Tokachidake Geopark

Welcome to Japan's newest Geopark...
Tokachidake Geopark, Biei-Kamifurano Area!

On 28th January 2022, Biei and our neighbouring town Kamifurano received some wonderful news... Tokachidake Geopark was recognised as an official Japanese Geopark!

This makes us the sixth geopark in Hokkaido.

We had been campaigning for this since 2015, so this was a historic day for Biei town and Kamifurano town!

Want to learn more about Japan's newest geopark? Read on, and we'll tell you all about it!

What is a "Geopark"?

A geopark is not a national park, but rather an area used to preserve and protect geological heritage. A geopark also promotes awareness of natural disasters caused by the Earth's geological activity, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. In addition, geoparks also cooperate with local communities, assisting with regional development and disaster prevention.

There are currently 9 UNESCO Global Geoparks in Japan, and, with the addition of the Biei-Kamifurano Tokachidake Geopark, 37 Japanese National Geoparks! As such, we are now the 6th geopark in Hokkaido, alongside Toya-Usu, Mt. Apoi, Tokachi-Shikaoi, Mikasa and Shirataki.

Two Towns, One Volcano

Although this is a website about Biei, we would like to briefly introduce you to our sister in this endeavour... Kamifurano!

Just like Biei, Kamifurano is known for its beautiful rolling hills, which were created by the same volcanic activity that made Biei's hills. So, our origins are shared!

Mt. Tokachi and wintery hills, as viewed from Kamifurano.

In addition, Kamifurano and Biei both have a great view of the Tokachidake Volcanic Group. Both of us take advantage of this view by using it as the backdrop for many tourist attractions, such as flower gardens.

The Tokachidake Volcanic Group as seen from Shikisai-no-Oka in Biei. What an amazing backdrop!

But it's more than just the view-- our town's borders actually meet at Mt. Tokachi itself! As an active volcano that is still erupting to this very day, Mt. Tokachi offers a fantastic chance to be close to several live craters and to learn more about the geological forces that continue to shape the land around us.

A close-up of the summit of Mt. Tokachi, its smoking craters clearly visible.

Speaking of eruptions, both of our towns share a terrible tragedy. When Mt. Tokachi erupted in 1926, 144 lives were claimed by volcanic mudflows. Some of those lives were in the Shirogane area of Biei, but many more were in Kamifurano. As such, our two towns are united in making sure such a terrible event never repeats itself and have worked together on many disaster prevention measures.

So as you can see, Biei and Kamifurano share many similarities! It's no surprise that our we decided to join forces in order to achieve our goal of creating the Tokachidake Geopark.

What is Special About Tokachidake Geopark?

There is so much to see at this vast geopark!

Unique Rolling Hill Scenery

Biei's beautiful Patchwork Hills at their summer peak.

We simply have to mention our rolling hills, formed by volcanic activity thousands of years ago. These hills are the result of a pyroclastic flow, a vast deposit of mud, ash and rocks stemming from volcanic activity. These deposits cooled and were then eroded by rivers, creating the undulating hills you see before you.

Colonists arrived in Biei in the late 19th century and began to turn this land into arable farmland. It must have taken a lot of work, as the volcanic bedrock is not naturally a great base for agriculture! Their hard work and their choice to use the "crop rotation" farming technique has resulted in this popular view that has come to be known as "the Patchwork Hills".

The Forces of an Active Volcano

The view of Mt. Tokachi from the Mt. Tokachi Observatory. The left plume of smoke is the Central Crater and the right plume is the 62-2 Crater.

Head to the mountains, and you can see the power of Mt. Tokachi with your own eyes. From the Mt. Tokachi Observatory in Biei, the smouldering Central Crater and 62-2 Crater tower above you. The 62-2 Crater is among the most recent on the volcano, formed by an eruption in 1962. Isn't it amazing to think that despite being thousands of years old, this volcano is still very young in Earth terms, and changing all the time?

On the Kamifurano side, a short hike from Tokachidake Onsen can take you to the Ansei Crater. What is amazing about this crater is that you can get right inside it! All around you, you can see bright yellow sulphur deposits and fumaroles releasing steam and hot air. It is incredible to feel the power of the Earth all around you.

Inside Ansei Crater, steaming volcanic vents all around.
A yellow sulphur deposit. It's huge!!

