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Hokkaido - Part 1

Written on: Monday February 9th, 2009

A journal entry from: Japan

It's almost a beautiful day here. Well, I mean the sun pops out for a few minutes every once in a while and it feels like a great day, but then it goes back and it's kinda dark and cloudy. But, I couldn't feel more satisfied at the moment. I just had a special lesson with my Japanese teacher, who taught us how to make tempura today. And then we had lunch. Great lesson, eh?

So, time to sit back and get caught up on six months worth of photos to post. First, Hokkaido, the northernmost (main) island of Japan. I spent a week travelling by car with Kelly. We headed to the eastern spit, and a national park called Shiretoko. We climbed Mt. Rausu, which I really enjoyed. It was steep at points, especially the dry gully, and Kelly was horrified at the number of steps in the trail. The weather held out until we reached the pass just below the top of the peak, and then the fog rolled in. It wasn't too bad, though, so we pressed on, and were rewarded at the top of a grand view of...white fog. Which is too bad; when it's clear you can see the Kuril Islands, disputed territory between Japan and Russia.

Fog became a theme of the trip. Whenever we got close to a mountain peak, whether in the car or on foot, fog mysteriously thickened around us every time.

The next day, we drove through Rausu Pass (in the fog) and headed for Mashu-ko (Lake) and Akan-ko (Lake). Mashu-ko is a popular viewpoint in Japan, known as the "devil's lake". Akan-ko is known as the home of "marimo" - a unique type of fresh-water algae that grows in the shape of a sphere and is only found here. This being Japan, "marimo" has been anthropomorphized and emblazoned everywhere.

On the way we stopped at a live volcano, which made me happy. It was basically an exposed slope, covered with a white-grey, ash-like substance, dotted with steaming vent holes, some of them tinged with yellow or green. The fumes were horrible; it made me sick to get too close. But I love visiting volcanoes, so it was worth it.

Next up, central Hokkaido.