Biei (美瑛) is a small town surrounded by a picturesque landscape of gently rolling hills and vast fields. A pleasant way to enjoy the charm of Biei is by cycling or driving through the hills and visiting some of the flower fields and famous trees along the way. The area northwest of the town center is named "Patchwork Road" and the area south of the town center "Panorama Road".
Named after the appearance of its fields seen from above, the Patchwork Road (パッチワークの路, Patchwork no Michi) is the scenic area northwest of Biei's town center. Note that it refers to an area rather than a single road. It offers beautiful rural landscapes around the year, especially during the green and colorful summer and autumn months and during winter when everything is covered under a deep layer of snow.
Over the years, the area's beauty has attracted the attention of marketing professionals, and some trees were used in commercials or for package label designs. Among these famous trees are a row of larch trees on the Mild Seven Hill (from a cigarette commercial), a poplar named Ken and Mary Tree (from a car commercial) and the Seven Star Tree (which appeared on cigarette packages). A group of oak trees is known as the Parents and Child Tree.
Other sites of interest in the Patchwork Road area are the Hokusei Hill Observatory, a pyramid structure that offers nice views over the fields of Biei and the Zerebu Hill, a flower park which can be explored not only on foot but also by various types of carts.
Like the Patchwork Road, the Panorama Road (パノラマロード) is an area rather than a single road. It offers much of the same rural and scenic beauty as the Patchwork Road and is ideal for exploration by car or bicycle, although some people will prefer electrically powered bicycles due to the hilly terrain.
Among the area's highlights is Shikisai Hill, a spacious flower park with various flower fields (including lavender), which can be viewed by walking along the trails, by renting golf or buggy carts or by taking a ride on tractor pulled wagons. In winter, snow mobiles are available. Another, smaller flower park is Kanno Farm, located along the national route which connects Biei with Furano.
Also worth a visit is the Takushinkan, an exhibition hall with beautiful landscape photography by renowned photographer Maeda Shinzo and his eldest son Akira. The exhibition displays landscape photographs from across Japan with an emphasis on photos from the local Biei region.
Biei is located between Asahikawa and Furano, about a 30-40 minutes car or train ride from either city. The train ride cost 530 yen from Asahikawa and 620 yen from Furano. There is about one train per hour.
Biei is also located close to Asahikawa Airport and can be reached from there directly by the Lavender-go bus (15 minutes, 360 yen, one bus every 1-2 hours), which connects Asahikawa Station with Asahikawa Airport, Biei and Furano.
Rental bicycles (including electrically powered ones) are available from multiple stores in central Biei. The typical rate is 200 yen per hour for a regular bicycle and 600 yen per hour for an electrical one.
Twinkle buses are sightseeing buses for exclusive use by travelers using JR (reservations are mandatory and can be made at JR railway stations across Hokkaido), which operate during the summer months. The following courses are offered around Biei in 2013:
Twinkle Bus Biei - Hill Country Course (500 yen, 1 hour)
Starts and ends in Biei, visiting the trees and observatory of the Patchwork Road area. Operates 3-7 times daily from June 8 through August and on weekends in September and the first half of October.
Twinkle Bus Biei - Takushin-kan Course (500 yen, 100 minutes)
Starts and ends in Biei, visiting the Takushin-kan photo gallery and Shikisai Hill. Operates 1-3 times daily from June 8 through August and on weekends in September and the first half of October.
Twinkle Bus Biei - Lavender Course (1000 yen, 3 hours)
Leads from Biei to Furano, visiting Lavender East and Furano Winery along the way. Operates once daily from June 29 to August 11.
Twinkle Bus Furano - Lavender Course (1500 yen, 3.5 hours)
Leads from Furano to Biei, visiting the Cheese Factory and Farm Tomita along the way. Operates once daily from June 29 to August 11.
information source: japan-guide.com
Shikisai Hill: 8:30 to 18:00 (shorter hours outside of summer)
Zerebu Hill: 8:30 to 17:00 (April to October)
Kanno Farm: 9:00 to sunset
Takushinkan Photo Gallery: 9:00 to 17:00 (May to October) / 10:00 to 16:00 (November to April)
Shikisai Hill: Free (fees apply for rides)
Zerebu Hill: Free (fees apply for rides)
Kanno Farm: Free
Takushinkan Photo Gallery: Free
Airport: Asahikawa Airport
Shikisai Hill: No closing days
Zerebu Hill: No closing days
Kanno Farm: Mid October to mid June
Takushinkan Photo Gallery: No closing days