Apr 17, 18 – Hakodate (40/2385 km to date)
I arrived at Hakodate on Hokkaido by ferry from Aomori at about 4:00 pm. It is very obvious that I have done a big shift. When I left Kanazawa yesterday morning, many of the good Sakura had blown from the trees; here there is no indication that the blossoms are even close. It is still cloudy but not raining and the wind is only light but cold. I saw some guys on the train going into Aomori carrying skis, but I knew I would be getting into colder conditions.
The first two budget places I checked are both closed for the season, as if I needed that to emphasize my poor timing. I ended up in another business hotel with good internet. It was too late and I was too tired to visit anything and so I decided to spend two nights here so that I could visit and get my bearings.
I had an excellent breakfast at my hotel and headed out to look at a few of the old buildings reflecting British and Russian interest in the late 1800s. And then I headed up the hiking trail to Hakadate-san. The mist was hanging over the mountain, there was still snow in the bushes and even on part of the trail but other old folks were out doing their early Sunday walk. Mostly I listened to the chickadees and savored the walk.
Back down in town, I found the information centre and got some bad news. My guide book had indicated a ferry back to Aomori from Muroran, which would have given me a way to do a couple of days of riding, through Toya, a volcanic area with some nice onsens. There is no ferry from Muroran; I had tried asking the ticket guy when I bought my way over here but could not communicate at all with him. I can only afford two at the most three days here, and one is already done. My ride around to Muroran is not possible and an out and back for a day each way doesn’t get me anywhere. The whole shift in my plan is not working out all that well, as I rush about half prepared making mistakes. At least I didn’t head off this morning expecting to be able to catch a ferry at Muroran.
I rode around town, thinking and shopping. I needed a new tire to replace the one I slashed and some more cold & wet stuff. I visited the site of the old castle, confirmed, at a second information centre, the bad news and even checked into the price of a rental car for a day or two. Finally I decided that Hokkaido would have to wait for another trip, at a different time of year. I will get on a ferry tomorrow, go back to Aomori and begin the ride back to Tokyo through Tohoku. Possibly I can find some of Basho’s “narrow roads in the deep north”