Furano (富良野) is a beautiful small town famous for lavender farms, located in the middle of the mountains in Hokkaido (北海道). It is covered with thick white snow in the winter but becomes a paradise filled with colorful flowers in the warmer months. Nicknamed ‘Lavender Town’ because of its lavender farms, Furano has a lot of unique things going on including its Belly Button Festival which is set to take place on 28th and 29th July 2017.
Hokkai Heso Matsuri aka the Belly Button Festival is a fun-filled event that originated in the city of Furano around 1969. It started off as a simple dance festival, but later became a humorous and creative event with an aim to bring unity through laughter.
Are you wondering what it has to do with belly buttons? Do you think it is some kind of sexy samba style festival? Well, Furano is exactly at the center of Hokkaido, often nicknamed as the belly button of the island. Also, the city is very large in area but sparsely populated due to the presence of mountains. So, to attract people scattered here and there in Furano, a few volunteers came up with an idea of starting a belly button festival.
Initially, the festival drew a very small crowd and not even locals were interested in attending. However, over the course of time, it has become an incredibly popular festival thanks to media coverage showcasing the uniqueness and humor associated with the festival. Participants paint their bellies like faces then dance together in a comical way which gets the whole crowd chuckling.
Among Japan’s many festivals, the Belly Button Festival is one of just a handful that is not related to religion or nature. It is an event purely designed for fun. The bellies of the participants wearing costumes are painted creatively with funny faces, thus enacting a humorous display of human gathering.
The main theme of the festival is not the painted belly march but the ‘heso odori (へそ踊り)’ or ‘belly dance’ that makes it particularly fun. Participants dance in competitions to win prizes by performing unique and funny dances together. The fact that thousands of people attended this festival in 2016 just out of curiosity shows how popular the festival is becoming.
Furano can be reached by car, bus or train during any season. The nearest airport is Asahikawa Airport (旭川空港) from which it takes just one hour by car via the National Highway 237. You can also travel from Biei (美瑛), Tomamu (トマム) and other places by car to reach Furano.
There is a sightseeing bus named Express Furano or the Chuo Bus (中央バス) which can take you from Sapporo to many interesting tourist destinations inside Hokkaido, including Furano.
You can also easily reach Furano from Asahikawa via the JR Furano line or the famous Lavender Express (ラベンダーエクスプレス) from Sapporo. You may have to check the JR Hokkaido website to find more details of the trains that run towards Furano and nearby sightseeing towns.
There is also the possibility to rent a bicycle and get to the event on July 28th and 29th to enjoy the dance performances.
Do you think it’s weird or cool to have painted bellies all around you during the Heso Matsuri? It is definitely a fun packed event that is going to leave a good impression for sure. Also, Furano is a great place with plenty of super exciting things to do including adventure, sports, and sightseeing.