From 1907 to 1981 this rail line was the main route to Eastern Hokkaido from Sapporo via Furano. Traveling alongside Sorachi-gawa river from Takikawa you encounter the old coal mining towns, Northern Hokkaido’s top ski resort and the pleasant artificial lake Kanayama-ko. After crossing the Karikachi Pass, the majestic Tokachi Plain awaits you.
Takikawa to Shintoku (via Furano)
DURATION: 3 hours
ORDINARY FARE: ¥2860 (Valid for 2-day)
BEST TIME: Year-round
Akabira ›› Take an old coal mine tour with a former miner. It is possible to detour from Sunagawa via Utashinai by bus.
Furano ›› Northern Hokkaido’s ‘ski and agricultural capital’, indulge in tasty cheese, wine and ice cream.
Higashi-Shikagoe ›› Relaxing in a cottage, log hotel or campsite by the pleasant artificial lake Kanayama-ko in the forested valley.
About 80km northeast of Sapporo on the JR Hakodate Line, Takikawa is a start of the JR Nemuro Line. You will have a layover if you are heading east to Furano.
BOARDING ›› Heading east out of Takikawa and passes through the rice fields, the train crosses Sorachi-gawa, the longest tributary of Ishikari-gawa.
VIRTUAL TOUR ›› Colliery-era Utashinai & Akabira
This small city holds the original forms of old mining remnants behind the modern train station.
BOARDING ›› Soon after Akabira, look out for the Old Sumitomo Akabira Coal Mine (旧住友赤平炭鉱) with a a 43.8m-high pithead on the right.
Ashibetsu was also once Sorachi’s major coal mining town. You can switch to Chuo Bus here for a scenic byway to Asahikawa passes through the lovely Shinjo Pass and Kamuikotan gorge.
BOARDING ›› A few kilometers after Nokanan (km) you spend about 10 minutes in Takisato Tunnel (5595m) and Shimanoshita Tunnel (2839m), then you meet the charming city of Furano.
The lively agricultural city of Furano is said to mark the geographical center of Hokkaido. Tourist-friendly attractions and dining options dotted around the city so you won’t miss out anything. In winter, the ski area is occupied by skiers and snowboarders coming from all over the world. From here, the JR Furano Line heads north to Asahikawa via Biei.
BOARDING ›› Heading south on the Furano Basin, you can admire the rugged Yubari Mountains on the right.
BOOK YOUR STAY ONLINE: FURANO
Furano has a spread of accommodation near the train station and the ski area. Room rates rise sharply during lavender and ski seasons. Kitanomine (北の峰) is a perfect base for skiing and plenty of hotels, pensions and condominiums. A number of lodges may be closed for about one month before and after ski seasons.
DETOUR: 20km East of Furano
Famed for its rural landscapes and as the main setting of the long TV drama series Kita-no-Kuni-kara (From the Northern Country), Rokugo is a lovely agricultural village. To get there, take the bus from JR Furano Station (4 daily / 40min / ¥630).
Yamabe is the base for climb to the sharp-edged Ashibetsu-dake (芦別岳: 1726m), where you can admire the mountain from the platform. The trailhead of Yamabe Natural Park Taiyo-no-sato is about 4km west of the train station (taxi costs around ¥1500).
BOARDING ›› After pass through Sorachi-gawa Tunnel (2255m), the train crosses the picturesque artificial lake Kanayama-ko (かなやま湖) and follows the southern shore.
Currently all local trains from Takikawa via Furano end this lakeside unstaffed station near the limestone quarry. The holiday resort Kanayama-ko Forest Park (かなやま湖森林公園), on the peaceful northern shore, is 3km from the train station across Shikagoe-ohashi bridge.
BOARDING ›› Alternative JR buses connect Higashi-Shikagoe with Shintoku (1hr) on Route 38, stopping at Ikutora and Ochiai.
The town center of Minamifurano, the nostalgic Ikutora Station was the setting for scenes in Poppoya (Railwayman; 1999), used as the late-1980s Horomai (幌舞駅) 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.
BOARDING ›› Alternative JR buses cross the dynamic Karikachi Pass (狩勝峠: 644m) on the border of Kamikawa and Tokachi regions. Most buses pause at Sahoro Resorto (サホロリゾート) with ski slopes, hotels and the Bear Mountain.
The refreshing highland town Shintoku is a main gateway of Western Tokachi. Shintoku is famed for high-quality soba, the train station area has some excellent noodle shops.