Hi Hokkaido!

Hokkaido – the northernmost of Japan’s main islands – had always been a curious mystery to me. I’d been so close yet so far a few times before on my trips to and around the Kuril Islands next-door – but never had I set foot there. Until the other week…

Hokkaido – meaning ~Northern Sea Circuit, is unsurprisingly just as volcanistic as the Kurils, as you can see in the above pic. It also features nice little houses, like these ->

In other places things are rather run-down, but still all the fields appear to be being used for agriculture:

The roads practically everywhere feature an interesting “signpost”: these here downward-pointing red-and-white-striped arrows, which show where the edge of the road is for when there are meters of snow! ->

The quality of the roads is somewhat under par:

The odd pothole and lots of patchwork repairs… all leading to a rather bumpy ride ->

Down the years I’ve visited different Japanese islands a great many times: Honshu (the biggest island (featuring Tokyo), including two treks up Mount Fuji), Sado to the west, Aogashima to the east, and Okinawa to the south. Well now I’ve all four points of the compass: Hokkaido to the north!

First up – drive around, stroll about, and plenty clicking sounds from my camera:

Nice round here!

There’s a resemblance to the Kurils in places:

Here’s our “business general”, VL, selecting the most prudent strategy given the tricky business landscape:

Urban Hokkaido:

The view from above – nothing too appealing ->

Cruise ships still dock here:

Now, apparently, in the winter here there’s plenty to do – mostly snow-related: skiing, skating, etc., etc.; however, in summer it’s just the opposite. There is of course the default touristic activity of walking here, there and everywhere – but we’d just scaled Mount Rinjani, so we’d had our fill of such walking/trekking and didn’t want more.

But we had to do something, right? In the end we opted for checking out Lake Tōya. Why? Can’t you guess? Because it’s volcanic, of course ). Indeed, a volcanic caldera lake (some 10km wide) in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, just north of the active volcano Mount Usu:

On the lake, we boarded this here… castle-ship! This is just the kind of thing the Japanese like doing – camouflaging everyday things very un-Japanese themes! ->

Off we popped, with the air temperature around 30С° – and no aircon inside! Not even a fan! Accordingly, we were on the top, outdoor deck enjoying the breeze:

The seagulls weren’t sweating, even with all those feathers. How so?!…

Selfie – with a photo-bombing seagull:

We dock on the volcanic island in the middle of the lake:

…Which happens to be my 163rd island visited!

After a brief walk, we were back on Disney Land and heading back – cold beers in hands )…

Next up – the Blue Pond near Biei. Bit of a misnomer really: it should be Turquoise Pond! ->

The map of the cycling routes around here:

Very nice, but the poor trees?! ->

Turns out it’s not naturally colored blue turquoise. It’s the result of the accidental presence of colloidal aluminum hydroxide, and something to do with the nearby dam:



Turquoise lake, turquoise waterfalls:

Next up – whisky (and gin) distillery! You see, we were scraping the (whisky) barrel for things to do! ->

A world apart from old Scottish ones – or maybe not: just modern is all, perhaps ).

Of course, we had a taste. And none of that spitting out nonsense!…

After a few wee drams – of course we were smiling. Kanpai! ->

And that was that: Hokkaido – done.

Next up, Tokyo. But that’ll be in tomorrow’s post…

All the photos from Japan are here.

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