Often overlooked as visitors rush to see the Blue Pond, Shirogane has so much more to offer.
Biei's most popular attraction, the Blue Pond, is sometimes known as “the Shirogane Blue Pond”. Why is this? Well, because it's in Shirogane!
Of course, if you have visited Biei or are thinking of coming here in the future, you'll have definitely heard of the Blue Pond. While it's quite a sight and definitely worth putting on your list, don't be in such a hurry to leave the area! There is a lot more to see in Shirogane than the Blue Pond alone.
Today, let's find out about what we can do in Shirogane!
1Eat, Eat, Eat!
“Blue Pond ice cream! Amazing!”
That's what most visitors to the Blue Pond think when they check out the souvenir stand there, selling all kinds of Blue Pond-themed sweets. Blue Pond ice cream is one of the popular goods, as is Blue Pond pudding made from creamy Biei milk. However, not everybody likes sweets and the stall is only open from May through to October, so winter visitors will sadly miss out on these blue treats.
Fortunately, sweets aren't all you can find in Shirogane!
If you want to sink your teeth into a satisfying lunch, you must visit Between The Bread, a popular burger shop at Shirogane Biruke Roadside Station. All ingredients come from Hokkaido, with many of them directly brought in from Biei! Their fried potatoes are particularly delicious…
Between The Bread
- Shirogane Biruke Roadside Station, Shirogane, Biei-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido 071-0235
- 10:00 ~ 18:00 (may differ in winter)
- Wednesdays in winter, no closure days in summer
Of course, as you've taken the time to visit Japan, you might prefer to try some Japanese food, instead. In that case, drive further up the road to Rindoh, a lovely family-owned restaurant next to Shirahige Falls. Here, they serve lots of Japanese comfort foods such as warming Japanese curry and hearty oyako-don, which is broiled egg and chicken served over fluffy white rice. Their ramen noodles, however, are their most popular dish. Shirogane is at a higher altitude than the rest of Biei, so it's quite a bit colder than the hills. Steaming hot ramen is just the thing to warm up!
- Shirogane Onsen, Biei-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido 071-0235 (opposite the Dohoku Bus Shirahige Falls bus stop)
- 10:00 ~ 20:00
- No Scheduled Closure Days (may be infrequently closed)
2Experience Nature's Glory
Being so close to the mountains, Shirogane Onsen has arguably the most beautiful view of Mt. Tokachi in all of Biei. Mt. Tokachi is an active volcano that is responsible for the formation of the area that became Biei, so in a way, we can say it is the grandfather of our land.
The area at the base of the volcano is rich with all kinds of mineral deposits, causing forests full of life to spring up in the Shirogane Area. This means there are a lot of beautiful forests just waiting to be explored. The White Birch Forest Walk is a pleasant 3km nature trail open throughout the snow-less months. It runs alongside the main road, stretching from the Blue Pond to Shirahige Falls and is a flat and easy walk that takes just an hour to complete.
If you fancy something more adventurous, however, why not join one of our knowledgeable guides for some time exploring Shirogane's forests? From spring to autumn, you can enjoy a walk surrounded by greenery. Your guide will teach you all about Shirogane's forests and its precious ecosystem.
Walking Tour in Shirogane Primeval Forest
- Mid-April to Mid-November
- 2 Hours (10:00～12:00 or 13:00～15:00)
If walking is not your thing, cycling is an option in the summer, too. At Shirogane Biruke Roadside Station, you can rent bicycles from May through to October and cycle around the Shirogane area.
Volcanic forces have also created some amazing natural formations, including a beautiful waterfall, Shirahige Falls, which looks absolutely gorgeous in all seasons. It is particularly stunning in winter when large chunks of it freeze and create towering ice pillars. A visit to the Blue Pond is not complete without a visit to Shirahige Falls to understand the Blue Pond's full life story! It is mineral compounds from the falls dropping into the waters below that flow downstream and give the Blue Pond its bright colour.
3Enjoy a Traditional Side of Japan
Shirogane's natural hot springs were discovered in the 1950s. Very quickly, a resort sprang up around it. As a result of this, the aesthetic in Shirogane is very different to the rest of Biei. Much of Biei looks more like it might be in Switzerland or France rather than in Japan. However, hot spring resorts tend to have a more traditional Japanese feel to them, so the area around Shirogane has an unmistakeable air of Japan. If you'd like to experience a more traditional side of Japan during your visit to Biei, you simply must stay in Shirogane!
Traditional Japanese accommodations are called “ryokan” and there are many of these in Shirogane. Ryokan have traditional Japanese tatami rooms, quite different to accommodation elsewhere in Biei which tends to favour western-style rooms. In tatami rooms, you can snuggle up in a Japanese futon and wear a comfy yukata, a Japanese bath robe. This is an experience that is hard to find in Biei outside of Shirogane!
Japanese people have bathed in hot springs for centuries so while you enjoy your Japanese-style stay, take advantage of your ryokan's baths and enjoy a truly traditional Japanese experience first-hand—bathing in natural hot springs! Keep in mind that if you do wish to try Japanese hot springs, there is some etiquette to remember, so be sure to familiarise yourself with Japanese hot spring manners before your visit.
Finally, no stay at a ryokan is complete without a beautiful, traditional Japanese meal, known as “kaiseki” cuisine. These multi-course meals showcase the best of local and seasonal ingredients and there are very few other areas of Biei where you can experience such high-grade traditional Japanese cooking.
Tempted to try some tradition? Then take a look at this link for some accommodation suggestions in Shirogane!