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August 7th, 2012 | categorizilation: all categories,Hokkaido (Japan),Japan,Post-2008,Shiretoko Tour (2012)

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Another of our ‘rest’ days. This time we got an early ferry to Notsuke Peninsula, and cycled back around to Odaito.

Catching the ferry from Otaido to the Notsuke Peninsula (Hokkaido, Japan)

Haidee on the lookout for spotted seals on the  Notsuke Peninsula (Hokkaido, Japan) A mooring on the Notsuke Peninsula (Hokkaido, Japan)

Catching the ferry from Otaido to the Notsuke Peninsula (Hokkaido, Japan)

We were the only passengers on the ferry, so we had our very own personal guide. The ferry ride takes 30 minutes, but that includes a 5 minute stop half way, to have a gander at spotted seals. They were indeed there today. Spots and all.

Once at the peninsula (or, rather, gigantic sand-spit), with my nice fat 60mm tyres, I had a wee cycle along the beach. Haidee, with her skinny 25mm tyres, walked.

Cycling along the beach on the  Notsuke Peninsula (Hokkaido, Japan)

Notsuke Peninsula (Hokkaido, Japan)

The beach only lasted about 500m, after which there was boardwalk. Today’s beautiful blue skies made up somewhat for the rainy and cloudy weather of previous days.

Boardwalks along the Notsuke Peninsula (Hokkaido, Japan)

Boardwalks along the Notsuke Peninsula (Hokkaido, Japan) Boardwalks along the Notsuke Peninsula (Hokkaido, Japan)

Boardwalks along the Notsuke Peninsula (Hokkaido, Japan)

Wild flowers are the name of the game here. In particular, Irises seemed to be in full bloom at this time of year.

Irises on the Notsuke Peninsula (Hokkaido, Japan)

Notsuke Peninsula also happens to be a perfect vantage to gaze upon the long-lost Kuril Islands, or at least the southern-most of the islands, Kunashiri Island (Kunashir in Russian). Basically, the islands, which were originally Japanese, but were occupied by Soviet forces at the end of World War II, are presently claimed by Russia. The Japanese government disputes this claim. More on Wikipedia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuril_Islands_dispute.

Some Japanese want the disputed islands north of Hokkaido returned to Japan (Shiretoko, Japan)

Sentiment in Hokkaido in general and in this area in particular seems quite strong that the islands should be returned to Japan. The text in red in the sign above says “Islands 16km away; so close yet so far”.

The wind was at our backs as we pedaled our way back to our campsite. Dinner was a fairly standard fare of fried onion, garlic, and mushrooms mixed with a tomato pasta sauce to make some nice vegetarian pasta.

Cooking dinner on the MSR Whisperlite Internationalle at the Fureai Campground (Odaito, Hokkaido, Japan)

Fureai Campground (Odaito, Hokkaido, Japan) Fureai Campground (Odaito, Hokkaido, Japan)

The nearby Seaview Hotel has an onsen for 500yen per person, so, like last night, we dropped by later on for a soak.

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Distance: 35.8km | Time on bikes: 2h 34m | Average speed: 13.9km/h | Bears: 0
Financials: Food: 3,809yen | Accommodation: 700yen | Onsen (hotspring): 1,000yen | Ferry ride: 3,200yen

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August 6th, 2012 | categorizilation: all categories,Hokkaido (Japan),Japan,Post-2008,Shiretoko Tour (2012)

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Surly Karate Monkey outside an old Japanese ryokan (inn) in Rausu (Hokkaido, Japan)

They have some very large horses in this part of Hokkaido. They are shorter than Clydesdales, but have hooves about the same size.

Big Clydesdale-ish horses south of Rausu (Hokkaido, Japan)

Big Clydesdale-ish horses south of Rausu (Hokkaido, Japan)

Kelp seems to be a large part of the economy here. Huge sheets of it are harvested by chaps on boats, and then hung to dry in large forced-air drying sheds. The guy below said that the dried kelp is sold all over Japan. Kelp of this thickness is used mostly for soup and sauce stock in Japan. It sort of acts like MSG; brings out the flavor of foods more.

Kelp drying near Odaito (Hokkaido, Japan)

For lunches on this trip, we were mostly eating out. Most meals are below 1,000yen, but for a large bowl of ‘kaisen-don’ (a bowl of rice topped with raw fish) at this nice place, they were charging 1,250yen. You’d easily pay 2,000yen for something equivalent in big-city Sapporo. I would have taken a photo of it, but alas my appetite had other ideas.

Lunch in Shibetsu (Hokkaido, Japan)

Despite an interesting start to the day, much of the cycling approaching our campsite (the Fureai Campsite in Odaito) was quite dull, in my opinion. The campsite made up for it though. Right on the seafront, it was.

