24th October 2016 – Day 4 Otaru -> Mikasa -> Ashibetsu -> Furano -> Biei
Day 4 marks the start of another new photography adventure in Hokkaido! I am on a photography tour planned for the next 4 days by my friend, Tsuyoshi Kato, who is also a Hokkaido Photo Guide. I first knew Kato san in November 2014 during my first visit to Hokkaido as part of the Central/Eastern Hokkaido familiarisation trip. Kato san is very knowledgable and experienced in planning for photographers who want to visit locations around Hokkaido for an unforgettable photography experience. I decided to engage Kato-san’s professional photography tour services for the next four days as I would love to explore different locations around Hokkaido whereby photographers love to visit.
Departing from my hotel Dormy Premium Inn Otaru, Kato-san’s plan for today was to visit the Furano and Biei region and we started the drive from Otaru towards Furano and Biei, making stops along Mikasa and Ashibetsu for some pretty interesting sceneries and landscapes!
On the car journey from Otaru to Biei, we passed by Mikasa City, this used to be a thriving and prosperous area with the coal mining industry pushing the local economy. Today, the coal mining industry is no longer in operation and this area had been quiet since then.
The Old Pombetsu Coal Mine
Kato-san made a quick stop to show me the Old Pombetsu Coal Mine. The former coal mining buildings and structures are still standing there and it is now closed to the public. There is a informative signboard that had maps, old photos and a short write up of the history on the Old Pombetsu Coal Mine.
We continued our journey towards Furano, driving through roads that showcased distinct weather and climate of Hokkaido. In some areas, that would be snow falling on the forest/trees and they really made a very beautiful scenery with the autumn leaves on the branches that had not fallen yet. Another 20-30 minutes drive down the road, the sceneries and landscape might change into autumn only, no snow at all. This is a beauty of Hokkaido that I will always remember, the season can change in just some distance away.
Kato-san stopped at Lake Katsurazawa, it’s a beautiful location surrounded by forests, quiet and tranquil. The colourful autumn leaves can be seen in full foliage around the lake, making it a good spot for photographing the autumn season in Hokkaido. However, the water is brownish and unlike some of the other beautiful clear blue lakes in Hokkaido. The water is not free flowing because it is a large artificial lake created by the Katsurazawa Dam. Even though the water may not look as beautiful like some of her other counterparts in other areas of Hokkaido, the beautiful forests surrounding it would make it a place to visit during the other seasons.
Sandandaki Waterfall /三段滝(Google Map location: https://goo.gl/maps/CByHFsf3Jnz)
Leaving Mikasa, entered into Ashibetsu first before reaching Furano. That was a location in Ashibetsu that Kato-san brought me to. It’s a waterfall with 3 sections thus the name Sandandaki Waterfall /三段滝.
A gorgeous location, while the weather was a bit overcast, we were able to spot the colourful trees surrounding both sides of the river, the 3 sections of the waterfall and the downstream after that. The path to the lookout point/hut that can get you close to the waterfall and the downward stream was a bit wet and slippery due to the wet weather.
When we finished photographing and about to leave, snow fell from the sky with a bit of gusty cold wind blowing. The weather in Hokkaido can change pretty quickly in the blink of an eye sometimes.
Continuing our journey, we drove into Furano. My first impression was a flat and wide valley ground, surrounded by 2 mountain ranges on the sides, Mt Yubari, Mt Ashibetsu and Mt Furano-Nishi on one side and Mt Furano, Mt Tokachi, Mt Tomuraushi, Mt Chubetsu, Mt Hiragatake (Daisetuzan National Park side).
Living at the bottom of a valley can get really really cold during winter, from my experiences when I went skiiing in New South Wales, Australia, many years ago. Mt Kosciuszko (Perisher Blue) wasn’t too cold at the top when I was skiing yet when I reached Canberra, I was kind of freezing (in the night).
