JR News: Renewal of Furano Lavender Express & enjoying Hokkaido’s lavender
When you think of summer in Hokkaido, perhaps the image of deep violet lavender fields comes to mind, doesn’t it? This representative scenery of Hokkaido’s summer is on many of our bucket lists.
When visiting these picturesque purple fields, we highly recommend taking the Furano Lavender Express (富良野ラベンダーエクスプレス), a Limited Express train that has recently undergone renewal, coming back newer, more comfortable, and more convenient for passengers!
Let’s have a look at some of the train’s new features, and check out how we can enjoy a day trip to see summer flowers in Furano and Biei by riding both the Furano Lavender Express and the Furano Biei Norokko Train (富良野・美瑛ノロッコ号).
Renewed Furano Lavender Express
The renewed Furano Lavender Express features a bright purple front car. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)
In July 2021, the Furano Lavender Express train vehicle was renewed to a 261-5000 series train, and the front car is now a bright purple reminiscent of the colour of lavender fields, evoking the image of Hokkaido’s summer. Providing a seasonal direct service between Sapporo Station (札幌駅) and Furano Station (富良野駅), this train only runs for a limited time during summer, which includes the lavender blooming period.
Usually, there are no direct services between Sapporo and Furano, so passengers would need to take a limited express train to either Asahikawa Station or Takikawa Station and transfer to a local train, and the total travelling time would be around 2.5–3 hours. However, with the Furano Lavender Express, you can sit in comfort for the whole journey, which takes slightly less than 2 hours.
Retractable tables and charging outlets are available at every seat. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)
The train is made up of five cars: two Reserved Seat cars, two Non-Reserved Seat cars, and one Free Space car—the Lavender Lounge. In the Reserved Seat and Non-Reserved Seat cars, all seats are equipped with retractable tables and charging outlets, so you can charge your electronic devices throughout your ride. Better make sure that your phones and cameras are charged up to take photos of the lavender fields later!
The train also has spacious luggage racks to store large luggage, in case you're thinking of spending the night instead of taking a day trip.
Inside the Lavender Lounge, the Free Space car. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)
One of the highlights is definitely the Free Space car, which features spacious box seats with large tables, and window-facing seats for you to enjoy Hokkaido’s beautiful countryside scenery. As its name suggests, all seats in this car are free to use for all passengers, and seats cannot be reserved. As the number of seats is limited, let’s be kind and share the space with other passengers.
Station signboard-themed souvenirs you can purchase onboard the Furano Lavender Express. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)
On the Furano Lavender Express, you can purchase souvenirs with the design of station signboards, such as mask pin badges, fridge magnets, and keychains. Aren’t they cute? Instead of sharp pins, mask pin badges use magnets to attach, and make great mask accessories for taking photos at Farm Tomita.
Bask in fields of lavender at Farm Tomita
At Lavender-Farm Station and Farm Tomita. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)
From Furano Station, you can take another special summer train—the Furano Biei Norokko Train—and head to Farm Tomita (ファーム富田), which is just a 7-minute walk from Lavender-Farm Station (ラベンダー畑駅). Lavender-Farm Station is a special station that is only open during summer, and only the Furano Biei Norokko Train stops at this station.
Enjoy fields of lavender at Farm Tomita. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)
Considered by many to be one of the best spots to view lavender in Hokkaido, Farm Tomita revived Furano’s declining lavender cultivation, and was a pioneer in lavender tourism. Across the spacious 5-hectare farm, you can enjoy rolling fields of lavender and other colourful flowers. The best time to see lavender in bloom here is around late July, when the fields erupt in vibrant shades of purple and fill the air with the soothing scent of lavender.
Due to its popularity, roads to Farm Tomita can get very crowded during the peak blooming season, so travelling by train is recommended if you want to avoid getting stuck in traffic.
Try out some lavender-themed food and drinks. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)
Feeling hungry? You can head over to Café René (カフェ ルネ) to enjoy dining with a view of pretty purple lavender flowers. Mainly serving Western food, the café’s menu also features some lavender-themed items such as lavender jelly and strawberry juice (bottom-left in the picture above), steamed potato with lavender butter, lavender coffee, and lavender tea. Don't the multicoloured layers of the lavender jelly and strawberry juice resemble the Irodori Field?
