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Furano beckons

Updated: Mar 27

Furano is situated in a farming community, not far from the salmon runs and crab fishing region of Japan. So it should come as no surprise that the food is particularly good, given Japan’s exceptional food culture.

Furano beckons
Furano Ski Resort, Furano, Japan

Four years ago, after a conversation with a friend, my kids and I visited Furano, Japan for the first time. Furano is a tourist town, set in the middle of a farming community, located a bit inland on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. Our first trips were in search of snow and of snow sports, but as time went on and we became more familiar with the area, our priorities changed a bit. It’s not that we have abandoned playing in the snow, but after experiencing the food in Furano, it didn’t take much to change our focus.

So, let’s talk about lodging…lol.

In our four trips we’ve stayed in three different hotels. The New Furano Prince Hotel (Nakagoryo, Furano), the Furano Prince Hotel (18-6 Kitanominechō, Furano), and the Hotel Naturwald Furano (14-46 Kitanominechō, Furano). The first two are ski-in, ski-out hotels and the last is across the street from the Kitanomine lift station.

The New Furano Prince Hotel is located a distance away from town. It is a modern high-rise hotel with a number of restaurants and a hot spring - but that’s true of the other hotels I’ve named. What makes the New Furano Prince Hotel different is its 36-hole golf course (which turns into the Furano Kan Kan Mura snow village with various snow activities in the winter) and the picturesque, almost fairy-tale-like Nigle Terrace. The Nigle Terrace is a collection of small wooden houses which host handicraft shops and a coffee shop appropriately named, the Coffee House. And if you traverse the forest path past the Nigle Terrace you’ll reach the Mori no Tokei Café and even further brings you to Soh’s Bar. Also, the Furano Ropeway Cable Car which services the Furano Zone of the mountain is adjacent to the hotel.

The Furano Prince Hotel is located on the Kitanomine side of the mountain and is designed to look like a Swiss Chalet. It’s a good deal smaller than the New Prince Hotel, but that makes it much homier, in my opinion. The nicest thing about the Furano Prince Hotel is its proximity to many restaurants and cafés and that it is only a few miles from downtown, and its stores and restaurants. Additionally, the ski equipment rental folks are very helpful and friendly - and having it onsite means you don't have to walk to the several ski shops near the Kitanomine lifts.

The Hotel Naturwald Furano is located a couple hundred yards from the Furano Prince Hotel and nearly across the street from the Kitanomine lift station. Naturwald is very family-friendly, with magic shows and other entertainment for children every night. And adults aren’t ignored either, with beer hour and snacks each evening.

Getting around Furano is easy by taxi, and unlike many other places in Asia, they’re trustworthy and reliable. There are shuttle buses as well, you can get schedules and more information from any hotel concierge. Otherwise, if you are interested in staying healthy, Furano is one of my favorite walking towns. And, like so much of Japan, it’s safe at all hours of the day or night.

So there was mention earlier of food… (insert smile here). Furano is situated in a farming community, not far from the salmon runs and crab fishing region of Japan. So it should come as no surprise that the food is particularly good, given Japan’s exceptional food culture.

Kumagera (3-22 Hinodemachi, Furano) - my favorite restaurant in Furano for its variety and quality is Kumagera. Known for their Wagyu Beef Shabu Shabu, this Michelin listed restaurant offers Wagyu Beef sashimi (that’s raw folks), grilled bear meat (which I had on my birthday), Furano white potatoes in miso-butter and lots of other scrumptious offerings. It’s a bit pricey for Furano and can sometimes be tough to get into, but it’s completely worth it.

Furano Cheese Factory Pizza Factory (Nakagoku, Furano) - the Furano Cheese Factory is a must-visit for first-time visitors to Furano. You can see how the cheese is made (during working hours), sign up for one of their courses to learn how to make butter, ice cream, cheese, or bread, shop for fresh ice cream, cheese, and other yummy items, or eat at the Furano Cheese Factory Pizza Factory. My daughter and I love this place, and ordering a couple of pizzas (one suffices per person) is a welcome reward for our routine hike to this area of Furano.

Shinatora (12-6 Saiwaicho, Furano) – I don’t like to tell people about Shinatora because I don’t want it to be overrun – it’s that good, and to quote Jack Black in Nacho Libre, it’s that important to my “nucleus.” This very small ramen shop has a limited menu, but what is has it does exceedingly well. My favorite is the Scorched Garlic ramen. Wait... eat somewhere else.

Furano Delice (2156-1 Shimogoryo, Furano) - this very nice Pâtisserie is a short walk from either the Furano Prince Hotel or the Naturawald. It’s situated in what looks like a very nice, big, house, which could easily exist in the European Alps or Breckenridge, Colorado.

北の屋台 (18-18 Kitanominechō, Furano-shi) - I’m going to get pedestrian with this pick, since it’s a cafeteria located in the Kitanomine lift building, above the ski equipment store. While my daughter took ski and snowboarding lessons with the excellent folks at the Furano International Snowsport School (21-18 Kitanominechō, Furano), I took periodic refuge for coffee, an occasional and very yummy Japanese Curry meal, or some of their other food and drink offerings to fill my belly and warm my bones. So, there you have it.

Tamaya (14-8 Kitanominechō, Furano-shi) – this family-run soba noodle house is near the Kitanomine lifts. The mother who runs the front of the store is known in various blogs as “Grandma” (my kids call the restaurant “Grandma’s Place”) or “the Soba Lady.” Her son makes the soba noodles fresh each morning and when the noodles are gone, the restaurant closes for the day – so don’t go too late in the evening. My kids and I have enjoyed everything we’ve ordered, and as a bonus for me, the beer is always ice cold.

Cazeres (13-1 Saiwaicho, Furano) – located in the Furano Marche complex, Cazeres is an almost daily stop for my daughter and me. We normally walk from our hotel into town at some point during the day, and a pitstop for delicious pastries and coffee or hot chocolate from Café Sabor (in the adjacent space), does my “nucleus” good.

Ajito (13-13 Kitanominechō, Furano-shi) – If you’re staying in the Kitanominechō area, you may enjoy this nice, family-oriented restaurant set off the main road going into town. It offers comfort food even picky eaters can enjoy.

I suppose I should talk a little about the snow activities available in Furano since we need them to provide an excuse to get to the food. Like any other snow resort area, you can find nearly every type of snow activity: skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, etc. And because it’s Japan you can do cultural things, too. But there’s also hot air ballooning, nature watching, hot springs tours and lots more. Much of what you can do is available through a tourist guide that can be found by directing your browser here.

My daughter and I are particularly fond of snowmobiling with the friendly folks at Asobiya (4746 Gakudensanku, Furano). We have done the ten-kilometer and the thirty-kilometer snowmobiling tours and can’t get enough. The circuit is actually a tertiary road that is closed due to snow during the winter and the scenery winding through the mountains and past streams is beautiful. It’s on our must-do list for any winter trip to Furano.

If you're only interested in skiing in Hokkaido, you should probably consider a trip to Niseko, which has a very well developed ski infrastructure, it's popular with Western tourists, and is much closer to the New Chitose International Airport. But if you are interested in a more authentic Japanese experience, including some of the best food you'll find anywhere Furano beckons.

(The photograph, such that it is, was taken by me. All rights reserved.)

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