Day 2 of my Hokkaido Adventure dawned bright and sunny. I rolled down the window of my car, put on some country tunes and cruised down some backroad-kind-of-wonderful places. It smelled like lavender and adventure. I was off to see more flower fields with a distinct carpe diem mindset.
Lost in my happy thoughts the first melon farm went by me in a blur. WAIT! I cursed, craned my neck around and debated going back….but it would be far too tricky to turn around on a major highway. So I gritted my teeth and hoped another would come up soon. It did! But once again it happened so quickly I missed my chance to turn off the highway…..third time lucky? Luck was on my side I spied a third in the distance and prepared accordingly.
I was pretty excited and couldn’t wait to take a picture with my yummy melons…..only belatedly did I realize how much sh*t my friends were going to give me and all the terrible jokes that will most likely be made about my melons. UH OH! I don’t care though, this was an amazing idea, and I’m still delighted I thought to buy them. They will make me happy every morning when I get to eat fresh fruit for breakfast. I’m actually currently eating some juicy-juicy watermelon now as I type this post! See how lovingly I look at them? Unfortunately for me, when the lady helped me to cut my watermelon up to eat, there was a minor fashion disaster where somehow half the watermelon landed on my lap….uh oh, thank heavens I had a spare dress in my car! No lasting harm done, and nothing was about to spoil my excellent mood. Biei was waiting, I could hear its siren call and so I hopped in the car and off drove me and my melon-children.
I made a local’s day when I pulled up at the flower park and he saw my watermelon seatbelted-in, resting in the passenger side seat and he just about died laughing. He even brought his elderly mother over to take a look at what the beautiful foreigner was doing with her watermelon. He then gave me a cheeky grin and a double-thumbs-up however, so I gave him my best smile in return and said in my best Japanese “takai desu yo ne!” which means “It’s because it’s expensive you see!” which made him laugh even harder and nod enthusiastically in agreement. We then chatted for a bit and I explained what felt like my whole life story as we approached the hills of the Saika-no-Sato flower fields. I’m pretty sure he’ll be telling this story for years.
But on to talking about Saika-no-Sato, it’s another lovely flower field that a lady at the tourist information desk recommended. It’s easy to see why, its colours were simply lovely. While it definitely not the largest flower garden, what it lacks in size it makes up for in quality. It had a large variety of blossoms, all of which were in peak bloom. Also, I can say this now after having visited nearly every flower park in Furano and Biei, it had the nicest sunflower field, which you could actually enter into to take some pictures with the flowers (a rarity at other flower parks).
After Saika-no-Sato I headed just up the road and over a hill to Flowerland Kamifurano. It too was a nice place to wander around lost in thought, but I found myself preferring the slightly wilder Saika-no-Sato and Tomita Farm flowers. Flowerland’s gardens were almost a little too perfectly arranged for this gypsy girl. Seeing as both these flower parks took much less time than I expected (no more than 20 minutes each) I decided to hit up one more before lunch. Next up on my map was the Shinkisai-no-Oka Flower Garden so I drove down the road, up some twisty-turny roads and there I was. What I liked the most about this garden, was the way you could see clearly out over the beautiful hills of the Biei area because it was situated at the top of a tall hill.
After that I was definitely peckish, the sun was uncomfortably warm and I knew I could do with a rest inside for a bit where I could cool down. I spied this little gem of a cafe across the street from the entrance of the Shikisai-no-Oka Flower Garden.
Seeing as I’m a bit of a grandma at heart, I adore little granny run cafes like this one. From my experiences in the past, the food at this sort of establishment is always made fresh, they make a mean dessert and the atmosphere has a nice sense of tranquility, perfect for the weary wander in need of a quite place to recharge.
I got the vegetable curry (made with veggies all produced from farms in the nearby area!), iced coffee and a piece of cake. I spent a good hour there enjoying the view of Biei’s rolling emerald green hills and reading my book.
Feeling sufficiently reenergized after this I was ready to head out to the Shirogane area where the highlight of the day awaited: the Blue Pond.
The Blue Pond (Aoi-ike 青い池) has only become a popular tourist sightseeing destination in recent years and this is very obvious in that the site is not adequately equipped to handle the influx of tourists. I recommend to anyone hoping to visit get there early, I was in the nick of time, 40 minutes later when I was leaving I spied what looked like a half-an-hour line up of cars down the actual highway itself waiting to get into the tiny parking lot!
It was on pinterest that I saw my first picture of the Blue Pond, and I was certain it had been photoshopped to become that blue. Nope, it is actually that robin’s egg blue azure hue everyone. It took my breath away. Never in all my years of hiking in Banff have I seen anything quite so vibrant, and I’ve been to Lake Louise and Lake Moraine! I must have taken over 100 photos but I’ve narrowed it down to my top 5. When the sun hit the water, it glittered just like a jewel. Absolutely Magical. I would hazard a guess that pretty soon some fantasy movie is going to insist on filming here because it has a distinctly otherworldly atmosphere. I have to say it was really hard to say goodbye to this place, but there are only so many pictures you can take!As I was driving away back towards Biei to see one last flower field and do a sunset drive amongst the hills I noticed this sign, and recognizing nothing other than the kanji for waterfall, pulled in to see what was up. My curiosity was rewarded with another magical place. It only took 1 minute to walk from the side of the road in so I definitely recommend it if you’re already in the area for the Blue Pond.
Back to Biei I went to see the final flower field: the Hills of Zerubu. I liked the sound of this garden because I thought its name was sweet. “Zerubu” comes from a mash-together of 3 words: “Kaze” (wind), “Kaoru” (sweet scent) and “Asobu” (play). So the name suggests the notion of playing on hills while the wind surrounds us with beautiful scents. Isn’t that poetic?
As the sun slowly started to descend in the sky, I started my scenic drive of the rolling Biei hills. My soundtrack for the drive “Wide Open Spaces” and “Cowboy Take Me Away” by the Dixie Chicks, totally a perfect match for the mood. It was very idyllic, wide open fields stretching towards the horizon and everything illuminated by the soft golden glow of the setting sun. Wide open areas are something I often find myself missing, not in a bad way, Japan is much more crowded than “cowtown” Calgary and I grew up surrounded by hay fields as far as the eye could see. I felt like I was back in my element.
I visited some famous trees that travel guides recommended, although I have since then come to understand they mean a lot more to Japanese people who’ve grown up seeing them in famous advertisements. My favourite of these trees was a group called the “Parents & Child” trees.
I sat in my car long after the sun set staring off into the distance, incredibly content to be exactly where I was in that moment in time. Life was perfect and I felt so lucky to be me.