I’ve really never had any interest whatsoever in flowers. Call me uncultured, but I just don’t see the fascination to be gained from spending any time at all looking at what essentially are different coloured plants. I expect this won’t come as a surprise.
Girls, on the other hand, do like flowers. A sweeping generalization though it is, and I am never one for generalizing, I nonetheless feel secure in my claim that, on the whole and as a very, very broad rule of thumb, girls like flowers more than boys like flowers.
I am currently travelling with my girlfriend. Being a girl, she likes flowers. Thus it was that we found our way to the town of Furano, in central Hokkaido, a land famous for its flower farms.
The town itself is a pleasing enough place. Furano is neat and tidy. It isn’t the small village we had perhaps anticipated, but rather a perfectly regular modern large town, benefitting from an abundance of lodgings and places to eat.
Furano’s setting is, in fact, utterly spectacular: the cloud shrouded mountain peaks of Mount Furano, Mount Tokachi and the nearby Daisetsuzan national park frame a dramatic view throughout the day to the north, best seen first thing in the morning amid early mists, and last thing in the evening as the sun sets.
We had two nights and a single, full day in Furano, and thus decided to make the most of it. We quickly realized that to reach the flower farms, and indeed to reach anything worth visiting, we’d need to arrange transport of some sort. We therefore hired mountain bikes for the day and set off towards the famous Tomita flower farm, located a short and none-too-little hilly 10km bike ride to the north.
On the way we stopped at various points of interest, where there were lots of flowers. We looked at the flowers and took photos of the flowers, and looked at other people looking at the flowers and taking photos of the flowers. We saw red ones and blue ones and yellow ones. Some of the places we visited also sold coffee, which I appreciated.
Tomita farm itself is, however, an absolute tourist trap of a place. The fields of (lovely) flowers are dwarfed by the tourist infrastructure that has engulfed the place – vendors flogging overpriced slices of ‘famous’ Furano melon, lavender flavoured ice cream, lavender flavoured coffee. Tour groups led by people with flags. There is a large coach park and there are several gift shops specializing in a bewildering range of lavender based products.
Nonetheless, I tried my best to put to one side my general lament of tourist hoards, and to be engaged and interested in the flowers. I remember how one time my girlfriend tried ever so hard to remain interested and engaged throughout an entire football match, including making several remarkably astute comments and even at one point lambasting a Liverpool player as a ‘bellend’ for needlessly getting himself sent off.
Thus, this was my chance to return the favour. I tried to say things like ‘ooh, what lovely lavenders’, since lavender is just about the only flower I recognize when I see it, and Furano has lavender in abundance. I posed for pictures with flowers. I commented on how they seemed to be just about to reach full bloom. At one point I even said ‘Ooh, those red and yellow ones over there look very pretty. Lets go and have a look!’
Even I have to admit, the tourists aside, the fields were very nice to look at. It was typically Japanese, I suppose – rows of perfectly aligned, perfectly shaped flowers, striping off into the distance up and down slopes and small hills. I’m not saying I’m about to take out a subscription to Flowers magazine or anything. But they were very nice, and you probably don’t even need to be a flower lover to appreciate them.
…just one thing though. If you come here, look into hiring a car. Get your international drivers license before you arrive. Cycling up and down hills all day on cheap rented mountain bikes is not particularly fun.