It’s that time of the year, everyone! After a long, cold winter, the season of flowers has arrived, and is in full bloom! What better way to take in the vibrant colors of spring and summer than to go see the Lavender fields of Nakafurano, or the Flower Land of Kamifurano? Between now and the end of August, you can take tractor tours of the lavender fields of Tomita Farms, get a taste of the specialty flavor of lavender soft-serve ice cream, or if photos just aren’t enough, you can also make flower-themed crafts and souvenirs to bring back home for you and/or your family! Prices can vary depending on what, if any, activities you do. For more information regarding price listings, hours of operation, and access to each farm, please refer to the following websites:
-Tomita Farm (English): http://www.farm-tomita.co.jp/en/
-Lavender Fields East (English): http://www.farm-tomita.co.jp/en/east/bus.asp
-Flower Land (English): http://flower-land.co.jp/en/
Kisen Kita 15, Nakafurano-cho, Sorachi-gun, Hokkaido 071-0704 (〒071-0704 北海道空知郡中富良野町基線北15号)
-Lavender Fields East
Higashi 6 Senkita 16, Kamifurano-cho, Sorachi-gun, Hokkaido 071-0526 (〒071-0526 北海道空知郡上富良野町東6線北16号)
Nishi 5 Senkita 27, Kamifurano-cho, Sorachi-gun, Hokkaido 071-0505 (〒071-0505 北海道空知郡上富良野町西5線北27号)
The north is full of little surprises. Quietly nestled a few kilometers off the main road is some quality exploring and or small escapade! The beautiful park gardens to walk through are only rivaled by the adorableness of the elderly couples shuffling arm-in-arm.
The caves are cool in both meanings of the word, and go much deeper into the mountain than you initially expect. Lights and everything are provided!
Icing on the cake? It’s totally 100% FREE OF CHARGE! Look for the blue and yellow stalagmite sign pointing the way.
Nestled in the tiny, artful town of Otoineppu, about an hour north of Nayoro on the 40, is one of the finest soba joints you will find anywhere. Small and homely, they serve black soba as a speciality. After a day on the Otoifuji ski slope, nothing finishes the day like a hot bowl of soba from Ichiro’s. In addition to all that, the master studied abroad for a short while, and speaks very workable English, so never fear! They have a website, and a Facebook page as well! I highly recommend the kinoko (mushroom) soba.
For all those mountain lovers out there, contrary to popular belief the East does have some pretty spectacular mountain adventure spots. Mt Mashu, a sneaky little day hike, offers beautiful views of the Eastern dairy fields as well as the sacred deep blue waters of Lake Mashu. The hike itself is a simple 14.4-km roundtrip hike taking you along ridgelines dipping up and down the outer crater of the lake. The trailhead is easily located just to the right of the Mashu Visitor’s Center gift shop where you can load up on all sorts of bear goodies. About 5.5 km into the hike, the Nishibetsu junction offers a spot to rest. Continue on to summit Mashu-dake or continue 3km on a fairly flat surface to summit Nishibetsu-dake. This hike is accessible starting late April/early May but warning there will be snow fields (nothing intense) until mid June at the latest. If you do make it out to explore this rad area be sure to call up some of us Easterners as we are always down for a good hike.
Hakodate, a city nestled at the southern tip of Hokkaido, is celebrating its most defining historic moment this weekend, May 16th and 17th. The Goryokaku Festival is a two-day event commemorating the legendary battle of Hakodate. In 1869, Imperial forces clashed with the Enomoto army and Shinsengumi rebels in a dramatic end to the short lived Boshin War. Hakodate was the last stand in the war between the Samurai and the newly reinstated Imperial government. The battle occurred at the lovely star-shaped Goryokaku Fort, highly recommend going up Goryokaku tower to grab pictures of the unique shape. The Festival features a parade of 1000 actors in historical garb, which is on Sunday the 17th. The parade is hands down the highlight of the festival as during the course of the parade, battle highlights will be re-created. For those of you who love Samurai, on Saturday evening there will also be a Hijikata Look-A-Like contest. Hijikata Toshizo was the leader of the Shinsengumi and one of the most famous Samurai in Japanese history. He has become the face of the battle of Hakodate as he was shot in the back by an unknown assailant and died here. The Hakodate battle marks on the end of the age of the Samurai, and Hakodate is more than happy to celebrate that. If you can’t make it down for this weekend’s affair, in ate July and early August, Hakodate will have another historical festival. There are also several museums dedicated to this tumulus time period, both in Hakodate and the Southwest. Most notable are the Matsumae Caslte in Matsumae, the Old British Consulate in Hakodate, and my personal favorite, the Kaiyoumaru Ship museum in Esashi—an accurate replica of the Enomoto army flagship that sank in a skirmish before the Battle of Hakodate.