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Top 5 Tips for an Awesome Biei Trip - Advice on How to Get Around Biei on your Visit

Get the most out of a trip to this most loved Dohoku Destination!

Biei is our base here at Dohoku Local, so we are a little biased-- but it is an amazing destination. Even within Hokkaido, it's pretty unique. Its rolling hill scenery can only be found so prolifically here and in neighbouring Kamifurano. And it's not just hills, you can enjoy some incredible mountain vistas too!

A view of Biei's hills on a sunny day in early summer.
Beautiful vistas like this attract visitors to Biei from far and wide.

Not only that, but it's spectacular all year around. Whether cloaked in the silver cape of winter or adorned with its famous "Patchwork Hills" of summer, there are no shortage of views that will take your breath away.

A view of Biei's hills in midwinter, blanketed in snow.
The same view is just as gorgeous in winter!

However, it stands to reason that such a beautiful place is bound to be popular. The town has a population of only around 9,500 people and, pre-Covid, over 2 million visitors. If you're counting, that's over 200 times the number of residents! Overtourism has become a buzzword among the locals and the huge numbers of crowds can make it unpleasant for visitors at times, too. With limited public transport, it can be hard to get around Biei.

As a Biei resident, I'd like to help you have an enjoyable, sustainable trip in my favourite town in the whole wide world! So here are five tips for an awesome Biei holiday.

1. How to Get Around Biei Easily? Avoid Peak Seasons!

I am sure you have fallen in love with the images of Biei's swishing wheat fields of July or the snowy hills of February. And they are, of course, absolutely beautiful!

However, the huge volume of people during these seasons cause a lot of headaches for locals and tourists alike. Traffic jams, noise and air pollution, garbage and long lines to get into restaurants and attractions are just a few of the frustrations that arise.

Although wanting to see Biei at its peak is understandable, why limit yourself to just a few weeks of the year when Biei has a whole rainbow of seasons waiting to be explored?

Biei's hills in autumn. The trees are changing to their autumn colours in the foreground.
The hills of Biei in autumn.

Consider autumn, comparatively less popular with tourists but, in my opinion, even more beautiful than midsummer. Picture the hills bursting with vibrant oranges, yellows and reds and the sight of the Blue Pond reflecting the autumn leaves... just beautiful! (It's my favourite!)

And as an added bonus, the flower meadows stay in bloom right up until early October (although the lavender will be long finished). So you don't need to worry about not being able to see Hokkaido's famous flowers, either.

Biei's famous Blue Pond in autumn. The water's surface is reflecting the autumn leaves.
Blue Pond? Or the Gold Pond?

If you're not an autumn person, how about spring? Hokkaido's cherry blossoms bloom much later than the popular, crowded spots in Honshu. Here in Biei, they are at their best in early May, usually around May 10th. The sight of the bright pink blossoms against early autumn wheat fields and new greenery is breathtaking.

A view of a mountain range in the early morning, framed by cherry blossoms.
Cherry blossoms in spring and the Tokachi Volcanic Group in the distance.

You'll find that during these quieter seasons that there are less crowds, better availability at accommodation and restaurants are much easier to get into.

2. Stay the Night and Drive

Too many people come to Biei on a day trip by train or bus from Asahikawa or Furano. Some even make the long 6-hour return trip all the way from Sapporo!

While this is a very eco-friendly and efficient way to travel in Biei, it severely limits your time. The reality is that Biei and all of its hills cover an area larger than Tokyo's 23 Wards (it's true)! It's just not possible to cover everything you want to see and do in a couple of hours by Biei's limited public transport over such a huge area.

So my top advice is that if you are in a position that you can drive in Biei, definitely do so! Although it isn't necessary, it allows you much more flexibility.

Alternatively, if you cannot drive in Biei, consider coming during the green season and renting a bicycle. Although slower than a car and unable to take you quite as far, they will still give you a lot of flexibility to explore. I recommend the motor-powered bikes if available... they will save your legs on Biei's steep hills!

If you'd like to learn more about exploring Biei by bike, I recommend reading this guide I wrote during my time at Hill Town Biei DMO.

A bicycle parked on a narrow road next to a vast meadow on a sunny day. There are mountains in the distance.
Cycling is a wonderful way to explore Biei!

As part of your car-or-bike plan, I also recommend staying the night in Biei. Staying even just one night allows you to plan out your days at a more leisurely pace. With a "base" in town, you can start your days earlier and finish much later than if you had to worry about catching a bus or a train back somewhere.

Additionally, you can leave things that you didn't have time for on day one to day two instead of having to cram it all in to just a few hours. This helps you to manage your time wisely, using opening and closing times to your advantage and avoiding the crowds (see the next tip!)

Shikisai Hill flower meadow in late summer. The flowers are planted in a way that they create stripes over the hills.
Attractions like flower meadow Shikisai Hill are much quieter in the morning.

