Friday, September 30, 2016

Walking in the Company of Crows

Jigokudani (Hell Valley), Shikotsu-Toya National Park
Between flights at Tokyo's Haneda Airport I noticed a comment on my Beyond the Narrow Road to the Deep North blog post. The writer recommended a book, Ainu Folk Tales.

The Ainu are the indigenous people of Hokkaido. Much of their culture is handed down verbally from generation to generation in the form of stories.

Although the book was published in 1888, it was available for download. I read many of the Ainu stories on my flight from Haneda to Wakkanai in the far north of Hokkaido. I'm grateful for the recommendation.
The devil got up early one morning, long before the sun had risen, with the intention of swallowing it. But God knew of his designs, and made a crow to circumvent them. When the sun was rising, the evil one opened his mouth to swallow it; but the crow, who was lying in wait, flew down his throat, and so saved it. [From an Ainu legend explaining how a crow saved the sun from the devil.]
Crows often invaded my solitude as I walked alone in Hokkaido. On my first day of hiking, they barked like dogs. On a busy city street their defiant "f*ck, f*ck, f*ck" rose above the sound of traffic. At other times they declared a simple "ah, ah, ah."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Let's Play "Which Button Do I Press?"

Question 1: Which button do I press to dispense hot water? 

A Japanese hotel room is an oasis from the complexity of navigating Japan. I can kick back, have a nice cup of tea, and calmly plan my next adventures.

Or can I?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mt. Asahidake: Shapes in the Mist

The cable car goes part-way up Mt. Asahidake in central Hokkaido. I took it to reduce my round-trip hike to the summit to 3½ hours.

When I started out from the cable-car station, I could not see the summit, but I expected the sky to clear as the day warmed up. Sulfurous steam vents did their noisy best to create vog (volcanic fog) and change my expectations.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Place Where Two Seas Collide

Getting to Rishiri Island via Wakkanai  (northern Hokkaido) from Minneapolis is straightforward, with a few perturbations. A place where the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk collide is bound to have perturbations.

An agent at Tokyo's Haneda Airport warned me the flight to Wakkanai might have to turn back. I was sure something was lost in translation, until I went online to review the status of my flight: "May return to Haneda (Tokyo) due to bad weather."

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Beyond the Narrow Road to the Deep North

I'm drawn to places at the end of train lines.

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.