If you crave dessert or something sweet, there's lavender cream puff, lavender cheesecake, and lavender custard pudding at Petit René (プチルネ) and Rapport House (ラポートの舎) , and of course, the forever favourite, lavender soft-serve ice cream, can be found at various kiosks around the farm!
Furano Biei Norokko Train passing in front of Farm Tomita’s lavender fields. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)
One fantastic thing about Farm Tomita is that you can also see the majestic Tokachi Mountain Range and Hokkaido’s tranquil countryside scenery in the distance. If you’re lucky and are at the right place at the right time, you might even see the Furano Biei Norokko Train passing by in the distance!
Enchanting scenery from the Furano Biei Norokko Train
The Furano Biei Norokko Train. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)
Did you know? The name “Norokko” comes from combining the words noronoro (ノロノロ slow and leisurely) and torokko (トロッコ open-car carriage), and embodies the hope that when you ride this train, you can have a relaxing trip with beautiful views of Furano and Biei’s idyllic countryside.
The Furano Biei Norokko Train features large windows for enjoying the scenery. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)
It takes about 20 minutes from Furano Station to Lavender-Farm Station, and about 35 minutes from Lavender-Farm Station to Biei Station. As the train features large windows, you can gaze at the amazing view of Furano’s vibrant lavender fields and Biei’s rolling hills from the comfort of your seat. The window panes can be slid down, so you can also enjoy the cool summer breeze as you ride the train.
View of the House with the Red Roof between Bibaushi Station and Biei Station. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)
Plying the route between Furano Station and Biei Station (美瑛駅) / Asahikawa Station (旭川駅), the Furano Biei Norokko Train slows down at scenic places of interest, so that you can soak in the beautiful scenery from the train’s large windows. These slowed down sections include:
- Furano’s countryside scenery between Furano Station and Naka-Furano Station
- Choei Lavender Park (町営ラベンダー園) between Naka-Furano Station and Lavender-Farm Station
- House with the Red Roof (赤い屋根の家) between Bibaushi Station and Biei Station
There are many flower fields to explore along the Furano Biei Norokko Train’s route. (Image credit: photoAC)
Including than Farm Tomita, there are many places along the train’s route for you to enjoy Hokkaido’s summer flowers and scenery:
- Choei Lavender Park, a 10-minute walk from Naka-Furano Station (中富良野駅)
- Farm Tomita, a 7-minute walk from Lavender-Farm Station (ラベンダー畑駅)
- Flower Land Kamifurano, a 5-minute taxi ride or 1-hour walk from Kami-Furano Station (上富良野駅)
- Shikisai-no-oka, a 25-minute walk from Bibaushi Station (美馬牛駅)
Go on a short trip to see Hokkaido's lavender fields in summer. (Video credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)
Check out the video above for more about a summer trip to Furano on the Furano Lavender Express and the Furano Biei Norokko Train.
Sapporo-Furano Area Pass
Get the Sapporo-Furano Area Pass to travel between Sapporo and Furano. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)
If you are heading to Furano and Biei to enjoy the lavender and other flowers, check out the newly-released Sapporo-Furano Area Pass, an affordable pass offering unlimited rides on non-reserved seats in the designated area for 4 consecutive days. At only ¥9,000, it costs less than a round-trip between Sapporo and Biei (~¥12,000), and you can use it to travel between major stations like Otaru, New-Chitose Airport, Sapporo, Furano, Biei, and Asahikawa. The Sapporo-Furano Area Pass can be used for automatic ticket gates, and covers the Furano Lavender Express and Furano Biei Norokko Train.
Hokkaido Rail Pass
Get the Hokkaido Rail Pass to travel around Hokkaido by train. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)
If you are travelling around more areas in Hokkaido, you can use the Hokkaido Rail Pass, which offers unlimited rides on both reserved and non-reserved seats on all JR Hokkaido lines (except Hokkaido Shinkansen). The Hokkaido Rail Pass is available for 5 consecutive days (¥19,000) or 7 consecutive days (¥25,000), and can be used for automatic ticket gates. It also covers the Furano Lavender Express and Furano Biei Norokko Train.
Header image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company