The Chuo Bus Company may seem familiar to those who have traveled to Sapporo before. It’s one of the major companies that run public buses around Sapporo and nearby Otaru. Aside from that, they also have something called the their Regular Sightseeing Bus. As the name suggests, these buses take tourists around the popular spots in Hokkaido for a fairly affordable price.
If you’re staying in Sapporo but thinking of going on day trips to nearby cities, the Chuo Regular Sightseeing Bus pretty much takes out all the work for you. All you need is to pick the package that brings you to the places you want to visit from their website, and then you can just kick back and relax. Maybe even take a nap inside the comfy bus of theirs, like me. The next thing you know, you’ve arrived at your destination.
The specific tour we chose is their Letter Q option, and can be found here. It’s one of their recommended tours for the month we were there, and it’s 7,100 yen for each adult. (It’s 4,800 yen for children.) Personally, I had a pretty great experience with the tour. We went to some truly lovely places and were given just enough time to appreciate each. The only thing I had a problem with was that the tour was Japanese-language only, so I couldn’t understand a word of what our guide was explaining about each place we visited. But I guess that’s what the Internet is for! Just make sure when you book that you select the English guide option if possible.
Check out this video I made of the places we visited for our tour. Indeed, you can visit these places on your own, but I do appreciate the benefits of coming along tours like this one. The biggest one would be having no more need to stress out over commuting! You reserve your slot for the tour on their website, but pay on the day of the tour at their counter located at the ESTA Mall in Sapporo Station. The bus is parked there as well.
First Stop: Campana Rokkatei
The Campana della Vigna Rokkatei, or Campana Rokkatei for short, is a dessert café that sits comfortably within a sprawling 80,000 square meter vineyard in Furano. The vineyard is located on a lovely hillside that gives you lovely views no matter which direction you turn, but the most identifiable for those familiar with Japanese geography is the Daistesu Mountain Range.
Because this was only a rest stop for us, we only had a very short time to get to enjoy the views as well as the sweets inside. Rokkatei is a well-known Japanese sweets and desserts brand in Hokkaido. While they have many shops scattered in Sapporo and Otaru as well, there are some treats that are exclusive only to this branch, mostly to do with grapes. As you know, this is a vineyard so grapes are abundant.
Unfortunately, we were arriving after the earthquake and the shop wasn’t operating in full swing, so we had no choice but to snack on Rokkatei’s other products instead. We ordered some ice cream sandwiches and tried some sweet and chewy Furano mochi along with their free coffee.
It’s quite nice to eat at the terrace of the café, where you can enjoy the view in peace. I swear I had more pictures of this place that show the interior of the cafe, but I don’t know where they are now. In any case, we had to cut short our enjoyment of the view to move on to our next location.
Address: Shimizuyama, Furano, Hokkaido 076-0048, Japan (See on map)
Second Stop: Sumio Goto Art Museum
The Sumio Goto Art Museum is one of those places I wouldn’t have known to visit if not for this Chuo Bus tour. As someone who appreciates art and is a semi-frustrated artist herself (lol), I tend to enjoy museum visits more than normal. After looking through the art here, it’s become one of my recommended places to visit for any art lover coming this way.
Before we entered the gallery however, we had lunch at the restaurant inside the museum. The lunch set does a great job highlighting local produce, as well as the famous local Kamifurano Pork that’s been cooked to an almost melt-in-the-mouth quality. Scarfing down this delicious lunch gave us the needed energy to explore the art gallery below.
Sumio Goto is a world-renown Japanese painter who passed away in the year 2016. He had settled down in Furano in his later years and had founded this museum to house his lifetime of works. He is famous for using amazing techniques and high quality materials in his pieces.
His paints are extracted from precious stones, like gold leaf, turquoise, and coral. That’s why when you look at his paintings from certain angles, they reflect light in such a way that they seem to glitter with life. His paintings come in different sizes, but the big ones are truly breathtaking when you see them in person. No photo can do them justice. I cannot stress this enough.
The only reason why I’m even posting some of his paintings is because I want people to have an idea of what the works of this man looks like. You can never fully see the effect of the paintings– the textures on the canvass and the winking of the precious stones– unless you see them in person. Unless you look close or look from afar, or stand just a little to the left or to the right.
The experience of being here brings to mind that time I saw Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ in person. The brush strokes were exquisite and something you won’t fully be able to grasp unless you lean in close and see it. Just like I loved that painting, I loved Sumio Goto’s works a lot! I took my time looking at his works and a little less time looking at them through my camera.
If you’ve ever been to The Met, then you’ll probably understand what it’s like to have “art fatigue”. That museum is so big and houses so many works, it’s overwhelming. In this museum though, there are 130 works of art. I can’t use the word “only” In that context because 130 isn’t a small number by any means, but at least it’s a decent number to appreciate. Plus, because it’s a museum featuring the works of one artist, it’s not like a visual explosion of different things. And Sumio Goto’s art-style is one I can totally get behind.
