Japan day 27
Japan day 27
Hakodate-Mori 123 km
One of the great things about cycling is that it is a great leveller. Even more so when you are travelling long distance on your own. It levels out social, economic, ethnic and generational differences to a degree that you find yourself making friends with people that wouldn’t normally feature in your circle of contacts.
That is what happened yesterday. My host, via Warmshowers, was Hiroaki,
a marine biology undergraduate at Hakodate University, now in his final year, but also a cyclist (the proud owner of a 30 year old classic Japanese road bike) who has the distinction of having ridden some 20,000 km across Canada and the USA. He sheepishly admitted to carrying far too much luggage, to the extent that the frame of his bike broke under the strain!
He expertly cooked a great pasta dish for our supper, I slept on my Thermarest on the floor of his tiny bedsit, and for breakfast we enjoyed toast and coffee together….. characteristically very un-Japanese from this well travelled, and linguistically fluent, young man. He welcomed me graciously into his life for 12 hours, and I thoroughly enjoyed his company, and learned many things about Japan and its people.
(His field of research, by the way, is ‘crabs’. So what brings together a retired teacher and a young marine biologist studying crabs?……the answer , of course, is cycling……the great leveller).
If I were to go north to Cape Soya directly, I could be there in 5-6 days, but it would mean climbing to levels of elevation where cycling could be very tricky, and even dangerous. Not to mention the bitter cold of the slowly receding winter.
Also, Hokkaido happens to be the most beautiful and unspoilt of the four islands, where the brown bear still survives, and where most of the landmass is officially designated National Park.
This is the island where there are still vestiges of the ancient Ainu people, who were the original settlers, but whose existence was only officially recognised by the government 7 years ago.
In other words, it’s not my intention to make a dash for Soya, but to take in some of the peninsulas and capes, as I thread my way north.
Today’s route was superb….both because the first 50 km were wind assisted, and it took me around the cape where the famous smoking volcano, Mt Esan, is located.
The coastal road around the entire peninsula was ‘pitted’ with dozens of tunnels, one over 1.5 miles in length
and another ominously narrow, with no sidewalk ……but there was so little traffic, I began to wonder if I had left Japan altogether.
All along the coastline, there are constant reminders of the dangers of tsunamis
and advisory signs telling you your current height above sea level.I found myself constantly gazing out to sea…..and not just to admire the views!
When I got to Mori, I decided I was done for the day, there was only an hour to sunset, and the temperature was plummeting. My plan was to persuade the staff at the station to let me camp down in the waiting room, but they said they locked it up at midnight after the last train of the day.
The most amusing thing about this encounter was the young ticket clerk using the voice translator on his iPad for communication. He got me to speak to the device, say what I wanted, and he listened to the Japanese translation. But he just fell about laughing….. And when he spoke some Japanese into it, and I listened to the English version, I just fell about laughing.
Anyway, after all the fun and the failure to communicate, I had to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to crash somewhere warm, so I booked into a little ryokan, had fun trying to hold a sustained conversation with the landlady, then went for a soak in the already-prepared bath……making sure, of course that I showered beforehand, and didn’t leave any soap suds in the bath water…..the simple reason being that others may use the same water for their soak.
So how does your non-Japanese mind cope with that prospect…..?