Did you imagine Biei could be such a romantic place?
Rolling hills have made Biei a very popular setting for romance movies and dramas over the years. Indeed, our scenery does captivate the heart—it's the perfect backdrop for a love scene!
Our flower meadows and the Blue Pond are also very popular for wedding photoshoots.
But Biei has a third romantic secret, often hidden until you look very closely... secret love hearts! Today, we would like to share Biei's "hidden hearts" with you. Who knows? Maybe these spots will be the perfect place to take your special someone...
Here in Japan, there are two main religions. The first is Buddhism, which first came over to Japan via mainland China in the 8th Century and quickly caught on. The second is Shinto, Japan's native animistic religion with a strong connection to nature. Buddhist worship facilities are known as temples, while Shinto worship facilities are known as shrines. You can tell a shrine from a temple by the grand "torii" gate that always marks their entrances!
The magnificent torii at Biei Shrine.
Biei Shrine is considered to be a highly spiritual spot. As Japanese shrines go, it is relatively recent, being founded only around 100 years ago. However, of late it has become extremely popular with those seeking love due to the number of cute hidden "hearts" all over the shrine's grounds!
Hearts on the end of wooden eaves are quite easy to spot!
Well, we say "hearts"... but in truth, this is a common Japanese motif at shrines. This lucky heart shape is known in Japanese as "ino-me", or "the eye of the boar". This shape is said to be a talisman that protects against evil. This is why this heart, or ino-me, motif is very often seen at shrines around Japan!
Some of the ino-me are obvious, and some of them you have to look much harder to find!
Hmm... Where is the ino-me? Can you see it?
Oh! There it is!
Many people come to this shrine to wish for luck in love, and you and your special person will be welcome, too! Offer up a prayer at the altar, and then you will be free to explore the shrine's grounds.
How many ino-me will you find at Biei Shrine, I wonder?
There are 10 ino-me hiding in this picture alone! Can you find them all?
- Higashimachi 4-701-23, Biei-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido
- Always open for prayer
2Set of "The Pearls of the Stone Man"
As stated previously, Biei's romantic scenery has made it the setting for many movies and dramas! One example is "The Pearls of the Stone Man" (In Japanese, Ai wo Tsumu Hito, lit. "The Man Who Stacks Love"). This 2015 movie is based on an American novel of the same name.
We highly recommend giving it a watch if you're thinking of visiting Biei!
We'll summarise the plot for you as the trailer is in Japanese. Married couple Atsushi and Ryoko move to Biei to enjoy the slow, country life but Atsushi, finding himself with too much free time, doesn't know how to fill his days. Ryoko asks him to build a stone wall around their home, which he continues to do so even after her passing.
In the film, Atsushi and Ryoko live in a red-roofed house in Biei's hills. The house is still there today, as well as the wall Atsushi built!
Look closely, and you might just notice something special about this wall...
In the film, Atsushi lays a stone in the wall that is heart-shaped… do you see it?
There it is! You'd think that such a stone would be very obvious, but as you can see, it is quite hard to find.
This is another great spot to take your special person. Atsushi's devotion to his dear Ryoko will surely be an inspiration to your relationship, too.
And while you're there, why not enjoy a little treat at Ferme La Terre Biei? The film set stands on the grounds of this popular café, which sells all kinds of Biei-themed sweets. They do say the way to someone's heart is through their stomach...
A popular sweet is this yummy roulade made in the image of Biei's famous hay bales!
FERME LA TERRE BIEI
- Omura Murayama, Biei-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido
- Sweets & Baked Goods
- Jun.-Sep. : Mondays (Unless Monday is a national holiday, in which case Tuesday)
Oct.-May : Mondays, Tuesdays, irregular closures
Mt. Oputateshike is the left-most mountain in the Tokachi Mountain Range visible from Biei and is 2,012m in height. You can't miss it—it's got a very unique shape that is especially pronounced in colder months, when the snow piles up on the peak.
Mt. Oputateshike as viewed from Shirahige Falls
The unique shape comes from volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago that caused the sides of the mountain to collapse.
As I'm sure you have noticed, its name is very unusual. It comes from the Ainu language (the Ainu are the indigenous people of Hokkaido) and it means "place where a spear rebounded". According to Ainu legend, Mt. Oputateshike was once married to Mt. Meakan over in Akan-Mashu National Park. Unfortunately their relationship turned sour, and in their love-induced rage, they threw spears at each other. These spears richocheted off the mountains, leaving scars (their craters) behind.
Hmm... come to think of it, that's not all that romantic! However, there may very well be some truth to this dramatic tale of romance… for if you look very closely, you will notice that the crater at the centre of the mountain is shaped like a heart!
Once you see it, you can't un-see it!
As an added bonus, if you visit in winter and the conditions are right, you might be treated to "alpenglow", a natural phenomenon where the mountains turn pink at sunset. A pink heart-shaped mountain! Can it get any more romantic than that?!
What a romantic sight...
There are a lot of places in Biei where, on clear days, you can get a great view of Mt. Oputateshike. Here are some recommended spots. Mt. Oputateshike makes the perfect backdrop for declaring your feelings to that special someone…
Shin'ei no Oka
- Bibaushi shinei, Biei-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido
- 349 790 676
- Open everyday, all year
San'ai no Oka
- Midori, Biei-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido
- 349 792 477
- Open everyday, all year
Hokusei no Oka
- Okubo Kyosei, Biei-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido
- 389 070 315
- Park open everyday all year, observation deck and shops closed from end of Oct ~ April.
- Hokuei, Biei-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido
- Map Code
- 389 129 586
- Opening Hours
- Open everyday, all year (closed to vehicles in winter, please proceed on foot during the snowy months)
- Shirogane, Biei-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido
- Map Code
- 796 182 604
- Opening Hours
- Open everyday, all year except for the day of the Biei Healthy Marathon (2nd Sunday in June)
Important Note: Agricultural fields are often located next to view parks. When taking your romantic photos, please do not enter the fields to do so. They are private property, and bacteria on your shoes can also pass diseases to crops, even when they are under the snow. Please take any romantic snaps from either the asphalt or designated viewing platforms.