Irishman Walking (Stage 1 Chapter 1)

Follow Michael Denis Crossey and His Walk Along the Coastal Roads of Japan

By in Blog with 1 Comment

Irishman Walking is about my walking the coastal roads of Japan through a series of summer, winter, spring, and autumn stages. Stage 1 began in Cape Soya in Hokkaido in the summer of 2009, and ended in Noshiro City in Akita Prefecture seven weeks later. This summer (2012), Stage 8 started at Shibushi Port in Kagoshima Prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu, and ended in the city of Fukuoka six weeks after setting off. Stage 9 is planned to start from Fukuoka City this winter and will end at Hiroshima in January 2013. The stage is planned to last for five weeks.

By Michael Denis Crossey

14-19 July, 2009: On Sunday the twelfth of July 2009 I made a dummy run to Haneda Airport in Tokyo. As usual before I am about to embark on a trip of any length, I tend to be filled with anxiousness and apprehension. Of course, this included a brisk fifteen-minute walk to Yotsuya JR train station with a quick stop at the ticket machine. The cost to Haneda was ¥630 yen. Then it was past the ticket barriers and down to platform number three. As luck would have it, the Sobu Line train for that famous electric town, Akihabara, had just pulled in. The platform clock read nine-thirty sharp. Even at that time, the tail end of the morning’s rush hour, it was still difficult to get a seat.

Once at Akihabara it was just a matter of following the flow of human traffic down to the platform bound for Hamamatsu station. The Yamanote Line and the Keihen Line trains both went there. Once again the train I found myself on was relatively busy with people heading to work. Fortunately enough the train pulled into Hamamatsu sooner then expected and the walk up the concrete steps to the monorail was not overly taxing.

At last the big day arrived! Tuesday the fourteenth of July was the day I had set for my so-called Big Tramp beginning at Cape Soya in Hokkaido. The first thing to be done on arriving at the airport was to offload my weighty backpack at the check-in counter. This was soon done. My air ticket was produced, checked and returned to me with a boarding pass showing my name in katakana. The destination on the ticket read: ‘WAKKANAI, Flight ANA 573, Seat Number 8H’. The baggage claim number, 437 713, was on a separate ticket. With the tickets firmly pressed against my chest I turned and made my way towards the appropriate gate. Fears of something going wrong added to the anxiousness and apprehension feelings as I made my way to the departure lounge.

Two days earlier the airport was less busy, and the restaurants were half full at best. Now the empty seats were not empty for long. My friend Riko had accompanied me to the airport to see me off. We sat down at a table at the West Park Cafe where I ordered a glass of Yebisu beer, which cost ¥480 yen. For whatever the reason, the cafe was offering a twenty per cent discount on beer. Riko, who loathed even the sight of beer, ordered a cup of coffee instead. At ¥420 yen a cup, there was no monetary discount on offer, other than in the form of a refill, which she gladly took.

As things turned out, the dummy run to the airport two days earlier was quite unnecessary, if not a waste of money and time as my friend took it upon herself to accompany me. Soon another glass of beer was ordered and drank before the time came for me to make my way through a series of gates and gauntlet of body checks.

At the departure gate I gave Riko a kiss on the cheek, and thanked her for her help. We waved our goodbyes, and I turned to make my way past Gate C towards where the airplane, Flight 573 for Wakkanai, Hokkaido. The walk took me the full length of the concourse to a second gate, Gate 68. To my surprise two staff members met me, both of them attractive young ladies, and took me aside to where my backpack lay unopened on a table.

“Lighter, lighter, No, no” one of them said. “What on earth are was all this about?” I thought to myself. Clearly they were unable to speak English and my own Japanese language ability was rusty at best. At first I took their words to mean that my backpack was too heavy and would I kindly take some things out of it. This I was willing to do and to stuff whatever it was into my carryon luggage. The whole encounter happened so quickly and unexpectedly, and did not help the anxiousness and apprehension any. I opened my backpack as instructed to see what might be best being removed to solve the problem.

“No, no, no, can’t, can’t, can’t!”, one of the young attendants said. What on earth was the problem? Surely I had done what they wanted? The perplexed look on their beautiful young faces told me a different story. One of the young ladies stepped forward and pointed to three cigarette lighters sticking out of a pair of socks, and at a small gas canister crammed in among my underwear. “Abunai desu!” (This is not allowed!), she said. It was then that I realized that I had been barking up the wrong tree. My Japanese was good enough to make me understand that she was trying to tell me that I could not transport the lighters or the gas canister on the airplane.

A few weeks earlier I picked up some cheap cigarette lighters and a small gas canister for refilling a tiny torch. Now there loss would be more than ¥1,000, for the trouble of replacing them once I arrived in Hokkaido. It was certainly no great loss in monetary terms, but a bit of a dint in my plans to say the least. The lighters would of course have been useful for lighting the campfires in the evenings after a hard day of walking. It seemed strange that I was allowed to keep one of the lighters, though sadly was asked to sigh a form agreeing to submit the items to them. As I did this, I could see the new unused gas canister being tossed into a bin, along with the two cigarette lighters.

Since the threat of terrorist attack was still fresh on the minds of many, I did not feel angry about it all. It could have been worse! In some cases harsh airport ‘pat-downs’ had become a necessary evil in the world we lived in. Often too, those loathed body searches, routinely probed into places where the sun did not shine, let alone the inside of carryon luggage, or checked in suitcases and backpacks.

My bum was not very long planted in seat H8 when a smiling female cabin attendant asked me if I would like to change seats. Perhaps she felt my moving would be more comfortable in terms of space to myself and to the young lady who I set beside. A quick glance about the half empty cabin told me that most of the passengers on board seemed to prefer to sit alone, so move I did.

There was no food of any shape or kind on the flight. An assortment of soft drinks and beverages were offered from the trolleys pushed along the isles by the attractive young cabin attendants. I settled on a cup of coffee served in a paper cup, which was only half filled. A refill, or rather, the other half was offered some minutes later. Around this time another of the cabin attendants came by offering newspapers. Unfortunately, the newspapers were all in the Japanese language. Perhaps the young lady could read something from my facial expression as she returned a few moments later with two newspapers, The Daily Yomuiri and The Japan Times. I was about to take both of the newspapers, but I could read in her face, that only one could be taken. I settled on the times, perhaps in fond memories of Cesar, a Filipino friend of mine, had worked nearly three decades as an editor for The Japan Times before his recent retirement and return to his country to live.

