Leaving the 21st. Century Forest campsite, with some reluctance, we head through and around Asahikawa which gives the impression of being a dull place. It is very flat with wide streets and uninteresting buildings; utterly desolate in the winter, one imagines. We head out towards the coast and Wakkanai via Rumoi along R.232 (Ororon Line – Hokkaido west coast scenic road).
The illuminated street signs, as we wind our way up the coast, warn of lightening and the weather is very unsettled with sunshine and frequent showers.
Obira Nishin Banya
We stop to visit Old Hanada House Banya next to the michi-no-eki (road station) ‘Obira Nishin Banya’.
A Banya is the premises of a herring fishing company. The Hanada House Banya* is a splendid, very large, wooden building containing the company offices and the living quarters of the workers and those of the boss and his family. The workers area consisted of a large, open plan space with a kitchen, dining area, an open space to relax (though I suspect there was little time for that) and sleeping quarters around the edge. By contrast, the boss inhabited a much more private and comfortable part of the building, complete with bathroom and toilet.
This living area is decorated with photographs and furniture from Meiji times.
The herring industry collapsed completely in mid to late Showa era but unfortunately the person in charge of the place didn’t really know anything about it. As he was unable to answer any of our questions, we learnt little. It was interesting all the same. The herring boats themselves, or many of them, appear to have been rowing boats with 8 to 10 oars.
* Built in Meiji 30’s (late 19 Century), it is the biggest existing Banya in Hokkaido. It housed a maximum of 200 workers in its heyday.
*admission 400 yen
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.