Hokkaido’s Northeastern Coast

Leaving Wakkanai I realized I was not yet actually at the most northern point in Japan. 20 km further up the coast I did arrive at that spot. There is a monument and a few museums and restaurants. Here I am at the tippy top of Japan, at 45 degrees, 31 minutes north latitude, about the same as Portland, Oregon, Montreal, Canada, and Milan, Italy. Russia’s Sakhalin island can be seen from this point, 43 kilometers north.

The roads around here all have these posts with arrows, I assume to point out the curb when the road is covered in snow in winter.

Cows feeding. Nice view.

The Japanese have a close relationship with nature, which is part of the Shinto belief. Shinto means ‘Way of the Gods’. It is the traditional and ancient religion of Japan, which regards all natural things as having their own spirituality. It reveres kami, the indigenous folk deities of Japan – spirits present in animals, plants, and even stones and waterfalls.

So everyone in Japan seems to have a garden, whether to grow a few vegetables or some flowers. All towns and cities have flower patches. Here, several of the townsfolk have come out on a Sunday morning to tend the community flower gardens.

One of the great things about Japan are the hot public baths, called onsen. Many hotels have them. They give you a nice traditional robe and slippers and you wash and then soak in the hot water. Just the thing after a long day in the saddle. Here I am in my robe all relaxed after my onsen.

Here I am in another hotel eagerly anticipating my onsen.

Apparently there are bears in this part of Hokkaido. I would love to see one. But I am staying near the sea. I would guess that bears are more common in the remote mountain areas, so I don’t think I will see any. Despite cycling in Canada, northern Michigan, the Rockies and now northern Japan, I’ve only seen one bear on this bike trip, and that was in Florida!

I turned a corner one day and saw three little foxes playing by the side of the road. They stayed long enough for me to take a photo but then scampered away. I’ve seen several foxes. They don’t seem very afraid of me. I ride a few yards from them before they slink away.

A view of the coast, northern Hokkaido.

I camped one night by the beach with fierce winds and crashing surf.


Related to Rubik’s cube?

I rode into a nature preserve one evening looking to camp. I did mange to find a nice place on the beach. The next day, rather than backtrack I continued forward and got lost on some back roads. I finally ended up at a locked gate which I managed to get around. But looking back, the sign on the gate was a bit ominous: BEARS — DO NOT ENTER.

I didn’t see any bears and it’s a good thing I did not see this sign otherwise I would have been paranoid all night.

I really had to wash clothes one day. I found a laundromat and sure enough, the Japanese have figured out how to combine a washer and dryer into one machine. I should have studied the machines more in Wakkanai. You can wash and dry your clothes, just wash them or just dry them. Being cheap and not knowing what the options were I selected the lowest price, the one on the right which was only 100 yen for 12 minutes. But it turned out this was only to dry. So I had to watch my clothes dry before selecting the 4 kg button that says wash and dry, 50 minutes for 700 yen. Live and learn. But that’s amazing you can wash and dry in one machine. I haven’t seen that anywhere else.


It may seem like a small thing but washing clothes is a daily chore so to have everything clean at once is a real treat.

A sign in one town. I hope it’s not a restaurant.

I thought I had lost weight on this trip, but I had a bizarre failure the other day. My top of the line $140 Brooks leather saddle failed. These are the best saddles you can buy and come with a 10 year warranty. But suddenly, with no obvious sign of wear the leather ripped apart at the front rivets.

I was shocked. I have never had a saddle fail like this before. I managed to support it for a few days but eventually the whole front end just came off. I ended up sewing it back together with wire but I can’t tighten it so I am just bouncing along. My sister, bless her heart, sent my spare Brooks saddle to Niigata where I hope to get it in a couple weeks. I should be OK with the broken saddle until then.

I can’t be too mad at Brooks. I bought that saddle when I was stuck in Peru in 2007 so it is 11 years old and has probably 30,000 miles on it so it did the job for me for a long time. A bike tourist’s saddle is a special thing, though. I will miss it.

As you would expect, fishing is big around this area. Here, a pile of colorful fishing buoys caught my eye.

I stayed in a campground one night where we enjoyed a nice sunset.

The campground prepared a giant BBQ for 1000 yen. Here is the chef cooking it up. There were a lot of people though and they ran out of food. Luckily, glutton that I am, I was first in line and got my fill of the meat.

I guess that’s enough for one post. I am holed up in a guesthouse, waiting for another typhoon to pass. This has been a bad year for typhoons apparently. I have avoided the rain for the most part, mainly because I hate riding in it and check the weather forecasts constantly. If there is a chance of rain, I am hiding out in a hotel. Call me a wimp, but I have ridden in the rain many times and it ain’t fun.