I visited 北海道 (Hokkaido) for the third time in July 2008 to see the famous lavender fields of 富良野 (Furano) and to hike the nearby mountains while no snow prevented it. I spent four full days there with François, including two days with 亮 (Ryo), then enjoyed alone a more urban ambience in 札幌 (Sapporo).
On the contrary to 本州 (main island of Japan), 北海道 (Hokkaido) lacks train lines and frequent buses so François and I rented a car from Friday to easily reach our scattered destinations then headed towards 旭山動物園 (Asahiyama zoo). This large zoo offered broad views of the surroundings thanks to its slope and open sky. The animals lived in narrow spaces but looked healthy. I observed much wolves, pandas, baby monkeys, and a black panther, and I hope to see such animals in the wild someday. For a change, we continued with museums dedicated to clothing and snow: 国際染織美術館 (International Dyeing and Weaving Art Museum), 優佳良織工芸館 (Yukara Ori Folk Craft Museum) and 雪の美術館 (Snow Crystals Museum). The first was the most impressive, with well-preserved garments from several countries exhibiting diverse lifestyles and concepts. 亮 (Ryo) joined us in the evening for a great dinner at ハローウィン (Halloween).
On Saturday, we strolled at ファーム富田 (Farm Tomita) for its splendid lavender then at 四季彩の丘 (Shikisai-no-oka) for its diverse flowers; superb photos of these landscapes were as usual exhibited at 拓真館 (Takushinkan museum). In another style, the 富良野チーズ工房 (Furano cheese factory) offered a unique experience with its robotic milking cow! The best moment of the day though was a delicious chocolate fondue at ジャンゴ (Jungo).
On Sunday, we hiked several hours in 旭岳 (Asahidake), the highest mountain in 北海道 (Hokkaido). The landscapes alternated grass, ponds, flower fields and patches of snow, and are worth a two- or three-days hike... To properly end the day, we visited the small but high-quality 川村カ子トアイヌ記念館 (Kawamura Kaneto Ainu Memorial Museum), where the ability to read Japanese is definitely instructive.
After the departure of 亮 (Ryo) on Monday morning, François and I drove to 十勝岳 (Tokachi-dake), enjoying local food on the way. The large open space and the green and orange scenery were impressive even with a few clouds. Hiking several days here would be quite an experience. Anyway, 十勝岳温泉 (Tokachidake Onsen) is a must do, and we quietly relaxed there with a view of the valley from the outdoor spa. Finally, François and I enjoyed great coffee in 美瑛 (Biei) at 北工房 (Kita Kouboh).