Thursday, October 11, 2018

Beautiful Nature in Biei Town

My initial plan upon arriving in Asahikawa was to check in at Asahikawa Ride then come back to the station and catch the train to Biei. I had 46 minutes between train rides to do this. But speed walking is not my sport, so I ended up dumping my bags in a locker in Asahikawa Station (400 for a small locker, 500 medium, 600-700 large).

Biei is a small town known for its flower fields and that Macbook wallpaper of a blue pond. I had booked (online) a seat on the bus tour for these two destinations (Blue Pond and Flower Garden Course, 2000 yen) and all I had to do was bring a printout of the email confirmation and present myself at Shiki no Johokan 四季の情報館, just outside of Biei Station, no later than 930am.

The hill town of Biei

The first stop of the tour was Shirogane Blue Pond 白金青い池. We were given 45 minutes to explore the pond (the 45 minutes includes the 6-minute walk per way between the parking lot and the pond, so we technically had a little over 30 minutes to spend at the pond).

Walking to Shirogane Blue Pond

So this is the famous blue Macbook wallpaper sans snow. The pond is actually man-made: it was built as part of an erosion control system. It was just lucky that the water turned out a beautiful color thanks to the nearby Biei River and Shirahige Waterfall. Shirogane Blue Pond looked pretty, even in summer.

Shirogane Blue Pond

The pond is not big and there really is not much to do aside from dodging tourists as you try to find the best spot to take photos of the pond. Soon our 45 minutes was up and we were all herded back to the bus so we could be on our way to the next stop: Shikisai-no-oka 四季彩の丘.

At Shikisai-no-oka all guests were welcomed by very cute Roll-chan (a smiley character made of rolled bales of hay). We were given 45 minutes to take in the beautiful views of the flower fields. I visited in June and, though the plants were still small, it was still a breathtaking view (the best time to visit Shikisai-no-oka is in August, during full bloom).

Hay, Roll-chan! :)

Shikisai-no-oka has many flower fields and they offer these options to get around faster: tractor ride (15 minutes, 500 yen) and self-drive carts for four people (15 minutes, 2000 yen). I walked. And I never got to the far end of the fields because every few meters I would stop, do a three-sixty, take photos, and breathe it all in. It was so lovely. And 45 minutes was soon over.

Tractor ride

The hills beyond

Colorful barn

The bus tour was from 945am to 1220pm. By the time we arrived back at Biei Station everyone was hungry and we all scrambled to the nearest restaurant: Koi-Ya. Remember I am not a speed walker and when I reached the restaurant there was already a line of customers.

Outside Biei Station

Koi-Ya's specialty is Biei Curry Udon, cooked two ways: soup style or baked (with a ton of cheese). Though I am not a big mouse much of a cheese eater, I chose the baked one because, well, it looked more appealing to me. And I was not disappointed. It was so good that I ate every last bit of the meal (yes, every last scrap of cheese), not minding the two strangers in front of me. (The restaurant was so full they had to seat strangers together.)

Koi-Ya's baked Curry Udon (950 yen)

After lunch I weighed my options: go to the north side of town on foot or on a bike. Ha! I don't know how to ride a bike. So it was a no-brainer. Walk. Under the heat of the summer sun.

On my 30-minute walk to Hokusei-no-oka 北西の丘, cars and bikes zoomed past me. I was the only one walking. I kept blaming my mother for not buying my sisters and I a bike when we were little. But then, I was also thankful that I have two legs and the energy to walk uphill. And that I could stop for interesting sights and beautiful landscapes.

An abandoned snack shop I found while walking

I was all sweaty when I reached Hokusei-no-oka 北西の丘. Everyone I saw was going up the pyramid structure and I followed. The pyramid structure's view deck, though not at all high, offered a windy 360-degree view of the park and beyond. A good place to rest after that 30-minute uphill walk.

The pyramid viewdeck of Hokusei-no-oka

Biei Town as seen from Hokusei-no-oka

Green as far as the eye could see

Hokusei-no-oka is actually a park, and it had walking paths around lavender patches and tree groves. Across the park were some small shops selling snacks and souvenirs, and a rest stop with vending machines and a large tanuki. Such rural charm.


Rest area

Shops across Hokusei-no-oka

I made another stop just one kilometer from Hokusei-no-oka. The Ken and Mary Tree. Yes, a tree. I went there just to see a tree! It's a lone giant poplar made famous by the Nissan Skyline commercial in 1976. Why Ken and Mary? The characters in the commercial were named Ken and Mary. :D

Ken and Mary Tree

Walking a long way just to see this tree was worth it. Plus, I found a lady selling cherries on the roadside! I love cherries!

Ohhhh! Cherries!

I was thinking to go to nearby Zerubu Hill, but the heat had drained my energy. I decided to go back to Biei Station and catch the next train to Asahikawa.

It was mid-afternoon and the sun was beating down. I wanted to stick my thumb out to passing cars, but was too embarrassed to do so. Thankfully, I reached the station without getting burned to a crisp, but I was a too late. I had missed the train to Asahikawa and it only comes once per hour. I killed time by going to the town center, to Shiki-no-tou 四季の塔 at the Biei Town Office to be exact. It was just 500 meters from the station and it had a tower with a free viewdeck. I was the only visitor there and the view of the colorful houses was pretty cool. It looked like Legos. It pays to read brochures.

Biei Town

Zooming in on some houses

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

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