Michi-no-eki Biei Shirogane Biruke 道の駅美瑛白金ビルケ
Here, the car park is adjacent to the michi-no-eki ’Biei Shirogane Biruke’ proper, so appears to be almost a shachuhaku annex. Certainly, there were overnighters in double figures. The facilities are adequate, but no rubbish bins are provided. Even though there are vending machines there are no bins for bottles and cans. This irresponsible trend seems to be widespread since our last visit to Hokkaido. Even convenient store ‘Seicomart’ have stopped providing bins outside their stores.
Blue Pool 青い池
We start the day by visiting the nearby Blue Pool/pond (Aoi Ike). This is a mineral-rich, probably acidic, pool that has killed the trees where it has formed. The water has a blueish tinge and the dead pines a ghostly white. Enough to create a tourist attraction. Is it pretty, beautiful? Perhaps not, but starkly striking.
From the Blue Pool we drive on to the white beard/moustache waterfall (Shirahige no taki). The fall is not impressive but the gorge with blue tinged water is a redeeming feature. Bus tours come to see this, but it is really scrapping the barrel.
Luckily, our next stop is the viewing point Bogakudai in Daisetsuzan National Park for a panorama of Tokachidake and beyond. Here there is a car park, very full and overflowing onto the approaching verges where we find a spot. We intended only to take a look at the view of the volcano but are tempted into a longer and longer walk that we are not prepared for. Our boots are in the car, as we stride upwards over the loose lava to just the next and the next ridge.
Here in the gullies, we find serious photographers poised to snap a picture of a Pika. We can hear their cries or perhaps it is birds. I do spot a small mammal in the sparse vegetation. I took it for a squirrel, having stripes and a bushy tail, rather than a Pika which probably has neither. Here we also spot numerous Nutcrackers.
The place is spectacular. Above is the constantly changing plume of volcanic gasses spouting from Tokachidake, around you the not so ancient lava fields with the colonizing vegetation’s hold stronger in the gullies and behind the magnificent panorama out over Furano.
Down and a picnic lunch as we head for Ginsendai which promises a view of impressive autumn colours. We know the koyo (autumn leaves) is past its peak what we don’t know is the significant number of kilometres of rough dirt track up a mountainside to reach the spot. We trundle along in the clouds of volcanic dust kicked up by a bus which is prepared to drive the unpaved track much faster than I am.
Reaching the summit at the end of the road, people are preparing to hike upwards but the sun is already low and any potential koyo show is in deep shadow. We are not going to start a hike as the afternoon is well advanced. Disappointed with the arrival point, and little time to discover why this place has any claim to fame, we retrace our steps down the dusty bumpy track.
So, on to our campsite at Sounkyo where we arrive a little after sunset but, by the time we have unpacked the campfire and cooking gear from the bowels of the van, it is well dark.
Stew, wine and avocado by a roaring fire under the trees and stars. Life is good.
＊Sounkyo auto campsite ; 500 yen / free site
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.