano is the first of the 5 spas or onsens found in the scenic Tokachidake hotspring area near Kamifurano. This is a traditional Japanese spa that offers both Japanese and Western-styled rooms and is famed for its beef cuisine.We chose to stay in a twin-sharing Western-styled room inclusive of two meals. We paid ¥11499 per person per night (inclusive of bath tax and GST). All rooms do not come with private bathrooms or toilets. The latter facilities are shared. However, even though it was peak tourist season, it was still relatively quiet and we were able to enjoy moments of privacy while relaxing in the onsen.The highlight of this onsen hotel is of course, the 100% mineral hotspring bath. Guests can chose between soaking indoors or outdoors, the baths are unisex. The water is murky green and very hot (especially if you choose to soak indoors). Except for cleaning times between 12am to 2am, guests can soak to their hearts' content at most times. However, do take note that they may switch the male/female baths after cleaning (look to the cloth hanging above the door: blue for males, red for females. Dinner featured the local beef from black-haired cattle raised with tender loving care at a nearby farm. Barden is the only place that serves this beef. The meat was so tender and fresh that it was served as sashimi. We chose to grill them on a hotplate and it literally melted in our mouths at first bite.We enjoyed our 2 night stay there. We did short hikes to the nearby onsens and walking trails during the day and unwind in the onsen after that. Staying in the heart of the Tokaichi mountains, we felt re-charged after this quiet respite. To get there:
We took the public onsen bus from the bus-stop outside the JR Kamifurano station, in front of a cafe. Due to peak tourist season, the hotel was unable to provide pick up service. The bus schedule is available at the Tourist information center located directly across the road from the JR Kamifurano station and at the onsen hotels and bus-stops. There are three departures per day: 9:33am, 1:19pm, and 4:31pm from JR Kamifurano station and it costs ¥500 per person to Barden Kamifurano. Payment is made upon alighting the bus.Go Here for further details on the hotel.For reservations, you can email to email@example.com. Their replies are prompt. This is their Japanese website.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 17, 2007
Minshuku Bibaushi makes a good base if you intend to explore the rolling hills of Bibaushi and Biei by car. If you are dependent on public transport, it is better to stay at Biei instead as there are no taxis or buses that run from Bibaushi.This is a budget family run minshuku that provides the basics -a roof over your head at night and hearty home cooked meals with seasonal vegetables from their own vegetable farm. There are many house rules: guests are expected to clear utensils and cutlery to the kitchen after meals, bath times are between 5pm to 10pm, lights out at 11pm, no smoking in the house (my favorite rule), meal times are 7:30am for breakfast, 6pm onwards for dinner.The rooms are Japanese styled and guests are expected to make their own futon beds. Bathroom and toilet facilities are shared (no toiletries or bath towels sorry). In short, this minshuku is like a home away from home with "Papa" (the owner) making sure that everything is in order. At a flat rate of ¥4800 per person per night inclusive of two hearty Japanese meals, one cannot complain much. This has got to be the cheapest minshuku we stayed in during our entire trip.If you have strong legs like us, it is possible to explore the nearby sights like the Chikisai-no-oka (a beautiful flower garden atop a hill, about 45 minutes) and the Bibaushi Elementary school (20 minutes) on foot. If not, you can rent one of their bikes and pedal your way around as many tourists do. Alternatively, you can chill out at their "little lounge" across the minshuku, facing a garden and vegetable farm. This lounge was built by the owner. There is pretty much nothing to do after dark, (being located in a farm area) other than watch Japanese variety shows on telly; or you can buy fire crackers from the local convenient shop Biba and light the skies with it. To get there:
Minshuku Bibaushi is located a mere 5 minute walk from the JR Bibaushi station (if you are coming from Furano, you need to cross the track to the other side). Look out for a huge wooden board that has directions to nearby Youth hostel and sights. It was easy to find our way there once we had our bearings right. Clear wooden signs with neon arrows directed the way. You cannot get lost.Go here for details and online reservations. You can email them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org too.For reservations of other accommodations in Biei, This website is very useful.
3-1, Bieicho, Kamikawa-gun
Hotel | "Petite Hotel Suzuran"
Petite Hotel Suzuran is a small scaled family run hotel with a guest capacity of 65. It is conveniently located next to a ski slope in the heart of the Kitanomine ski area of Furano. Due to its proximity, this hotel makes for a good base for ski enthusiasts during winter. There are also several restaurants serving western and Japanese cuisine within walking distance for those who chose not to have their meals at the hotel.We chose to stay at the Japanese styled tatami room that could easily accommodate four persons. We were charged ¥8400 per person per night inclusive of taxes and two meals. Toilet and bathroom facilities are shared. There are vending machines by the stair landing offering basic toiletries and beverages or guests can purchase them at the reception counter. We had no communication problems at all since the manager Mr Ikeno speaks perfect English. Browsing their pictorial board at the lobby, this hotel seemed popular among foreigners.This hotel is also popular among locals for its stone bath. The bathroom, located on the first floor opposite the reception is open to public from 4pm onwards. The stone bath is said to contain similar properties as that of natural mineral hot spring water and is recommended for those with arthritis, sore muscles, and aches. Nevertheless, it makes for a relaxing soak after a hard day's sightseeing. To enjoy the bath in privacy, reservations are required and for a limited period between 10pm-11pm and 6am-7am (shower only). Bathroom is unisex. Dinners served featured typical Japanese home fare using seasonal ingredients. Breakfast is a mix of Western and Japanese dishes. They were able to accommodate our request to serve non-beef meals for one of our travel companion. All meals are served in a common dining room located on the first floor. Other services provided include laundry (¥400 per load, before 8pm) and free Internet access (available from 4pm-8pm) at the lobby/reception area. We enjoyed our stay there, the food was great and the hotel was quiet.Getting there:
The hotel provides complimentary transfer services to and from the JR Furano station at 8am and 9am, and after 4pm. For transfer service in the afternoon, guests are required to contact the hotel for reservations. If you are arriving by the Lavender-go bus, alight at the Naturwald Hotel bus-stop. The hotel is less than 3 minutes walk from there. Go here for online reservations and enquiries.
