Stunning Scenery at Shirogane Blue Pond and Shirahige Waterfall

If you search for “Japan’s Best Hidden Nature Spots”, some of the first images that pop up are of an eerie-looking body of blue liquid with straggly dead trees emerging from the middle. Is this really Japan? Where is this place, and how is it so blue?

Hokkaido Blue Pond

This magical blue beauty is called Shiogane Blue Pond (青い池) and has quickly become an iconic photography spot in Japan.

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Is the Shirogane Blue Pond Natural?

Sadly, no. The Shirogane Blue Pond is not natural. In order to prevent erosion and volcanic mudflow in the event that nearby Mount Tokachidake erupts one day, a dam was constructed on the Biei River. Shirogane Blue Pond is a by-product of that dam’s construction.

What Makes the Shirogane Blue Pond Blue?

While not natural, Shirogane Blue Pond is still mesmerizing to look at. So what makes it so blue?

Blue River Hokkaido
Biei River

There are two main factors that contribute to the shimmery cobalt waters.

The first is that the water contains microscopic aluminum particles. The water from upstream Shirahige Falls (more on this below) is responsible for producing the blue-colored water you see. As the water comes through the rocks, it picks up aluminum from the cliff.

Shirahige Waterfall
Shirahige Waterfall

The aluminum-infused water that collects in the pond reflects and breaks sunlight in a unique way that gives off the famous blue hue.

Additionally, the rocks at the bottom have become bleached due to sulfur and other substances in the water.

The whiteness of the rocks allows for the pond’s color to shine more brilliantly.

In the middle of the pond are skinny birch trees that became partly submerged when the area flooded. Their barren branches against the blue water give the pond its mystical appearance.

How to Get to the Shirogane Blue Pond

After seeing the breathtaking photos of Shiogane Blue Pond, it’s hard to resist the urge to book the next flight to Hokkaido.

While it is completely possible to visit the Shiogane Blue Pond without a car (I traveled solely by public transportation when I was in Hokkaido), you should be aware that accessing the pond is not as easy as hopping on a train, snapping some pretty pictures, and getting on with your day.

Bus Timetable Biei Station to Shirogane Onsen
Bus timetable to Shirogane Blue Pond

The Furano and Biei area is quite far from Sapporo and requires a long and somewhat expensive train ride. (Check out JR’s special Furano / Biei pass if you are going to be exploring this area but note that the below bus is not covered).

Once you get to the area, you will want to take bus #39, 40, or 42 from Asahikawa or Biei Station. From Biei station the ride is about 30 minutes and costs ¥660 one way.

Bus route to Shirogane Blue Pond

The bus runs quite infrequently, about every 90 minutes or so.

Find the timetable on the official site here

Because it takes a bit of effort to get to the Blue Pond, I recommend staying at least one night in either Furano or Biei so that you can take your time and enjoy the nearby lavender fields (if you visit in the summer), Tomita Melon Farm, or the Furano Cheese Factory.

Furano melon smoothie at the Tomita Melon House
Delicious melon smoothie!

If you are coming by car, there is a parking lot (¥500 per car) that is located next to the road. The walk to the pond from the lot or bus stop takes about 5-10 minutes.

Pro Tip! Make a Stop at Shirahige Waterfall

You can get off the bus with everyone else at the Shirogane Blue Pond stop, but if you have extra time and are okay with an extra 35-minute walk, stay on for two more stops and get off at the end of the line at Shirogane Hot Springs.

If you add this detour to your itinerary, you will be rewarded with a view of Shirahige Waterfall from the Blue River Bridge.

This waterfall is part of what gives the pond its blue color, so it’s a cool place to check out.

Shirahige Waterfall Biei Hokkaido
Shirahige Waterfall

Shirahige means “white beard” in Japanese. As water flows out through the cracks in the rocks, a cascading “white beard” can be seen. I’ve heard that this waterfall is super neat to see in the winter too when it is partially frozen.

Blue River Bridge Biei Hokkaido
Biei River and bridge

If you cross the bridge, you can climb the steps to the Tokachidake Volcano Sabo Information Center. (Just a word of caution for the insect-adverse, the stair pathway is FULL of bugs).

Stair tunnel
Stairs and bugs

When you are ready to head to the Blue Pond, walk back across the bridge in the direction of the bus stop. Nearby you will find a peaceful pathway that you can follow all the way until the Blue Pond.

Walking to the Blue Pond
Walk to Shirogane Blue Pond

Shirogane Blue Pond

Map of Shirogane Blue Pond
Entrance of Shirogane Blue Pond

The Shirogane Blue Pond is pretty much that: a blue pond. It’s a great cool place to take photos, especially in the winter when it freezes over, but there isn’t much “to do” other than walk around the area and snap pictures.

You can eat some blue ice cream (soda pop flavor) if you want to fully get into the “blue” mood.

Blue ice cream at Hokkaido Blue Pond
Blue Ice Cream

After taking in the pond’s beauty, head back into town by taking the bus from the Shirogane Blue Pond stop. Or… if you want to walk and make more of being in the area, head to Biei Shrogane Biruke.

Biei Shirogane Biruke

Walk to Roadside Station
Walking to Roadside Station

From the Blue Pond, there is a path that runs near the river (the river is hard to see but nice to hear). Follow this for about 20 minutes, then head in the direction of the main road and you will arrive at Roadside Station Biei Shirokanebiruke.

Here you will find a small rest stop with a bathroom, a random North Face shop, a few tiny eateries, and a bus stop.

Between the Bread is a hamburger restaurant that looked pretty popular, but seemed like their food takes a long time to come out.

From the Roadside Station, the bus back to Biei Station is ¥550.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed the adventure out to Shirahige Falls and Shirogane Blue Pond, especially with the extra walking bits and mini detours. The area is pretty out of the way though, so for those who are looking for a relaxing activity, this might not be the right thing for you.

Planning the trip and having to rely on the super infrequent bus was a bit of a challenge, but Google Maps was a huge help.

I got to check off one of my Japan bucket list items (visiting the Blue Pond), and can’t wait for what’s next!

Hokkaido Shirogane Blue Pond
Checking off those bucket list items!

Booking Hotels in Hokkaido

If you are wondering where to start looking for your hotel bookings, I recommend trying Booking.com! I’ve made a ton of my Japan hotel reservations with this app/ website and have had good experiences so far.

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Other Things to do Near Furano, Hokkaido


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