The main headlines in the news paper that day (Tuesday, 14 July 2009) read: ‘Also sets Aug. 30 poll after metro drubbing’, ‘Democrats may probe secret CIA program’, ‘Alien ‘wakame’ terrorizes California water’, and last but not least, ‘Kids under 15 can give organs.’ Not knowing what the weather conditions tonight would be like, I felt the newspaper would at least make a useful ground sheet for me. A few minutes before touchdown at Wakkanai Airport, I stuffed the newspaper into my carryon luggage under the seat.

For the duration of the flight the newspaper lay practically untouched next to the unopened book that I picked up at a bookshop at Haneda. The book, ‘Modern Japan’, was a short introduction written by Christopher Goto-Jones. It cost ¥1,660yen. Never one to judge a book by its cover, it looked like my cup of tea. Or something on a topic I could get my mind around in my tent in the evenings. Besides, the book was light and not too bulky.

A main thing I decided to entertain myself with on the short flight was to put down the opening sentences on a good few of the postcards I promised to mail family, friends, and acquaintances. I began something like this: “Greetings… As I was about to board my flight to Wakkanai in Hokkaido I was asked to remove some items deemed dangerous from my backpack. The power of the X-Ray machine can really get under your skin.” .” Also, the flight time was really too short to even think about going to the toilet. Still, I left my seat and walked to the back of the plane where I stood stretching my legs. There I crouched down to look out from the tiny window hoping to get a good look at the weather condition on the ground and in the sky. Everything look dull and gray!

By the time the plane touched down and taxied to a stop, the anxiousness and apprehension was all but gone. In no particular hast and with time on my hands, I found myself being last off the plane. In the baggage claim area a tour group of pensioners waited patiently. I sauntered over to the toilet to point Percy at the porcelain (urinate), but to my dismay, two long lines began to form at the door of the ladies and the gents. Giving it up as a lost cause I retraced my steps to where the bags were now on the move. After five minutes of waiting and still no sign of my backpack, I went back to the gents. This time the lines were gone and I had the gents all to myself. At least one could fart without being heard!

Back at the baggage reclaim area my eyes caught the tail end of my backpack disappearing down the shoot and out of sight. A few minutes later it made its reappearance. Once retrieved and re-shouldered, I made for the entrance. “God! That feels heavy!” Perhaps the flight had softened me up a bit. For a moment I wondered if perhaps I had too much stuff in it. “This fucking thing and me were going to become quite acquainted on the roads over the coming weeks.” As I made my way through the arrival lounge I was already thinking about what needed to be dumped.

Like a well-disciplined lot, the pensioners gathered around their reclaimed luggage to await instructions from the tour guide, who had not arrived yet. Perhaps some of these aged travelers had been standing too long for what was good for them, for there was a few feeble groans and some vague murmurs that I could not quite make out. Yes, some spoke in inaudible whispers, but like good soldiers, most waited in respectful silence. There were a few who chatted with their eyes fixed on the ground, and were not aware of the two attractive women in uniforms approach.

When the tour guides arrived, holding little flags, everyone picked up their suitcases and filed out past the airport doors in one long orderly line. “So many of them! Surely two tour coaches would be waiting for them.” I thought to myself. “If only they would give me a ride to the cape. Surely they were going to go there first.” Of course, I knew that this was impossible and against the rules, in this ‘rule’ ridden country. Nothing was free in Japan, even at the best of economic times. Therefore, it must have been annoying not to have things go as smoothly as expected, or part of what they paid for. Even the weather sucked.

Clearly the appearance of the two attractive tour guides and the venture that awaited them all encouraged their spirits, for now I could hear some lighthearted talk and laughter. For most, there was also a burst of eagerness to get out of the airport and on to the waiting coaches to begin their tour of Hokkaido, which they were probably charged over the top for. Soon the guides and their elderly charges close behind passed through the glass doors and out into the threatening sky. I could also see that some of them had trouble keeping up with the others as they went. Perhaps because of their age and the heavy loads they dragged behind them, some moved uneasily.

At the information desk no one spoke English. “Soyamisaki iki tai desu…” (I want to go to Cape Soya. Is there a bus going there?). ‘No!’ came the sharp reply. ‘Oh dear!’ I thought to myself. ‘What was to be done?’ “You could take a taxi,” someone suggested. “The cost to Cape Soya is only around ¥10,000 yen”. “There is a taxi rink right outside the terminal door over there.” ‘Yes! I could take a taxi, but I don’t want to’, I replied. I was prepared to walk if need be, but I did not want to start my long walk from here. Starting my big walk from an airport did not factor into my plans. It somehow did not seem official enough either. If I was going to start properly, I had to start at the right place, Cape Soya, the top of the country. My Japanese language ability was good enough to understand most things, including costs, and ¥10,000 yen I considered to be shockingly high. Already the one-way flight to Wakkanai had set me back nearly ¥30,000 yen, so needed to consider expenses from now on.

I looked about me, feelings of the anxiety returning. “God forbid! Surely there was a bus to Cape Soya?” The young lady manning the information desk told me that there was a bus, but I just missed it. “It was the last bus, too, and there would not be another one until the morning.” I felt myself filling up with anxiousness and apprehension again. “Oh dear, what was to be done?”, I asked her. “You could take the bus to Wakkanai City and then get another bus from there back out to the cape”, she suggested. There was no point in getting angry, and the advice was the best under the circumstances. I politely thanked the young lady at the counter for the advice, and turned towards the glass door entrance from where I could see the lone bus for the city waiting.

The bus ride to the city took about twenty minutes at the cost of ¥590 yen, which was not much of three times the cost for a bus ride in Tokyo. Cars driven by family member and friends had met most of the other passengers, so the bus was nearly empty. Sitting opposite me on the bus was the young girl I set beside on the plane, if only for a few minutes. In some respects I was sorry that I moved. An attractive, but plain looking young girl clad in simple clothing not particularly fashionable. Something seemed to be troubling her, the reasons of which I would never know. Perhaps she was returning to her parental home, a kind of retreat from something that did not quite work out for her in Tokyo. Other than my imagination running away with me, the bus ride was like the weather, dull and dreary.

At last the driver pulled up outside Wakkanai Bus Terminal where I got off. It was a dismal looking building with an appearance that somehow lacked importance. I shouldered my backpack and headed in the direction of the lobby entrance to enquire about getting a bus to Cape Soya. It was already three o’clock in the afternoon.

