Minami Furano michi no eki is a good place to stay. The parking is flat, the toilets are modern and clean, and it is away from the main road. It is busy in the morning and there are no rubbish bins, but a good place nevertheless..
Shikaribetsuko – Lake Shikaribetsu 然別湖
We head off to Shikaribetsuko but on the way we run into fog at the Karikachi-pass on R.38 and when we drop down to the lake it is mostly covered in mist. The only access to the lake, we find, is by a large hotel. There is a jetty with boats to hire for fishing but little else.
We can find nowhere to walk the lakeside, so we leave and continue to drive around the lakeshore on pref. R.85. This road is narrow at first but soon widens and leaves the lake altogether. This route is closed in winter.
Higashitaisetsu Shizenkan (Nature Centre) 東大雪自然館
Route 85, away from the lake, becomes a drive through mixed forest which brings us out to Higashitaisetsu Shizenkan (Nature Centre). We have stopped at this place before and it is well worth a visit. It has a small park adjacent to it where you can sit and enjoy a picnic lunch.
From the Nature centre we drive a few kilometres to view Taushubetsu Railway bridge that used to carry the Shihoro line. This section of line has been disused since 1955. The whole line closed in 1985. The old railway bridge is submerged annually. It is usually visible from January and begins to be submerged in June before disappearing underwater in October. This year the lack of rain means Lake Nukabira is low and the bridge has re-emerged from the water completely.
To view the bridge means a short walk through the woods with the obligatory bear warnings. The viewing spot is a long way from the bridge ruins and quite why it is famous enough for people to want to view it is a bit of a mystery to me. It is possible to join tours for a closer look from Higashitaisetsu Shizenkan, I believe.
The abandoned Shihoro railway track is used as a hiking course, despite the bear warnings, and in some areas it is possible to ride a hand truck along the line.
Lake Akan 阿寒湖
We drive back past the nature centre towards Akan. This is an onsen town that was, in the mid-Showa period, possibly the first, major, tourist attraction in Hokkaido. It is the source of those wood carvings of bears, with or without salmon, that are a feature of almost every household in Japan. We called in here post season, on a previous trip, and it was a miserable, deserted place. Today, we make the mistake of driving through and it is teeming with visitors. A miserable, crowded place.
Our final destination is Mashu Onsen michi no eki. This michi no eki has no onsen, well it does have a 24 hour foot bath, Mashu Onsen is just the name of this michi no eki.
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.