ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Biei

BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.21

Day 7 (3/5).

Driving north from Farm Tomita in Nakafurano (中富良野) brought us to Biei (美瑛町) in half an hour.  We followed the GPS to look for Bi.Ble, a French restaurant that caught our attention while we researched for the trip.  Recommended by a guidebook, we were attracted by Bi.Ble’s dishes made from local ingredients, its pleasant timber interiors, and its picturesque setting surrounded by wheat fields.  The entire compound is consisted of four buildings: a culinary school and a staff/student dormitory occupying two former school buildings, a new one-storey hotel and a new restaurant facing a wheat field.  With the aid from GPS and Google Map, we didn’t have trouble finding the place and arrived at Bi.Ble at around 11:30am.  We didn’t make a reservation, and were lucky to get the last table available.  Other than the seafood of Shiretoko, dining at Bi.Ble to sample some of the best ingredients from Furano and Biei turned out to be one of the most remarkable meals we had throughout the trip.

DSC_5972Occupying the former Hokuei Elementary School, the Ecole Hoteliere Etude is a culinary school affiliated with Bi.Ble Restaurant.

DSC_5966It is green everywhere in Biei, even the school building.

DSC_5956Across from the school building stands a minimalist building cladded with green metal panels.  This new addition to the school complex serves as a hotel with several guestrooms facing the wheat field.

DSC_5968Each hotel room has a decent window.

IMG_9924Each room enjoys the view of the picturesque wheat field below.

DSC_5961Bi.Ble Restaurant is located at the far end of the compound.

DSC_5963Biei is well known for its high quality wheat and flour.  In July, the wheat would turn yellow.  By August, the wheat would be ready for harvest.

IMG_7286The first things that greeted our arrival at Bi.Ble was the famous bakery and its fireplace.

IMG_9885Almost all tables in the restaurant had been reserved.  Came without booking, we arrived just in time to sit down at the last available table facing the wheat field.

IMG_9886Beyond the wheat field lies the distant volcanic mountain ranges of Daisetsuzan and Tokachi, whose ashes produce the highly fertile soil of the area.

IMG_9890Perhaps the easiest way to appreciate the taste of Biei is to sample the simplest and purest ingredient of all, freshly baked bread made from the wheat of Biei.

IMG_9894Appetizers made with local pork and produces decorated with a touch of nature.

IMG_9899The dining experience at Bi.Ble was a fusion of French culinary techniques and Japanese aesthetics with the palette of Hokkaido.

IMG_9900From the local volcanic soil, even the most ordinary ingredients like carrot and potato tasted better.

IMG_9903Each dish was like a minimalist painting to us.

IMG_9905Each dish came in small portions, but it ended up quite a filling meal after all the courses.

IMG_9907A fine dessert to ended a special meal.

IMG_9915After visiting the lavender farms and floral fields of Furano, Bi.ble has given us another brilliant way to appreciate what the unique landscape of Central Hokkaido has to offer.

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HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, June 15-25, 2019

Tsuyu (梅雨), the rain season, begins to hit Okinawa in May and gradually makes its way north to the rest of Japan until the end of June.  During the wet season, rainy and cloudy weather affects the entire country except Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island north of the main Honshu Island.  The seismic active island is 3.6% smaller than Ireland, with a climate significantly cooler than the rest of Japan.  Seeking for a pleasant getaway from Hong Kong’s humid and hot summer, we picked Hokkaido as the destination for our 11-day vacation from 15th to 25th of June.  Traveling in the remote national parks and rural countryside of Hokkaido, hiring a car was a necessity.  The Hokkaido journey was our first road trip in Japan.

Known as Japan’s last true wilderness, Shiretoko National Park (知床国立公園) is the natural haven where Brown Bears and Blakiston Fish Owls ruled the primeval forests and Orcas, Minke and Sperm Whales roamed the waters of Nemuro Strait.  With fantastic natural scenery, wildlife and seafood to offer, this easternmost part of Hokkaido topped our priority list in the travel itinerary.  Next in the journey took us to the spectacular volcanoes of Akan Mashu National Park (阿寒摩周国立公園), where we came close to Japan’s clearest water at caldera Lake Mashu (摩周湖) and the fantastic onsen and fly fishing hot spot of Lake Akan (阿寒湖).  While the lavender fields of Furano (富良野) and Biei (美瑛) had yet reached the peak bloom moment, the ultra fertile soil below the Tokachi Volcanic Group (十勝火山群) treated us with some of the best bread, corn, potatoes, asparagus, melons and milk that we ever had in our lives.  Despite far away from Tokyo and Osaka, the architectural magic of Tadao Ando (安藤忠雄) in Hokkaido satisfied our thirst of contemporary design and aesthetics.  Back in Obihiro (帯広), Otaru (小樽) and Sapporo (札幌), historic traces of early pioneers and contemporary dessert shops and local eateries brought us back to delightful charm of urban Japan.  What’s more?  Day after day of mouthwatering seafood, fresh produces, good coffee, and lovely patisseries reminded us how wonderful our world could be, when the water is clean, soil is rich, forests are healthy and people are friendly.  Thank you Hokkaido.  You have truly touched our hearts.

maps 2Located north of Honshu Island, Hokkaido is the second largest island in Japan.

maps 1Flying in from Tokyo Haneda, our Hokkaido journey began from Memanbetsu (女満別空港) near the Shiretoko Peninsula.  After more than 1,181km of driving, we arrived at Otaru and Sapporo at the western side of the island.

DSC_4258This black hatchback hybrid Toyota Prius c (Toyota Aqua in Japan) provided us the means of transport from east to west across Hokkaido.

DSC_4490After 2 days of rain and wind, we finally had a glimpse of the active volcano of Mount Rausu (羅臼岳), the tallest peak in Shiretoko Peninsula.

DSC_5154The greatest experience we took away from Shiretoko was the close encounter with a pod of orcas in the Nemuro Strait.

DSC_5307The Mashu Lake (摩周湖) offered us a peaceful sunrise at 3:30am.

DSC_5666Under the shadow of Mount Oakan (雄阿寒岳), dozens of fly fishermen stepped into the crystal water of Lake Akan (阿寒湖) to test their luck.

DSC_5751Farms and greenhouses were washed with heavy rain as we entered into Furano (富良野).

DSC_5893Still at least half a month to go before the peak season of lavender blossom, visitors were enjoying themselves at a relatively less crowded Farm Tomita in Nakafurano.

DSC_6040Compared with rainbow flower fields, we loved the wheat fields at Biei the most.

DSC_6183Tadao Ando’s Chapel on the Water has been famous in the designer’s world since the 1980s.

DSC_6282The Hill of Buddha is the latest addition in Hokkaido by Tadao Ando.

DSC_6466At Yoichi Distillery (余市蒸溜所), whiskey has been produced since 1934.

DSC_6538Saturdays Chocolate in Sapporo is one of the many excellent local eateries and cafes that we visited in the journey.

IMG_9267Last but not least, Hokkaido offered us the best seafood and dessert that we ever had as far as we could remember.  Let’s begin to tell the story of our journey!