These past few years I spend my short summer vacation in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of the Japanese archipelago. There are a couple of reasons I repeatedly go there -- 1) It is much cooler and less humid than any other parts of Japan. The temperature in Hokkaido is about 10 C degrees lower than Tokyo. I need to escape from this obnoxious heat even for a couple of days. 2) I have a close friend living in Sapporo, Hokkaido's prefectural capital. I want to see her . 3) Foods are great. You can enjoy fresh crabs, melons, dairy foods, lambs, etc.
If you are a hardcore ski/snowboard fan, you'd probably heard of Niseko, one of the most well-known and popular skiing resorts among foreigners for its snow quality (very powdery!) and English-speaking environment.
But don't think that Niseko is the only place worth visiting. Hokkaido is a big island -- actually the second biggest island among over 6,800 islands making up Japan, next to Honshu Island (main land). It has many touristic sites, such as prefectural capital Sapporo, old port town Otaru, historical landmarks in Hakodate City, Kushiro Wetland designated by the UNESCO as world natural heritage, and more.
This year I visited Furano, whose name became known throughout the country after TV drama series "Kita no Kuni kara" (From the Northern Country) were made 1981-2002. The touching story is about a divorced man who raises his two children in the beautiful wild nature of Furano with the help of his neighbors. The success of the drama turned the depopulated village into one of the most popular tourist sites in Japan.
I have to admit that there are no historically important landmarks in Furano. There are nothing but beautiful nature there. If you are from somewhere rich in nature, you might not find Furano interesting, but to someone living in a big city like myself, the scenery of Furano that somehow reminds me of France is very relaxing and attractive. If you are lucky, you can see Ezo red foxes. (I saw one on the roadside. Very cute!)
One of the attractions of Furano is flower fields. Lavenders are especially famous, and the fields are covered with the purple flowers from the mid to the late July. Unfortunately when I went there in mid-August, the lavenders were half dead. I took the photo below at Farm Tomita, where they had reaped most lavenders to make products.
If you visit there at the right time, you can see the scenery like the photo below. I found this in a tourist information site MAPPLE.
|Sai no Kuni Sasaki Farm Photo: MAPPLE|
At Farm Tomita, you can try lavender-flavored soft serve for 250 yen, if you find the lavender fragrance appetizing.
To me, lavender is not something to eat, so I had melon soft serve, which tasted real melon, not artificial flavor. Very delicious. Sorry for the blurry photo (again).
Furano is famous for melon cultivation as well. At Farm Tomita's Melon House...
...they are selling melons ...
...and products related to melons, such as melon-pan (photo below). Normally melon-pan does not taste like a melon but shaped like a melon. I don't know if they are really using melon for making their sweet buns.
Cherries are pricy here. Especially "Sato nishiki" cherries produced in Yamagata Prefecture are often sold for more than 5,000 yen per kilogram. However, if you buy them on the roadside in Furano, they are surprisingly cheap. (Sorry, I forgot the exact price but I think they are about 1,000 yen.)
After enjoying flowers and fruits, my friend took me to some wineries. In Hokkaido, especially in Furano and its surrounding area, wine production is becoming bigger these years. Frankly speaking, the quality of Japanese wine has not reached the international level yet, but I realized this times that vineyard farmers and wine producers are working very hard to improve the taste. I hope they will produce internationally renowned wine someday in the future.
At Housui Winery you can do a wine tasting (photo below).
OK, from here I'll write in Japanese.
毎年：まいとし every year
旅行に行く ： りょこう に いく go on a trip
涼しい： すずしい cool
仲が良い： なか が いい close
今年： ことし this year
遅すぎる： おそすぎる too late
半分： はんぶん half
枯れる： かれる (plants) die
花畑： はなばたけ flower field
ファーム富田： ファーム とみた
味： あじ flavor
産地：さんち producing district
相場： そうば market price
高い： たかい expensive
高級： こうきゅう top quality
果物店： くだものてん fruit shop
以上： いじょう more than
安い： やすい reasonable
道端： みちばた roadside
売る： うる to sell
周辺： しゅうへん around
歴史： れきし history
短い： みじかい short
正直： ショウジキ frankly speaking
まだまだ： far from good
生産者： せいさんしゃ producer
将来： しょうらい in the future