The Furano and Asahikawa Plains are a popular destination for tourists to Hokkaido. They are rimmed by the vast Daisetsu Mountain Range to the southeast, and the Furano Range to the northwest. Hordes of visitors from Asia journey here to experience lavender fields, onsen, and a vastness of developed farmland scenery quite rare anywhere else in Japan. With a developed network of official cycle routes, the area is also one of the best for cycle touring in Hokkaido. In this guide, we join my parents from New Zealand on a tour around the area – them in a campervan, us on bikes.
Route GPS File
- Distance: 120km
- Total climbing: 1,350m – on this tour, you will stay a night at the Hakuginso Campground, at 990m in altitude. The climb up there is long and relentless, but the onsen at the top is super worth the effort.
- Road surface: 100% paved
- Staying at Hakuginso Lodge: If you’d rather stay indoors on the second night in the Tokachi Range, consider staying at the Hakuginso Lodge for about 2,500yen per person. The onsen there is incredible, and the lodge has communal kitchen facilities. Full details can be found here.
- The 660cc mini-camper van: We hired the mighty 660cc-engine camper-van from 100yen Rentals on Atsubetsu Avenue in Sapporo (https://100yen-rentacar.jp/rentacar/9999.html). The cost was a paltry 5,400yen per 24 hours. You’ll need to be able to speak Japanese, or have someone who can with you, in order to hire from here.
My parents have been to Hokkaido a few times to visit now, and this is not the first time they’ve rented a camper-van to join us on a cycle-camping trip here. This time we planned a four-day trip to central Hokkaido, to the famous Furano/Biei region.
This time around I arranged a mini-camper for their time here. These compact camper vans seem to be pretty popular here in Japan. as rentals they are really cheap – this one was only 5,400yen for 24 hours. Despite the engine only being 660cc, it had plenty of power.
We packed the folding bikes in the camper and left Sapporo at around 5pm on a Friday, hoping to get to Lake Kanayama Campground at around 7pm. At the campground, the plan was to meet up with a couple of cycle-tourists, Scott and Karolin, from Sweden (who we had hosted a week or so before in Sapporo) who were in the vicinity.
After a quick stop for dinner, we arrived a little later than we had expected, to a much busier campground than we had expected – it turned out we’d chosen the same weekend as the Furano Gourmet Foods festival, held on the campground land.
The next morning we all got organized fairly early for a 8:30am start – Mum and Dad in the camper, and the four of us on our bikes. Despite the cloudy early morning, it turned out to be a very hot day.
We joined up with Mum and Dad in central Furano City, and had lunch at a soba and tempura restaurant in central Furano. We then all started the long grind up to the Fukiage Onsen area, where we would camp in the Hakuginso Campground.
The ride up to Fukiage Onsen is long and relatively steep. Make sure you plan for plenty of breaks and rests along the way. There’s also no facilities on the way up, so you’ll need to make sure you have plenty of water and snacks.
The only drama we experienced on the way up was someone yelling “bear!” out of their car window as they drove past. This stopped us in our tracks, thinking that they were trying to tell us that there was a bear on the road up ahead. I flagged down the next car to ask if they’d seen a bear also, but they hadn’t seen anything.
So we carried on, and arrived at the campsite without seeing any trace of a bear.
The next morning, we left Scott and Karolin to their own exploring around the region, and headed down towards Biei Town. Not before I marveled at their Jetboil cooking skills.
The ride down from Fukiage Onsen to Biei put to rest any doubts I may have had about the value of cycling all the way up there in the first place. We had a free ride all the way past the Shirahige Falls, the Blue Lake, and onwards along the river cycling path all the way to central Biei.
From Biei Town, the plan was to cycle all the way to the 21st Century Forest Campground, well northeast of Higashikawa Town. On the way there, however, we managed to lose Mum and Dad, and spent about 2 hours loitering around the Higashikawa Town center hoping they’d turn up at a previous meeting point we’d mentioned. At around 4pm we finally found them.
Since it was too late in the day to do the final 14km to the original campground, we settled for the Higashikagura Auto Campground instead, which was a more respectable 4km away. With an onsen just across the road, it would end up being a very restful end to the day.
The next day we packed up the folding bikes into the camper again, and drove the 120km back to Sapporo, in time for a meeting that Haidee needed to be at at 10am.
This time around it felt like it had been a bit of a whirlwind tour of an area that could easily make for a very nice week-long cycling trip, taking in more of the sights along the way. We made a mental note to make sure to come back another time!