A common complaint among tourists is that there is nowhere to eat at night. And it's true! Biei is a rural farming community where people have to be up at the crack of dawn so it's not surprising that a lot of places close early. Accommodations, however, will often give you the option of a delicious home-cooked dinner that will fuel you until morning!

(But if your accommodation doesn't serve dinner, staying the night gives you a great opportunity to try one of Dohoku Local's food tours!)

A dish of simmered pork belly in a bowl, garnished with green beans.
Biei's delicious food is off the menu if you're only passing through!

One final benefit of staying the night is the chance to enjoy Biei's amazing night sky. The Milky Way is visible from June to about October and after that, the clear winter nights make the constellation of Orion sparkle brightly. You're missing out on this amazing sight if you choose to visit Biei as a day trip only.

A starry night sky over a snow-covered hill in Biei.
If you're home before dark, you'll miss out on this amazing night sky!

3. Sightsee in the Early Morning or Late Afternoon

This is an especially important strategy if you do choose to visit during peak season!

The majority of tourists-- and especially those coming on large tour buses-- tend to hit the main attractions from about 10am. If you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy the feeling of quite literally having a place all to yourself, hit up the popular spots between the hours of 6am - 10am.

An early, misty morning in Biei. The field in front of the viewer is dotted with hay bales. A mountain range is silhouetted in the background.
Misty mornings in Biei are the best-- not least because you have the hills to yourself.

Considering most of the sights to see in Biei are the spectacular views, they are open around the clock. And if you're up at the crack of dawn, you'll have them all to yourself!

You can then have an early lunch at 11am, long before most of the crowds will start thinking about food. Restaurants in Biei that are popular with tourists tend to sell out as early as 12pm so that's another good reason to get to your restaurant of choice good and early.

Once you've had your lunch, you can then use your time visiting attractions that see less footfall. For example, why not go for a drive on the road less-travelled? You could even head to neighbouring Kamifurano, which shares Biei's amazing rolling hills but is comparatively less known.

A view of hills dotted with hay bales. A smoking volcano, Mt. Tokachi, towers in the distance.
Would you ever guess that this wasn't Biei? Our sister town Kamifurano is not to be missed!

By 4pm, the buses and day trippers have to get back on the road to whence they came and you'll find that the crowds begin to thin again. This is another good chance to head out to some of Biei's popular spots and make the most of having them to yourselves!

4. Ask Locals for Suggestions

The guide books will point you in the direction of some popular sights and they are of course worth going to see! However, there's a lot tucked away in Biei that you won't find on your own. You'll need the guidance of the "Bieichomin" or "Biei folks" to help you out.

This is another reason why staying at least one night is worth it! If you demonstrate to Biei's locals that you're willing to invest time and money into their town, they are much more likely to relinquish its secrets to you. Whether it's a quiet, quaint cafe or a viewpoint known only to farmers and local photographers, your host can introduce you to somewhere that you would be unlikely to discover on your own.

If you head out for a late night tipple, you might even get lucky and run into a farmer born and raised here, who can give you far more secrets than I'd ever be able to fit in a single Dohoku Diary!

With that being said, having been here for a good few years, I now know a number of hidden gems. I'd be more than happy to introduce you to them, so if you'd like a guide to escort you around Biei, hit me up on BiEigo, my other website.

5. Obey Tourism Manners

Unfortunately, most conflicts between locals and tourists in Hokkaido arise when tourism rules are broken. Biei is unfortunately a hot spot for such incidents.

A keep out sign in Biei, stuck in some grass in front of a field. There are two hay bales out of focus in the background.
Please obey keep out signs where you see them.

Tourists trespassing in fields, flying drones without permission and pedestrians or poorly parked vehicles and bicycles blocking roads are among the main gripes from locals.

It is important to remember during your visit that as well as being a beautiful town, Biei is also a working one. After tourism, agriculture is the main source of income. Bad behaviour by tourists can directly disrupt the work of farmers, often leading to an unpleasant confrontation between tourists and locals.

A green bicycle with a basket parked in a lay-by. Behind it is a view of Biei's hills.
Park your bikes, cars and tripods in such a way that you won't obstruct local vehicles.

I am sure that you are reading this thinking, "But I would never do that!" And that's great! By obeying the rules and calling out others that you see breaking them, you're remedying the problem and you will quickly endear yourself to Biei locals. When visitors are well-behaved, cooperative and mindful of the rules, Biei residents tend to warm to them far better and will be much more willing to make sure you have a fantastic, memorable time in their lovely town.

Five Tips for a Fab Trip!

With these easy tips in mind, you'll now be a master of your schedule and you'll be able to get around Biei with ease!

Is there anything else you'd like to know before visiting Biei? Or maybe you're a regular visitor yourself an have some tips of your own?

Let me know! I'd love to hear from you.

I hope I'll see you in Biei someday soon!

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