Biei's winter nights often see temperatures dropping well below -10oC and sometimes even as low as -20oC. You might be thinking that in temperatures that low, the best thing to do is to stay indoors where it's warm, letting the nights pass by...
But in doing so, you might miss Biei's most spectacular night time sights, some natural and others manmade.
Biei's air is very clear and as a result of this, on clear days the night skies here are incredibly bright and beautiful. Biei also has less artificial light compared to other regions of Japan so once you are just a few kilometres away from the main town, the dark sky will allow you to see millions of bright, shining stars.
The Christmas Tree against a starry sky.
We recommend that you stay at one of Biei's accommodations in the hills surrounding the town and take a short night time stroll to see just how beautiful the evening sky is. Japan lies in the Northern Hemisphere, so if you're visiting from the southern hemisphere you can also enjoy looking for all kinds of constellations and planets that you might not be able to see at home. If you are lucky you may even be able to see the Milky Way (although it is slightly more visible in the summer). Take a warm drink and some warm layers with you, find a good, dark place to stand for a while and enjoy the wonderful views above!
Biei's famous trees are great spots to view the stars and take some astrophotography, but the following two areas are best for casual star-viewing.
Mt. Tokachi Area
- Take Route 966 past Shirogane Onsen
- Opening Hours
- Roads around the mountain always open, see below for observatory information
- Closure Days
- Mt. Tokachi Observatory and its approaching road is closed in the winter, but other roads nearby are open year-round.
- 7 - 10 min drive from JR Biei Station
- Opening Hours
- Always open
- Closure Days
- Always open
Biei is very dark at night and many areas do not have street lamps. The road is also very icy, so please take great care to watch your step if you decide to go into the hills for stargazing.
During early winter (November) and spring (March / April) brown bears may be active. Please keep your wits about you as you enjoy Biei's beautiful skies.
The stars provide a beautiful image above, but of course, they're not always visible. If it's snowing or the clouds are very thick then going stargazing might leave you disappointed. So, what other illumination is available to help you pass those cold nights in Biei?
Well, to brighten up the dark nights, many of the trees near Biei's important buildings are decorated with beautiful fairy lights. Just a short walk around the central town area, and you'll find so many pretty sights!
Here is a beautifully lit-up tree outside of Biei Town Hall...
...and this tree greets visitors at Biei Station!
The town has one big illumination event that runs from April through to November. What event might that be, you ask? Well, visit Biei Blue Pond and Shirahige Falls at night and you'll soon find out...
The Blue Pond in winter, beautifully illuminated by a magical light display.
The Blue Pond illumination only runs in the colder months from early November through to the end of April. The mystical lights changing over the frozen pond's surface certainly do much to bring cheer during the cold season. There are many different colour and lighting combinations used that completely change the way the surface of the ice looks and the shadows of the Japanese larch trees sticking up out of the frozen water cast their own patterns over the white canvas, too. Biei Blue Pond is great to visit during the summer, but the special illumination in winter somehow feels much more charming.
Shirahige Falls, mysteriously lit-up in the darkness.
Upstream from Biei Blue Pond is Shirahige Falls which also has its own illumination event. The falls are lit up by night all year-round, but again, we think it looks especially beautiful in winter. The spotlights through the haze of steam from the warm spring waters feeding the falls give it a mystical look. Doesn't it just look like icy dragons or snow queens might pop out from between the huge pillars of ice at any moment?
And if you're worried about driving through the dark to see the Blue Pond and Shirahige Falls illuminations then you needn't be. In winter, Biei View Bus operates a special evening course to take visitors to see these magical lights. Why not join the fun?
So you see, even in Biei's winter, there's a few outdoor options to help you pass the cold nights with beautiful sights. If we've given you a taste for the cold weather, then take a look at our other suggestions below on how to pass Biei's sub-zero temperatures.
In the meantime, we'll be looking up at the starry night sky, wishing that your time in Biei's winter will be a happy one!