Biei becomes a non-ski winter hit with foreign tourists

posted on March 17, 2016

The town of Biei in central Hokkaido used to be deserted during the winter, but lately it's been attracting many foreign tourists with attractions that have made it a popular cold-weather destination.

Sightseers have long headed to Biei in summer to view its beautiful landscapes and enjoy its local specialties. But as the municipality hosts no large ski slopes, the number of tourists traditionally declines sharply during the winter season.

However, that trend has begun to turn around as the town government and local tourist board work to draw more visitors to the region in winter, and they will continue their efforts to further raise the number of tourists next season.

On Feb. 11, a group including many Chinese and Korean tourists enjoyed what Biei has to offer. They visited "Mild Seven Hill," named for its famous appearance promoting Mild Seven cigarettes in their heyday, and a Biei Tourism Association official snapped a photo for one family as they posed at the iconic scene.

That family was participating in a bus tour organized by the tourism association for the first time to allow tourists to visit the town's renowned hills during winter. Two-thirds of the 37 tourists were non-Japanese.

At snow-covered Hokusei no Oka Observatory Park, a surprise was in store for the tourists: boards were provided for them to slide down the hillside on, and the unexpected experience proved a big hit, with the adult day-trippers frolicking in the snow like children.

In a separate effort, the Biei government and partners started illuminating the town's famous "Blue Pond" in winter last year for the first time in a bid to narrow the gap in tourist numbers between summer and winter. It worked, pulling in 15,800 people during the three winter months alone.

source by asahi
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