Furano had many farms growing different kind of crops. This area is a very popular destination during spring and summer, I can understand why. The entire area in summer season would be packed with crops ready for harvesting. For those growing flowers, the colourful and beautiful flowers would brighten up the whole place. I would love to visit Furano during the summer season and hope to do it some day in the future!
Our first destination in Furano is Torinuma Park. Upon arrival, I was greeted by good weather, I saw clear blue sky, sunshine with cloud cover! This good weather made me very excited, I had overcast sky, snow, rain and chilly winds for my first four days in Hokkaido. The beautiful sunlight cast the colourful autumn leaves on the leaves into something magical, green, yellow, red and orange colour leaves against the beautiful clear blue sky. I was ecstatic and blown away, this was the autumn that I had been seeking when I arrived in Hokkaido.
We explored the forest surrounding the lake at Torinuma Park. There were some great places to take photographs from different spots with different perspectives, when the strong winds blew across, the leaves dropped and fell onto the lake, providing the lake with a pretty layer of colourful leaves on its water.
Lunch – Shinasoba ramen by Shinatora
One of my favourite Japanese food is Ramen and during that afternoon, I was brought to this local ramen shop in Furano, the name of the ramen shop is Shinatora, their shop speciality is a soup base mix of pork and fish! When I had my first taste of the Shinasoba ramen, I was in heaven!! This special and unique ramen is really oishii!! Ramen is an absolute delight during the cold autumn/winter seasons, hot and heartwarming.
Rokugo Viewing Platform / Kyohsai Farm (Furano Jam Garden)
With such a delicious and hot ramen lunch inside us, Kato-san brought me to the area near the foot of the Mt Tokachi / Mt Furano mountain range where the famous Kyohsai Farm / Furano Jam Garden was located, they had some many different types of jam for sale, along with a nice café to have coffee while resting at the same time. Although I didn’t buy any jam, I would love to come back during summer and visit this place again! Kato-san said this place is very popular during summer season!
Behind Furano Jam Garden, there was a small dirt road leading up towards a small hill, suitable for cars to drive up the small dirt road. On the road upwards, there was a famous lone tree that stood out from the row of forests beside the road. From the ground up perspective, the lone tree looked like it’s “floating”!
On top of the hill, there were farm lands, we visitors must be careful and considerate, not to trespass and trample onto the farm lands because we might destroy the crops and hurt the farmers livelihood and hard work.
There was an open area with a nice hut on the top of the hill, known as Rokugo Viewing Platform. The view up there was breathtaking, a great panoramic view of Furano. The cold autumn winds were blowing hard at us and I was freezing again when the cold winds hitted me! However, I was greeted by another iconic scene of Hokkaido, the light rays shining through the clouds onto the land.
There was another monologue tree nearby the Rokugo Viewing Platform, used by television company for some of their drama productions! It’s a very famous and iconic tree!
The sky was turning dark as Kato-san drove up towards in the direction of Biei. A tale of two seasons in Hokkaido, separated by maybe 30km, from autumn into winter season. It was close to sunset timing when we arrived at this spot in Biei, snow was falling and it was cold around -1° (it’s not the coldest yet for Biei, Hokkaido).
There was a small farm house up on the hill, standing alone in the midst of the snow covered fields. While the small house stands alone in the open, it’s not alone at all, the role and significance cannot be underestimated. Somehow, I am always able to relate to lone/single objects e.g. lone tree, lone house etc etc … We might be monologue / single at times, however we are not alone because we attract the things around us to come to us.
Driving down a short distance from the small farm house, Kato san made a stop beside an open field between two forests. There were two trees that stood out in between the two forests. I stood there, enjoying the sceneries, peace, quiet and tranquility. It was really cold for me because I wasn’t really suited for winter season. After taking a few photographs, I stood there and enjoyed the moment while I am freezing myself out there (due to the chilly wind and rain).
The sun had set for the day, we also made our way to our hotel in Nakafurano, had our dinner, enjoyed the onsen and had a good night sleep.
Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 4
Created with flickr slideshow.
Hokkaido Autumn 2016
Created with flickr slideshow.