The Blue Pond of Second Life

Aoi-ike, November 2022 – click any image for full size

Jade Koltai has opened a new region design in the tradition of the work she started with the late (and still missed) Serene Footman. It offers a personal interpretation of Japan’s famous Blue Pond  (青い池, Aoi-ike), located in the country’s second-largest island, Hokkaidō.

Occupying a homestead region, Aoi-ike presents the pond in the depths of winter, offering visitors a setting blanketed in snow to explore and plenty of opportunities for suitable time-of-year photographs. Pride of place is given to the pond itself, the waters the rich azure blue of the original, albeit caught beneath a cloud-laden sky.

Aoi-ike, November 2022 – click any image for full size

The physical world Blue Pond is entirely artificial, the result of work intended to protect the town of Biei following the December 1988 through March 1989 eruptions of Mount Tokachi. These caused a series of pyrrolastic events and associated mudflows which threatened the town, so following them, a series of dams were built to prevent future eruption-generated mudflows which might use the Biei River as a root through the locale.

In doing so, the dam trapped the water of the Shirahage waterfall, a series of falls passing over a cliff rich in aluminium to reach the river. This aluminium, coupled with volcanic sulphates in the water which whiten the rocks on the bed of the pond and so heightening their light-reflecting nature, gives the water of the pond its distinctive blue sky colour.

Aoi-ike, November 2022 – click any image for full size

This unlikely colour is not the only interesting feature of the lake; the plants present also participate in the surreal atmosphere of the place. While the pond is surrounded by living trees, in the middle there are skeletons of larch and birch that once grew on the ground before the formation of the pond. These trees are also present in Jade’s build, although the upriver falls are understandably absent.

Blended with a region surround that helps represent the surrounding mountains (the region around Biei is famous for a mountainous hiking trail that loops between Mount Tokachi and the (slightly) smaller Mount Biei as it sits between the Biei and Shintoku townships). While this loop is too big to recreate in a region, it is possible to circumnavigate the pond on foot along both trails and open ground – although if you have a wearable horse, the setting is also ideal for horse riding.

Aoi-ike, November 2022 – click any image for full size

The lightly wooden and most flat land is heavy in snow and light on structures – the latter comprising a Finnish-style suoja, a metal watchtower, a covered bridge, a little Japanese hut, and a flat-roofed cabin. Cosily furnished, the cabin offers the best respite from the snow and cold, the décor continuing the Japanese theme very nicely. The souja offers a small retreat with a comfy bed and the bridge includes a trio of theatre-like chairs warmed by a heater and where those using them can have a hot cup of tea.

Perhaps the most unusual feature in the setting is located on its northern edge, a short walk from the landing point. It takes the form of a large stone sculpture of a cat seated on a stone plinth and backed by a lower stone wall. It appears a little shrine-like in nature (if a big shrine!), and adds an interesting twist of character to the setting.

Aoi-ike, November 2022 – click any image for full size

Wildlife can be found scattered across the region – deer, owls, bear, cranes, weasels, and black swans – although some might need a little seeking out in order to spot. Also waiting to be found are further places to sit outside of those already mentioned: benches, deck chairs, and so on.

Easy to explore, reflective of the location that inspired it without being heavily tied it it, Aoi-ike presents an engaging winter setting for people to enjoy, entirely free from the more usual “seasonal” trappings generally found in winter-themed reasons at this time of year.

Aoi-ike, November 2022 – click any image for full size

SLurl Details

  • Aoi-ike (Overland Hills, rated Moderate)

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