Welcome to the Hilly Town of Biei

Information about Biei, including population, industry and the local shops


Basic knowledge of Biei

Area677km²
Population10,762 (as of Feb. 2013)
Main industriesAgriculture, tourism
AltitudeDowntown Biei 250 m / Shirogane Onsen 600 m / Bogakudai 930 m
Official flower of BieiLily of the valley (When settlers first arrived in Biei, the land was said to be wild and dilapidated, but when summer arrived there were so many flowers there was hardly room to walk.
Official tree of BieiWhite birch

Origin of the town's name

The name is derived from the Ainu term Piie, meaning oily or turbid river. The pioneers pronounced this as Biei, and eventually chose the kanji characters that are now used, in which the meaning "beautiful and bright like a champion" is also implied. Many other place names are derived from the Ainu language, such as Bibaushi from the term Pipaushi (meaning place where lots of mussels live), Rubeshibe ([Rupeshipe] the track that leads down to land on the other side of the mountain), etc.


Biei Hondori shopping district

Extending approximately 1.1 km north to south, this shopping district was completed 14 years after land readjustment work began in 1989. The shops have triangular roofs based on the image of Mt. Tokachi , as well as projecting signs, foundation stones made from Biei tuff, and the year of establishment inscribed on their exterior walls.
What's more, the electricity cables are buried underground, the roads and pavements are wide, and roadside snowmelt gutters make walking in the streets easier in winter.


What made Biei famous?

In 1971, a landscape photographer inadvertently stopped-off in the Biei & Kamifurano area on his way home from a photo-shoot trip around Japan, and was inspired by the scenery of the hills there. He subsequently continued to make frequent return visits to Biei over the next 16 years.
Many of the photographs he took ended up in books, on postcards or on posters, and the scenes he captured were used in films and TV commercials, enabling the scenery of Biei to be known throughout Japan.
That photographer was Shinzo Maeda, who eventually became renowned throughout the world. A disused elementary school building amid the rolling Biei countryside was turned into a photo gallery, which to this day continues to inspire the countless visitors it attracts.


Mt. Tokachi-dake (2,077 m)

The highest peak of the Tokachi Mountain Range in the Daisetsuzan National Park, Mt. Tokachi-dake is an active volcano that repeatedly erupts as part of a 30- to 40-year cycle. According to records of the past 5 eruptions, communities at the base of the mountain, such as towns like Biei and Kamifurano, have suffered varying degrees of damage.

  1. May 1857
  2. June 1888
  3. May 24, 1926 ... the most prolific eruption on record. The column of volcanic smoke reached 12,000 m and could be seen from Sapporo.
  4. June 29, 1962 ... the blast killed 5 sulphur miners who were working near the crater.
  5. December 25, 1988 ... 72 residents were forced to evacuate their homes and live in shelters for 127 days.

At the Mt. Tokachi-dake Erosion Control Information Center , established in the Shirogane Onsen spa town, seismic observation is carried out and visitors can learn about volcanic eruptions and erosion-control dams.


Origins of the names given to the trees

  • Ken and Mary Tree (poplar)

    Ken and Mary Tree (poplar)

    Named after the characters in a TV commercial for a Japanese car, which was broadcast in 1972 and featured the tree.
  • Parents and Child Trees (Daimyo oak)

    Parents and Child Trees (Daimyo oak)

    The sight of the row of three trees is said to resemble a mother, father and child standing together.
  • Seven Star Tree (Daimyo oak)

    Seven Star Tree
    (Daimyo oak)

    Named after a brand of cigarette that featured an image of the tree on the product's packages, posters and the like.
  • Mild Seven Hill (Japanese larch trees)

    Mild Seven Hill
    (Japanese larch trees)

    Named after a brand of cigarette that featured an image of the hill and its trees on the product's packages, posters and the like.

Biei's main crops

  • Potatoes (flower)
    Potatoes (flower)
  • Wheat (spring sown)
    Wheat (spring sown)
  • Sweet corn
    Sweet corn
  • Beans (flower)
    Beans (flower)
  • Wheat (autumn sown)
    Wheat
    (autumn sown)
  • Beets
    Beets
  • Potatoes
    In Hokkaido, potatoes are usually planted in early May and the flowers on the plants bloom from late June to early July. The colours of the flowers differ according to the variety of potato: those of the Danshaku (Irish cobbler) are faint purple; those of the May Queen are deep purple. The white flowers are those of the Toyoshiro variety and, recently, the faint yellow flowers of a variety known as Kita Akari are also on the increase.
  • When and where do sunflowers and rapeseed blossoms bloom?
    It is not known when the flowers will bloom. In fact, these flowers are grown as a green manure crop. As a result, the flowers are ploughed into the fields as fertilizer, shortly after they bloom.

Biei's agriculture

  • Total area of farmland: approx. 12,700 hectares (31,383 acres) (as of FY 2005)
    Average area per household: approx. 19 hectares (47 acres)
  • Number of farming households: 2,945 people in 635 families (as of FY 2005)
  • Main crops: wheat, potatoes, beans, beets, asparagus, sweet corn, tomatoes, squash, rice, etc.

* Various crops colour the hillside fields during different times of the season, as if stitched together like a quilt. As a result、 the area has become known for its "patchwork hills."