Fureai Campground in Odaito (Hokkaido, Japan)

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Distance: 59.8km | Time on bikes: 4h 02m | Average speed: 14.7km/h | Bears: 0
Financials: Food: 6,039yen | Accommodation: 700yen | Onsen (hotspring): 1,000yen | Laundry: 400yen

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August 5th, 2012 | categorizilation: all categories,Hokkaido (Japan),Japan,Post-2008,Shiretoko Tour (2012)

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Today it was raining when we got up.

Ready for a wet climb up Shiretoko Pass (739m) in Hokkaido, Japan

It was still raining after about a 2 hour climb up Shiretoko Pass (739m, starting at sea level).

At the top of Shiretoko Pass (735m) in Hokkaido, Japan

Incredulously, Haidee seemed still in a decent mood.

At the top of Shiretoko Pass (735m) in Hokkaido, Japan

Although, this may have had something to do with the promise of a dry room when we arrived in Rausu, rather than a soggy campsite (as was the original plan…well, at least, the original plan was for a nice dry campsite opposite a free onsen…but sometimes the weather plays foul).

After a very chilly descent back down to sea level, we ended up at a dingy old ryokan (an old-style Japanese inn) for the night. They did a special deal for us: 7,000yen for the room. The only redeeming feature of the place was the attached natural onsen. Which was dilapidated (like the rest of the ryokan), but hot and good for tired muscles and frazzled nerves.

Old Japanese ryokan (inn) in Rausu (Hokkaido, Japan)

Drying off in an old Japanese ryokan (inn) in Rausu (Hokkaido, Japan) Drying off in an old Japanese ryokan (inn) in Rausu (Hokkaido, Japan)

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Distance: 33.6km | Time on bikes: 2h 59m | Average speed: 11.2km/h | Bears: 0
Financials: Food: 4,600yen | Accommodation: 7,000yen | Onsen (hotspring): 0yen

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August 4th, 2012 | categorizilation: all categories,Hokkaido (Japan),Japan,Post-2008,Shiretoko Tour (2012)

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Shiretoko Noeijo (Shiretoko Campground) in Utoro (Hokkaido, Japan)

Today was supposed to be a ‘rest’ day. Instead we cycled a 30km round-trip to see the famous Five Lakes, right in the heart of Shiretoko National Park. The climb up to the lakes was truly stunning. Wild flowers, and ancient-looking forest. All with the excitement that you might be attacked and torn to pieces by a bear at any moment.

Bear warning signs on the Shiretoko Highway (Hokkaido, Japan)

Ups and downs on the Shiretoko Highway (Hokkaido, Japan) Wild flowers lining the roads on the Shiretoko Highway (Hokkaido, Japan)

Just to do the 1.5 hour walk, visitors have to take part in a 10 minute lecture on what to do to avoid encounters with grizzly bears, and what to do if you manage to encounter one. The advice taken most to heart, apparently, was to avoid encounters by making noise, such as clapping. For the first five minutes or so of the walk, therefore, you’d hardly know whether you were in a peaceful national forest, or a pentecostal church worship service. Luckily for us, the group quickly dispersed along the track, with us taking up the rear. We were mostly content with Haidee’s dinging bear-bell. This allowed us to enjoy the lakes more or less in peace and quiet.

One of the lakes on the five lake walk on the Shiretoko Peninsula (Hokkaido, Japan)

A mirror lake on the five-lake walk on the Shiretoko Peninsula (Hokkaido, Japan) One of the lakes on the five lake walk on the Shiretoko Peninsula (Hokkaido, Japan)

pano4One of the lakes on the five lake walk on the Shiretoko Peninsula (Hokkaido, Japan)

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Distance: about 30km | Time on bikes: | Average speed: | Bears: 0
Financials: Food: 4,623yen | Accommodation: 800yen | Onsen (hotspring): 1000yen

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August 3rd, 2012 | categorizilation: all categories,Hokkaido (Japan),Japan,Post-2008,Shiretoko Tour (2012)

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The day began today also on nice quiet farming roads. Fields of potatoes, mainly. With some daikon (large white Japanese radish).

Quiet farm roads near Shari (Hokkaido, Japan) Sparse wind-breaks near Shuen (Hokkaido, Japan)

Taking backroads to avoid the narrow Shiretoko Highway (Hokkaido, Japan)

We did manage to avoid the narrow bit of Route 334, but at the cost of some steep hills. Good for the soul. Like chicken soup, only less comforting. And despite the cold start in the morning, it was getting very hot later in the day. Perfect excuse to drop into a cafe (read: smokey old-style Japanese coffee bar) for some iced coffee and cake. The cake is ‘rare cheese cake’.

Traditional Japanese 'kissaten' in Hinode (Hokkaido, Japan)

Quite unlike much of the Japanese coastline, the coast of Shiretoko Peninsula seems relatively untouched. Nice sweeping vistas and unrestrained waterfalls. It is worth noting that today was one of the few days on this trip we had blue skies.

