On the south side of the Furano Basin, the modest town of Minamifurano (南富良野) is dominated by the peaceful artificial lake Kanayama-ko, where holidaymakers enjoy staying in the pleasant lakeside lodges and campsites for the night.
Highlights Kanayama-ko Forest Park, Kita-Ochiai
Tourist Information Michi-no-eki Minamifurano (道の駅南ふらの): Ikutora Bussan Center bus stop on Route 38, 687 Ikutora / 9am-5pm, to 7pm Jun-Sep / www.minamifurano.jp
01 LAKE & DAM
Surrounded by beautiful coniferous forest, this picturesque artificial lake was created in 1967 when Japan’s largest (and Hokkaido’s only) hollow gravity Kanayama Dam (金山ダム) was erected on the upstream of Sorachi-gawa, which drowned 269 houses.
The dam itself is hardly an attractions and the internal visits are not permitted, but the dam-side Controll Office Exhibition Hall (金山ダム管理支所: 9am-5pm late Apr-early Nov / Free) is open to the public.
02 LAKESIDE PARK & SLEEPING
Kanayama-ko Forest Park
かなやま湖森林公園 / Kanayama-ko Shinrin Koen
Kanayama-ko Forest Park has pleasant lodges, campsites and lavender gardens on the peaceful northern shore. In summer, canoes can be hired (ask for the log hotel Larch).
03 TRAIN STATION
幌舞駅 / Ikutora / Exhibition 9am-5pm / FREE
Apart from Kanayama-ko, Minamifurano’s other popular sight is the nostalgic Ikutora Station (JR幾寅駅) on the JR Nemuro Line, the setting for scenes in Poppoya (Railwayman; 1999), used as the late-1980s Horomai terminus. Takakura Ken (1931-2014), one of Japan’s most famous actors, played here as the last station master.
The train station has exhibits movie props and photos, where a red diesel car stands in front of the building. Downroad Sakamoto Miu’s theme song Poppoya onto your smartphone. The best time to visit here is in winter. Unfortunately, there is currently no train service to Ikutora. Alternative buses run to Ikutora from Higashi-Shikagoe and Shintoku stations.
Minamifurano Ski Area
国設南ふらのスキー場 / Ikutora / 9am-9pm (to 4pm Sun) late Dec-mid Mar / Closed Mon, 31 Dec & 1 Jan
There are three ski resorts around the town, but this municipal ski area is the cheapest and it has a fine view over the lake. You will find the slopes easily from the town center or JR Ikutora Station.
05 SCENIC LANDSCAPE
Minamifurano’s lovely hillside rural village spreads on the northeast of the town along Ochiai-gawa. You can overlooking the both Taisetsu and Tokachi mountains.
GETTING THERE & AROUND
TRAIN: Currently local trains on the JR Nemuro Line from Obihiro end in Shintoku (1hr), and local trains from Furano end in Higashi-Shikagoe (東鹿越: 45min) in Minamifurano.
Alternative JR buses connect Higashi-Shikagoe with Shintoku (新得: 1hr) on Route 38, stopping at Ikutora and Ochiai. Most buses pause at Sahoro Resorto.
BUS: Three intercity buses North Liner stopping at the Ikutora Bussan Center (幾寅物産センター), at the Michi-no-eki (roadside station) Minamifurano on Route 38. Buses connect with Asahikawa, Biei, Furano, Shintoku and Obihiro. Compulsory reservation. You might be able to purchase a ticket at the shop inside the michi-no-eki (ask for staff).
Two buses run daily (except Sunday) from JR Ikutora Station to Shimukappu (1hr) via Tomamu Station (30min) on the JR Sekisho Line.