There were two buses going to the cape, the first at four twenty with the other leaving at seven o’clock. I decided to buy a ticket for the seven o’clock bus, a privilege of which set me back ¥1,350 yen. The girl behind the counter, who could not speak a word of English if at all, told me that I could take either of the buses. The later bus, I felt to be the better of the two for it allowed me the time to look about the city before heading into the sunset. Most Japanese knew the look and shape of the country if nothing else, the same could not be said about people from other countries. For a few who read this story who had never been beyond a Japanese restaurant in their own country, it was necessary to give a short description of Hokkaido, the most northern of the main islands that make up the shape of Japan.

Located at the very northern point of the island of Hokkaido, sat the city of Wakkanai. Unlike much of Japan it was said, according to tourist brochures, that Hokkaido was blessed with its own defined seasons. An abundance of flowers at full bloom in the summer months was a key tourist attraction. The sea urchin fished in Wakkanai waters were believed to be of the highest quality. Among the delicacies tourists’ just loved to feast on the crabs the city had to offer. This was particularly with the Hairy crab that was served around springtime, as well as the King crab served in wintertime. Wakkanai was not only famous for its seafood, but for its prime steak from the Black Angus cow. Milk was another of the areas chief dairy products.

A few minutes out from the bus terminal and down the road I decided to stop in at a cafe called ‘Gino’ for something to eat. A fat lady set behind the counter. “Irasaimase! (Welcome!)” the lady said as I entered. A fat male costumer set on a stool by the counter. There were four tables each neatly covered with a blue and pink flowery patterned cotton tablecloth. On the menu there were different sections of food on offer: pizza, spaghetti, sandwich, and “meal”, whatever that meant. Of course, there was salad, soft drinks, hot drinks, and alcohol. In the end I settled on a kind of fried rice from the ‘meal’ section on the menu.

Feeling better now with a replenishment of protein inside of me, I set off again on foot to look about the neighboring area. It struck me to notice that many of the road signs and name signs above many shops were in both Japanese and in Russian. For such a small city, if indeed it could be classed as a city, there were quite a number of hotels and inns located in close proximity to the bus terminal. It was not so much the dismal layout of Wakkanai City that reminded me of many of the towns in America that I passed through donkey’s years ago. But like those small towns (and cities), many of the streets and roads in Wakkanai were very wide with many of the building quite far apart from each other. Not that I knew very much about design and architecture, to me it all seemed quite out of proportion for the size of the place.

Most if not all of the shops were open for business, though they looked devoid of customers. There was an appearance of rundown neglect about the shops. Never before on all my travels had I seen so many beautiful, yet rundown buildings so close together. “Surely this was because of the economic recession that was plaguing the country.” I thought to myself as I made my way along the streets past the shops. Rightly or wrongly, there was somberness about the city streets. The only living people seemed to be those passing through it, including myself, which for me could not come quick enough. If only I had choose to leave on the earlier bus. But it was too late now as I watched it go past me. My bus was scheduled to leave at seven o’clock. According to the timetable, the bus ride from Wakkanai took around fifty-two minutes while making a few stops along the way. As my bus finally pulled in and I got on it, the sky above looked dull and heavy with signs of rain.

I had little idea that my walk about the streets would end so quickly, which was more through boredom and restlessness than not. While waiting outside the bus terminal drowsiness come over me. My old bicycle clock that I carried with me told me that it was five fifty-five. The sky remained unchanged, overcast and depressing. By no means a busy bus terminal, a good few minutes lapsed between the buses that came in and went out. The last hour had seemed the longest since leaving Tokyo. I began to worry about the possibility of rain, and that it would have been better if I got the earlier bus to Cape Soya. Pitching a tent in a downpour was no fun. People who stopped at Wakkanai usually went the extra mile to visit Cape Soya, the most northerly point. Someone once said that Cape Soya seemed more like the end of the world than the end of Japan. Perhaps this was because of the bleak windswept appearance it offered the visitors. Since the attractions of interest in the area were limited, there was not much to do or see there. There was little else to do, but take a look about a few souvenir shops, or eat at one of the cafes huddled close together by the roadside.

Stepping down from the bus you could not help but see ‘Japan’s Northern Most Point Monument’, as the tour guide leaflets proudly stated. It was the height of the tourist season and it was the monument that the tourists flocked to get their group snapshots of. The monument “stands on the point of latitude 45 degrees 31 minutes.” On a sunny day, one leaflet continued, “you can see all the way Sakhalin in Russia”. This might be the reason why many of the signs along the road where given in the Russian language. Some tour guidebooks suggested that because of the limited number of attractions and the bus services available, a thirty-minute stop off at the cape would be sufficient enough to take in the experience. In my case, being held up by the torrential rainfall and strong wind for three days was stretching the experience, and my nerves, in more ways than one.

On this first day of my mission to walking around the country, via the coastal roads of course, I had hoped to see the rays of the sun darting under the monument arches. But the heavy sky had other plans for me. At the monument two young people looked out over the sea, just then a light drizzle began to fall. This was the precursor to four days of heavy rain, which kept me shut up in my tent for much of that time.

As soon as an evening look about this famous monument was completed, I set about finding a suitable place to pitch my tent for the night. Just twenty steps east of the monument in the chilly damp evening air, I pitched my tent on a patch of grass next to a tourist map of the coastline. Fortunately for me, the surrounding area was very well lit up and the task was accomplished in little time. The tent stood close to a freshwater tap and a well-kept public toilet. It did not surprise me to see a good number of camping cars parked nearby.

My tent was pitched less than fifty meters from the sea, where I lay in it hoping that the rain would soon stop. Still, the water out over the Soya Strait was calm and strangely silent. I wondered if I could have got a glimpse of Kunashiri (or Kunashir in Russian), Etorofu, Shikotan, and the Habomai isles had not been for the miserable weather. The disputed isles had been taken over by the Soviet Union at the end of the Second World War. The current Russian government appeared keen to hold onto them, with plans to rebuild. (In November 2010, the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was the first Russian leader to visit them, which caused some uproar among the Japanese). Today, some nineteen thousand people live on the islands, which were rich in gold, sliver, not to mention being surrounded by waters abundant in marine life.

For me it had been a long day. My mind was completely spent and so worn out I was no longer able to think straight. I could feel the anxiousness and apprehension return, as I tried to focus on my big walk, hopefully tomorrow. As I lay in my tent, a young boy of around twelve years old, walked past. The rain was cold and the young fellow was drenched by it, but he did not seem to care much. Clearly he was looking for something or someone, but my mind was too tired to care what he was up to. When he reached my tent he said something to me. He spoke in a strong local accent, most of which my ears and brain failed to comprehend in any shape or form. The part about being from Kumamoto, and if I was an American was all that I could understand. “Yes!” I answered.” I come from America,” I told him, which of course could not be further from the truth. Almost as suddenly as the boy had turned up, he turned and made his way back over the wet grass from whence he came.

