NHK WORLD > NHK WORLD TV > Journeys in Japan

Tue, Aug. 11, 2015 Biei, Hokkaido: Layers of beauty in the Patchwork hills
*You will leave the NHK website. *You will leave
the NHK website.

The town of Biei lies in the heart of Hokkaido, cradled by the magnificent peaks of Mount Tokachi. Surrounded by a colorful patchwork of fields and woodlands, it boasts an idyllic scenery that draws visitors from near and far.

The patchwork effect is created by the colors of the various crops — potato, wheat, soybeans and the other plants grown here each season. Over the years, many people have come to Biei to photograph this enchanting landscape.

Sebastian Angel is a professional photographer from Colombia, who is keen to capture the scenery of Biei. He explores the area and meets the people living there, from well-established farmers to newcomers who have moved there recently. He also gets to understand what makes this areas so fascinating to photographers.

TEFUTEFU Kent Shiraishi Workshop & Hotel Auberge Tefutefu
TEFUTEFU Kent Shiraishi Workshop & Hotel Auberge Tefutefu
This hotel is owned by photographer Kent Shiraishi. It has seven rooms in all.
Address: Misawa Futaba, Kamikawa-gun, Biei-cho, Hokkaido 071-023
Tel: +81(0)-166-92-5137
This privately-run gallery was opened by the noted photographer Shinzo Maeda.
Open: daily 9 am - 5 pm (May to October)
10 am - 4 pm (November to April)
In winter, please contact the gallery directly to confirm opening hours.
Address: Takushin, Kamikawa-gun, Biei-cho, Hokkaido 071-0474
Tel: +81(0)-166-92-3355
This inn has a total of five rooms. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner. There is also a bakery attached.
Lunch: 11 am - 3 pm (last order)
Dinner: 5:30 - 7:30 pm (last order)
Address: Hokuei Dai-2, Kamikawa-gun, Biei-cho, Hokkaido 071-0224
Tel: +81(0)-166-92-8100
Takikawa Cycle
Takikawa Cycle
Besides standard bicycles, this bicycle rental shop offers electric bicycles, motorcycles and scooters.
Open from late April to early November (except in heavy snow).
Hours: 7 am - 6 pm
Address: Sakae-machi 1-chome, Kamikawa-gun, Biei-cho, Hokkaido
Tel: +81(0)-166-92-3448
From Tokyo's Haneda Airport, flights to Asahikawa take an hour and a half. From Asahikawa Airport to Biei, it takes 15 minutes by bus.
Travel Log

Traveler: Sebastian Angel > More Info

Nationality:Colombia / Japan


Length of residence in Japan:18 years

I was raised in Japan since I was seven years old.

I have traveled to many cities and villages around Japan, from north to south, both privately and professionally, but I had never been to a town so colorful and so collaborative towards photographers, like Biei, Hokkaido.

Before going there, my impression of Hokkaido was that it produces the best milk in Japan, and that it is a very cold region, mostly covered in snow, making it a very popular destination for winter sports. This trip changed the stereotypical view I had of Hokkaido.

I found that Biei has one of the most beautiful and unique landscapes in the country, and It was a very memorable experience to get to meet some of the farmers responsible for such amazing crops that adorn the landscapes, and learn about their work process.

One of my admirations of the Japanese culture is that they like to pay a great deal of attention to small details in the things they do, from technology to animation to running bullet trains on time. I learned on this trip that farming and agriculture are no exception. I was amazed at how much detail they pay attention to when growing their crops.

For instance, it was very interesting to observe how the farmer's meticulous work with the soil essentially creates by chance the famous colorful 'Patch Works' on the landscapes that many photographers and tourists travel from all over the country to photograph.

Another magnificent landmark I had the opportunity to visit on this trip to Biei was the 'Blue Pond'. A very surreal looking location in the woods near Mount Tokachi, an active volcano that prompted the town to build a dam to protect it from future eruptions, which unintentionally formed the blue pond near by.

Perhaps because of its unnatural creation, the enchanting blue color of the water with tree stumps protruding from the surface of the pond truly creates a view almost out of a surrealist novel. The trek to get there was definitely worth it.

Biei town local photographer Kent Shiraishi who I had the privilege of meeting on this journey, achieved global fame with his award winning photograph of the blue pond during winter. He managed to capture such a magical moment of the blue pond, that even Apple computers fell under its spell, adding the photograph to the wallpaper gallery found in every Apple device.

Thanks to this journey with Journeys In Japan, I am now very fond of Biei, Hokkaido, and I look forward to traveling back to experience and photograph the many different colors the seasons bring to the landscapes of this wonderful region.

*You will leave the NHK website.