Warming Natural Hot Springs

It goes without saying in Japan that where there are volcanoes, there are hot springs. Both Tokachidake Onsen and Shirogane Onsen in the geopark contain many hot springs heated by the fires of Mt. Tokachi.

Hot springs have been enjoyed by the Japanese for over two thousand years. As such, taking a dip in the warm waters is highly recommended not just to enjoy the geopark, but also to experience a very important area of Japanese culture. And apart from anything else, hot springs are very good for your health! They can improve your blood circulation, boost your immune system, improve your sleep and ease joint or muscle aches and pains.

There are many different baths to enjoy in the geopark. We hope you will give them a try when you visit!

The bath at Shirogane no Yu. What a view!
A beautiful outdoor bath at Taisetsuzan Shirogane Kanko Hotel.

The Mysterious Biei Blue

Shirahige falls, the source of the Blue Pond's magical colour.

As well as great hot springs, at Shirogane Onsen you'll find Shirahige Falls, a rare type of subterranean waterfall fed by underground volcanic streams and emerging from cracks in the rockface. The hot spring water mixes with the water of the Biei river, rich in acidic volcanic compounds, and creates its blue appearance.

This blue colour is the source of Biei's most famous tourist attraction, the Blue Pond. Read more about the Blue Pond here!

A magical attraction made by happy coincidence-- the Blue Pond.

Daisetsuzan National Park

Finally, as part of Daisetsuzan National Park, we simply have to mention the amazing nature that you can experience at Tokachidake Geopark.

As you may know, Daisetsuzan National Park sees the earliest autumn colours in Japan. As such, a hike into the mountains during the autumn season will reward you with some truly stunning views...

Autumn colours on the "Kumo-no-Daira" trail between Mt. Biei and Mt. Tokachi.
This gorgeous view from Tokachidake Onsen is very popular with photographers.

At altitude, there are also countless alpine plants that you can enjoy across multiple seasons. You can also find all kinds of wild animals in the rocky scree, such as cute Siberian Chipmunks and the elusive Northern Pika, unique to this area of Japan. There are also many more wild animals to find in the forests at the mountain's base.

The small but mighty Northern Pika.
Too cute! A Siberian Chipmunk.
Ural Owls huddle together in a tree.
A Black Woodpecker, the emblem animal of Biei!

Experience Programs in Tokachidake Geopark

Be my BIEI offers a variety of guided experiences that will allow you to explore many aspects of Tokachidake Geopark!

Come join one of our guides for a memorable day out...

Patchwork Hills Walk (Takushinkan Course)

Enjoy astounding views of Biei's rolling hills, created by ancient volcanic forces. As you take your time wandering the hills, your guide will point out special sights that you'd miss if travelling by car.
Late April - Mid November
Approx. 2 hours
Adult fee ¥3,000
Child fee ¥2,500 (Under 11 years old.)
※Single participant fee applies ( Adult ¥5,000)

Mt. Tokachi Mini Trekking

Explore with a light, easy trek on Mt. Tokachi. There is little elevation on this tour, meaning that anyone can take part, as long as you have a sturdy pair of hiking boots!
Late April ~ End of October
10:00~12:00/13:00~15:00 (2hrs)
Price per person:5,000yen

Shirogane Forest Walk

Explore a lush primeval forest in Shirogane, full of wonders just waiting to be discovered. This tour is even more beautiful on a rainy day, when the water droplets make the whole forest sparkle!
End of April –Middle of November
10:00~12:00/13:00~15:00 (2hrs)
Price per person ¥5,000

Snowshoeing in a Shirogane Forest

Don your snowshoes and head into a world inaccessible in summer. Get close to the beautiful pure blue Biei River, and enjoy a magical blue drink with your guide.
From Mid-December~Mid-April
※This may change depending on snow conditions.
10:00~12:00/13:00~15:00 (2 hrs)
Adults & Children (6 years and above) : 5,000円
※Single participant fee applies (Adult 6,000)

Snowshoeing on a Biei Hill

These hills look so different when covered in snow! With snowshoes, you can get inside a real farming field and see a marvellous view of the hills you can't experience in summer...
Mid of December – End of March
※This may change depending on snow conditions.
09:45-11:15 / 13:45 - 15:15 (Approx. 2 hrs)
Adult /Child fee (6 years and above.) ¥5,000
※Single participant fee applies ( Adult ¥6,000)

Biei and Kamifurano invite you to come and enjoy
the brand new Tokachidake Geopark.