Good morning, Biei! At the end of our Day 1 article, we suggested a stay at a pension in Biei’s hills. If you are up to it, wake up just before sunrise and go for a little walk. If the conditions are right, you can enjoy some astounding misty scenery and a spectacular sunrise—the perfect start to day 2 of your Biei itinerary.
Today, you’ll head beyond the hills to the wild Shirogane area and the Blue Pond, Biei’s most famous attraction. However, the 40km round trip to Shirogane from Biei is quite a challenge, even by electric bike. Fortunately, you can take a bus to a rentacycle shop much closer to Shirogane, sparing your legs!
9:26AM Bus from Biei Station -> Roadside Station Shirogane Biruke
After breakfast, head to Biei Station. As was the case yesterday, there will be very few toilets or vending machines where you’re going. It is advised to use the facilities and stock up on provisions for the day before you depart. The buses in Biei are also quite infrequent, so do check timetables in advance.
From Biei Station, head to the bus stop bound for Shirogane Onsen. You’re heading to Roadside Station Shirogane Biruke (bus stop name “Shirogane Biruke”) and the fare is 550yen each way. The bus only accepts exact change, so be sure you have the exact fare needed before you board.
The journey to Roadside Station Shirogane Biruke takes 20 minutes, depending on traffic. When you arrive, disembark and make a note of the return bus timetable on the other side of the road. Today’s suggested itinerary is modelled around returning on the 1:11PM bus to Biei. Do note also that in rural areas like this, the buses do sometimes run late. Delays of over ten minutes are not unusual.
Head to the information counter inside the roadside station’s main building and arrange your bike rental. All of the bikes to rent at the roadside station are electric. As with yesterday’s journey, they are very handy as they’ll allow you to cover a longer distance.
With your bike at the ready, it’s time to head to Biei’s most famous attraction… the Blue Pond!
10:00AM Roadside Station -> Shirogane Blue Pond
Although you could cycle along the main road to reach the Blue Pond, the scenic route is much more exciting. Leave Shirogane Biruke by the back entrance and follow signs for the Blue Pond. You can follow this road all the way to the attraction itself, and the journey takes less than 15 minutes.
The views are quite astonishing on this back road!
In no time at all, you’ll have reached the main event… the Blue Pond. While it has been around since the 1980s, its international big break came in 2012, when it was used as a wallpaper for Apple Macintosh computers.
Many visitors to the pond often ask if the blue colour is natural. The answer is a little complicated; while the pond itself is man-made, the blue colour is indeed natural!
After Mt. Tokachi erupted in the 1980s, Biei Town Hall made the decision to build a series of dams into the Biei River to prevent volcanic mudflows from reaching Biei town, should Mt. Tokachi erupt.
One such dam caused the Biei River to flood a small grove, which created the Blue Pond.
As for the blue colour, it comes from aluminium, white sulphur substrate and oxygen occurring in the volcanic waters of the Biei River. These elements combine to create a substance called a “colloid” in the water of the Biei River. Colloids split up light, and as blue light has the shortest wavelength it enters our eyes first, causing the pond to appear a vivid, cerulean blue.
In short; this incredible attraction was made by a series of tiny miracles! The source of all of these miracles can be found upstream at Shirahige Waterfall, which you’ll be visiting later.
Take your time strolling around the pond. It is quite an enchanting sight, especially in autumn (when we visited) when red leaves contrast with the blue water.
If you fancy a decadent delight before you leave, don’t miss out on some scrummy Blue Pond soda-flavoured ice cream. Don’t worry—despite its vivid colour, it’s not made from the Blue Pond’s water! It is simply a refreshing soda pop flavour.
10:45AM Shirogane Blue Pond -> Fudo Waterfall
Now that you’ve seen the pond, it’s time to head upstream to its source. But first, a little detour to a little-known secret; Fudo Waterfall. This hidden gem lies halfway between the Blue Pond and Shirogane Onsen and it will take you approximately 10 minutes to cycle there.
To reach the falls, you’ll have to take a short walk through a forest. Keep your voices up or turn on some music to deter brown bears, as they frequent this area.
You may notice several moss-covered Buddhist statues as you go. These are remembrance statues, erected in the memory of 144 local lives lost in Mt. Tokachi’s 1926 volcanic eruption.
After a few minutes, you’ll be greeted by the beautiful Fudo Waterfall. The river feeding the waterfall flows right from the top of the Tokachi Volcanic Group, so the water is always cool, even in summer!
11:15AM Fudo Waterfall -> Shirogane Onsen & Shirahige Waterfall
Your Biei itinerary continues to Shirogane Onsen, Biei’s hot spring resort.
After just 5 minutes, you’ll arrive. Almost immediately, you’ll see a large iron bridge on your left. From this bridge, you can see a stunning sight… Shirahige Waterfall, the source of the Blue Pond and Biei River’s magical colour.
The waterfall, flowing from underground, picks up aluminium from the rockface, mixing with oxygen in the water below to form a blue-tinted aluminium oxide. Hot spring tributaries deposit sulphur in the river, creating a white sediment which only causes the colour to appear brighter.
If you look out over the opposite side of the bridge, you will see the bright blue Biei River (dubbed “the Blue River” by locals) flowing downstream. This is the river that pools to create the Blue Pond, and as you saw yesterday, its colour flows all the way into Biei town.
Once you have enjoyed the falls, you can make your leisurely way back to Shirogane Biruke. As the journey back is downhill all the way, it will take you just 10-15 minutes and your feet likely won’t even need to touch the pedals!
1:11PM Bus from Roadside Station -> Biei Station
After enjoying the sight of the falls and experiencing hot spring baths, cycle back to the roadside station and return your bikes.
You may find yourself with some time to spare before you need to catch the bus back to Biei, so this is a great opportunity to enjoy some lunch. Adjoined to the roadside station is a tasty burger restaurant called Between The Bread. The restaurant serves up juicy burgers made from a plethora of Biei-raised ingredients. It’s just the thing to sink your teeth into after cycling!
If you got carried away with sightseeing and have less time to spare than you would like before the bus, the restaurant can also prepare burgers to go.
Name: Between The Bread
Address: Shirogane Biruke, Biei-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido (Map link)
Open: 10:00～18:00, No Closure Days (Occasional closure days in winter)
The shop at the roadside station also sells many fun souvenirs in Biei’s signature blue colour. If you have some time to spare, this is a great opportunity to buy some gifts for friends and family back at home!
Back in Biei
For the rest of the afternoon, we recommend a leisurely stroll around the central Biei town area, exploring local shops and museums. There is much to explore along the town’s charming high streets!
As your time in Biei comes to an end, you’ll no doubt have already realised that you have only just touched the surface of this little-known gem. Just ask the hundreds of loyal repeat visitors, pulled back to this town time and again by the enchanting scenery and the delightful locals. Perhaps, after these two days, you too will be proud to call yourself a Biei fan.
Post by Japan Journeys.