He struck me as being a very polite and well-mannered young fellow. This caused me some guilt at telling him that I came from America, when I was not. In fact he reminded me of my own childhood days with my friends long ago. We were never bothered by things like the rain or the cold on the streets of Belfast so many years ago. We learnt back then that dishonesty only leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Still, I told myself that if I should see the boy again I would put him right. But unfortunately, our paths never crossed again.

The rain poured down out of the heavens throughout the night, and the winds had literally begun to kick up steam. During the numerous waking moments I was concerned about the actually strength of my tent. In fact, the sides of my tent swayed from side to side so much that I was unsure if it was the weight of my belongings scattered about inside it that kept it from flying away. The tent pegs had been hammered firmly into the wet soil earlier, but half of them had now become loose, and I had lost trust in those that remained. My trusty little tent never let me down before, but then again, it had never experienced such strong winds either.

By early morning, when I was no longer able to drift into another world again, I propped myself up on one elbow to contemplate the sounds outside. It was not easy to decide if I should hit the road, or wait for the weather to change. The rain and wind continued to crash into the fabric of my one-man Dunlop tent. Every once in a while the sound of the rain was supplanted by the boom of thunder away beyond the horizon. It had been said that there was no smoke without fire. I wondered if the same was true with thunder and lightening.

Simply speaking, lightning was electricity. This was a result of strong up-and-down air currents building up in the heavy cumulonimbus clouds. Here droplets of water, hail, and ice crystals met. According to scientists this coming together caused positive and negative charges of electricity to buildup in the clouds. At the same time, positive electrical charges also built up on the ground below. Once the positive and negative charges were big enough, they moved from the clouds down to the ground, or between the clouds themselves. A down-flowing negative charge was what we normally saw in, so-called, typical lightening, whereby positive charges on the ground traveled upward to meet them. This in turn caused a jagged downward path of the negative charges to light up in a brilliant flash of light. It was here that our brains were fooled into believing that the bolts of lightening traveled down from the clouds, when in fact, the lightning traveled upwards from the ground. So quick was all this that the whole process took less than a millionth of a second.

According to many people, lightening was the most spectacular part of a thunderstorm a. Then again, what had thunder to do with lightening? The answer to this was that lightening caused thunder to happen. According to one Internet site I looked at, lightening was a great spark, and just one bolt could heat the air around it to 30,000 degrees Celsius (54,000 degrees Fahrenheit). In turn, this caused the air to expand at an explosive rate that created a shock wave followed by a booming sound wave, better known to us as thunder. To paraphrase the site, thunder and lightning occurred at roughly the same time, although you could see the flash of lightning before you heard the thunder. This was because light traveled much faster than sound did. Which I guess answered my earlier question, of no smoke without fire. On an off the cuff note, there was a 1983 album by one of my favorite bands, Thin Lizzy called Thunder and Lightening. And according to Wikipedia, two of Santa Claus’s reindeer, Donner and Blitzen, was Thunder and Lightning in English.

Then there was the early morning venture across the saturated grass to the public toilet to see about doing some washing. This could not have been more badly timed! Just as I reached the toilet entrance a coach load of elderly Japanese tourists had pulled up and stopped close by. Of course, the toilet was by no means a large place, with only two flush toilets, including one for the handicapped, and four standup jobs for people to point Percy (penis) at. Soon a line of elderly men had begun to form.

There was just one sink supporting a cold-water tap. Things were not looking good, for I had hoped to wash more than my face, socks and underwear. Even attempting this much was quite clearly problematic. Continuous flows of people were now dropping in and out in greater numbers. “How many couches where out there?” I wondered. As to hygiene, those who washed their hands after doing what they came in to do were few and far between, for most left without so much as a glance at the sink.

It was not until much later that my face; hands and private parts were given a once over with a soapy cold wet cloth. There was little else to go and do, but to make my way back across the wet grass to my tent. My tent had stood up well against the strong wind and rain through the night. Or so I thought until I examined it more closely. The pressure the strong winds had placed on the tent poles was a different matter; some poles were bent beyond repair. It was nearly impossible to make camp in such Weatherly conditions. There were many examples in history were such conditions had halted entire armies and undermined the incompetence of countless generals.

For me something was needed to shake me out of the gloom, or to instill the buoyant and positive feelings that I had in Tokyo during the planning stages. Good weather would do just dandy! Instead, the rain had begun to fall again, and the next couple of hours were spent in the confines of my tent putting pen to the many postcards that I promised to send to family, friends and collogues: “Whenever I landed at the airport I was not able to get a bus to Cape Soya. The bus I did get took me to Wakkanai City, in the opposite direction to the cape. There I needed to get another bus to take me to Cape Soya, a one hour ride.”

At any other time it might have been considered quite tedious work. But this was no ordinary time, and the postcards proved to be a good time-filler. The only thing that was now clear was that my big tramp along the coastal roads was not going to go anywhere fast until the weather improved. Hopefully soon!

The rainfall was so heavy at times that even when clad in my oversized army rain cape I got quite wet. This was not good! Whenever I had those empty stomach feelings I always had to make my way through the rain to one of the restaurants across the road. Although it was only a minute’s walk from my tent, it always felt good when I set down at one of the tables by the window. Across from where I set I could see the famous monument. There were usually a number of tourists snapping away with their cameras quite unperturbed of the rain. I could see my tent standing firm against the battering it was receiving from the wind and rain. It was a good feeling to see it doing its job. Tonight I knew that I would sleep soundly.

The staff at the restaurant was very polite and smiled at me at every chance I gave them. I seldom saw such professionalism in the many restaurants I frequented in Tokyo. I settled on miso ramen, a bowl of boiled noodles in a miso and vegetable based soup. Already I had taken some vitamin pills and protein powder earlier this morning, but noting since. So the noodles proved to be rather good gap filler.

The wind and rain let up, but only temporarily. By midday the tour coaches and private cars stopping at the monument increased. Again, I toyed with the idea of hitting the road, or Route 238 to be precise. Another heavy down pour soon quashed the idea, and I turned to my postcards again to add yet other similar sentences on each of them: “I pitched my tent close to the monument at Cape Soya just as the rain began to fall and the wind pick up. Before leaving Tokyo, someone told me that there was no rainy season in Hokkaido. What was all this rain and wind then?”

