Hello readers! I’m writing this as my train winds its way around the southern Hokkaido coast on its way from Sapporo to Hakodate, hills to our right and the sea to our left. We just passed the beautiful-looking Sapporo to Ueno (Tokyo) sleeper, a bit of a surprise as I’d been assured it had ceased to exist. Oh well. I’ll get it next time.
We’ve just spent a few days away from it all in Asahi-Dake, or more specifically amid a small collection of hostels and hotels clustered around the eponymous mountain’s ropeway station. There were only three buses a day to the nearest cash machine, Starbucks or major conurbation. Vending machine facilities were by no means exhaustive. We were really roughing it.
The lodge was run by a lovely couple. The guy was obsessed with folk music and making shit out of wood. Consequently there were logs, axes and guitars all over the place. He spent the evenings practicing scales and demanding to see my ukulele. Among the games and books for visitors was a compilation album dedicated to the lodge. Folk, of course.
The area had precisely one sight of interest: the mountain. Unfortunately we were dressed mainly for the plain, while the weather up here was still distinctly not summer. The ropeway to the top was suspended due to high winds; we had to go back and take a series of hot baths at the lodge instead. Such a tough life.
Next day we tried again. Visibility had dramatically lessened. The mountain was swathed in rainy clouds. We went up anyway. The visitor centre gave us moon boots for 200 yen, and the doors of the top station opened out to an appropriately lunar-esque landscape, if the moon had been terraformed and was covered with snow, ice, and mountain flowers. We hiked our way up past a few calderas and gas-spewing volcanic vents. The rain was incessant and flirted with becoming snow. We completed our circuit and went back to the upper station for coffee and beer. We were the only customers.
Back then to the lodge, and hot outdoor bathing, reading, tea, and rather a lot of Mario Kart.