Installed on the recently released OS X Mountain Lion is a breathtaking image of an aquamarine pond with trees growing out of it.  We previously gave you the impressions of the photographer Kent Shiraishi, but now we went straight to the real Blue Pond in Biei, Hokkaido to see if it lives up to the photo.

Usually when you look at desktop wallpapers you don’t really think of these photos of real places on Earth.  I mean, does that pasture on Windows XP actually exist somewhere?

Blue Pond especially is so utterly surreal with its swimming trees and otherworldly blue water, that even if this place exists I could possibly look like that in real life, right? Well, there’s only one way to be sure, so we went up there to get to the bottom of it.

Upon arriving, we were surprised by the number tourists milling around, especially from China and Korea.  It’s no surprise that people had come from Japan and abroad since being in rural Biei you feel like your trapped in a post card.  Everywhere you turn is a picturesque tableau of natural beauty.

The next surprise came when we learned that blue pond is more of a reservoir than a pond.  It was created by a dam used to protect from mudflows that might occur from nearby volcanic Mt. Tokachi.  The dam was built in 1989.  So this explains why those trees are sitting in the middle of the water like that, but what’s the deal with the blue water?

It’s difficult to say exactly what it is that makes the water that unique shade of blue. Possibly some minerals like aluminum rich water from the Biei River gets mixed into the pond in such a way that it forms a type of colloid.

Regardless of how it came to be, its beauty certainly lives up to its now ubiquitous image on Mac computers.  Actually, the color of the water changes depending what angle you’re looking at and even the time of day and weather may make the water look completely different.  So if you head down to Biei, you might just find a pond ever bluer than this.


■ Blue Pond
Location: 2.5km from Hakkin Onsen, 18km from JR Biei Station, Kamikawa County, Hokkaido
Biei City’s Website (Japanese)