25th October 2016 – Day 5 Furano and Biei -> Lake Toya
On day 5, we decided to start a bit early and head towards Torinuma Park, hoping to catch the morning mist across the lake. The weather was really cold for the autumn season, we departed from the hotel at 6am and Kato san drove down towards Torinuma Park.
Along the way at Nakafurano, we caught the sunrise shining through from the mountain range. Even though it was pretty cloudy, we can spot the gorgeous morning sun rays punching through the horizon and skyline. Kato san stopped his car at the side of the road, ensuring that his car was not obstructing any traffic. We quickly took our camera gears out and started shooting away!
We didn’t spend too much taking photographs of the sunrise on that particular morning, once the sunrise moved up further into the sky, it was immediately engulfed by the thick clouds over the horizon during that morning. Nevertheless, we did enjoy and managed to a few photographs of the sunrise, she was spectacular at certain time!
From the spot where we took the sunrise photographs at Nakafurano, it was about 10 – 15 mins drive to reach Torinuma Park. When we alighted from the car and walked towards the lake, there wasn’t any morning mist across the lake that we had hoped for. We were not disappointed because we knew that such scenes were never guaranteed, a bit of luck is needed too! Therefore we stayed back for a short time, taking photographs of Torinuma Park again.
We drove and returned back to our hotel at Nakafurano, went into the onsen to warm ourselves up from the cold early morning drive out, packed our bags and continued with Day 5 of my Hokkaido photography adventure.
Miyama Toge (near to Woodylife)
After checking out from the hotel, Kato san drove up north towards Kamifurano and Biei. In just a short drive away, the autumn season turned into winter season. This is one of the amazing natural beauty of Hokkaido, getting autumn and winter seasons together in just a short distance away.
At this particular location in Kamifurano, it’s pretty well known as a lookout point since this is a toge, a mountain pass and overlooking the farms, the Furano railway tracks and the mountain range of Daisetsuzan National Park. The weather was covered with thick clouds close to the mountain range area, the farms were visible and not were not covered by the clouds or mist.
There was a golden moment when the sun light rays punched through the clouds onto the fields of Kamifurano and Biei. During my two trips to Hokkaido, I am always on the lookout for all these golden moment, when the sun light rays shined through the clouds. By describing the golden moment sun light rays shining scenes as awesome, breathe taking, unbelievable, I just simply ran out of adjectives to describe them. I would just snap as many photographs as possible before the sun light rays disappeared.
The next phase of my photography adventure is an early Christmas present from Hokkaido, experiencing winter season in the autumn season of Hokkaido! Biei was covered with beautiful white snow and the weather turned out perfect after a cloudy start in the morning.
The list of destinations that I would be sharing on my trip around the Biei region were some of the most popular landmarks and icons of Biei and also Hokkaido, they are very pooular with photographers and tourists visiting Biei. Having visited them, I was very excited and very happy, to photograph the various landmarks and icons in such a great weather.
A Gentle Reminder to ALL photographers, travelers and tourists
Before I start writing away on all those gorgeous landscapes, trees and landscape sceneries, I would like to give all photographers, travelers and tourists a very gentle reminder that we MUST/HAVE TO respect the local farmers in Biei, their farmland areas whereby their hard work are displayed on their farms, the different types of crops and vegetables. That farms surround all those locations that you see in my write up below, let’s protect the farmers hard work, we are also protecting all those beautiful landscapes that would allow other photographers, travelers and tourists to visit, enjoy and take many photographs for beautiful memories.
Please take your photographs from the viewing spot behind the rope/line! Do NOT cross the rope/line!
A lone tree, another of those one tree hill scenes added to my collection, this was also my Christmas gift from Hokkaido because this was the Christmas Tree of Biei, covered with snow!
Mild Seven Hill
Does the word Mild Seven strikes a bell in you? The name Mild Seven is tobacco brand and this beautiful hill that you see here was used in a famous advertisement for Mild Seven tobacco.
From my viewing point, I finally understand why this location was chosen for the advertisement. After taking a few photographs, I stood there and soaked in this pretty landscape scenery of snow powder on the farm land, the Japanese larch trees accompanied by the clear blue sky behind.
My Hokkaido 2016 autumn trip had been nothing short of phenomenal, spectacular and unique. Although the first few days were cold, wet and windy weather, there were a number of omens that made my trip very special and unique. While we were taking photographs of the Mild Seven Hill, Kato san and myself heard a distinct call from our backs, above in the sky. We quickly turned our backs and started observing, to our absolute delight, there was a flight of swans flying towards us and across the Mild Seven Hill! I finally managed to capture birds in flight while in Hokkaido!
This flight of swans was very unique, to put in a shameless plug for myself, the swans flew above Biei, welcoming me to Hokkaido! However, according to my Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san, it’s rare for swans to fly above Biei at this time and this was the first time he had seen them flying above Biei! Those pretty white swans gave me another priceless moment to remember from my Hokkaido 2016 autumn adventure!
Hill top observation point
This location is very special, it gives you the top of the world feeling, a bird’s eye view that show how vast, wide and far the Hokkaido landscape can be. There is no landmark to indicate this hill top observation point and during the winter season, it is not accessible by car.
This is a very amazing location, it’s an ideal location to experience and view how special it would be during the four different seasons. Kato san also mentioned that this spot is great for taking sunset scenes and I would love to come back again to this spot because I love taking sunset sceneries!
