December 18, 2010

Northern Shore

Animal footprints on fresh snow.  Thin ice floating across a lake.  Wind blowing up powdery snow in the air.  These almost made me cry.

I arrived at Hokkaido at 13:35 this afternoon.  On vacation on Friday.
It was not until yesterday that I found out about the scheduled strike of the airline company, although in Japan, normally companies and the labor unions reconcile the night before the scheduled strikes.
When I arrived at the airport on time, indeed I found that the strike never did happen.  But my flight was delayed by 45 minutes! 
My carefully arranged bus/lunch/train connections are already in dismay.

I took flight from Tokyo to Memanbetsu airport, which is close to the city of Abashiri, on the coast of Okhotsk Sea.  From the airport to the Abashiri station, I take an airport bus.  From there I take a train for several stops, get off at Kitahama station, where there is a small cafeteria famous among Hokkaido travelers.  My intent was to spend a few hours there, then catch the next train (which means trains comes every few hours during the day time).

I managed to catch the bus, and was barely in time for the train to catch.  Abashiri station was the loneliest station I had ever been to, among those "terminal" stations which are represented on maps as big dots.  It was smaller than a common local station in the suburbs of Tokyo.  And, there was no slope nor escalator nor elevator to cross over the two platforms.  I had to carry my heavy luggage all the way up, then all the way down, sweating.

Anyway, soon I saw the coast, the sea.  Very lonely but serene landscape.  Railway track, some grassy area, beach, waves, huge body of deep water, then white snowy mountain range on the background.

I got off at Kitahama station.  A man with a camera took a picture of the train, then got on the train.
The cafeteria has been on vacation since a month ago.
I wondered for a moment whether I should get back on train, but decided against it.  I really wanted to come here.
The station was just a platform (one track), a small house divided into a cafeteria and a waiting room.  Cafe was of course closed.

I entered the room.  All possible surface in the room was covered with scribbles and cards and messages and train tickets of the past adventurers.  A simple room, with just 4 seats.  I brought in my luggage (so that the contents won't get frozen), took out a pack of sandwich I bought at the airport just in case, and a thermo mug of coffee from home.  I was very well prepared.
After having a quick bite, I ventured out with my camera.

In front of the platform, across the track, is a wide open seashore.  The seashore covered in snow, the waves strong.  It was sunny, but the light is very weak and powerless.  At 14:50, it was already looking like sunset.
I left my luggage at the waiting room, then started walking along the shore.  An old woman was taking a walk on the beach, and we exchanged friendly "hi."

I had never seen the shoreline frozen.  Sand, water, plants, rocks, everything was frozen altogether.  It was just very cold.  And magically beautiful.  My eyes started to burn, I almost cried.  I was just completely, absolutely happy.

The sun started to sink, so I hurried back to the station.  I was sure I won't find my way back if the sun sets before I do so.

Back to the station, I took out some warming pads, put two in my boots and started wiring this. 
Oh, train is approaching.  I have to go.



LOVE the photos and report of your trip to Hokkaido, Meri. We've been traveling Hokkaido up and down in the past, while it was warm and while it was freezing. Always so delightful. Your pictures make me want to go there again!

Meri said...

Thanks so much! I am now so addicted to Hokkaido and want to go back there as soon as I get a chance (and a vacation and some money).
Love your blog and your beautiful photos. Sorry I have not yet left any comment but I will :)