Japan by Motorcycle

Day 6

August 3, 1999

Amber Waves of Grain

Hokkaido:  Biei, Daisetsuzan, and Furano

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Hiroko in Asahikawa    Although my friend Hiroko was kind to offer me lodging for two nights at her place in Asahikawa, I felt it best to move on.  I had a lot of ground to cover yet.  I followed her and her son on my motorcycle to Bie.  Bie was made famous by Shinzo Maeda, a photographer who captured its many looks on film and by its use in various TV commercials.  It has rolling hills Bie covered with various different colored crops all against a mountainous backdrop.  I believe the crops include such plants as wheat, daikon, azuki beans, and sun flower.  It was a wide open area with a view not to be found elsewhere in Japan.  And, indeed, a view pretty enough to rival pretty views the world over (although my one picture does not do it justice).  Hiroko took my picture underneath a tree which had apparently appeared in some television commercials.
    I left my motorcycle at Biei and we drove to Fukiage Onsen together in Hiroko's car.  We were right on the edge of Daisetsuzan National Park and we could see Hokkaido's tallest peak, Mt. Asahidake, which rises up to about Dasetsuzan National Park2200 meters.  We could also see a smoking volcano in the same range.  Mt. Tokachidake I think it was.  The onsen (hot spring) was quite large and seemed new.  We split up -- alas mixed bathing in Japan is almost impossible to find these days -- and made arrangements to meet afterwards.  As always, an onsen experience in Japan for me is a delight.  And this one, being large and not at all crowded, made it even better.  After soaping up and rinsing off I spent time in the various baths including the one outside (the rotenburo).  There was a clear view of the parking lot from the men's side -- which means there is a clear view of the men's bath from the parking lot.  An exhibitionist could probably have some fun there.
Furano Lavender     From the onsen, we retrieved my bike and I followed Hiroko to Furano where we were hoping to catch some lavender still in bloom even though we knew it was late in the season.  That region isFurano famous for growing lavender and there are souvenirs of lavender everything -- from potpourri and soap to lavender-colored Hello Kitty's.  Even lavender ice cream.  As we had expected there wasn't much left of the lavender field when we got there but there was still enough to put a nice smell in the air and a hint of purple in the field.
    I couldn't help but marvel at the Furano before my eyes because I had been there for a weekend ski trip the previous winter and the difference between winter and summer here was like night and day.  In the winter there is deep snow everywhere with arrows on poles to mark where the road is.  It has a very isolated and desolate feel to it.  But the summer was so lush and green.  Just beautiful.  Having been raised in a similar climate where there were similar seasonal changes, I shouldn't have felt that way but I did.
    We had a late lunch/early dinner at 4:00PM at family restaurant called Kami Fusen ("Paper Balloon") in Furano before parting.  I would have loved to spend another day with Hiroko there, in the heart of Hokkaido, but the many miles of road ahead of me were not getting any shorter.  So I waved one last goodbye and headed off on my solitary way.
    From Furano I skirted Daisetsuzan National Park's southern edge and came back up along the eastern side;  there's no road going straight through it, you have to go around it some way or another.  I tried to make as much time as I could.  The roads were wide and clear, easily allowing speeds of 100 km/h (62 mph).  I was generally headed towards Lake Akan, another caldera lake and national park.  As evening crept up, it was clear I had to decide what to do about nightfall; I decided I would try to make Nukabira Lake Campground which was marked on my road atlas.  The road I chose -- local Route 85 -- took me through some mountains, up past Shikarikubetsu Lake and then down towards Nukabira.  It was a mountainous road with plenty of curves to keep it interesting.   With the impending nightfall I went as fast as I dared and didn't slow down to enjoy the view although I did come across my first wild life -- a little fox which some idiot family in a car was trying to feed at the side of the road.  People don't realize they're not doing wild animals any favor by acclimating them to humans and giving them handouts like that.
    As it always does, dusk soon gave way to darkness and I traveled the last half hour or so in the dark.  I knew I was low on gas and was started to worry about running out because I had had to switch to my reserve tank on my descent out of the mountains.  I had never run my reserve tank dry and I wasn't sure how long it would last.  My gas tank was small and didn't have a gauge so I always judged gas levels by kilometers-traveled, certainly not the most accurate method.  Matters weren't helped when I took a wrong turn and found myself on a desolate mountain road which turned to sand at one point and led up to an old one lane bridge over a gorge.  There was nothing for illumination except my headlight.  I turned back and went a few more kilometers out of my way before turning back and finally finding the proper turnoff for the campground sometime around 8:00PM.  I made my way into the gravel parking lot and found a relatively stable patch of ground on which I could park without my kickstand sinking and my bike falling over.
    The fee was about $2 but the attendant was gone and I couldn't find a way to pay so, as the Japanese say, "Lucky!"  Another free campout.  The campground was fairly busy with about 15 to 20 tents but it wasn't overly crowded.  I easily found a spot to pitch my tiny tent using my headlamp for illumination whenever it was necessary.  There were no bathing facilities but there were toilets and fresh (cold) water.  Nukabira Lake, the campground's namesake, must have been nearby but it was too dark to go exploring.
    My cellular phone wasn't catching a signal and there was a one-street town of sorts up the road so I rode up the road and stopped at a pay phone to check in with my fiancé.  There looked to be a few small restaurants, a gas station and small shops nearby however almost all were closed.  There did look to be an open karaoke bar or "snack" of some sort.  But I was too tired to stop -- even one drink would quickly do me in that night -- and headed back.
    Back at the campground, I set up my backpacking stove on a nearby picnic table and boiled some water for a dinner of instant noodles of some type -- possibly spaghetti, possibly ramen -- along with whatever else I had picked up at a convenience store earlier.  As far as the weather went, I was in luck.  It was a clear night with no threat of rain and temperatures were mild.  I was getting a reading of 24C (75F).  So it looked like it was going to be a comfortable night.
    I wrote in my diary via headlamp for a while and read a bit of my guidebooks but I found myself fading fast by 10:00PM.  I put my things away and switched off my light and drifted away in no time.


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Just The Stats

Day 6



Place Weather
Start: 45720 10:00 Asahikawa, Hokkaido Mostly Sunny/Hot
Finish: 45980 20:30 Nukabira Lake Camp Area (Hokkaido) Clear/Warm
Totals: 260km 9.5 hrs


Gas: ¥500 Food: ¥2,000
Highway Fees: Campground:
Onsen: ¥600  

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Created: Feb 22, 2001
Last Updated: Apr 10, 2001

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