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japan on ¥425 a day - part II of the odyssee3

Written by TJ  | Created: Monday, 22 October 2012 06:22
Last Updated: Monday, 22 October 2012 06:33  |  Hits: 6681
 

The woman manning the counter at the Tokyo Tourist Information Center had boasted, "Hokkaido is a hitchhiker's paradise!" It wasn't the kind of information I expected from the office, but she was more than right. Hell, you don't even need to hitch. I was merely confused, scanning a city map of Hakodate when a couple stopped and offered to drive me where I needed to go.

My original theory has been amended. Those who speak English are given a lesson with my notebook serving as a whiteboard. The others become my Japanese teachers. Everyone gets my manga sticker, and like previously, my payments are usually food, coffee, and cigarettes. I still yearn for cash payment and even more so now that I'm in the red. The ferry to Hokkaido cost a whopping ¥1010!

Early evening west of Sapporo Kazumi and Yuka, a middle-aged couple takes me to their home in Asahikawa. I feel slightly awkward staying with a family that spans three generations, but surprisingly all goes wonderfully smooth. I tutor their two daughters in English, use my improving Japanese with Obachan, and devour every delight placed in front of me. It's as if Kazumi and Yuka have returned from Sapporo with a giant stuffed bear that can talk and interact. I shower, shave and am stuffed with a seven-course breakfast the following morning. Yuka prepares and boxes a lunch and I'm deposited at a perfect spot on Route 40.

Takashi, a Coca Cola rep, is on his way to Wakkanai to check on malfunctioning machines. Other than a filling lunch, we swill four styles of Georgia coffee (Coke products) en route. Takashi cherishes being my last link in connecting the extremes of Japan so drives the extra 27 kilometers to Cape Soya.

Russia's Sakhalin Island is in our sights and adrenaline rushes through both of us. At Japan's final frontier, Takashi is more excited than I, bragging to strangers of my accomplishment and his part in it. Others take photograph us as though we have just landed on Venus. I almost wish I were there. It will be frigid tonight.

The lengthy sunset here is like no other I have ever witnessed as an emerald tone dominates the sky for hours. During this time I set up camp on the bluffs and stroll around the fishing village. My eyes bulge suddenly. Rows of giant squid and/or octopuses hang in a small building where workers are diligently cutting the monsters and draping them over a metal bar. I take two steps into the driveway and hope to be invited for a chewy feast with the locals. A large man, apparently the crew foreman, spots me.

"Dame!" he screams. He grabs a stick with blade attached and marches straight for me. Initially, I thought he was joking. I've never experienced this type of behavior in Japan. I back out to the street and treat him like a territorial pit bull. He certainly acts like one. The angry fisherman reacts as though I'm the mongrel, holding his scythe high while removing the keys from the ignitions of two small trucks. I tuck my tail and scoot back to my tent.

Minutes after dusk the temperature plummets from 23 to 8 in a matter of minutes. A quick lesson in solar energy and I'm in bed before any local schoolboy.

Northern Hokkaido is primitive. You're forced to manually flush public toilets. If I had been blindfolded and dropped here, I would have guessed I was in Kentucky, or perhaps Queensland. Dilapidated barns, cows and tractors dominate the landscape. Crippled cars are often propped on cinder blocks. You could film a redneck movie here.

 

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