Sometimes called ‘Beautiful Songs Town’ or ‘Viva Bibai!’ (a light joke), Bibai was once Hokkaido’s second largest coal mining city sits halfway between Sapporo and Asahikawa. In the 1950s, about 90,000 people lived here, but the underground coal mine was closed in 1973. Today the city is putting effort into agriculture and tourism.
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Sleeping in Bibai
New in 2020, Hotel Bijiko is a convenient place with a mix of Japanese- and Western-style rooms as you exit JR Bibai Station west gate. Breakfast uses local ingredients and rice. Pipa-no-yu Yurin-kan (ピパの湯ゆーりん館) features a cave-like open-air bath with rural views.
01 HISTORIC BUILDING & ART
Arte Piazza Bibai
アルテピアッツァ美唄 / Sakae-machi, Ochiai-cho / 9am-5pm / Closed Tue / FREE / www.artepiazza.jp
The photogenic sculpture park of Arte Piazza, about 5km east of the city center, is located inside an old wooden elementary school built in the colliery-era. It exhibits the work of Bibai-born, Italy-based famous sculptor Yasuda Kan in the classrooms and open-air grounds setting. Take the municipal bus east line (美唄市民バス東線) from JR Bibai Station (20-30min / ¥230).
ピパの湯ゆ〜りん館 / 3 Tomei-cho / Day bathing 7am-10pm / ¥650 / yu-rinkan.com
The Yurin-kan features a cave-like open-air bath with rural views. It has a modern hotel, restaurant (11.30am-2pm & 5-8pm) and park golf courses (¥500). Municipal buses run from JR Bibai Station (15min / ¥230).
03 CHERRY-BLOSSOM VIEWING
東明公園 / Tomei-cho / 24hrs
If you have a chance to visit Bibai in early to mid May, stretch your legs to this great cherry-blossom viewing spot near the Yurin-kan. There is an observation tower and a hilltop viewpoint. It is a 1.5km northwest of the Arte Piazza.
たつみ / S1W1 (南1西1) / 11am-9pm / Closed Tue
Bibai yakitori (美唄焼き鳥: skewered grilled chicken) is a local speciality since the colliery-era. Tatsumi serves motsu-kushi (もつ串: various meat of yakitori) and motsu-soba (もつそば: soba with two yakitori). Take-away is available.
05 MARSH & BIRDWATCHING
宮島沼 / Omagari, Nishi-Bibai-cho / 24hrs / www.city.bibai.hokkaido.jp/miyajimanuma
The 30-hectare circular marsh of Miyajima-numa is Japan’s northernmost and largest nesting site for white-fronted geese. Approximately 50 thousand birds come here in mid to late April and late September to mid October, optimal birdwatching timing is dawn or dusk. The Waterbird and Wetland Center (9am-5pm / Closed Mon / FREE) with displays and maps.
Take a Tsukigata-bound Chuo Bus to Otomi (大富) from Iwamizawa (35min / ¥670), and then a 15-minute walk to the marsh. There are no regular buses from JR Bibai Station.
↓ Municipal bus east line (美唄市民バス東線) to the Arte Piazza (アルテピアッツァ: 20-30min / ¥230)
01 Arte Piazza Bibai
↓ Municipal bus east line via Asahi-dori (旭通先回り) to the Yurin-kan (ゆ〜りん館: 11min / ¥230)
02 Pipa-no-yu Yurin-kan
↓ Municipal bus east line via Asahi-dori to Bibai Station (美唄駅: ¥230)
↓ JR train to Iwamizawa
Iwamizawa Station / bus terminal
↓ Chuo Bus 21 to Otomi (大富: 30min / ¥680)
Otomi bus stop
↓ 15min walk