Hokkaido's Shirogane Blue Pond (or Aoike) is one of the northern island's most popular sightseeing destinations! The Blue Pond's deep hues, which look as if it has been dyed, dotted with withered Japanese larch trees, make for a surreal spectacle.
So how to see it for yourself, and when is the best time to go? Here we’ll guide you through this must-see tourist attraction as it changes through each season, along with some photography hints to capture the Shirogane Blue Pond in all its glory! We’ll also let you in on some other gems in the area so that you can have a full day’s worth of fun!
- Table of Contents
- What Makes the Hokkaido Blue Pond So...Blue?
- How to Get to the Hokkaido Blue Pond
- Photography Timing and Hints!
- Hokkaido Blue Pond in the Morning (7:00am)
- Aoike Blue Pond in the Afternoon (1:00pm)
- Let’s change locations and get some more pictures!
- Highlights Throughout the Seasons
- Spice Up Your Trip with a Visit to Shirahige Falls and Biei River!
- Shop and Eat! The Biei Roadside Rest Area ‘Shirogane BIRKE’
What Makes the Hokkaido Blue Pond So...Blue?
The Shirogane Blue Pond is an artificial phenomenon resulting from the installation of a dam on the Biei River. This was needed to halt a mudflow that poured out of active volcano Mount Tokachi during its 1988 eruption. Thus, the exquisite tourist attraction we know today is nothing more than an accidental byproduct!
While the pond appears blue, the water itself has no color at all. Scientists have discovered that aluminum particles in the upper streams of the nearby Shirogane Onsen have mixed with water from the Biei River, resulting in a colloid state.
While it sounds sciency, it simply means that the aluminum is evenly and thoroughly dispersed within the water. These floating particles catch the sun's rays and send off short, easily scattered wavelengths that are intercepted by our eyes as the color blue.
How to Get to the Hokkaido Blue Pond
On the main road in front of Biei Station is a bus stop heading to Shirogane-Oyuki Seinen no Ie. Take this bus and get off at Shirogane Aoi Ike Iriguchi. The journey will take about 20 minutes.
The busses stopping here are very limited, so be sure to have a copy of the schedule before embarking on your trip. Even busses following the same line may skip this stop, so do be extra careful!
From the bus stop is a road leading to the pond’s car park. The ground is a little uneven here, so watch your step!
If you’re coming by car, the corresponding parking lot has 270 spaces. However, you’ll need to pay for a spot.
There are plenty of signs letting you know the route through the parking lot.
Other than the designated tracks leading down to the pond, the space between the road and the pond is largely fenced off. These tracks have no steps, and the railing is wonky, so pay extra attention here!
Encompassing the pond are several small paths covered with white birch trees. Each trail provides a unique angle of the pond, so be sure to explore! Some don’t have any fencing, so be careful not to fall in!
Photography Timing and Hints!
Depending on the time and weather, combined with the angle, the color of the pond will change. We’ll let you know our impressions of each condition we experienced, along with some pointers on how to get the perfect photo!
Hokkaido Blue Pond in the Morning (7:00am)
Low winds and a calm, flat surface allowed us to capture the surrounding mountains and trees beautifully reflected in the Blue Pond. As the morning sun rose and the light hit the mountains, these reflections grew even more dazzling! There aren’t many people around at this time, so it’s ideal for hobbyists looking to photograph thoroughly and slowly!
Unfortunately, overcast days reflect clouds on the water’s surface, making the pond appear shallow and dull. However, by thinking outside the box, capturing stunning pictures of the pond is not impossible!
One way is to use the camera’s zoom function and focus on the reflections of the mountains while cutting out parts of the overcast sky.
By focusing on these sections, you can photograph the pond with a unique green-tinged blue surface.
Aoike Blue Pond in the Afternoon (1:00pm)
This early afternoon phase is gifted with dazzling sunshine from the soaring midday sun. The greenness of the mountains and the blueness of the pond are at their peak.
Let’s change locations and get some more pictures!
If you want to go above and beyond to get the best photographs, you’ve got to do a little exploring! We found wide openings in the trees during our search, plus places with blooming flowers and a lookout covering the entire scene!
For those with the function on their smartphone or camera, we recommend getting some panorama shots if there are no crowds.
Highlights Throughout the Seasons
During spring, Hokkaido's Blue Pond is often tinged with a greenish hue after a fresh topping up of water from the melting snow. Once summer arrives, days where the pond turns its famous light blue are at their most frequent, offering a brilliant contrast from the surrounding green mountains.
