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, on Japan’s longest straight road (日本一の直線道路: 29.2km!). 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.
Bibai at a Glance
START: Bibai Station (Around 10.40am)
FINISH: Bibai Station (Around 3pm)
DURATION: 4.5 hours
BEST TIME: Year-round / Mid May for cherry-blossoms / Early spring and October for birdwatching on Miyajima-numa
Most Asahikawa-bound limited express trains from Sapporo stop at Bibai (35min). Kamui 9 (9:30) or Lilac 11 (10:00) from Sapporo is the most convenient train to Bibai. There are local trains from Iwamizawa (15min) and Asahikawa (1hr 20min).
NEXT ›› From the train station west gate, take the municipal bus (10:45) via Asahi-dori (美唄市民バス東線旭通先回り) to the Arte Piazza (11:06 / ¥230). If you miss this bus, catch the next bus (10:45) to the Arte Piazza (11:18 / ¥230).
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.
NEXT ›› Take bus (12:06) to the Yurin-kan (ゆ〜りん館 / 12:17).
HOT SPRING & LUNCH
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).
DETOUR: 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.
NEXT ›› Take bus (14:02) to the Shiritsu Byoin (市立病院 / 14:15) hospital, then it is a short walk north to the yakitori place.
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.
NEXT ›› It is a 5-minute walk to JR Bibai Station.
From JR Bibai Station, you can go back to Sapporo or head north to Asahikawa direction by train.
CONTINUE: If you plan to visit Miyajima-numa for birdwatching in spring or autumn, take the local train (15:08) to Iwamizawa (15:24) and catch the Chuo Bus 21 (15:35) to Otomi (大富 / 16:05). From where, it is a 15-minute walk east to the marsh.
DETOUR: 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.
CONTINUE ›› Head back to Otomi bus stop and take bus (17:37 or 18:52) to Iwamizawa terminal (30min) via Kitamura Onsen (北村温泉 / 17:50 or 19:05). There are also buses (18:20 or 19:35) to Tsukigata (月形駅前 / 11min).
DETOUR: HOT SPRING & CAMPING
北村温泉 / Kitamura-Akagawa / 6am-11.30pm / ¥510 / www.kitamuraonsen.com
One of Sorachi’s best onsen about 9km north of Iwamizawa, this place boasts pleasant open-air and indoor baths with 100% fresh hot water. It has a restaurant (11am-9pm). Behind the onsen is a grassy plots for tents (free) facing a marsh.