Sumio Goto’s art showcases the beauty of Japan, and occasionally China and Europe as well. (He was actually catapulted to fame by a piece he painted of China.) The most impressive to me are his multimedia artworks that truly capture the essence of the different seasons falling upon Kyoto, Nara, and Hokkaido. Spring paintings bring forth a very different feeling from his autumn and winter-themed works upon viewing. Some of his smaller paintings up for sale have price tags posted beneath them, and it gives you a real sense of just how valuable these pieces are.
Address: 〒071-0524 Hokkaido, Sorachi District, Kamifurano, Higashi 4 Senkita, 26 Go, 郡上富良野 (See on map)
Third Stop: Shirogane Blue Pond
We arrived at our next destination after about 30 minutes of travel. Walking through the rocky parking lot, you never would’ve known that you were about to arrive at the famous Shirogane Blue Pond. You walk down a steep stone staircase and through a thicket of trees and bamboo, and slowly the vibe starts to change.
I have no other word to describe the Blue Pond aside from mystical. It oozes this strange shiny hue that almost makes the pond look like it’s lit by fairy lights. It’s a glowing sort of blue that draws you in and just mesmerizes you. The surrounding forest does a great job completing the otherworldly feel of being here thought. I was half-expecting the Deer God from Princess Mononoke to come out and walk on top of the water.
The Blue Pond however is actually not some natural wonder of the world. The pond is entirely manmade, created after the eruption of nearby Mount Tokachi. It’s supposed to act as a catch basin for any possible future eruptions from the same volcano, preventing the lava from destroying Biei nearby. When they filled it up with water, the minerals left over from the past volcanic eruption gave the water its color. That was the only time they decided to open the Blue Pond to the public as a tourist attraction. You can actually see a lot of the structures of this emergency control system as you walk around, but you won’t think of it as that at first. It’s camouflaged within the forest.
I think it’s pretty cool that the good intentions of the Japanese government to keep their people safe had this unexpected outcome. It’s like a bonus how now there’s a mystical pond that draws tons of tourists no matter the season.
Address: Shirogane, 美瑛町 Biei, Kamikawa District, Hokkaido 071-0235, Japan (See on map)
Last Stop: Shikisai No Oka
The name Shikisai No Oka translates to ‘Hills of Seasonal Colors’. It’s a name that perfectly describes what this place is, quite literally. Shikisai No Oka is the biggest flower park in the Furano/Biei area at 7 hectares. It features cleverly cultivated fields of colorful flowers that change every season. If you look the other way, you will see rolling green hills and the Tokachidake Mountain Range in the distance.
Aside from the views, there is a restaurant and some souvenir shops here, as well as an alpaca ranch. You would need to shell out 500 yen for an alpaca encounter though. To ride the little train or the golf carts that go around Shikisai No Oka, you also have to pay a fee. The main hillside garden is easily walkable from the entrance though.
The way the flower fields are laid out reminds me of patchwork patterns. I imagine it looks stunning from a bird’s eye-view, but it’s no less stunning from the ground. It’s so hard to describe how nice this place is. It almost has a Garden of Eden feel to it, if you know what I mean. The colors are perfectly planned; the flowers are perfectly aligned in their spaces. I’m normally not one to run out of words, but I can’t really think of the proper words to describe this place. It’s just stunning. I think I should just let the photos do the talking.
After snapping a ton of photos, you have to give yourself time to just stand there and take everything in. Promise me that, okay?
Address: 〒071-0473 Hokkaido, Kamikawa District, Biei, Shinsei, 第３ (See on map)
If you had read our Hokkaido Earthquake Story, you already know that this trip with Chuo Bus was something we all wished very hard for. The company had cancelled all their activities following the quake, and though it was understandable, we simply didn’t want to leave Sapporo without getting to come out here either. Well, all that hoping and praying was certainly worth it for all the beautiful things we saw this day. We booked this tour with Chuo Bus on our very last day in Sapporo, and this view seared in our minds was probably one of the best things we could’ve asked to return home with.
Thanks for the memories, Hokkaido! I’ll be back soon!
Other posts from my Summer in Sapporo 2018 Series:
- Sapporo 2018 Earthquake Diary
- Food-hopping in Sapporo, Summer 2018 Edition
- Finding zen at the Hokkaido Shrine
- 10 Fun Things To Do on a Day Trip to Otaru
- Sapporo Summer 2018 Snack Haul
Full disclosure: This post is NOT sponsored in any way. I paid for this tour on my own and received no compensation for writing this feature. All opinions stated above are my own.