The Blue Pond (青い池, Aoiike) outside the hot spring town of Shirogane Onsen is named after is deep blue color which it owes to natural minerals dissolved in the water. Not promoted as a tourist spot until recent years, the pond is part of an erosion control system that was built to prevent damage to Biei in case of an eruption by nearby Mount Tokachidake. Besides a free parking lot, the pond has not seen much touristic development. It takes visitors 5-10 minutes to walk through the forest to the pond. Around the pond there is not much to do other than to enjoy the scenery, which also includes some concrete structures of the erosion control system. Here below you can see some shots by Ken Shiraishi (www.500px.com/KentShiraishi) who calls this pond “The Most Beautiful Pond In The World!” According to the photographer, who made a pilgrimage up to Northern Japan last month to take these shots, the water contains a high degree of aluminum hydroxide, which reflects blue light – a phenomenon responsible for our lovely blue skies. Shiraishi spent several days up there photographing the pond in various light. How to get there: the closest train station is Biei Station. It’s about a 2-hr train ride from Sapporo Station. You can also drive from Sapporo but that will also take about 2 hours. But beware: once heavy snows set in the pond becomes inaccessible.