The morning breaks cold and damp but the weather is fine as we eat breakfast with a superb view of Hokuto and the sea. By the time we finish and are preparing to pack up, very ominous clouds appear over the mountains. Within 10 minutes, it is pouring with rain. We delay the clearing up and packing and wait for the worst to blow over.
Eventually we check out of the Kijihiki campsite and descend into Hakodate but it is raining solidly again, so we go to an art museum. This is very disappointing, as the exhibition is very small and of limited interest. A few ceramics that catch the eye and some powerful calligraphy but, mostly, not for me.
Northern Fisheries Museum 北洋資料館
Luckily, next door is the Northern Fisheries Museum and, as it is still pouring with rain and the entrance fee is 100 yen, it cannot be avoided. This is not only more extensive but much more interesting. We learn about the companies that developed the industry and the various types of fishing. I now realize, I forgot all the information almost immediately, but it was interesting at the time.
We also got to experience the fishing boat sensation, as in a mock-up wheelhouse, the whole thing pitches and rocks as if at sea. Uuup and down, uuup and down etc. D. was sick. (That is a falsehood added only for extra colour). One of the attendants, who was probably a volunteer, gave us detailed explanations and was very helpful.
Cape Tachimachi 立待岬
Leaving the northern seas, we grab something for lunch from a convenience store and, as the rain has blown over, head out of Hakodate to the Cape Tachimachi. From this headland there is a very good view of Hakodate Bay and Aomori across the water. We walk around, as much as the headland allows, watching the sea birds wheeling below.
Hakodate Historic Town
Leaving the headland, we drive the short distance to the Historic Town centre. This consists of various Meiji era buildings some of which are pretty but it does not grab my imagination.
There is a Russian orthodox church and a pink coke machine but little else of interest. Except, perhaps, a set of yellow footprints in front of one of the main buildings but facing away. Few people seem to notice these and I was intrigued enough to stand on them to try to discover their secret. I am still uncertain of it but standing on them you have a direct view of Komagatake which may have been the point.
Leaving the historic area, we drive to our Super Hotel. We have decided to stay in a hotel in the city so as to be sure of the ferry in the morning. After some difficulty parking, we check into our room. The room is very small with a metal bunk bed over the top of the main bed. There is only one chair and, as it is a smoking room, it stinks.
Escaping from our smelly room, we walk towards the station and the morning market. From the station, as we approach, flow a stream of people clearly arrived from warmer places; some wearing just t-shirts in the near freezing temperatures. We follow this flow which disperses into the various hotels and enter the Morning Market which, as its name implies, is 90% closed.
Walking past the hotel we stayed in a few years earlier, we muse on how things have changed. Not least our level of hotel accommodation but, that aside, there are many more tourists – notably from China and Thailand, hence the t-shirts. This maybe due to the season (we visited before in December) but it is getting late in the year for Hokkaido.
Also, I was struck by the signs in Russian. I don’t remember that from our earlier visit and I think it is something that I would have noticed given that I remember a Japan that had no English signage. To round off our evening we go to an izakaya, part of our reason for staying in a hotel in the city, but it is a disappointment. A sign, perhaps, of a city with too many visitors?
Tsugaru Kaikyo (Strait) Ferry 津軽海峡フェリー
Next morning, about 8:15, we leave for the ferry port and arrive with not too much time to spare. We join the line of waiting vehicles but we have failed to check in ,so D. dashes off to do that while I sit in the car. I spot the couple from our campsite in the traffic ahead of me and, once we have boarded, we join them on a bench aft.
It becomes very hot, in the mid-October sunshine, and we all begin to shed layers of clothing. As we leave Hokkaido, and head for Ooma in Aomori, we enjoy the very fine view of Hakodate and its surroundings but the further out of the port we go, the chillier the wind, and we start replacing our layers. We can see the volcano, Mt. Komagatake ,we climbed and, as we get further out to sea, we can also make out Mount Esan, or Mount Doom, that we drove partway up before arriving in Hakodate.
To be continued…
＊Tsugaru kaikyo(strait) Ferry 90 minutes, 1810 yen/per. in October
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.