Early October 2022,
Niseko Panorama Line
Leaving Michi no eki Kuromatsunai, we set off for a day of driving. First heading for Mt. Yotei to view the huge volcanic cone,
then cutting across to the Japan sea via the Niseko Panorama Line (Prefectural Road 66). This should have been a blaze of Autumn colour, but this year remains stubbornly green. Notwithstanding, it is an excellent road to drive.
The coast south of Iwanai
On reaching the coast at Iwanai, we head south following the coast of black ominous rocks and shallow reefs. The roadside is dotted with abandoned dwellings and those still inhabited are protected from the wind and winter blizzards by once sturdy but now dilapidated fences. The road is a curling sweeping enjoyment, but some sections are long, long tunnels. This plus the air of abandonment are not uplifting. There are some prosperous fishing communities, but very far from picturesque.
We do stop to view the Oyakoguma rock formation in Setana Town. This is supposed to depict a mother bear and her cub. There is a dismal story attached to these rocks that you don’t want to hear.
Eventually, we cut inland over Unseki Toge to Yakumo on Route. 277. Here again, the glory of the koyo has yet to materialize. Once more we follow the coast now towards Hakodate and our michi no eki Tsudohru Plaza Sawara.
This is a small place with a large car park and little else. We watch the International Space Station pass overhead thanks to an app. on D’s phone that portrays the night sky even if you point it at the roof of Aeon at midday.
I recall watching the Sputnik cross the heavens when I was a child but have not been aware of man-made space objects passing overhead for many years.
Apparently, Little Richard on tour in Australia saw the Sputnik cross the sky and took it as a sign from God. He abandoned Rock and Roll and became a preacher. Another unintended consequence of communism.
Onuma Park 大沼公園
Morning finds us on the way to Onuma Park. We have been here before, rented bicycles and ridden round the lake. Not today, but we are in need of some exercise, so we set off to walk the 50-minute circuit of the Onuma islands.
Harking back to our previous visit, these woodland paths and linking bridges were thronged with mainly Thai and Chinese tourists posing for photos everywhere. This time, a rare pandemic bonus, we have the woods and walkways almost entirely to ourselves. Unfortunately, there are no autumn colours to be seen the trees are resolutely green or withered brown. And the potential views of Mt. Hokkaido Komagatake are obscured by clouds. We stand entranced for a while watching a mixed flock of Varied tits, Nuthatches, Pygmy Woodpeckers and Long tailed tits. I also tried to get close enough to a heron for a decent picture but in vain.
On leaving Onuma Park we take a prosaic drive to Hakodate to visit to a coin laundry.
In Hakodate we spend one night in an excellent hotel for the bargain price of under 7,000 yen for two in a very spacious comfortable room and a genuine onsen bath. Sadly, the izakaya (Japanese pub) where we attempted to have dinner following an app. recommendation was terrible. Service poor, food bad and the price high.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.