Located close to the centre of Hokkaido, an island that is north of Japan’s biggest island of Honshu, is the city of Furano which, because of its mountains, it s popular ski region. Whilst winters in Furano can be bitterly cold, and the snow soft and powdery, it is a place that has well defined seasons. In summer, the overreaching whiteness disappears, to be replaced by a smorgasbord of vivid colours as the flower plantations flower plantations burst into life, turning the valleys into a complex palate of rich, deep colours which delight the eye.
With the disappearance of the skiers and the dissipation of the snows, a whole different army of visitors arrive. These are the bike riders and hikers who congregate en masse to enjoy the magnificent countryside and the scenic delights of the region.
For the cyclists there is Earth Ride, an event in which participants cycle over long distance courses at their own pace. Some take the ride seriously and compete against each other for line honours, while others are just there for the experience.
There are three courses from which to choose. The easiest is a 50 kilometres course that follows a simple circular route through the Furano Plains. The Lavender Course is an 80 kilometre course that is slightly more challenging, but suitable for riders of intermediate level. The most difficult is a 110 km course which contains a 76km section of steep climbs.
For hikers there are five courses, beginning with an easy trail hike which lasts only about 30 minutes from the top of the Furano Ropeway Station to a ridge with panoramic views over the valley.
The is another easy route that is about three times longer than the first, but not at all challenging as it follows a ridge line that has no major hills.
For those who seek something a little more challenging, there is a route of almost 9kms which takes over four hours to complete. This can get quite challenging in places as it winds its way down the steep sides of a mountain.
The Furano Ramble Route is about a one hour trek which follows a world cup level downhill ski run. Difficult in winter, but merely an easy stroll in summer.
There is a fifth trail which heads in a different direction and takes just over two hours to head downhill from the Ropeway Station, ending at a hotel where you have a good excuse to relax for a while.