The Underrated Asian City Bursting With Colorful Scenery You Can't Skip On Your Vacation

Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka — you've likely heard of these Japanese cities adored by travelers, but head north, far from the tourist buses and world-famous attractions, and you'll find a natural landscape so bright and colorful, the lights of Shibuya Scramble could hardly compete.

That's what you can expect when you visit Biei, a town almost smack dab in the center of the country's northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido. It's not the easiest spot to get to — you'll likely need to fly into Sapporo's Shin-Chitose Airport, followed by a few hours spent in either a car or train to get there — but the multicolored hills of Shikisai-no-oka are worth the effort.

The stunning sight is made up of a variety of beautiful spring flowers, making it far more impressive than your average sunflower or rose garden. Shikisai-no-oka offers buds in every color of the rainbow, arranged in perfect rows spreading in all directions. According to the garden's website, the best time to visit is between late April and late October, though the area is open all year and transforms into a snowmobile track during the winter.

If gem-colored fields aren't enticing enough, there are plenty of other breathtaking nature spots and authentic experiences to try in this hidden-gem city in Japan. Best of all, Biei's countryside charm uncovers a whole new side of Japan you won't find in the big cities.

Biei offers endless stunning scenery

If you've always dreamed of living in a Studio Ghibli movie, head to Biei's Panorama Road for the next best thing. This picturesque route offers views of the mountains and surrounding landscape so beautiful, you'll feel like you've stepped into a postcard photo. You'll also get a glimpse at local life from the road — look for the farmhouses and local elementary school during your trek. To really embrace the area's slow-living vibes, travel Panorama Road on a bike instead of by car.

Another must-visit in Biei is Shirogane Blue Pond, a pond that — just as its name suggests — is a gorgeous shade of turquoise. The water's rich color was an accident resulting from mudslide-control efforts, but given how stunning the pond turned out, it's safe to call it a happy accident. While visiting the pond, be sure to check out nearby Shirogane Onsen, a hot spring town filled with its own amazing scenery. Our top pick: the Shirahige Waterfall, which drops into the aquamarine-colored Biei River.

Activities to try during your visit

Once you've filled your phone's camera roll with far too many photos, take a break from the beautiful sights (not that you'll be able to escape them) and try experiencing the Hokkaido countryside town in a different way. One option that's fun for all ages is stopping by one of Biei's many farms. Chiyoda Farm and Restaurant is a Wagyu beef farm where visitors can meet not only cows but a whole barnyard of animals including horses, sheep, and dogs. You can also feed the animals and, once you feel your own stomach rumbling, dine in the farm's on-site restaurant. Farm Tomita is another option, where you can visit several flower fields and houses containing a lavender oil distillery, fresh foods, potpourri, and other goods and workshops. If you consider yourself more of a natural forager, arrange a visit to Tsuji Cherry Farm during the cherry-picking season (between early July and early August, per the Biei Tourism Association).

Finally, make sure to take a soak in the hot springs that sit between Biei and Shirogane Onsen during your trip. The easiest way is by booking a stay at one of the area's accommodations outfitted with natural spring baths. For a traditional inn-style stay, try Shirogane Onsenkyo Mori no Ryotei, which offers open-air hot spring baths in both communal areas and guestrooms.