A few weeks before I set off on my big tramping venture, I bought two packets, each containing fifty plain postcards. Most of the items at the store in Saitama Prefecture, where I bought the postcards, cost just ¥105 yen, including consumer tax. Now, bogged down in the confines of my trusty little tent hoping for the weather conditions to improve so as to get my butt on the road proper, the postcards helped to lesson the boredom.

The tent continued to stand firm on a grassy height between the Soya Kaikgo Sea and the main road, Route 238 that would lead me out of the place. Even in such atrocious weather conditions the tour coaches continued to pull up and stop, and dispense their victims who flocked around the ‘Northern Most Point Monument’. After a couple of minutes and a load of snapshots later, they turned around and headed back to their coach, which soon carted them away to some other place of touristy interest. However, a good many fishing boats remained in dock rather than chance their fortune on the heavy seas.

It was around two o’clock, before tea, when I got a bit of shuteye and dreamed of life in another world for a couple of hours. When I did awake this time, my venture over the wet grass to the public toilet nearby was much better timed. One minute later, just as I was into brushing my teeth that the door slid open and in stepped an attractive young lady. She was clad in a pair of spotlessly clean green overalls, with a pair of bright colored rubber gloves on her hand. My eyes looked momentarily up at the ceiling so as to hide the laughter on my face at the thought something kinky about to happen that flashed though my mind. Of course, any perverted thoughts of a fleeting sexual experience happening when she opened the cubical doors to reveal one hell of a shit caked toilet basin. It must have been the busiest of toilets on the whole island of Hokkaido.

It was around two o’clock, before tea, when I got a bit of shuteye and dreamed of life in another world for a couple of hours. When I did awake this time, my venture over the wet grass to the public toilet nearby was much better timed. One minute later, just as I was into brushing my teeth that the door slid open and in stepped an attractive young lady. She was clad in a pair of spotlessly clean green overalls, with a pair of bright colored rubber gloves on her hand. My eyes looked momentarily up at the ceiling so as to hide the laughter on my face at the thought something kinky about to happen that flashed though my mind. Of course, any perverted thoughts of a fleeting sexual experience happening when she opened the cubical doors to reveal one hell of a shit caked toilet basin. It must have been the busiest of toilets on the whole island of Hokkaido.

On the top part of the overalls hung a tiny rectangular nametag with the girl’s photo. Not a word passed between us as she set about giving the urinals a good once over with a damp rag. It was not easy to contain that want of something to say to her in my best construed Japanese language ability. “Taihen desu ne?” (It’s bad, isn’t it?). “Ie, daijobu desu”, (Not so bad) she replied. I was not sure if the girl thought I was referring to the state of the toilet or to the miserable weather outside. The rain was now battering against the toilet windows at some force. I quickly realized, with some embarrassment, that she really needed to get on with her work quickly as it was getting late. On the weeks that followed, I was rather impressed with the cleanliness of the public toilets and the restaurants I frequented on long hours on the coastal roads down through Hokkaido.

Almost with out thinking, again, I asked about tomorrow’s weather conditions in the hope she had heard something good on the television. “Ashita no denki wa?” (How about tomorrow’s weather?). “Ashita mo, taihen desu”, came a firm, but friendly reply. It was information that I did not want to get under any circumstances. On the little path that went past the public toilets to the monument stood a sign reading: ‘May Peace Prevail on Earth’. There was little else to do but to retrace my steps along this path and then across the wet grass to where my trusty tent still stood supreme.

All night the wind and the rain hammered against the tent, it was a wonder that I slept at all. In the morning, too, the sky was dark and restless. The howling wind sometimes whistled like it was trying to communicate a message to me. “Why don’t you go back to where you came from, you were not welcomed here?” Then there was the swash, splash and roar of the incoming waves. Even by midday the wind still howled and the rain splashed into the puddles that had formed around my tent in the night. And I felt thankful that the water stopped where it did.

Even when I finally awoke I lay in the sleeping bag for some time just listening to the madness of the elements outside. It was impossible not to hate the miserable weather even for a few moments, or to wonder when the rain let up. But soon it felt pointless even to do that. A glance across the road at the noodle restaurant told me that it would soon be lunchtime. The tour coaches continued to stop momentarily for those on board to brave the rain and get a few snapshots of the monument. However, there were not many tourists on foot, for even with an umbrella it would have been hard to get about in. This was the height of summer and as far as I could make out, the restaurants and souvenir shops were not busy. Eventually the hunger pings began to hit me once more. Within a few minutes I was out of the snug, warm confines of my sleeping bag pulling on a pair of army shorts. Then with the sturdy little tent zipped up, I made my way in the direction of the restaurant.

The heat from inside the restaurant graced the sides of my face as I entered, and leaving the cold damp air outside as I slid the door closed behind me. Like this morning, the place was almost devoid of customers, baring an elderly couple that set at the table nearest the counter. The counter separated the restaurant space from the kitchen area. There was no one at the table by the window where I set at earlier this morning, and which give me a clear view of my tent. So I made my way over to it and set down. As I made my way to the table a couple of bowls containing noodles had just been brought to the elderly couple. The wife was certainly hungry as she appeared to make short work of the noodles before her. The husband on the other hand was enjoying some lighthearted banter he had struck up with the two waitresses.

I had never seen someone eat, drink and smoke almost at the same time. “How was it possible?” I wondered to myself whilst doing my best not to make eye contact with him. With a pair of chopsticks in one had, and a glass of beer and a cigarette in the other was beyond me. Something in his manner told me that it was a habit, only that. The man spoke in a confident, loud voice, in a way a boss might speak to his underlings on the job. “There was nothing to be done about it!” He said, “Well, its all in the hands of god, isn’t it?” The waitresses laughed, as did the man’s wife. “It even rained all those years ago when we passed through here on our honeymoon. Didn’t it?” he said looking at his wife. “”Did it? I can’t remember!” Now everyone was laughing, including the man. The words that flowed from his mouth were more than likely fueled by the beer, and then the sake, which he put away like there was no tomorrow. And not only that, he chain-smoked, too. The man’s wife on the other hand said little if anything for most of the time, but listened intently for fear of missing something important.

