Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Arrival In 北海道函館市 (Hakodate, Hokkaido)

Goodbye to 本州

At 2010/09/08 07:06 this morning, I had just boarded my fourth ferry of the voyage, and was accompanying this seagull across the water:

Hello to 北海道

Upon stepping onto the soil of this vast northern island, the first thing I saw was this sign:

... which reads "Thank you for your custom. Please take care to your destination."

This made me laugh, because I have, as of the present moment, no destination: I am already here! My aim (amongst many) was to come to Hokkaido, and, well... here I am! So now what do I do? I need to invent for myself a new destination.

Feeling the need for orientation, I took the first bus available to the railway station, where I felt somewhat stuck, due to the exorbitant-seeming fares. Only when I had bought a map did I realize that that these are due to the vast distances involved.

Hokkaido really does seem like a foreign country when arriving here from Japan. It's as if it' Japan's colony - and historically, this is not far from the truth. So here are a few first impressions

The people here seem slightly less highly strung than a lot of those across the water, and perhaps a bit more outside-the-box thinking. Physically, they are somewhat larger and stockier in general. Good gracious - I'm starting to sound like Isabella Bird... these are merely highly generalized first impressions, and may yet be proven wrong (actually 4th impressions, but this time they're in context of a gradual non-airborne voyage).

Geographically and historically, there is bound to be some Russian and Ainu blood in the veins of many of the people around these parts. And compared with the 田舎 I have come from, 函館 seems infinitely more built-up and cosmopolitan.

Weather-wise, I immediately feel more at home: although there is still bright sunshine, there is a definite cool breeze blowing across the sea from Siberia.

To celebrate the ever-so-slightly Russian flavour to the people, the signs and the weather, I have uploaded a "missing link" blog post, giving more detail on life aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway, which you can get to by clicking here. This now seems like centuries ago (118 days, to be precise!), but is fun to remember, and remains one of many highlights of the journey so far.

This evening, I went down to a beach, and skimmed stones across the water towards where I spent last night. Were I able to walk across water, or sail / canoe like my brother, I could have done it in a day. There are talks of building a bridge across this strait, but I think it's pretty pretty without.

For years, I have been promising myself that one day I would live in Hokkaido.
And here I am!

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