From late September to early October, autumn foliage will emerge, interweaving red and yellow into the pond and forming a delightfully colorful landscape.
November marks the beginning of snow in Hokkaido, and the birch trees will soon be covered with white powder. From December to mid-April, the pond will freeze over, snow will accumulate, and the entire region will be at the mercy of winter. During this period, the Biei Blue Pond is lit up to display an enchanting, mystical display.
Spice Up Your Trip with a Visit to Shirahige Falls and Biei River!
Shirahige Falls, which means ‘white-beard waterfall’ in Japanese, was named due to the streams of water falling into the river resembling a white beard. This waterfall, which has a sizable drop of 30 meters, is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area. At the bottom of the waterfall flows the Biei River, which has become a popular photo spot due to its brilliant cobalt blue water.
Shirahige Falls can be easily reached with just a 3-minute walk from the Biei Shirogane Onsen bus stop, or a 1-2-minute walk from the free public parking lot nearby.
In winter, the waterfall splashes onto the surrounding trees and freezes - creating frozen trees!
At night, the Shirahige Waterfall is illuminated. This spectacle, completely different from the day, is a must-see! The illumination occurs year-round.
Shop and Eat! The Biei Roadside Rest Area ‘Shirogane BIRKE’
About 2km from the Shirogane Blue Pond lies the Biei Roadside Rest Area: Shirogane BIRKE. Here you can unwind and scratch that shopping itch! You can also use their interactive monitor to get local tourist information.
You can get to the Rest Area via bus or car. If you decide on the bus, take the line heading to Asahikawa from the Shirogane Aoi Ike Iriguchi bus stop just outside the Blue Pond. Get off at Michi no Eki Shirogane Birke. Similarly to the Blue Pond, the number of services to the Rest Area are few and far between, with many heading in the same direction but passing straight through. Please take care not to get lost!
The bright and spacious building is packed with Biei souvenirs!
To help prevent the spread of coronavirus, hand sanitizer is placed at the entrance and plastic barrier sheets are hung at the register.
There are tons of Blue Pond goods on sale! On the left in the photo above are ‘ramune’ flavored Blue Pond manjū (680 yen, tax included). In the middle are Blue Pond towels made from Biei’s renowned local wheat (3-pack 518 yen, tax included). To the right is ‘Blue Hawaii’ flavored Blue Pond soda (1 bottle 210 yen, tax included).
One of Biei’s mascots is a special ‘mokeke,’ a cute aquatic version of the beloved character often sold at tourist attractions throughout Japan (limited-edition 660 yen, tax included). This cheeky little guy has fans across the country and is one of their biggest hits!
Nearby is ‘BETWEEN THE BREAD,’ a scrumptious burger outlet specializing in take-out. They also offer an outdoor ‘forest picnic’ experience on their lush, naturally forested patio, or you can enjoy your meal inside the store.
BETWEEN THE BREAD is all about using local ingredients for their magnificent burgers. For first-timers, we’d recommend their mouth-watering ‘rare-bacon burger’ (1,598 yen, tax included). It boasts 100% local Biei pork perfectly fried into juicy bacon strips sandwiched between two buns of local Biei wheat. From the first bite, you know there won’t be any leftovers!
This store also provides hand sanitizer, along with a plastic sheet across the counter to help fight against the spread of coronavirus.
Biei Roadside Rest Area Shirogane BIRKE道の駅びえい「白金ビルケ」
- Address Shirogane, Kamikawa Gun Biei Cho, Hokkaido, 071-0235, Japan
- Phone Number 0166-94-3355
Business Hours： June 〜 August: 9:00am - 6:00pm, September 〜 May: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Holidays：Open all year
BETWEEN THE BREADBETWEEN THE BREAD
- Address Shirogane, Kamikawa Gun Biei Cho, Hokkaido, 071-0235, Japan
- Phone Number 0166-73-5725
Business Hours：9:00am - 6:00pm（hours during winter are subject to change）
Holidays：None（hours during winter are subject to change）
Our final bit of advice would be, if you want to take it easy and not constantly worry about time, rental cars are the way to go! There are plenty of options found around the Biei township.
During summer, the Biei Roadside Rest Area also provides rental bikes, so if you head there first from the station via bus or taxi, you can spend the rest of your day riding around at your leisure. However, be aware that there are no taxis on stand-by at the rest area, so if you’re planning to return by taxi, make sure to call in advance.
*The information presented in this article is current at of July 2020.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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