This post could also have been called “Under suspicion” or “Dinning in eternal Christmas” for reasons that will become clear later.
All morning, and I start early, I watched Hokkaido come out of the haze as I approached Honshu’s northernmost town of Oma. As I cleared the last hill I saw the morning ferry leave and when I reached the terminal found I had 3 hours to waste. Unfortunately my method of wasting time is to stand on street corners mooching free internet and this caught the eye of the local plain-clothed policeman. He was really nice, almost apologetic for having troubled me. Once satisfied I was a nice guy he left, then came back because with all the chit-chat he’d forgotten to check my passport.
Finally the ferry left Honshu. The skies were clear and I really felt like I was making progress. As I stepped off the boat I recorded a few words to camera and found myself talking to someone who was dressed like a fairly nondescript local port worker. Then two more turned up and they looked slightly more official. Black suits, ties and flip out notepads. The port guy spoke enough English but I was letting them know I was making an effort by replying in Japanese as much as I could. He mentioned something about the G8 summit and increased security, as if that explained why only the foreigner was being questioned. I was cheery and they were nice, but they were only speaking to me because I was different to everyone else. Again slightly apologetic for troubling me, and they rushed around to find maps, show me the bus schedule and even called ahead to my hostel when I asked if there was a public phone nearby. But they were still only talking to me because I am different. I didn’t dare to turn on my GPS when they were around, that thing looks really suspicious.
Anyway, with them still standing by me the bus turned up and I got on. I’ll have to return to that spot tomorrow to make sure my line is continuous. In town I stopped by the tourist info office to get a city map and once all that was sorted in Japanese I asked the nice young lady behind the counter if she’d been to southern England. I’d overheard her speaking in English to the asian-looking couple before me and sure enough her accent was from Brighton, 15 miles from where I grew up!
The Hakodate “Youth Guest House” (YGH) Hostel is not what I expected. It gets 0 for atmosphere, but maybe it’s just not the season. To me is seems more like a business hotel with communal showers, and small ones at that. A one-person bath and three shower heads around the walls is not nearly enough for the size of this place. But it’s cheap and I am clean. I could have camped in any of the dozen parks between here and the train station though. For dinner I tried The Happy Pierrot where the upstairs is over-decorated in fake pine needles and hundreds, maybe even thousands of old Christmas ornaments. Glowing Santas line the stairs and painted wooden candy-canes hang from the ceiling while naff old carols are played to the dinners.
Hokkaido is the last island. All that exists now is 600+km and the 22 days that separate Tania, Cape Soya and I. Even with two days off at Sapporo I’ll only need to average 6 hours of walking per day. I don’t know what I’ll do with the rest of my time.
Oh yeah, discover Japan, I keep forgetting that.
Word of the day: chi-ga-u = different
Distance today: 33 km