Haidee on the Shiretoko Highway (Shiretoko, Hokkaido) One of many waterfalls to pose beside (Shiretoko, Hokkaido)

Haidee on the Shiretoko Highway (Shiretoko, Hokkaido)

Our campsite for tonight was at the Shiretoko Campground in Utoro. It comes complete with wild deer who wander freely through the campground. We apparently set up our tent right next to where a family of deer bunk down for the night; even so, with all the warnings about storing food away from one’s tent during the night (to avoid encounters with bears), it was quite disconcerting to hear the dear pacing about outside at night.

Wild Hokkaido deer in the Shiretoko Noeijo (Shiretoko Campground) in Utoro (Hokkaido, Japan)

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Distance: 40.1km | Time on bikes: 2h 56m | Average speed: 13.6km/h | Bears: 0
Financials: Food: 3,723yen | Accommodation: 800yen | Onsen (hotspring): 1500yen

 

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August 2nd, 2012 | categorizilation: all categories,Japan,Post-2008,Shiretoko Tour (2012)

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With the rain of yesterday gone, we were now keen to get on the road. The bear hunt began.

Cycling out of Abashiri along the Abashiri River (Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan)

Abashiri is a nice enough town. It has that feel of being sort of outpost-ish. Like it is right on the outskirts of Hokkaido. It is a quiet town, but apparently is more popular in winter, where you can see sea-ice floes. Haidee and I made a note to come back in winter.

It is probably worth noting also that there is a fairly well stocked cycle store in Abashiri on Route 244 through the city (location here: goo.gl/maps/0qUJX). We had to pop in to get an extra headset spacer.

A well-stocked bike store (Koniji Cycle Shop) in Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan

Not far out of Abashiri, along the coast, we stopped in at the White Swan Center on Lake Tofutsu. The distinct lack of white swans (there are more in winter) led us to the friendly miniature horses nearby.

Miniature horses at Lake Tofutsuko (Hokkaido, Japan)

Miniature horses (?) near the white swan reserve (Kitahama, Hokkaido, Japan) Miniature horses (?) near the white swan reserve (Kitahama, Hokkaido, Japan)

Where ever possible, we tried to get off the main roads, and onto adjacent farming roads. The area is criss-crossed with them, so a good map is really handy; it is amazing how much birdsong gets drowned out by automobile noise.

Cycling on quiet back roads near Shari (Hokkaido, Japan) Cycling on quiet back roads near Shari (Hokkaido, Japan)

Our destination for today was the town of Shari. The gateway to Shiretoko National Park. Or so they like to think. In any case, it was a nice enough town. It sort of reminded me of Taupo in New Zealand without the lake. Nice big houses and carefully manicured lawns and gardens.

The mouth of the Shari River in Shari (Hokkaido, Japan)

The Shari Campground was fantastic. It too was carefully manicured, with nice facilities. Even better, the caretaker let us stay for free; we were the only campers that night!

Making dinner at the Midori Kobo Shari Campground (みどり工房しゃりそよ風キャンプ場) in Shari (Hokkaido, Japan) Sapporo beer at the Midori Kobo Shari Campground (みどり工房しゃりそよ風キャンプ場) in Shari (Hokkaido, Japan)

Midori Kobo Shari Campground (みどり工房しゃりそよ風キャンプ場) in Shari (Hokkaido, Japan)

Route Map


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Distance: 43.5km | Time on bikes: 3h 01m | Average speed: 14.4km/h | Bears: 0
Financials: Food: 5,209yen | Accommodation: 0yen | Onsen (hotspring): 0yen | Laundry: 0yen

 

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August 1st, 2012 | categorizilation: all categories,Hokkaido (Japan),Japan,Post-2008,Shiretoko Tour (2012)

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The Shiretoko region in eastern Hokkaido is home to more grizzly bears per square kilometer than anywhere in Japan. It therefore seemed like the sensible thing to go there and cycle around for a couple of weeks, camping along the way. It was summer vacation here, after all.

So Haidee and I bundled up our bicycles onto the train in Sapporo, and got on an early train bound for Abashiri. About 400km east of Sapporo, on the northern sea coast. It was about 30 degrees Celsius when we left Sapporo. It was about 15 degrees in Abashiri when we arrived 5 hours later at noon. Our expectations of a hot and sweaty two week tour suddenly seemed extremely silly. Haidee was kicking herself for not bringing that extra merino wool longsleeve top.

A happy duo at Abashiri Station, Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan

It was also raining. The idea for this trip was to relax. So we checked into a swanky hotel right in front of the train station (for a very reasonable 3,500yen each), and spent the first night in comfort.

Hotel room at the Toyoko Inn in Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan

Abashiri Michi-no-eki (Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan)

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