Both of them seemed to respect my preference for solitude, for I truly had other more pressing issues on my mind. At least until the weather improved so as I could make a start, I preferred at that moment to loss myself in my writings and thoughts; and of course in the food, too, when it came. Even after some time had passed and the food was finished and the dishes were removed, the elderly couple still did not attempt to talk to me. It was just as well that I had the book I picked up at Haneda with me to read, for I was still in no mood to be drawn into a conversation with anyone just then. If I did not have it then and there, I would more than likely have found myself heading back over to the tent sooner than I would otherwise have hoped. Indeed, I appreciated being left alone at that time then, but I also knew that I would regret it later.

After a while, I stood up and made my way past some tables to the toilet. I gave a quick glance out the window to see how things were with my tent. “Don’t worry! It was still there”, the elderly man said to me in Japanese. Now everyone looked at me and then at the tent and then at me again. “Yes! Good!” I replied with a smile as I passed by their table. “Surely not?” I thought, wondering if they felt sorry for me. I smiled again, this time at the waitresses and ordered another bottle of beer. The visit to the toilet to shake hands with the unemployed (urinate) was the only thing that seemed anyway important to me just then. When I was eating (shio ramen) a little earlier, I downed a bottle of Sapporo beer, so I was disappointed to see a bottle of my least liked beers, Asahi “DRY”, on the table when I returned. Still, I had always thought of Japan more of a sake (rice wine) country, than one famous for brewing great beers.

Again my authority was the Internet, when I learned that beer came to Japan at the beginning of the seventeenth century during the Edo Period when the Dutch opened a beer hall for its sailors. Later during the Meiji Period brewers from Germany arrived in the country to introduce new ways of making bear. Today beer was the most popular alcoholic drink in Japan, with nine billion liters of alcohol consumed in 2006. Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo and Suntory were the major makers of beers in Japan. There were a number of much smaller local breweries, each with their own distinct beer tastes, co-existed on the fringes of these big beer companies. Up until quite recently lager style beers had long proved the most common. Or until a less expensive beer-like low malt drink called, ‘happoushu’, captured the attention of beer drinkers throughout the country, not to include myself among them.

As I returned from the toilet the man was talking on his pocket phone, and by the tone of his voice, I suspected it was to a family member, perhaps their daughter. For not only was his voice loud, but I could also catch a females voice on the other end. “Perhaps loud voices ran in the family,” I thought to myself as I made my way past their table. I overheard him say how interesting it was to see so many Harley Davidson motorcyclists and camping cars about the roads today; also, riding in the rain could not be much fun. All I fucking well knew was that being held up in my tiny tent for three days in Cape Soya by the heavy rain and wind was not much fun either.

The rain was now beating against the window so heavily that I could hardly see my tent because of it. I could not help but think at the wickedness of nature that had literally made me a prisoner in my own tent for much of the time. Worse still, I had no idea how long it would last, and the loss of time was something that was not factored into my plans.

Eventually the elderly couple got to their feet to leave. The bill was paid for and a hearty farewell was uttered from all directions. Then out the sliding door and into the heavy rain they went, in high spirits too I would add. The elderly cook, who prepared the food for them, confirmed what the young waitress told me earlier on today. More rain tomorrow! But a short let up in the wind and rain had given me a chance to look about the area. The houses and business-like buildings were spread a good bit apart. The space between the buildings reminded me of the many hick-towns I strolled though years earlier in the American Midwest.

A positive upturn in the weather could not have come sooner, which meant it was time to break camp and hit the road for fear of it turning again. Already my body was unnecessarily well rested, together with plenitude in nutrition for the numerous visits to the restaurant over the road. Now I was more than prepared to walk through the night if necessary to make up lost ground. But just as I made a move to decamp, the weather did change again. The drizzle turned out to be a precursor to one hell of a heavy downpour that dictated where my head would rest for a second night, on the same grassy spot in Cape Soya.

In the morning I awoke to the same dismal sounds beating into the sides of the tent. There were momentary letups in the rain when birds could be heard on the grass nearby. In fact, Cape Soya and the area around it was a home to a wide variety of wildlife. On the whole, Hokkaido was home to countless species of bird, and a wide variety of alpine wild flowers. Not to mention the many coastal sand dunes, marshland, rugged sea cliffs, and over high mountain peeks. Also, the biggest dog sleigh race passed through the Wakkanai Airport Park not far from Cape Soya.

The staff at the restaurant told me that the weather was not expected to improve anytime soon, which was not the sort of news I wanted to wake up to. Yesterday my breakfast and dinner consisted of a bowl of noodles; the later one was assisted by two greatly appreciated bottles of Sapporo beer. It was a nice surprise to see pictures on the restaurant walls and menu of other dishes on offer that I had failed to notice on my previous visits. There was ‘Rice curry’, as the Japanese call it, and a fried rice dish called chahan. Already I was tired of ordering the different noodle dishes. So I settled on a plate of fried rice.

The warmth and kindness of the staff at the restaurant made the food taste all the more delicious. Each time I finished eating there, the elderly lady, who seemed to manage the place, would place a mug of hot coffee on the table before me. “Dozo. Soto wa samui desu” (Please. It’s cold outside), she would remind me, as if I did not know. More than two and a half decades earlier I cycled around the island of Hokkaido. Back then, I found the people I came into contact with much less friendly than I found them now. There had been some rift going on then between the Japanese and American governments. It had something to do with over hunting of whales. If I recalled correctly many of the large fishing boats and whaling ships were unable to leave dock. The way I saw it, most of the people I came into contact with during my cycling trip were far from happy about the whaling ships being kept in dock. After all, it was a big part of the local economy.

Japan remained steadfastly protective of its right to hunt Whales for commercial, and later for, so called, scientific reasons. As a result, the Japanese government had faced international condemnation over it. The International Whaling Commission moratorium on commercial whaling, which came into effect in 1986, was a case in point. In the IWC moratorium meat from scientific whale hunts could be sold in shops and restaurants. Japan remained one of the few countries in the world that adamantly supported whaling. The government had long maintained that the annual whaling was sustainable and necessary for scientific purposes and management stocks. And that its whaling was based on cultural differences and emotional anthropomorphism. Whaling in Japan had been around since the 12th century, thus, it was very much a part of the Japanese culture.

