Tokyo’s got a lot going on all year-round, with a roster of famous events, concerts, festivals and a seemingly endless array of attractions to suit any taste at any time. And now with chilly months coming up, it’s the season of impressive “illuminations,” or winter light displays.
But when it comes to picture-perfect winter scenery in Japan, your best bet is getting out of the capital. This viral post from last week’s Twitter proves just how much there is to discover outside of Tokyo — for tourists and resident Tokyoites alike.
— おかりな｜ocarina (@ocariii7) November 19, 2018
Tokyo-based freelance photographer @ocariii7 took these pictures on a recent trip to Hokkaido’s Biei area where the Aoiike, or “Blue Pond,” can be found. The series of shots were taken over a period of three days during the first snowfall in Japan’s most northern region, which was uncharacteristically late this year.
In the images, you can see how the pond’s incredible luminescence contrasts with the stark snow-covered birch trees, creating a scene straight out of a painting. First shared on Nov 19, @ocarii7’s tweet has since racked up more than 63,000 retweets and 194,000 likes.
The blue pond is aptly named after its clear blue waters, a result of the build-up of aluminum hydroxide microparticles from a nearby spring. It formed unexpectedly after a check dam was built to prevent erosion, and what a beautiful accident it is!
@ocarii7 said their hands went numb while taking the photos, but that it was a scene they would never forget for the rest of their life.
Japanese Twitter users, many of them who didn’t know about the pond before, were stunned by the images.
— 鈴原みけ@有坂真白FC (@suzuharamike) November 20, 2018
“We never see anything so magical like this in Tokyo. It’s hard to believe this is the same Japan,” said one user.
— 香嶌 一伽 ❁ (@ichika_aom) November 18, 2018
“What beautiful scenery — it looks like a painting!” replied @ichika_aom.
This user below was so impressed they booked a plane ticket to Hokkaido for the next day.
— ゆーてぃん (@yu_teeeen) November 20, 2018
Others shared their own snapshots of the pond in other seasons. So even if you can’t make it this winter, don’t worry as the aoiike is spectacular all year round.
— シャッド (@yt19940926) November 21, 2018
— mari (@0814Ixos) November 22, 2018
Wanna go here?
If you’re planning a trip to Hokkaido sometime this winter (perhaps for the famous Sapporo Snow Festival) Biei and the blue pond would make for a pretty memorable detour. From Sapporo, Biei is about a two and a half-hour drive, though it’s well worth staying overnight in either Asahikawa or Furano, the closest cities. There is a free parking lot just a 5 to 10-minute walk from the pond. Public transport is limited to one train per hour from Asahikawa or Furano to Biei Station (approx. 35 minutes) from where you can take a local bus to the pond.
From early December until the end of March, the pond is lit up with illuminations at night. Shuttle buses depart from the Biei Tourist Information Center.
You can find more information on what to do in and around Biei on GaijinPot Travel.