Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Nippon Extremities: Hokkaido IV
August 7, 1997
It is a well-known fact that Hokkaido has no rainy season. But nobody told this to the rain, which kept up for a further three days. We passed the first two in the hot springs out in the streambed. Nights were spent drinking beer, playing cards, and coming up with the synopsis for a Seinfeld episode involving butt chafe, olive oil, and peanuts tossed at Yankee Stadium. Despite the pleasant surroundings, we were rapidly pushing the envelope of boredom.
One of the mornings had looked promising, so we climbed up to the summit of Furano-dake. There, we took a few photos with a couple of woman motorcycle enthusiasts, who had ridden up to Hokkaido from Yokohama. We left them, and were halfway to Takachi-dake when the rain moved in again, forcing a wet and slippery descent back to the baths. Along the way, we passed a few small groups of hikers, fully-loaded and moving on into the backcountry, a sight which filled me with envy. This was no way to spend the summer. We had originally planned to follow the ridgeline for four days over the top of Daisetsuzan National Park, but instead day after day went by with us staring out the window, wondering when the rains would stop.
So after our three-day wait, J. and I broke 'base-camp' and thought we'd retry our luck from Daisetsuzan's eastern end. The usual transportation hassles prevailed, so we didn't arrive at Sounkyo Onsen until close to 4 p.m. The hostel at which we stayed was the antithesis of Fukiage Onsen, small, overcrowded, and with no proper cooking facilities.
Disgruntled and claustrophobic, J. and I took a walk down the town's single street, amidst the overpriced hotels, ramen shops, and vending machines, far more removed from the peaceful setting of our previous few days. The sun did come out briefly as if to mock us, then disappeared quickly behind grey shades. We sat and tried to forget with a beer and a sentimental chat, but all the yelling schoolkids, and the roar of the highway directed into parking spaces by the shrillness of whistles pushed us deeper into our foul moods...
On the turntable: Meat Beat Manifesto, "Acid Again"