Back in the late 1970s I did not camp anywhere near as much as did now, and the trouble I had getting a room somewhere for the night was beyond a joke. The shaking of open heads to indicate ‘N0’, and the closing of minshuku and ryokan (Japanese inns) front doors on my face even before I had a chance to utter a word, was depressing enough. There were a few experiences in the lobbies of business hotels when the receptions waved their hands from side to side at me to indicate there were no rooms available, even before I got as far as the check in counter. Then there was that cool summer evening when I stood at the aft of the ferry pulling away from its moorings bound for Tokyo. And with both my hands clasped at my mouth, I yelled at the top of my voice: “I will never return to here”. All those years ago, and all the years that followed, here I was again, sheltering from the miserable weather, none the richer, and not much wiser. Once again, I took advantage of a letup in the rain to wash a few clothes, but any hope of airing them was short lived.

At a souvenir shop a few meters from my tent, I bought a little bell for ¥840 yen. The bell was similar in shape and size to one I bought in Tokyo just before coming away, but of much better quality than the newer one. On its side was the colorful printing of ‘Japan’s Northern Most Point Monument’, which added that little bit, more significance to it. I wondered how the bears would feel about my new bell. Some friends in Tokyo warned me about the dangers of crossing paths with bears in Hokkaido. Of course, ‘danger’ was a flexible concept, still I shrieked at the thought. “You should get a bell”, a few of them advised me.

Bears in Hokkaido were usually seen about mountainous areas, but have been known to venture down in to the countryside in search of food prior to and after hibernation. The unfavorable environment created by manmade encroachment in recent times does not help this any. Because of so-called development and indiscriminate hunting, the bear’s habitat is greatly lessened. On the western side of this great island, there had been dozens of reported brown bear sightings at a popular tourist area, on the Shiretoko Peninsula. People who wished to visit the Shiretoko Goko Lakes, a UNESCO World National Heritage site, between May through July when bears were more active, were advised to join guided groups, of course at an extra cost money. Tourism tended to peak between August and October when an extra cost was charged for using the boardwalks. Also for an extra cost, tourists had to attend lessons on how best to act should they suddenly encounter a bear. Nothing was free in Japan!

As to my own recent purchase, it is believed that the sound of a bell causes bears to run away. This is just as well since their body weight can be anything from one hundred and twenty kilograms to as much as three hundred and eighty kilograms. If all that weight and body mass was not enough to cause me to drop dead with fear, the length that a bears nails can range from five centimeters to around nine centimeters long. Should I find one about to pounce upon my shoulders, or turn a corner only to be greeted by its open arms? No matter how you look at it, any encounter would be fatal to my plans.

To quote a ‘North island Product Institute Compass’ advertisement in the window of a souvenir shop in Cape Soya, ‘the Higuma is the most fierce wild animal in Hokkaido.’ God forbid should any unexpected encounter happen with a Higuma bear, might it prove painless in more ways than one. What would I do to avoid a surprise encounter with a bear? There was nothing I could do, but hope that my little bell did its job. Besides, danger lurking in some unknown place had long held a certain allure in me. I read somewhere that the life of a bear depended very much on where it lived and the luck it had. In healthy circumstances, including protection, a bear could live to the ripe old age of thirty. However, those in the wide would consider themselves luck if they reached ten years, as few died of natural causes, with the danger of cars on the roads, and hunters lurking behind trees to shoot them.

On the heights overlooking Route 238 that ran through Cape Soya stood a Peace Monument. On the eleventh of October in 1943, as the story went, Japanese forces sank the American submarine, Wahoo SS 238. The combined air raid and sea attack lasted around five hours. At that time, the submarine was leaving the Soya Strait after sinking seven ships in a raid that lasted around two hours. When the Wahoo was finally sunk it was the highest scoring submarine of the entire United States Navy. Eighty of its crew now rests in the Soya Strait just twelve miles northeast from where the monument stood. Many Japanese crewmembers also rest in the same waters as a result of the Wahoo raids. The monument was erected by family and surviving members of the Japanese attack groups, and by the relatives of Wahoo crewmembers. An inscription on the monument reads: ‘Old enemies met as brothers to dedicate that our countries should have a lasting peace and will never again destroy the friendship was now enjoy today.’ (It is interesting to note how the Route 238 has the same number as the submarine).

After the tourists got their snapshots of the famous pointed monument beside the sea, many of them then sauntered past my tent. A pleasant elderly chap stopped for a chat. He was on a tour of the northern island from Tokyo. He told me tat his wife had died a little while back and that it was the first time he had gone anywhere without her. His group had just got off one of the coaches. All day long countless coaches stopped nearby my tent to unload a countless array of visitors to get their countless number of snapshots of the famous monument. There was the usual gauntlet of questions to run through: ‘Where are you from?’ ‘America’, I answered. My second lie in as many days. ‘Where in America?’ ‘New York’. My third lie. There were a host of other similar questions that I had answered on a host of other occasions through the years in Japan. Still, there was something gentle and honest about the chap, which once again left me with a guilty feeling when he left to rejoin his tour group on the coach.

It amazed me just how quickly New York entered my mind. My trip to New York in the late 1970s had planted the seeds of travel into my blood. It had been my first real big step away from home. ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Saturday Night Fever’ were packing the cinemas in the Big Apple. I never bothered to watch either, a rule that has lasted to the present day.

Like the first lie to the polite young boy earlier, I did not feel good at all; especially when the elderly chap now wanted to take a photo of my tent and me. As I waited for him to position himself to get the photo he wanted it began to rain again. And for a split second, too, I felt like a great adventurer, like Mamiya Rina, about to embark on the first stage of some stupendous achievement, as soon as the rain stopped. A Statue of Mamiya Rinz, a Japanese explorer from the Edo period, and who was famous for his explorations of the northern islands, and mapping of Karafuto (Sakhalin).

The miserable weather continued, but it was not as testing on my mind, or on the trusty little tent the way it had been the last couple of nights. How I loathed the thought of having to pack up the drenched camping gear when it did stop falling once and for all. But it had to be done anyway since I did not want to wait for them to dry. Besides, the weather was so unpredictable most of the time that you could not trust it like you could a close friend, or even your dog, man’s best friend. So rain or no rain, I had hung around long enough. For I feared that if I did not get the hell out of Cape Soya, the snapshot the elderly chap took of me would be the last, and I would simply lose heart and return to Tokyo.

The rain was falling heavily again and soon feelings of boredom set in, again. I made my way over to the famous monument in the rain to see if it looked any different from the previous five visits I made to it. This time I took the slightly longer way passing by the music stone, which started to play “SOUYANOMISAKI” as I went by it.

