UNWTO: The World’s Most Beautiful Villages

HOKKAIDO/JAPAN – Nestled in the heart of Hokkaido, Japan, the charming village of Biei remains a well-kept secret, celebrated for its enchanting landscapes that beckon to photography enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. As a proud member of the Union of the Most Beautiful Villages in Japan, Biei is a testament to the country’s scenic beauty, offering a captivating experience for visitors.

The name “Biei” finds its roots in the indigenous Ainu language, where it translates to “greasy river”. True to its name, the town’s river originates from the imposing Mt. Tokachi, an active volcano that soars to a height of 2,077 meters. A portion of the town is nestled within the Daisetsuzan National Park, home to unique and resilient inhabitants such as the Japanese pika and alpine butterfly species.

Among Biei’s renowned attractions, the mesmerizing Blue Pond stands out, drawing travelers from across the globe. With its ever-changing beauty through all four seasons, from the warmth of summer to the chill of winter, Biei welcomes visitors year-round, each season revealing its unique charm.

What distinguishes Biei is its harmonious blend of tradition and innovation, exemplified by its association with Daisetsuzan National Park. This natural wonder is not only Japan’s largest national park but also a designated National Special Natural Monument, emphasizing Biei’s commitment to preserving unique ecosystems and breathtaking landscapes.

A unique facet of Biei is its agricultural prowess, where meticulous planning prevails. Diverse crops grace adjacent lands, preventing the challenges associated with continuous cropping, resulting in fields that resemble a vibrant patchwork quilt, adorned with a multitude of colors. This enchanting “patchworkish” landscape, further adorned by strategically planted trees serving as windbreaks and markers for agricultural boundaries, perfectly encapsulates the essence of Hokkaido’s awe-inspiring nature and agriculture. It has become an iconic representation of this magnificent region.

Beyond its natural splendor, Biei boasts cultural significance with the Shinzo Maeda Photo Art Gallery, offering a glimpse into its artistic and cultural dimensions.

Vibrant Patchwork: A Model of Sustainable Farming

Biei’s captivating agricultural landscape, with its undulating hills and vibrant patchwork of crops, stands as a testament to sustainable farming practices. The town’s unique approach to crop rotation on steep slopes ensures fertile soil, prevents continuous cropping challenges, and promotes biodiversity. Specially equipped tractors navigate these hills, symbolizing Biei’s commitment to responsible agriculture.

This picturesque farming technique has not only graced international magazines but also appeared in advertisements, TV commercials, and films for over five decades, establishing Biei as a premier destination for travelers seeking rural charm and sustainable agriculture. Join us in exploring Biei’s agricultural marvel, a fusion of culture and environment.

A Path to UNESCO Global Geopark

Biei’s allure extends beyond its breathtaking agriculture to encompass geological wonders, showcasing the town’s dedication to preservation and sustainable tourism. Biei’s involvement in the “Tokachidake Geopark Plan” demonstrates its commitment to safeguarding unique geological marvels. The town’s aspiration to achieve UNESCO Global Geopark status signifies its profound dedication.

Notable geological attractions include Shirogane Onsen, one of Hokkaido’s renowned hot springs, and the mesmerizing Blue Pond, celebrated for its cerulean beauty. Apple’s adoption of the Blue Pond as a desktop background catapulted it to global fame, making it a cherished tourist destination.

Nurturing a Thriving Future

In an era where sustainability takes center stage, Biei emerges as a pioneer of innovation and resilience in rural Japan. The town’s commitment to sustainable tourism is exemplified through investments in eco-friendly facilities and the preservation of hot spring resources, setting a precedent for responsible travel.

Biei’s visionary “Realizing Sustainable Destination” ordinance, enacted in April 2023, reflects its dedication to sustainable tourism practices. This innovative approach allows the town to collect accommodation and entry taxes from tourists, directing these funds toward supporting tourism-related businesses.

Furthermore, Biei’s unwavering support for small and medium-sized businesses strengthens the local value chain, fostering economic sustainability. Initiatives such as the “Town Entrepreneur Support System” provide financial assistance for facilities development and marketing costs, encouraging entrepreneurship within the community.