Petit Hotel Suzuran
Hotel | "Toyoko Inn-Sapporo-eki Nishi-guchi Hokudai Mae"
Toyoko Inn Sapporo Station South
1-1-16,Kita 3-jo Nishi Chuou-ku
Sapporo, Japan 060-0808
+81 (11) 222-1045
Restaurant | "La Malta"
La Malta came highly recommended by our lady manager at the Bibaushi minshuku for its home roasted coffee and curry rice. The weather did not collaborate with us on the day of arrival. It was dreary and wet, making sightseeing impossible. We aborted our day's plan to see the sights of Biei and made our way back to Bibaushi by rail. Since it was near tea-time, we decided to try La Malta.It is located less than 10 minutes walk from JR Bibaushi station. The distinct wooden lodge stood out and apart from the neighbourhood helped us find it. The place was quiet, we were the only customers at the time. The decor is in Western country style. A furnace welcomes all guests on entry and the whole ambience is cosy and relaxing. Light meals are served but the main specialty is coffee brewed from freshly self roasted coffee beans. They have a wide selection of coffee but other beverages like tea or sodas are also available. We were given an English menu and ordered their house brew and a soybean coffee. These came with pistachio nuts that went well with the fragrant coffee. This cafe is no Starbucks, the coffee is brewed slowly and with tender loving care meant to be savoured at leisure. There are numerous board games and puzzles to occupy time. Many, we suspect were hand-crafted locally. We lingered until the rain had stopped and our feet had ceased to ache before making our way back to the minshuku.If you have some time to spare, do drop by La Malta and try their coffee. Getting there
From the JR Bibaushi station, walk towards the convenient store Biba. Cross over to the other side of the road and look for a lane between a store and a printing house. Follow that lane, passing by backyards of small vegetable and fruit plots until you reach an opening. The cafe is located on the right hand side, near the corner of a road junction.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 17, 2007
Attraction | "Of Lavender and Rock Melons: Tomita Farm"
Farm Tomita is perhaps the most visited farm in Furano by tourists all over the world. The farm's history goes back to 1903 but it was not until the late 1960s that lavender was cultivated successfully for its essence. Today, it has expanded from a farm to include a cafe, a museum, a greenhouse, a distillery for perfume, numerous gift shops, and ice cream stands selling the famed Lavender ice cream, several hectares of fields devoted to seasonal flowers and lavender. In short, it is now a tourist hub, especially during summer. The best time to visit Farm Tomita is during the lavender season, usually between June to early August. There are two distinct lavender fields, one for early lavender blooms (late June to July), the other, late lavender blooms (early August). Approaching the farm, we were delighted by the colourful blooms of the seasonal flowers and the huge expanse of purple lavender. Alighting from the bus, we were instantly hit by the strong scent of lavender. The farm was crowded with ceaseless tour coaches depositing countless of camera wielding tourists hailed mainly from neighbouring Asia-Pacific countries. It was a little too commercialised and crowded to our liking. Entrance is free but visitors are not encouraged to enter into the lavender fields.At the time of our visit, the farm was also selling rock melons at ¥250 per slice. After doing the obligatory walk around the lavender fields (don't forget to head for the traditional lavender garden and forest/slopes for the best views), purchase the obligatory potpourri from one of its many gift shops, tried their curry rice featuring seasonal ingredients and polishing off the creamy lavender ice-cream that was light scented and delightful to taste, we explored the nearby farms too.We stumbled into a smaller farm located less than 1km from Tomita selling rock melons at ¥500 per melon among other seasonal harvest. The farm is run by an elderly couple whose combined ages were more than 140 years. They were happy to serve us the rock melon cold from the fridge when we indicated our interest . The rock melon was sweet and very juicy. The couple was great company even though we could not communicate very well. Towards the end of our visit, they even jokingly offered us a room in their loft, yasui (cheap) said he with a twinkle in his eye. We left happy and satiated.If you have very little time to explore Furano and do not intend to stop at Biei, this farm is a must visit then. Otherwise, head for the less crowded Lavender farms/gardens elsewhere in Nakafurano, Kamifurano and Biei.Getting there
Go Here for details and map to Farm Tomita.Go Here for bus schedule details or grab an English copy of the bus schedule at the Furano Tourist information office located next to the JR Furano.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 17, 2007
+81 167 39 3939
Attraction | "Sapporo Nijyo Fish Market"
Minami 3 Higashi 1-2
Sapporo, Japan 060-0053
+81 (0)11 222 5308
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 18, 2007