I am able to visit and take photographs from this hill top observation point because of my very experienced Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san. He knows the area, the locations, that we photographers would like to go and take photographs.
Parent and Child Trees
The parents will always love and look after their own children, just like the small oak tree that is standing in between two larger oak trees. From where I stood, watching them across the vast farmland filled with snow, this was filled with warmth, love and sunshine in a cold Hokkaido autumn season.
Farm House with row of trees
Continuing our journey in the area, Kato san stopped along the side of the road and showed me another scenic spot that photographers like to visit and take photographs, a farm house with a row of trees. While there wasn’t an official tourism marker build for this beautiful sight, visitors and photographers can observe it from the side of the road without stepping into the farmers land.
The Blue Pond is probably one of the icons of Biei and Hokkaido, it’s a destination packed with tourists, travelers and photographers. I heard about this destination previously and wanted to visit this place since I am in the area. Therefore, I requested Kato san to plan in this location during my photography schedule for Biei.
A beautiful destination, no doubt about that, it’s just packed with tourist buses and cars though. Kato san highlighted that it gets even more packed and busy during the summer season! It might be a bit difficult to capture the photographs that you wanted when you are visiting the Blue Pond in Biei.
I enjoyed my short visit to the Blue Pond, captured down on my photographs before we left for our next destination.
Kato san drove into this area occupied by a few stylish hotels, some commanding a pretty awesome view, fitted with stylish furnishings and designs, with their own private onsen in some of the hotels. The room rate is therefore pretty expensive too! If I have the budget, I would love to stay in one of those stylish Shirogane Onsen Resorts near the Shirahige Waterfall.
My initial thoughts were, another waterfall, ok, let’s see what it’s going to be like! When I crossed the bridge and looked up and down the ravine, the Blue River, Shirahige Waterfall and the range of mountain peaks covered with snow, I just stood there, blown away and mesmerised by the natural beauty and surroundings.
Photographers will love this destination, imagine all the different types of sceneries, colours and landscapes during the four different seasons of Hokkaido, I would love to return again to this spot in my future trips to Hokkaido. Bring your lover/partner along when you visit Shirogane Waterfall, it’s a romantic destination and walk for both of you to enjoy the time, moment and gorgeous sceneries.
Mt Tokachi Observation Deck
I had a few key highlights from my Hokkaido autumn trip in October 2016 that I remembered deeply inside my heart and soul. The next location after Shirogane Waterfall was one of them and this might be the best of my best travel highlights during my Hokkaido autumn trip.
A drive up to the mountains, luckily for me, the road had not been closed yet. Kato san mentioned that this road up to the mountain would not be open during the winter season. From the drive up, I can totally understand why, Hokkaido winter is going to fill up this mountain road, making it very difficult to clear the snow filled road, moreover, driving in icy winter road conditions can be very dangerous too.
Upon reaching Mt. Tokachi Observation Deck, I stood there, outside Kato san’s car, did a 360 degrees observation of this destination. This was why I wanted to return back to Hokkaido after my first trip in November 2014.
It was a trip to the top of the world feeling, surrounded by a clear blue sky without too much clouds covering the mountain range peaks, powder snow fields and I was welcomed by a natural phenomena known as 22 degrees halo and possibly a rare 46 degrees halo too! The halo was like a gateway to a whole new world out there, it’s a Stargate!
You will know the feelings and emotions when you just have no words to describe and to even say it out. I stood there, completely blown away after taking a number of photographs of Mt Tokachi Observation Deck.
Before we made our descend to the observation hut and back to the car, I sincerely thank my Hokkaido Photo Guide Kato san, for bringing me to this destination. When I was at the Mt Tokachi Observation Deck, this was the magical moment whereby all my troubles, stress and pressure seem so far far away from me.
On the way down towards our lunch location suggested by Kato san, I had the opportunity to witness 2 seasons (winter and autumn) together, a beauty of Hokkaido that I enjoyed a lot from my 2 trips to Hokkaido (2014 and 2016). At Hinode Park, we made a short pit stop, the evergreen on the fields in the foreground, with the white snow covered mountain range in the background. An amazing and unforgettable view of 2 distinctive seasons coming together in 1 scene, a view that I will never forget.
Lunch – Kamifurano
When you have a very experienced local photo / travel guide like Kato san, he knows where are the best and most delicious local Japanese food. Kato san brought me to this charcoal grilled food house, a small family run food business. This would be one of my best authentic local Japanese food experiences that I had! There wasn’t any english menu and I really had to thank Kato san for selecting and ordering all the delicious food on my behalf!
Charcoal grilled pork, dipped with their own family secret sauce, it’s really unforgettable, very delicious. The charcoal fumes and cooked pork meat aroma would stay on your clothes, a smell that I would gladly accept!
After our delicious charcoal grilled lunch, we started a long road trip from Kamifurano towards Lake Toya. Kato san made a quick pit stop at one of the lookout points on the route down and I snapped a few photographs before the long road trip down.
Long car ride to Lake Toya
The distance between Kamifurano and Lake Toya was approximately 300km (based on the route that Kato san drove). It was quite a long drive and we reached Lake Toya at night, had a quick rest and onsen to relax from a whole exciting day of exploring, walking and driving.
End of my Day 5 travel photography adventure in Hokkaido, now to get ready for Day 6!
Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 5
Hokkaido Autumn 2016