Getting to Furano isn’t easy or cheap, and there are so many options available, so I thought writing in specific detail about how we got there and how we got around in Furano would be helpful.
1. How to get to Furano from Sapporo
A) By car – rent a car and drive around. We don’t drive, so this wasn’t an option. But if you’re travelling in a party of four, this is probably the most cost-efficient option and certainly the most flexible as you don’t have to follow bus/train schedules.
B) By bus – the Chuo bus takes you from Sapporo Station to Furano Station for 2,260 yen each way. The buses run pretty much every 1.5 hours, and the bus ride is about 2.5 hours.
C) By train – JR has a special train just for the summer season, called the Lavender Express. This is the only train that goes direct (no transfers; minimal stops) from Sapporo Station to Furano Station, and is the fastest option as it only takes 2 hours. Depending on which day it is, there could be only one train per direction the entire day, or two timings. Non-reserved seat tickets (meaning you’re not guaranteed a seat, but if you go early and queue, you’ll probably get a seat anyway) are 3,620 yen each way. BUT there is a discount option available that not many people know about – go to the JR ticket office and ask for the “S Kippu Four” for Sapporo-Furano and you’ll get a set of four tickets valid for travel between Sapporo and Furano for just 8,720 yen. That makes it 2,180 yen per ticket, so it works out to be both faster AND cheaper than a bus ride. This is the option that we went for. You can use the tickets in any combination (ie one person uses it for four rides, or two people for two rides each, or four people for one ride each) – it doesn’t matter as long as the tickets are used within three months. We went for this option!
D) Tour buses – for about 7,000 yen and up, you can get a ticket on a tour bus, which will usually offer pick up from the bigger hotels in Sapporo as well, and take you to a few sightseeing spots in Furano. However, the convenience means you have to follow the tour schedule, which usually means limited time to enjoy the sightseeing spots, and you might have to settle for going to places that you aren’t necessarily interested in. Most of the tours we found offered less than an hour at Farm Tomita, so that was the main reason we didn’t opt for a tour bus – we wanted more time to explore Farm Tomita.
2. Getting around Furano
Most of Furano’s sightseeing spots are not within walking distance of each other. Neither are they within walking distance from the train stations. So, getting around Furano can be quite a headache…
A) By car – again, the most flexible option… if you’re a good navigator.
B) By bus – we opted for the Kururu-Go bus, which is a hop-on and hop-off bus. For 1,200 yen, you can use the bus unlimited times for two days. We were only there for one day, but if you’re staying overnight in Furano, this can be excellent value for money. Since we were visiting only for one day, we had to plan our schedule carefully.
There are two routes, but it’s basically the same bus plying one route, going back to the station, continuing the next route, and so on.
Our itinerary looked like this:
– Lavender Express train departing Sapporo Station at 7.55am and reaching Furano Station at 9.52am.
– Kururu-Go Bus A from Furano Station at 10.10am to Grape Juice Factory at 10.19am.
(EXPLORE GRAPE JUICE FACTORY FOR 30 MIN)
– Kururu-Go Bus A from Grape Juice Factory at 10.49am to Furano Wine Factory at 10.53am.
(EXPLORE FURANO WINE FACTORY, then walk to Rokkatei (about ten minutes), EXPLORE ROKKATEI: 1 hour 44 minutes in total)
– Kururu-Go Bus A from Rokkatei at 12.37pm to Farm Tomita at 12:54pm.
(EXPLORE FARM TOMITA FOR 3 HOURS)
– Kururu-Go Bus A from Farm Tomita at 3.54pm to Furano Station at 4.18pm.
– Lavender Express train from Furano Station at 4.49pm to Sapporo Station at 7.03pm.
*Note: I really wanted to check out the cheese factory but we couldn’t fit it into our schedule. Due to time constraints, we would have to splurge on taxi rides (because the bus schedule wouldn’t be time efficient since it was running as a loop service) for the cheese factory, and also run the risk of not making it in time to catch the bus/train since we weren’t sure if it would be easy to get a taxi out in the countryside. Oh well!
C) There’s also the option of taking trains from Furano station, but as I said earlier, the sightseeing spots aren’t close enough to the train stations, so you would still have to end up taking taxis from the train stations to get around. So train + taxi is going to be the most expensive option.
D) Rent bicycles – if you’re the active sort, you can rent bicycles near Furano Station and cycle from spot to spot. Be warned though – the summer sun is brutal in Furano. The temperature isn’t too bad (around 20 degrees) but the sun will have your skin baked a nice red in no time.
Went back to Sapporo and had dinner at Samurai Soup Curry in Susukino! This restaurant was also very highly recommended online and we were SO GLAD we checked it out, because we liked the soup curry even more than the one at Suage+!
Mario thought it was spicier and had more of a kick compared to Suage+. I opted for non-spicy and loved the soup! The epitome of comfort food. Such flavours! Went perfectly with the rice. It was chockful of ingredients too, mm… I wouldn’t mind eating this every single day!