Trip Report

Cycling Across Hokkaido, Japan (Day 2): From Cape Nosappu to Nemuro

Posted on Aug 16, 2014
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Posted on Aug 16, 2014

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Like other summer vacations we’ve had, the first few days on the road tend to consist of tying up loose ends. One such loose end was a Skype meeting Haidee had to attend with other academics in an association she is involved in. So we booked a hotel in Nemuro for the night (only 25km away), and decided to make a day of sightseeing around the area. We’d be back to the hotel in time for the meeting in the evening.

Last updated Oct 14, 2018

The day started like most of our days on the road. Coffee. Made with a moka pot. We’d used the aluminium 3-cup Bialetti moka pot on previous trips, but this time brought along the 2-cup stainless steel version. It was somewhat of a perilous perch on the MSR Whisperlite Internationalle burner, but it worked.

We bought a stainless steel Bialetti mokapot...but it is a fairly perilous perch on the MSR Whisperlite Internationalle (at Cape Nosappu, Hokkaido, Japan)

Breakfast was a healthy serving of Haidee’s amazing homemade toasted cereal. Oats, pecans, dried apricot, raisins, sesame seeds, toasted coconut, fennel seeds, cashew nuts and almonds. With milk, and soaked for 5 minutes, that stuff is unmatched by anything in the stores.

Haidee's homemade cereal for breakfast (at Cape Nosappu, Hokkaido, Japan)

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we were free-camping in the local “we-love-you-Russia-but-give-us-back-our-islands-you-thieving-bastards” park. Slightly harsh words, yes, but personally that’s the impression I got after wandering around the information center overlooking the previously-Japanese-but-now-Russian islands no more than 7km offshore.

The history is fairly simple: Up until the end of WWII, Japan had sovereignty over the Kuril Islands northeast of Hokkaido. In August 1945, a month before a beleaguered Japan surrendered to allied forces, Russia invaded the islands. Japan was hardly in a position to resist. Since then, Japan has tried to preserve ties and keep nice relations with the people of the Kuril Islands, at the same time plastering this part of northern Japan with not-so indirect signage demanding that the islands be returned to Japan. All rather interesting.

In any case, there is a point where one may gaze longingly upon the islands. We opted for a self-ingratiating tourist photo instead.

A longing to have their islands back (at Cape Nosappu, Hokkaido, Japan)

In the information center, there are high-power telescopes where one may peruse the goings on in Russia.

Telescopes to gaze upon mother Russia (only 3.5km away), at Cape Nosappu, Hokkaido, Japan

The most interesting thing happening today was a bunch of Russian workers repairing what seemed to be a hopelessly derelict lighthouse, no more than 3.5km away from Japanese soil.

Russian workers working on a derelict Russian lighthouse a mere 3.5km from Japanese land (at Cape Nosappu, Hokkaido, Japan)

We spent an hour or so at the information center, before heading back towards Nemuro, on the southern side of the Nemuro Peninsula. While the northern side is home to cow farms and horses, the southern side is like a different world. Fishing villages are abundant. And the catch of the month (at least from late July till October) is konbu kelp.

Drying kelp at Cape Nosappu, Hokkaido, Japan

Most houses in the area have spacious gravel-covered sections, where freshly cut konbu is laid out to dry. Any konbu not dry by nightfall gets hung in heated drying sheds. Dried konbu, especially from this region of Japan, fetches a very high price. As is evidenced in the abundance of very new, large homes in this very rural, out-of-the-way region. They seem to be doing better than livestock farmers in Japan. Konbu is used often for flavoring Japanese food (in the form of stock). I had wondered about the sustainability of the practice, since this is all wild konbu, not farmed. Apparently it is, however, sustained through community regulations (see Iida, 1998).

A mobile Post Bank ATM machine caught my eye…only in Japan?

Mobile Postal Bank ATM at Cape Nosappu, Hokkaido, Japan

We made it back to Nemuro by late morning, so bought some picnic food and headed to Meiji Park, just outside of the city center. The park was marked on our tourist map as having ‘large red-brick silos’. It also had a great big lawn area, overlooked by said silos.

Meiji Park in Nemuro City, Hokkaido, Japan

Red bricks were perfect for the annual mugshots.

Mugshot: Rob (at Meiji Park, Nemuro, Hokkaido, Japan) Mugshot: Haidee (at Meiji Park, Nemuro, Hokkaido, Japan)

From our picnic lunch stop, swung past the hotel, dropped the luggage, and cycled on for a round trip to Shunkunitai Wetlands, about 15km west of Nemuro. We were hoping to see the famous Hokkaido red crested crane (the tancho), but predictably we just saw the ubiquitous Hokkaido deer.

Coastal marshlands near Nemuro City, Hokkaido, Japan

The quiet marsh allowed introspection, however…

Coastal marshlands near Nemuro City, Hokkaido, Japan

And the ferns reminded me of home in New Zealand.

Coastal marshlands near Nemuro City, Hokkaido, Japan

On our way home it was getting late, and we were getting hungry. A 700yen okonomiyaki each hit the spot.

Okonomiyaki for dinner in Nemuro City, Hokkaido, Japan

Back at the hotel, did some clothes washing at their coin laundry, and were set up in time for Haidee’s Skype meeting.

Haidee had a Skype meeting scheduled, so we splashed out on a hotel (Nemuro City, Hokkaido, Japan)

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