Today, my backpack and I head to Wakkanai in the north of Hokkaido. It's as far north as you can go without entering Russia.
Until about 150 years ago, Hokkaido was almost completely wilderness. The indigenous Ainu were able to live somewhat traditional lives while under the thumbs of small groups of Japanese.
In the late 1800's, settlers were encouraged to colonize the island, and they came in droves. Today, most of Hokkaido's population is concentrated in the southwest in the cities of Hakodate, Otaru and Sapporo. I visited those fine cities in April 2013, but deep snow prevented me from exploring the countryside beyond.
|1880's settlers' home, Historical Village of Hokkaido (museum), April 2013|
Before I go on a trip, I sometimes sample the literature of the area I'm visiting. I'm not finding much fiction based in Hokkaido, available in translation.
Consequently, I'm not looking for literary settings. Neither am I looking for ancient temples and other ancient (Japanese) cultural artifacts: there isn't much. By contrast, the natural environment seems rich, so I'm going to sample Hokkaido's national parks.
Here's my plan:
1. Airport World: MSP--SFO--HND--WKJ (Wakkanai)
|21st century jet-setting glamour, unknown traveler, Haneda Airport, April 2016|
Wednesday (today): 75 cents senior fare from home to the airport. Nonstop from Minneapolis to San Francisco, then nonstop San Francisco to Tokyo's Haneda Airport. Both flights are with United.
Thursday, towards midnight: Arrive Tokyo Haneda. Check in to a hotel connected to the domestic terminal, ready for the next morning's flight with ANA.
Friday morning: Two hour, nonstop flight to Wakkanai.
2. Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park
After a couple nights on Rishiri Island, I'll take a boat to Rebun Island and spend a night there.
3. Interior Hokkaido
4. In the Steps of a 19th Century Traveler
5. Homeward Bound: CTS--NRT--MSP
Morning: Hokkaido's New Chitose Airport to Tokyo Narita on ANA.
|Narita departure gate, April 2014|
From Narita it's nonstop on Delta, arriving Minneapolis early afternoon that same day. My final stretch is a 75 cents ride home on public transit.
- In 1689 the writer Matsuo Bashō went on a five-month trek to areas north of today's Tokyo. He gives glimpses of his journey in The Narrow Road to the Deep North. I've traced small parts of his journey. Bashō got as far north as Kisakata, Honshu, which was pretty far north at the time. (See the map at the top of this post.) My explorations, today, start much further north, thanks to modern aviation.
- I purchased all flights with frequent flyer miles. I selected travel days where there was availability for the minimum number of frequent flyer miles.