Drenched by the rain a little ways away, a cyclist stood by his bicycle looking out over the sea. At first I thought he was from another country, but he told me that he was from Japan and was traveling through much of the country on his bike and by ferry. He told me the ferry landed him at Otaru two days earlier. I found him to be a strong-minded fellow, with perhaps just a touch of madness. Perhaps I was that way, too, since we both stood and chatted in the heavy rain for the best part of thirty minutes, both of us soaked to the bone. Clad in knee length trousers, a dirty white T-shirt and a pair of brightly colored cycling shoes. The rain did not bother him one bit, and though I felt impressed, a part of me felt ashamed! What had happened to this great white explorer who left Tokyo in high spirits?

What appealed to me then was his jovial frame of mind that the sun might as well have been shining, for the cold wind and rain did not bother him one bit as we spoke. I just had to take his photo to place among my own selfish collection already stored away to look back on from time to time in the future. Unfortunately our friendship was short lived, for he told me that he had many more kilometers to peddle in the rain before calling it a day. “The road was calling me,” he said. A keen long distance cyclist myself, I understood that ‘call’ well. If only the gong ho in him would rub of on me now. We wished one another all the best, and soon he was heading south along Route 238 that ran alongside the Okhotsk Sea for some distance. As I traced my steps back to the tent a thousand things raced through my mind. And strangely enough, I was no longer feeling bored or depressed with myself. Perhaps the cyclist’s jovial mood would rub off on me after all. In the pouring rain, the groups appeared quite boisterous, and unperturbed by it.

The coaches of tourists continued to arrive and take photos, often standing in front of the monument. One coach load of tourists I saw set down on some wet benches for the traditional group photo. Some at the front held onto a long narrow board that displayed their tour group name, for fear that the wind would blow it away. Others took up their standing positions behind the benches and patiently awaited the command. “Say cheese”, the cameraman called out. The all smiled at the camera, and then it was back on board the coach again.

Just about every tour group posed in front of the main monument for a group photo. Many of them did not bother to use the wet benches, which were usually moved out of the way depending on the photo shot angle they wanted to get. Each time, the tour guides and coach drivers would stand at the sides of their groups, and a sign would be placed at the front proclaiming the name assigned to their group.

Once the photos were taken, usually everyone rushed over to the souvenir shops, if they had not done so already. For the most part, the tour couches did not remain for very long, which was why everyone seemed to be in a hurry. After a quick peek at the monument, getting their snapshots, and a quick visit to the souvenir shops, it was off to the next stop on the schedule. For years I considered myself a keen advocate of that frivolous preoccupation of watching people go by. Some how it did not seem quite the same thing in Cape Soya, where I was the one being watched. It was not long before I noticed that I was being observed. Even as they hurried past my tent many of them would stop to look at it, and take a quick snapshot before moving on towards the souvenir shops or their coaches or where ever they were headed. From the coach windows, too, many faces turned and looked down at me as I sauntered past.

At the restaurant, my forth visit there thus far, I ordered ‘donburi’, a bowl containing fried beef, vegetables, and egg on top of rice. This I washed down with two 500-milliliter cans of Sapporo beer. The kindness of the staff at the restaurant continued beyond measure. It did not take me long to finish the donburi, and just set at the table enjoying the second of the beers that oiled my mind nicely. The thinking and writing flowed on to the pages of my notebook nicely, only to be broken momentarily when the elderly cook came and placed a plate with two large sliced juicy red tomatoes in front of me. “Dozo” (Please) she said smiling at me. “Wow! Thank you so much”, I said in English. All Japanese seemed to understand that much of the English language at least. This morning while I was eating chahan, or a fried rice dish, at the same establishment, one of the other female waitresses placed a hot mug of coffee on the table, which went down just dandy, for the cold outside.

The younger of the two waitresses, like a sweet tomato she, asked me if I was cold in my tent at night. “No! Not at all”, I assured her. “Hotone, atatakai desu?” (Really, it’s quite warm). My forth lie! The weather was far from summer-like, and the sleeping bag I took with me was suited to warmer weather. The times I woke up in the early morning hours because of the cold, if not the sound of the wind and rain. There were a few times when I found myself lending support to the sides of my tent against the strong winds that raged into it. Alas, all good and bad things run their course, as had three days of miserable weather in Cape Soya. I told Sweet Tomato that I planned to make a move in the morning for Wakkanai, with my drenched camping gear and all. Through the window I could see the rain bucketing down without letup! I could almost hear it pounding the asphalt outside.

Up until a little while ago the sound of the rain and wind would cause my heart to sink. There was even a time when I felt I was on the last spasms of giving up and returning to Tokyo the same way I had come. But thank god they were just lingering feelings. It was no good feeling sorry for myself and nursing my grievances. The lady was not for turning, to quote Thatcher. The breaks in the rain were lasting longer, which for me was a good sign that the weather was finally looking up. It was about time I acted like a great adventurer. I asked the girl what time the restaurant opened in the morning. “Shichiji desu.” (At seven o’clock). “Well, I expect I will make my appearance for breakfast, with my backpack”, I replied. “Dozo! Dozo! Watashitachi wa machi masu” (Please! Please! We are waiting.) It would seem that the restaurant was in a prime location for business, not that I knew much about business. There was also the kindness of the staff, which was next to none, or won me over anyway, hence the numerous visits there to eat and drink. Perhaps it was because of the miserable weather for why few costumers entered the place during the time I camped across the way.

Michael Denis Crossey Irishman Walking

Share This
About The Author
Michael Crossey

For the first ten years of my life I lived in west Belfast with my grandparents. Back then no one thought further than getting through secondary school, nor even going on to university for than matter. If anyone on our street did, then we thought of him or her as a god. What was more, I never expected to leave Ireland to travel the world, let alone making my home in Japan! Since those early days many sad and funny things happened to me over the years. One of them, if it could be placed in a block, was embarking on what became my mission in life - walking around the main islands (including some lesser ones) that made up the land of the Rising Sun. This to date has been undertaken over a series of spring, summer, winter, and autumn stages. Stage 1 began in the summer of 2009 from Cape Soya on the most northern point of Hokkaido. Cutting to the chase, I shall return to northern Ibaragi Prefecture where Stage 16 ended. From there I will make my way on foot up and along the main and coastal roads of Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, and Aomori Prefectures. Therefore, for all those eager beavers interested, some of my road-notes and photos (more photos on Flickr) have been uploaded for you to follow. Yours sincerely, ‘Irishman Walking’ Michael Denis Crossey esq.

1 Comment

  1. Tyler DeBusk says:

    Superb writing!

    Hi Michael! I love your blog! Where are you now?
    Ever coming back to Indiana?

    Tyler DeBusk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *