The 'heart' of Hokkaido is covered with rolling hills, some of which are covered with panoramic flower fields from spring through fall. One of the most stunning is the aptly named Shikisai-no-oka, or 'colors of the four seasons hill'. Located in the town of Biei, this seven hectare flower garden should not be missed if sightseeing in the area.
Entrance to Shikisai-no-oka is free, but to help maintain the garden, a donation of ¥200 per person is requested. As you walk through the entrance, you'll see a donation box. In this building, there is also a souvenir shop, vegetable stand, piping hot croquettes filled with locally grown potatoes, and delicious soft serve ice cream. Upstairs is a simple restaurant serving soup curry, soba and udon noodles, breaded pork cutlets, and other standard Japanese dishes.
Upon entering the garden itself, a giant character made of grass, 'Roll-kun', welcomes you. To the right is a small alpaca farm, which requires an entrance fee of ¥500 for adults and ¥300 for children. Food for feeding the alpacas is an additional ¥100.
To view fields of several dozen flower species, visitors have a variety of transportation options. One is to walk; another is to ride the 'Norokko', a tractor pulling a couple of large open-air carts. The ride takes about 15 minutes and costs ¥500 (¥300 for 3-6 yr olds). Golf carts with room for four people cost ¥2000 for 15 minutes, and they can be driven anywhere within the garden. A more exciting option are four-wheeled ATV's that can be driven around a 'white birch garden circuit' for ¥500.
From early December to March, when there is plenty of snow on the ground, the garden turns into a winter play-land. Take a ride on a snowmobile (starting at ¥1000 for a 1 kilometer course ride), snow raft (¥1000), banana boat (¥1000), sled (¥200), or tube (¥200). Groups of three or more people can reserve snowmobiles in advance for longer tours of 10 - 40 kilometers.
No matter what season you visit central Hokkaido, be sure to make a visit to Shikisai-no-oka. And, if you crave one of those potato croquettes once you are home, visit their online shopping page. Boxes of potatoes and other goods are also for sale there.